Classical Piano

Last night I returned to something that I never thought I would desire to do again:  classical piano.  Ever since I started playing the piano back in first grade, I hated the classical pieces.  This hatred only increased when I was in college and required to take an arts class.  I chose piano because I could somewhat already do that.  However I had to learn, memorize and perform classical piano in this class and I dreaded it every day.  In the practice rooms, I would review the pieces I enjoyed for most of the time and run through the classical pieces a couple times.  Thinking I would never do it again, I stashed the books in a box once the class was done.
I have a nice electric piano that was practically given to me by someone who needed the space in her house.  I would play it every once in a while, but only hymns or songs I’d done before.  I was literally afraid of doing anything else, because I knew that it did not come easily for me, and I did not want to invest the hours into the practice that I knew it would take.  So, in essence, the piano sat in a corner hardly used.  For someone who has played for 16 years, this is pretty sad.
Last night I was kind of stressed out.  I moved to Nashville, Tennessee last week.  I’m still interviewing for a job and have several interviews this week.  My two-year Masters program began on Monday, and I still don’t have many friends here in Nashville or much to do.  I am highly concerned about my financial situation, so I’m trying not to drive around too much for the next month or two.  All this was adding to my stress.  As I was sitting on the couch, I glanced over at my piano and for the first time in my life decided that I wanted to start playing classical music again.
It was frustrating for a while, because my hands are not too coordinated with each other yet, and I had to learn each hand separately before I could put them together.  It was not until this morning when I was actually able to play the whole song, mistakes included.  It will be a long time before I can add the staccato and phrasing markings to make the song complete.  However, something kept drawing me to the classical songs, and it wasn’t until this morning that the reason struck me.
I have struggled with intense fear my entire life.  This fear has held me back from doing a lot of things or making a lot of friendships that I had the opportunity of making.  I made myself an outcast because I was too afraid to talk to people.  I was afraid to be myself.  If I didn’t like myself, then why would anyone else?  In a roundabout way, I was right.
That was part of the discussion that God and I had in making the decision to move to Tennessee.  God asked me what was holding me back from following Him.  It was fear that I would fail in so many ways.  It has been in these last couple months that I have learned how fear is a choice, just the same as courage is a choice.  Britt Nicole says in one of her songs, “You don’t have to be afraid.”  It may sound dumb, but that was a revolutionary statement for me.  I don’t HAVE to be afraid?
This week, God has been teaching me so much about His smile.  I have felt more than anything this week that He is pleased with my radical obedience and my willingness to take a big chance on Him.  I did not have everything figured out when I put in my resignation at work back in Kansas.  There were so many unknowns in the equation.  However, EVERY STEP of the way, He has provided the people and the resources that I needed.  Sometimes I wonder how long it’s going to take to make it through my thick head that I do not need to worry about anything else either.  However, I still wake up in the morning, worried about money and how everything is going to work out.  If only I could learn to just bask in His smile.
I’m worried too that I can make it through a Masters program.  That takes someone who is smart, right?  I’m not sure that I have that much intelligence.  When I graduated with my undergrad, I swore up and down that I would never go back to school.  Here I am a year later in a whole different state, jumping into the deep end of the pool of life.  However, there’s something that tells me this is only the beginning of a fantastically “dangerous” life.  All this is pretty overwhelming, and as I sat down at the piano it all started to come clear.
Anyone who has learned classical piano knows that you have to break things apart.  Unless you’ve done it for a long time, you can’t sit down and try to play a whole piece from start to finish.  You’ll get frustrated and overwhelmed.  You have to take it one hand at a time and one line at a time, then put the hands together.  As you learn to play a line more smoothly, you add another line.  Eventually, you can play the whole song roughly.  It takes hours of practice and intense focus to make sure every accidental is hit and every marking seen.  It may look like only three pages, but many hours go into learning every little dot on those pages.
That’s kind of like my life right now.  I could look at the whole journey and although it’s very exciting to think that one day I’m going to experience all these things, it can also become very overwhelming to think of the work it will take to make it through.  It’s going to be rough getting through an accelerated Masters Degree program, and then I have to actually do something with it.  It’s going to take a lot of work to jump into the orphan care world, and in the nonprofit sector you learn the importance of proving yourself to your superiors.  For a girl who is deeply afraid of doing just about anything, that’s a pretty overwhelming concept.  However, it’s a relief to know that God understands my fears and everything that He asks me to do is a step by step growing in faith and releasing of fear.  I can’t do this on my own, but I was never meant to.  I don’t have to have it all figured out.  I just have to follow the next step of obedience that God places before me.
So I sit down at the piano and forget about the song.  My whole world is that first line; right hand first, left hand second.  Soon, I will move on to the next line, but not quite yet.  There’s no point in jumping ahead to the second page.  The song does not make sense that way.  I have missed the whole first part.  As much as I want to be mature and be doing amazing things for God right now, I have to realize that at this time in my life God is laying the foundation that I will someday stand on.  I must be attentive to His voice and sensitive to His heart.  I have to learn the notes before I can play the whole song.  I must learn to be content.
I am beginning to love classical music.  It’s exciting to take new steps and see the improvement.  It helps me learn how to focus, and that’s a hard thing for someone with ADD.  I love how God can speak through the simplest things to bring meaning and direction in these days.  I can sense His smile, and there is no other place I would rather be.  It is the musicians that have taken the hours to practice that we want to listen to.  It is the same with leaders.  We follow the leaders who have taken the time and discipline to grow strong personally from the foundation on up.  There is something attractive about these people.  Besides, as leaders it is so important that we remember what it is like to follow.  The pages of life may be long and complicated, but God gives us one day at a time for a reason.  Take life one step at a time and one page at a time as God gives you the notes.  Soon the discipline and obedience will pay off as you see the song start to come together.

Goodbye Ordinary

I was listening to two songs yesterday that got me thinking about a couple things.  Here are the songs and the lyrics:
Goodbye Ordinary
I wonder when we first bought into this
So satisfied with status quo
Have we convinced ourselves that this is all there is
All that is within me says we were meant to break free
Live like there’s no tomorrow
Love extravagantly
Lead a life to be followed
Goodbye ordinary, goodbye ordinary
We were never meant to compromise
Settle for mediocrity
Life was never meant to be a waste of time
Well all that is within me says no more just existing
Live like there’s no tomorrow
Love extravagantly
Lead a life to be followed
Goodbye ordinary, goodbye ordinary
No more complacency
No more just settling this time
Goodbye to atrophy for we were meant to be alive
To Know You
Casting Crowns
To know you is to never worry for my life, and
To know you is to never give in or compromise
To know you is to want to tell the world about you
Cause I can’t live without you
To know you is to hear your voice when you are calling
To know you is to catch my brother when he’s falling
To know you is to feel the pain of the brokenhearted
Cause they can’t live without you
More than my next breath
More than life or death
All I’m reaching for, I live my life to know you more
I leave it all behind, you’re all that satisfies
To know you is to want to know you more
To know you is to want to know you more
To know you is to ache for more than ordinary
To know you is to look beyond the temporary
To know you is believing that you’ll be enough
Cause there’s no life without you
More than my next breath
More than life or death
All I’m reaching for, I live my life to know you more
I leave it all behind, you’re all that satisfies
To know you is to want to know you more
To know you is to want to know you more
All this life could offer me, could not compare to you
Compare to you
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing you
Knowing you
Sometimes I wonder about the songs that we sing and the things that we read in Scripture.  I mean, what have we really lost for Christ?  Can you identify one thing that you have lost for Christ?
Something that has always baffled me as a Christian in the United States is how complacent our faith is.  Really, it’s no wonder, because we go to church and sing songs about what it means to follow Jesus and we might get up in the morning and read something in the Bible about what it means to follow Jesus, and then we make breakfast, go to work, pick up the kids from soccer, eat dinner, and go to bed.
Our lives are so predictable.  Our lives are manageable.  How on earth can God break through?  At some point, tragedy comes across our lives, and we turn around and wonder how God could allow something like this to happen to us.  Life doesn’t make sense anymore, and instead of seeking God’s wisdom, we blame Him for unanswered questions.
Then, someone has the audacity to suggest that maybe what is written and lived out in the Bible is literally true, and should be followed…things like, “Take up your cross and follow me” and “Go into all the world and make disciples.”  Suddenly the half of Jesus’ life when He was talking about the sacrifice that following Him requires is true.  We don’t like that.  We settle for the thought that, “Maybe my coworker will think I’m a little weird” is the persecution Jesus talks about.  I think we have watered down the gospel SO MUCH that following Jesus has become ORDINARY.
To me, the plans and dreams for my life are really not that extraordinary, but it makes a lot of people I know uncomfortable and nervous.  It should.  I want to run an orphanage someday in Central Africa.  A lot of people have done things like that.  No big deal, but it does require some sacrifice.  To most people I talk to, it’s “so cool”, but they kind of continue staring at me.  One girl said to me, “Oh you’re like one of those Mother Teresa types.  I’m honored to be in your presence.”  Statements and actions like that make me really angry inside, actually.  I hate being seen as a hero.  I’m just an ordinary person that believes in taking God at His word for caring for orphans.  I believe in an extraordinary God who loves us extravagantly.  Why wouldn’t a love like that cause me to drop everything and follow Him, wherever that may lead?  The life I led before is so dull and pointless.  Goodbye, ordinary…I’m following Jesus!
Steven Curtis Chapman has a song called, “Something Crazy.”  In that song, he makes a statement, “It’s crazy but it’s true, you really don’t know love at all until it’s making you do something crazy.”  I’ve never known a more truthful statement.  It’s easy for us to imagine a love relationship with a husband or wife.  When you think about it, that’s a pretty crazy concept.  A person has all the freedom in the world to do anything they want to do with their life, and they choose to settle down with one person and be subject to them for the rest of their time on earth.  Granted, that idea of marriage is becoming extinct, but that is the way it should be.  Someone is free and chooses chains.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?  Well, it really does, because when you are truly loved by someone for who you are, you are set free.  You can and will do anything for that person.  Why is that any different in our relationship with God?
Some people say that it’s hard to trust something that you can’t see.  I understand that, to an extent.  We have become such a scientific and visual society, but not everything in life can be measured that way.  Take wind, for instance.  You can’t see it, but you feel it.  You can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, and you certainly can’t control it.  What about oxygen, radio waves, the internet?  All these things we depend on and are confident they exist, we can’t see.  Why is it so hard to believe in God?  It just takes switching our glasses.  The evidence of Him can be seen all around us.
Well, we don’t pledge our allegiance to radio waves.  We don’t give our life for the wind.  However, if God really does exist, then that probably means it will disrupt my life in some way.  True story.  Since I have come to know Him, my life has been turned upside down.  Sometimes I wonder if the people that struggle to believe in God are closer to the Kingdom of God than some who sit in pews on Sunday morning and the truth that hits their ears does not saturate their lives.  At least the ones who do not want to acknowledge God understand that there is a cost to following Him.  Those who sit in the pews have heard the truth and tuned out the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Our churches are worse than dead.  They are a negative example of the goodness of Christ.  People outside the church look at those inside the church and say, “Why bother.”  And it’s true.  I wouldn’t want to be like most Christians I know.  If that was my only reason for following Christ, then I would have given up a LONG TIME AGO.
We read Jesus’ parable about the sower and the different places that the seed fell.  I heard a preacher say once, “Don’t assume that you’re the good soil.”  That statement has stuck with me and haunted me ever since.  Sometimes we assume that because we are surrounded by blessings that we are the good soil.  However, the Bible says that the good soil produces 100 times what was sown in it.  What does the fruit of your life look like?  How many people this year have been drawn closer to God’s saving grace by watching your life?  These are the kinds of questions that matter in light of eternity. 
I had a good thing going before Christ came in and shook up my life.  Yes, I am young and accepted Him at a young age, but it was only a year ago when I finally got it.  I could no longer read the Bible like I always had.  It made me uncomfortable.  It caused me to ask a lot of questions, and it should.  Our lives should not even remotely be the same as before when we truly know God.  It should cause us to constantly ache to know Him more.  It should break our hearts that those around us do not know Him.  It should motivate us to move when we see injustice take place.  Paul says that we are Christ’s ambassadors as if He were making His appeal through us.  We represent Christ to the world.  We are witnesses to His power and love.  If we allow it, God’s grace can take the pile of dirt that was our lives and make it into a masterpiece of His beauty.  The reason?  To show the world His love and to bring glory to Himself.
Really, the message of Christ is not as complicated as we try to make it.  We read the passage, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and we say, “I wonder what He meant by that?”  Maybe it means, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  Crazy concept?  I think not.  What about, “Don’t worry when the world hates you because it hated me first.”  I think to myself, “Well, the world doesn’t hate me.  In fact, most people I know admire me.”  My immediate response should be a reevaluation of how I live my life.  The world around me is contrary to Christ, this I know is true.  If the world is contrary and I am living in the world and they agree with me, then what am I doing wrong?  What does it mean to be a part of the Kingdom of God?  Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t worry if the world hates you.”  He says, “Don’t worry when the world hates you.”  That should say something.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he had so much joy that he sold everything he had and bought the field.  I’m sure his friends thought he was nuts.  However, we have found this incredible treasure:  the God of the entire universe loved us so much that He sent His only Son-HIS BEST-for us, that we might know Him and be with Him from now throughout eternity.  Jesus never claimed to give us comfort when we follow Him.  He told some who wanted to follow Him, “Sure, you can come, but just so you know, you might not have a place to sleep tonight.”  Many chose not to follow Him.  I’m sure that broke His heart, but He didn’t want anyone following Him with the wrong intentions or conditions in mind.  He is so worth the sacrifice that watering down the message to reach more people was never an option.  Think about that for a minute.
We are created for God and all of us desire to live an extraordinary life for Him.  So many things hold us back.  Why?  That is the question that God asked me a couple months ago:  “What is holding you back from truly following me?”  I answered that question with “Nothing, anymore.”  How will you answer that question?  God wants you to know His will for your life.  It’s not a game of hide and seek.  Ask Him to show you His dreams and desires, and be willing to say, “Goodbye ordinary, I’m following Jesus!”

Whatever You’re Doing

I made it through all the goodbye parties and get-togethers and the trailer is packed.  My dog and my fish have new homes now, and I am sleeping at my aunt and uncle’s house until I leave in three days.  As I woke up this morning, I started to process the fact that I am really moving to Tennessee.  I am so incredibly excited.  I am scared spitless.  I guess that’s probably normal.

Yesterday while I was driving, I heard the song by Leeland “Whatever You’re Doing.”  I’d heard it before, but I realized how PERFECTLY that song fits my situation right now and is my prayer to God.  Here are the lyrics:

It’s time for healing, time to move on
It’s time to fix what’s been broken too long
Time to make right what has been wrong
It’s time to find my way to where I belong
There’s a wave that’s crashing over me
And all I can do is surrender

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace
It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see
but I’m giving in to something Heavenly

Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Reevaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow Your will
Or just climbing aimlessly over these hills
So show me what it is You want from me
I give everything, I surrender…

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace
It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see
but I’m giving in to something Heavenly
Something Heavenly

Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I’ve wanted to say for so many years
Time to release all my held back tears

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life, something Heavenly

As I was listening to this song yesterday, I truly believe worship happened.  I have no idea what God is going to do through this step, but I know that it’s bigger than me, larger than life, and heavenly.  I have never been more sure of God leading than I am right now.  He has worked miracles out the entire way.

When this idea first came up, I was in Detroit visiting some family.  God and I had a landmark conversation where He asked me about the dissatisfaction that was in my heart.  I had a restlessness in my heart for many months with my job and where I was living.  I kept trying different doors to try to figure out what God wanted, and I believe it all came down to this conversation.  He asked me what was standing in the way of following His will for my life.  I told Him my age-old answer:  believing that I can’t do it.  I told him of the restlessness I felt and how I believed that I had reached a rut where it was very difficult to rely on Him because I felt I could do everything I was doing on my own power.  I missed the closeness I had with Him when I needed Him for everything.  I missed being a part of something HUGE, where I was using everything that I had been given for the Kingdom.  Life no longer held the hope that I longed for, when I was a part of something bigger than me.  I wanted to be surrounded by people who were on fire for Him and living out everything that I read in the Bible.  I wanted to have the chance to use my gifts to serve Him.  He then asked me if I could do anything with my life right now, knowing that He would bless it what would it be?  I told him that I would move to Nashville, Tennessee and start a Masters Program in business, to learn the logistics of running an organization.  My dream for years has been to run an orphanage in Central Africa, but I know that I did not remotely possess the skills or practical knowledge to do that.  When I told Him this, He responded, “Ok.”

The rest is history.  Everything has worked out perfectly so far in going there, orchestrated as only God could do.  Now I leave in three days.  I never imagined that jumping into the flow of God’s will and Kingdom would be so exciting and fun.  It’s stressful, I’m not going to lie, because I’m fighting my human side of worrying about details that have yet to come clear.  However, it’s hard to wrap my mind around going on an adventure that is imagined and planned by God Almighty.  And I’m getting ready to do that!

My prayer for this preparation part of the journey would be this:  that God would keep my heart attentive and humble and that He would continue to purify any part of me that is contrary to His will or leading.  I pray that every day He would make me more like Himself; that He would help me to love like He loves and see the world as He does.

I was reading the past couple days about some stats that I simply can’t ignore.  At least 1.2 million children are sold in the sex trade right now.  It just blows my mind how we Americans can live day to day concerned about the fact that it’s raining outside and we can’t go swimming while something like this is going on.  I’ve never understood politics in the church, where we are so concerned about the music style being different than our taste when there are atrocities happening all around us.  I was talking to my mom yesterday about the “Emergent Church” argument that has become so prevalent in the Nazarene Church.  Emergent Church, whatever that is…honestly, I don’t care about labels.  Sometimes I am not even sure if I want to label myself a Christian.  I follow Christ and He is my whole life.  I serve Him and Him only.  I don’t serve the church or my own agenda.  If God is Emergent Church, then so am I.

The truth is, our methods of reaching people are not working.  We argue and argue about theology but it is this simple:  For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  I’m sick of sitting in a Sunday School class or a sanctuary talking about it and then going on with my life as normal.  There is an emergency happening all around us.  How on earth can we live like it doesn’t matter?

I’m done with being comfortable.  I’m done with the pointless busy life.  I’m done with church as I’ve always done it.  I’m ready to begin a new chapter in my life where God is supreme and everything that I do centers around that.  I want to be a part of His mission not His problem.  God, whatever You’re doing…though it feels like chaos, I know You’re up to something heavenly.  Let it saturate my life.  Let it be unto me as You have said.  Let’s do it!

I Love You More

This week is starting out pretty rough.  I really want to say, “I didn’t think it would be this hard,” but I’m afraid that if I say it, that means that I was naive when I made the decision to say “yes” to God.  Perhaps we’re all a bit naive when the time comes to make that decision, but that doesn’t make us any less faithful just because we lack the knowledge of what that “yes” will entail.
I’m probably going to take my dog back to the shelter I got him from tomorrow.  It’s a no-kill shelter, so I’m sure that he’ll find a good home, but I’m going through a lot of emotions just thinking about actually doing it.  I wish someone would just do it for me.  I have to give him up because where I am going, I will be far too busy to be able to take care of him like he deserves.  He will be much happier with someone else who can devote more time and energy to him.
Yesterday I rode in the back of the pickup with my little cousin Brie.  As she was cuddled against me, I had to choke back sobs thinking that I was going to have to leave my little girl.
I started training my replacement today.  I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to explain everything that I do until I tried to systematically do it.  Walking around and introducing her to people was fun but at the same time had quite a bit of finality to it.  In everyone’s minds, someone is taking my place.  In a lot of ways I feel like I’m already gone.  It’s weird.
I spent time with my Africa friends tonight.  We had so much fun, and as I was dropping them off, I almost started crying.  I sound so pathetic.  I told my mom earlier tonight, “I wish I could just take off in the middle of the night and leave.  All these goodbyes are seriously draining me.”  How do you say goodbye to five years of your life?
Honestly, I’m scared to death, and the closer I get to leaving, the more afraid I become.  It’s not that I don’t trust that God will come through; I just think the unknown is always a scary thing, especially when you kind of asked for it.  I know that in the coming days, I am going to be committing to something VERY difficult, and I am trusting that God’s “yes” to me means that my heart is at least somewhat prepared for what I will encounter.  It seems that the phrase I keep having to pray to God is this:  I love You more.
“God, in all of this and in all that I am letting go and grabbing a hold of, I love You more.”
“I love You more than my dog.
I love You more than the people that I work with.
I love You more than my comfort and security.
I love You more than my family.
I love You more than whatever reputation I have worked to achieve.
I love You more than life.
I love You more than anything.
I love You MORE.”
I can’t help thinking about the Kingdom of God, because that is the statement that I am really making with my life right now:  that I am willing to give up anything for the Kingdom.  The more I read about it, the more I realize that if we truly understood how precious being a part of the Kingdom of God really is, then there would be no question in our hearts that nothing in life could be more important.  Jesus tells a pretty odd story of a man who found a treasure buried in a field and he sold everything he had to buy that field.  He said that the Kingdom of God is like that treasure.  Francis Chan said something interesting that I have been thinking about:  Jesus could have walked around like a lot of pastors and evangelists today and tried to bribe people to accept His salvation with all the “good things” that they could receive because of it.  However, Jesus does the opposite.  He says that if we follow Him, we may be persecuted, be tortured or lose our lives.  We may have to sell everything that we have.  It is possible that tonight we may not even have a place to sleep.  “Come follow me” costs us EVERYTHING.  However, Jesus knows that in extending that invitation, He is worth the cost.  He does not have to add anything to the gift of Himself.  He is worth every bit of the cost.
I want the Kingdom of God to be the driving force of my life.  At this point, the whole concept looks very different than the things I’ve usually been taught in church.  It’s too bad that the Gospel has to be watered down so that it doesn’t offend Christians, because following Christ is a radically amazing thing.  It will never cease to amaze me how some people can be satisfied living a mediocre and comfortable life, when we were created for so much more.
Please pray for me this week as goodbyes are being said and in the weeks to come as new hellos are being made.  Pray that God would transform and renew my mind so that I will be able to see as He sees, love as He loves, and live as He desires to live in and through me.  Pray for strength when the road becomes rough and for the courage to trust Him when the path is uncertain.  Thank you for your support.

How Could I?

When I look over my journey just today, I see how I have lost focus.  I spent the whole evening watching Francis Chan videos and it finally hit me…I have been so focused on me, me, me.  Even my previous blog post was about the things that I want to do with my life.  What does it even matter?
Francis Chan was listening to a speaker once that was begging God to speak through her at a service.  Then it hit her.  God had invited her to HIS party.  She was just lucky to be a part of it.
Our lives on earth are so short.  We have one chance at this thing.  God is so big and so good and this is His party.  He has invited US.  Since when have we the right to waltz in and dance around as if it was all about us?
Sometimes I think that God looks at me and just shakes His head.  Really, Chelsea?
As many hours a day as I spend thinking about my dreams and what I want to do with my life, how often do I think about God’s dreams and what He wants for the world?  How often do I ponder how this very day my life is playing out a very small but significant part in that dream?
My life…whether it will be 23 years or 123 years…IS NOT ABOUT ME.  It’s all about God and HIS KINGDOM and HIS SALVATION and HIS REDEMPTION and OH MY GOODNESS, where did I get off on this ME tangent?  I want to catch HIS VISION…forget about my dreams about learning how to yodel or riding in a helicopter…REALLY?  Salvation for the world vs. yodeling…no comparison, whatsoever.
Today I was so proud of myself because I successfully installed a flasher box in the steering wheel of my car all by myself.  To me, this is a significant accomplishment.  In a period of three short days, Jesus died on a cross, conquered death for all humanity, and rose from the dead.  My accomplishment…hmmm…not so significant.
I want to shine so bright.  I want to burn for my God.  I want to lose myself completely in Him.  If my life on earth has no other purpose or accomplishment than this, I will have become everything I was meant to become.  I will have brought a smile to God’s face, and nothing else holds a candle to what that means.
Yeah, that’s about it.

100th post: Things I Want To Do Before I Die

Here is the secret list that is finally made public!  Now you can all get on the insider’s info into the secret dreams of Chelsea Weber…here we go:

1.       Run a family orphanage
2.       Publish a book
3.       Get married
4.       Have children
5.       Be a freelance writer
6.       Have a side business in photography
7.       Be a part of Make a Wish in helping a child’s dream come true
8.       Live in Africa
9.       Witness a miracle
10.   Learn to speak Swahili
11.   Speak at a national women’s conference
12.   Run a foster home
13.   Meet Steven Curtis Chapman
14.   Ride a bike without pain
15.   Ride in a hot air balloon
16.   Go hang gliding
17.   Take a ‘round the world in 80 days tour
18.   Ride in a helicopter
19.   Walk through the catacombs in Rome
20.   Learn how to write calligraphy
21.   Go to a Switchfoot concert
22.   Go kayaking in Alaska
23.   Live on the east coast
24.   Go to a Lifehouse concert
25.   Sing background vocals for a famous person
26.   Wear a fancy dress to a fancy occasion (not my wedding)
27.   Spend the night outside in the country with someone and a telescope
28.   Go dancing with someone in the rain
29.   Go to a pirate LARP (Live Action Role Playing)
30.   Learn how to ride horses really well
31.   Learn how to fly a small airplane
32.   Take a riverboat ride at night
33.   Go on a sailboat ride
34.   Visit the Machu Picchu in Peru
35.   Go snorkeling with contacts
36.   Swim with dolphins
37.   Walk through an ancient castle
38.   Ride a jet ski
39.   See the Indian Ocean
40.   Hold a monkey
41.   Own a brightly colored jeep
42.   See the Grand Canyon
43.   Swing on a rope off a cliff into the water
44.   Climb into the bell tower of a really old church
45.   Go ballroom dancing
46.   Sing karaoke and not be embarrassed (July 1, 2011)
47.   Own a motorcycle and a license to drive it
48.   Sit on the beach alone at night with the man of my dreams
49.   Eat corn flavored Mexican ice cream
50.   Learn how to yodel
51.   Take a beginning mechanics course
52.   Get a Masters Degree

I Met A Man

I met a man today that taught me more in 30 seconds than anyone has taught me in a long time.
When you first look at him, you see a man that is disabled.  He walks using a cane and cannot use his right leg at all.  He came into my office to pick up some school supplies that we had put together for his two young children.
As we were walking, I started sneezing like I had been doing all day, and I jokingly said, “I think I’m allergic to life.”  He became very serious and said, “Don’t say that.  Life is so sweet.  I almost died once, and now every moment is precious to me.”
That statement caught me by surprise, and with a couple small questions he began to tell me his story.  He is from Iran, and one day he was in a motorcycle accident.  He was in a coma for a month.  During this time war broke out in his country and many of his friends his age died.  “It is by the grace of God that I was in that accident.  If I would not have been in a coma, I would probably have been in the war, and most likely would have died.  Then I would not have a family today.  I am like this, but that does not matter.  I am so thankful to be living.”
Just like that, I watched him struggle out the door with his children’s backpacks.  I was in awe; I couldn’t believe what I had seen.  So many people that I meet live every day with the victim mentality, that life has cheated them out of the life they feel they deserve.  It is true that some very unfortunate things happen to all of us, but we have a choice how we respond to it.  This man could have grown bitter, dependent, or angry.  He chose however to have joy and to live every moment like he was receiving an invaluable present.  In those 30 seconds, I felt like I had been with God.
It takes considerable courage to live like this man does.  However, what an incredible testimony he shares with the world by taking all that has happened to him and turning it into praise.  I don’t know about you, but I want to live my life like that too.

I’m Not Who I Was

I was driving yesterday and this familiar song came on the radio:
I’m Not Who I Was
Brandon Heath

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I’m not who I was

I found my way around
To forgiving you
Some time ago
But I never got to tell you so

I found us in a photograph
I saw me and I had to laugh
You know, I’m not who I was
You were there, you were right above me
And I wonder if you ever loved me
Just for who I was

When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you

I reckon it’s a funny thing
I figured out I can sing
Now I’m not who I was
I write about love and such
Maybe ’cause I want it so much
I’m not who I was

I was thinking maybe I
I should let you know
I am not the same
But I never did forget your name

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that’s what love is all about

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was

As I was listening to the song, one person in particular came to mind.  This person and I had a falling out for a reason that to this day I still do not understand.  I miss her as my friend, and although I know that she will never read this, I still wish that somehow she could see that I am not who I was.  I wish she knew that I have forgiven her.
It’s so interesting how we change as we grow up if we decide to do so.  Some people never change.  I think, however, that God has done a work in my life.  I used to live life in total fear of everything.  Talking to someone almost put me over the edge, and heaven forbid that I ever had to begin the conversation.  That was who I was even in college.  This past year, everything changed for me.  I did some brave things in college, but it was only by the grace of God that I did not realize what I was doing…things like taking off and living in the Dominican Republic for almost four months by myself…things like that.  When it came to everyday life, I was timid and afraid.  I had a hard time getting close to people because I was afraid of what they thought of me.  It was much easier to avoid them.
However, when God’s love came into my life and I realized that His loving me gave me value, I started to see life in a whole new way.  Suddenly fear is gone, and I guess that makes sense since the Bible says that perfect love drives out fear and the one who fears has not been made perfect in love.  I find that once I let love into my life, I had confidence and faith that God had things under control.  My eyes were opened beyond myself and my own insecurities to see what God is doing in the world and the incredible opportunity I have to be a part of it.  I’m excited to see how God changes and grows my life in the future.  I never imagined that in a year and a half He could do all He has done in me.
So to the person who will never read this, know that I forgive you for everything that took place.  I have asked for your forgiveness with no reply.  In the eyes of God, I have done everything possible to restore the friendship and I pray for you.  Someday I hope that our paths cross again, and we can both see in each others’ lives the change that God has made.  May God bless you in your ministry.

Endings and New Beginnings

Talk about a whirlwind…everything has been so crazy since I decided to move to Nashville!  I found out that I was accepted to a Master’s program on Tuesday, turned in my resignation at my job on Wednesday, and left to look for a job in Nashville on Thursday!  Since then it has been a literal rollercoaster ride emotionally and physically.  So many decisions have to be made, and there are so many more things that are demanding my energy and immediate attention.  And it is not only the decisions that are weighing heavy, but sharing with everyone what is going on in my life and trying to make the most of my last moments with people has been pretty draining.
I think it has been hardest to think about saying goodbye to the people I work with, because I see them every day.  It’s a surreal feeling to go to work these last couple weeks, because everything seems so normal with the same daily responsibilities but everyone knows that there is a different reality lurking under the surface.  It’s hard to be excited for the future…I mean, I really am excited, but it’s hard to be excited around the people I work with because of all the adjustments that they will have to make because I am leaving.  I know that things will work out for them, but it’s like we don’t know how to be around each other…it’s hard to explain.
Yesterday I made the difficult decision to look for a new home for my dog Shadow.  It’s really hard to imagine giving him up, but I think it will be best for him, and ultimately for me as well.  He is such a sweetheart and I love him to death.  I have spoiled him rotten.  However, with my new schedule and plans in Nashville, I will not have the time to devote to him or give him what he really needs.  So any of you reading this…if you know of a good home for him, please let me know!  I know that he will make anyone an amazing pet!
Spiritually, things are really different right now for me.  I feel like I’m just trying to soak it all in.  It’s a wonderful spot to be in, but my understanding of God has changed quite a bit.  Until this point in my life, God usually took my desires and acknowledged them but chose to do something different.  Often He would do the complete opposite of what I wanted, and I really learned and grew a lot through those times.  However, I was starting to see God not as loving per se, but as someone who has their own idea of how things should go and nothing I do or say matters.  I often wondered what the purpose of prayer was, because for me at least, it never seemed to make any difference.  Everything that I had prayed for never happened, and it wasn’t that I saw God as some sort of Santa Claus, but I had a hard time seeing that He cared about the things that I cared about.  I saw myself as always wrong in my perception of everything.  Looking back, I see clearly that most of those situations involved me either needing a reality check or I was asking for what I really wanted with holy reasons.  That was what made this whole process in deciding about moving to Nashville so significant in my life, because finally my desires aligned with God’s desires and He granted the very thing that I prayed for.
So many things have been happening to confirm to me that this is God’s will for my life, and it has been exciting to see all these things happen.  It could be in a conversation I have, or in a sermon I hear, or in the alignment of plans, but every little moment of sureness adds up and creates quite a confidence.  In a lot of ways it’s like I’m not even a part of the show, I’m just sitting in a chair on center stage.  Everything is happening all around me and I’m taking it in.  To me, that’s so much better than me trying to figure out all the details.  It’s much more comforting to know that God has things under control, and that He is bringing about His will in my life.  It’s not often that I can see how He’s working, so I’m enjoying the show.
The biggest surprise for me, I think, has been the deep joy God has given me in knowing that I am truly getting ready to jump into the flow of His Kingdom.  Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere…I’m moving to Nashville!  Beyond that, it’s so incredible to KNOW that God has big plans for me there.  It’s even better to know that it’s not about me and that I am getting ready to see a TOTALLY new way He is working in the world first-hand.  I have a chance to be a part of something so much bigger than me…and here’s the great irony of life:  that’s so much better than a life lived for our own fulfillment and desires.  There is more joy the more that we give our lives away.  How that works, I’ll never understand it, but I’m so excited for the start of God saying “yes” to the desires that He has placed in my heart.  Once in, there’s no going back, but why would I ever want to?
There’s so much going on in my head and heart right now…and I felt like I needed to share just a little bit of it.  Mostly I just want to sleep all the time because I’m so tired.  I’m scared because I know what I am getting ready to do is going to be a lot of work and very challenging.  I’m excited because I know that it is going to be worth it.  Please pray for me as I make this transition and EVERYTHING that goes with it.  Your support means so much!!
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