Taking Flight, Writing

A long way from God

Tears streaked down my face as I sat cross-legged on my couch and at attention to the Lord. Please, God, just take control. I don’t want control anymore, I prayed. That’s what I wrote in my prayer journal as I sat at a crossroads with the next step I should take. I remembered all the conversations I had had with God to make his plan for me abundantly clear. At this moment, I was sure he was shouting at me. Not in the way you would when team USA is lagging behind in speed skating because they keep making mistake after mistake. Come on! Can’t you see him! He’s right there! He was more so screaming it the way your coach would if you made a devastating fall in the short performance. Come one! Get back up! You can do this! This is what you have trained for! Just jump right back into the routine!

It was in that moment that I resigned control over to God to do what he must to bring me back to where I needed to be. And it would be the very next day that I would be met with a crushing blow of reality – that in my gradual shifting away from God, I had traveled a million miles away from Him.

Because that’s generally how it works. While some people make the dramatic flight from God, most people stumble and crumble to their lowest because they made a series of baby steps away from the smooth path he lays for us.

For a brief point in my life, I began to surround myself with not the best people. Actually, I had welcomed a wolf garnished in sheep’s wool into my life. The disguise was convincing. That much I’ll admit. So I let the beast stay longer than I should have, even after I started to see the menacing fangs and hungry eyes beneath a sweet grandmother’s cap. Like Little Red Riding Hood, I saw the big hungry eyes behind the wire frame glasses and the menacing fangs that dripped drool in anticipation for the kill.

Briefly, I accompanied the wolf thinking it was just a sheep on the edge. Nothing much to worry about. But with each passing day, I only became more critical, more pompous, more like the wolf with whom I kept company. I was hateful. I was judgmental. I thought of myself as more than my brothers and sisters. I do little out of love and most things out of selfish ambition.

Thankfully, the Good Shepherd saw what I couldn’t. He saw what I didn’t until the wolf had run off and a trail of wool was left in its wake.

Sadly, I still see remnants of how the wolf effected who I am, how I see people, and how I see the world. It is in the moments when my pride starts to rear it’s ugly, pompous head or that I say something so biting and bitter that I realize how many baby steps I took away from God and how they eventually amounted to thousands of miles.

When I first surrendered my future to God, I felt like a rug had been ripped out from underneath me. For that moment, it seemed like God was the incompetent magician who whips a table cloth out from under a fully set table only to fling every piece of precious China and polished silver to the ground leaving what was once beautiful and precious scattered on the floor. This wasn’t what I asked for, God, I thought.

But God is anything but incompetent.

And nothing He does is a simple illusion.

Though the state of my faith and my focus on God was the China and silver atop the fancy table cloth, the problem with my perspective was that everything wasn’t as beautifully set as I thought it was. In fact, it would have been better for Him to decimate everything on its surface than to mask the chips in the China and the scratches on the silver and pretend like the tablecloth hadn’t been tarnished by my own arrogance, my own pride in my plan, the plan I was certain had to be God’s, too.

But the moments where we are miles away from God are the moments we accuse Him of leaving us and leaving us for dead.

God wasn’t destroying order. What I thought was order ended up being chaos, and when I thought he had only created chaos, He was actually restoring order. He was clearing the table so he could make my heart orderly and full of love again.

 

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Taking Flight, Writing

A Letter to the Woman Who is 19-going-on-20

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(photo by Kathryn Patterson Photography)

It’s been almost a year since I turned twenty. A lot of people said to get ready. That it would be hard and that the struggle would be so very real. People told me that this would be the hardest time in my life. But despite all the warnings and ill-tidings people would proffer, I looked at twenty and I saw hope. I saw joy. I saw new beginnings and unlimited possibility. I saw a chance to reevaluate the direction my life was going and reinvent who I was. So here is a heart to heart I offer to the woman who is about to leave her teenage years behind because ready or not, here twenty comes:

Sweet child,

You’re no longer a child anymore and I’m sure you’ve felt that way for quite some time. All of a sudden the number 20 is thrust upon you. You’ve longed for freedom and for independence. You’ve wrestled with this idea of womanhood – wondering what that exactly means and when exactly you entered that season. You’ve grappled with what a woman lives her life like and how you will live the life before you with strength and dignity and determination, but now you have to live it.

Twenty. It’s a very confusing number with so many implications, so many expectations. Your twenties are scary and ominous. There is so much uncertainty. For what might be the first time in your life you see the things in which you once put your hope for what they are. Meaningless. A vapor in the wind. Up until now you’ve had dreams – big dreams – but in the context of twenty they seem far off and unlikely.

I wish I could tell you all that there is to living out your twenties and living them fully, but I’m still learning just like you. But let me start here.

I hope that you will not lose hope.

I pray that you love life. I pray that you will seek adventure. I pray that you will not lose faith but instead find God in the most amazing and unlikely places simply because you took the time to look. I pray that you will not get caught up in the rat race of life, but that you will charge full speed ahead in the race God has called you to run.

I pray that you know that everything in this next decade of life and in every other decade is very much a choice. I pray that you choose joy even when that seems like the hard thing, the awkward thing. I pray that you choose love even when you don’t have a man in your life to love. I pray that you choose peace when the storm seems too big for you to weather. I pray that you choose kindness. I pray that you choose compassion. I pray that you choose grace. I pray that you choose beauty because, yes, even beauty is a choice. And I’m not talking about the beauty that comes from powder and paint.

I pray that you see the future as opportunity for God to be glorified and to make much of Jesus. I pray that you see the coming years as a blank canvas for Him to create a beautiful masterpiece. I pray that you look past the uncertainty and the unknowns and see all that the Master Artist could do in the coming years – that He can and will make beautiful things from nothing or even bad and horrible things.

I hope you take a chance. I hope you travel all over the world and leave worry behind because He is bigger than your worry. He is bigger than your fears because turning twenty is kind of scary.

But more than anything.

I hope you dream wildly and live adventurously.

In Him,

Candace

(Originally published to my former site, thetakingflightblog.com, on March 11, 2016.)

 

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Taking Flight, Writing

Confessions of a Blogger

Confessions

The title of this post is “Confessions of a Blogger” but could just as easily be confessions of a millennial or confessions of being human.

This goes with out saying but I love blogs! I have a blog (duh!), I follow a lot of blogs on a regular basis and I read a lot of other random blogs here and there.

This blog has been a ton of fun for me! I get to do what I love, which is writing, and use that passion to share the experiences and thoughts I have as a 20-something college student. Blogs are a fun way to share what’s going on in your life with family and friends, to share ideas with people far and wide, and to learn about other people and their views.

But while blogs can be used for great purposes, there is one struggle that I and many bloggers like myself all share and that is the struggle over numbers. We struggle to be authentic and I am no different. I struggle with writing to what will get the most likes or shares. It’s not just about writing something people will like, but sometimes you just want them to love it and a lot of the time they don’t love it. They merely enjoy it and that should be enough.

I struggle to share real life – my very real and imperfect life – with y’all. There is a line between being brutally authentic and keeping some things private. It’s so easy to write the “5 things” kind of post and they can be a lot of fun to write, but people want to feel. I want to feel and I want to know that other people want to feel, too. And maybe they want to feel the same things, too.

The internet is not always the best place to share some of the most vulnerable and tender parts of your soul that are best kept between you and a friend over coffee or put in God’s hands over prayer. But there’s something to be said for being able to put into words the pain and struggles that other people can’t always express. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift. To not use it would be to disgrace God. I would be no different than the servant who was given the one talent to invest in only to bury it for safe keeping.

But more than anything I struggle with what people might say when I decide to write in a very raw and brutally authentic way. People won’t always like what I write. Some might honestly hate it – find it insensitive or too sensitive. Some people will think that I just need to get over it and not get too caught up in X, Y or Z, but for every person who thinks an article is “too (fill in the blank)” there is someone who I have encouraged, someone who feels heard and represented instead of falling through cracks of a planet with 7 billion people on it.

So I must speak. I must write and not for the likes and shares. But I must blog with all the authenticity I can muster.

What does being authentic mean in your life?

(Originally published to my former site, thetakingflightblog.com, on February 15, 2016.)

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Taking Flight, Writing

Thank You!

2015 was THE year!

The year I finally jumped into my blog head first. The year I finally made a commitment to myself and Taking Flight. The year I was determined to blog at least once a week regardless of how busy the school year got. The year I finally took this talent of mine by the reigns and mobilized it for good. The year I gave myself a voice.

I started this blog in the summer of 2014 and seriously dropped the ball, but when I returned from Europe in May 2015 a little spark to write ignited a fire in my heart. My first blog post after Europe became a promise to myself to dare to dream, live adventurously, and be unapologetic in my faith, thoughts and goals.

So I put it all out there and to be honest, I was kind of nervous. There were some posts I was so scared to publish that I would send them to a friend before I made it live. I didn’t want to come across as insensitive and I also didn’t want people questioning my sanity and asking if I was okay. I only wanted to present my point of view as food for thought.

I wanted these words to be the figurative “pot of soup” people were simmering on low if that makes sense.

My first blog post after Europe I had my roommate Jill read it. I had resolved to not only publish but also publicize my writing.

And I was terrified.

After I published and shared it to Facebook, I shut my computer dramatically and didn’t look at social media for the next 24 hours. (HUGE deal for a millennial, sadly enough)

But any fear I had was unwarranted and unnecessary and I cannot express how thankful I am for all the support I have received as I take flight. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take this time to write out some of my thank you notes.

thank you notes

In all seriousness…

Thank you, Jill, for saying I could change the way people think with my writing when I showed you my first post-Europe post. If you hadn’t said that, I probably wouldn’t have kept writing!

Thank you, Kathryn, for always being my sounding board and photographer even though I can’t pay you for your awesome work!

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for always being behind me with every new article and for texting me after you read the latest post about how much you liked it!

Thank you to all of my family and friends who have personally told me how much you like my blog! I will always be writing for myself with the hope of impacting others, but it’s a blessing to know that I’m actually impacting others. You are the ones who pushed me to write during the weeks when I didn’t want to write whether I didn’t have time or I didn’t have any inspiration.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through the hard-to-write articles and the fun ones, too!

And thanks be to God for giving me the ability to write! I hope I’m taking this talent to the bank (Matthew 25:14-30)!

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Taking Flight, Writing

Praying for Paris

Paris.

It’s a place that fills some of my most treasured memories. It’s where I had the best crepe of my life. It’s where I fell in love with coffee. It’s where I found the most amazing bookstore (thanks to Amanda Scott!). It’s where I formed new friendships and then watched the Eiffel Tower light up the night sky with them. We laughed. We explored. We were adventurous! When I was in Paris and the UK, I felt like I was finally starting to live the song “I Lived” by OneRepublic.

But that was before the terror. Before the city of lights went dark and the city of love felt fear. Before over 100 people died. Before people no longer felt safe leaving their homes.

I remember Paris being a bustling city that never stops, but now I imagine it’s streets and Metro stations deserted and it’s world-class cafes and patisseries empty. I imagine the tables that face the streets longing for a spectator willing to watch passers-by, willing to observe the theater before them. But I imagine the theater of the streets longing for anyone to walk by as well.*

Though France may be our oldest ally, the French and Americans haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. I certainly felt those tensions when I had the opportunity to visit Paris. But we sympathize…no empathize. Americans know what it is to experience an attack on home soil. We know what it is be scared to go anywhere. We know the fear, the hurt, the anger, the sadness. We’ve asked why, how could they, and what next.

So, to Paris and all of France, we know. We stand by you and we pray for you.

*For anyone who has never been to Paris, many of the cafes and restaurants there have patio seating and all the chairs face the street. While I was in Paris, a local told me and the group I was with that it’s a French pastime to “people watch.”

 

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Taking Flight, Writing

Why I Write

 A few weeks back the hashtag “#WhyIWrite” was trending on social media and on twitter especially. Anyone who considered him or herself a writer would write a tweet explaining why they do what they do.

So that’s what random people on twitter said. And then this is why one of my new and very dear friends writes!

But why do I write?

I write because it gives me a voice. I write because no one can interrupt me. If someone chooses to quit reading what I write, that’s their decision, but it doesn’t make the words exist any less.

I write because it’s cheaper than therapy and better for the soul than any substance (including coffee!). Because let’s face it…being a college student and a 20-something trying to figure out life is tough.

I write because sometimes it’s to hard to keep thoughts bottled up. They just keep coming and coming until I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t write some of it down.

I write because I have a lot to say. I have opinions, strong opinions. And I can add to the conversation as anyone can.

I write because I know it’s a talent God has blessed me with and to not use it would be to dishonor Him. I write so God can keep creating through His created.

I write to dream. I write to dare. I write to explore. I write to feel something. Sympathy. Empathy. Compassion. Grace. I write to grow.

I write and that’s all there is to it.

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Writing

The Post I Never Wanted to Write

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This was never a post I wanted to write and it’s definitely one I never thought I would. It’s not a post that any one who reads this blog ever expected me to write about. It’s not a post that fits the theme of this blog. It’s not a happy post, a witty post, or an adventurous post, but it needs to be written.

Friday night a young man who is very close to my family was playing football and went to make a tackle. From what I’ve heard it was a clean hit, but something wasn’t right when No. 28 walked off the field. That night high school junior Ben Hamm was rushed to St. Francis in Tulsa. (Full story here)

Saturday afternoon I received the tough news that Ben was in a coma and it hit pretty hard, but I just keep thinking, “You know what, God’s got this. All I can do is pray. God is in control and He’s much more capable than I.”

I held on to that feeling, that faith if you will, until Monday morning and I got more bad news. His cranial pressure had risen to dangerous levels. Every time I checked Facebook, there was more bad news and more bad reports. And then Monday became Tuesday. I woke up to more bad and for the first time I wasn’t sure. I woke up and cried and just waited for the next update. I checked social media more than I probably ever have looking for anything new and hoping for something good. I didn’t want to go to class or keep any of my responsibilities. Then, I woke up Wednesday and saw a text from my mom. More bad news. And I cried again. I drove to my first class and arrived late. I sat down in my normal area. The professor had already turned the lights down so we could see the PowerPoint and I was thankful for that because I couldn’t stop thinking about it and started crying half way through class. Then I walked to my second class, checked social media again, and cried in class again. After that, I came home and I think a cried a little bit more.

The past few days I’ve thought exclusively about a family that is having to watch their son, their brother, their nephew, their grandson go through the worst situation I could have ever imagined. I’ve thought about a youth group that has to watch its friend fight for life. I’ve thought about my brother having to watch his best friend be touch and go. I’ve thought about the pens and needles everyone is standing on as they wait for the next news and hope and pray for better. It’s the stuff you see in movies. It’s the stuff you hear happen to people you don’t even know. It’s the stuff that you never think will happen to you or anyone close to you.

There’s a part of it all that doesn’t seem real, and there’s a part of me that hopes I will wake up tomorrow and it will all be over or better yet had never happened. There’s a part of me that hopes that the next time I go home that I’ll see Ben up in the front pew with the rest of the youth group. There’s a part of me that hopes Ben and Seth with be joking around and arguing about the best sports team or who’s played the best game on Saturday.

So, I hope and I pray. I start to think about school, but then I just can’t because I know there’s a 16-year-old boy who needs every second of prayer I have and God who wants every second of prayer and devotion I can muster. I write this post not for my glory, but with the hope that Ben’s suffering and his family’s suffering and his friends’ suffering…my brother’s…suffering will not be in vain. I write this with the hope that someone out there will read this and turn to God. I write this with the hope that someone will find their faith.

Some of you have probably never prayed in your life. Some of you have prayed and come to the conclusion that you don’t see the point. Some of you are probably wondering why I still pray and why I still have hope.

I pray because it works. I pray because I serve a God who listens. And I hope because God first had hope in me.

You may not believe in God. You may not pray to God. But I ask that for 5 minutes of your time that you believe in a God that is greater than me or you or all 8 billion people in the world and that you pray because a 16-year-old boy needs just that. He needs you to believe, he needs you to hope, and he needs you to pray.

What say you?

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