Taking Flight

Mercies instead of blessings

(Photo by Siddharth Kothari on Unsplash)

For some reason, it feels a bit like cheating, piggy-backing off of some thoughts from a book. The past two summers the college group at church as done a book club so every week we read a chapter from the book and then discuss it. This practice has been hugely influential for me in my faith as I ponder new ideas with my brothers and sisters. But there is nothing new under the sun so I feel somewhat safe continuing.

A few weeks ago, we were reading the chapter in the book that was all about God’s compassion and graciousness proclaimed in Exodus 34.

And I found it interesting that these qualities of God (compassion and graciousness) can also be translated to mean mercy, a word that is related but still distinctly different from the synonym.

This, for some reason, got me thinking about those words you’ve used so many times in a term paper that you end up looking for the fanciest synonym to replace it a few times. After all, you have to make sure your professor thinks you look smarter than you are.

Or at least that your vocabulary is more robust than it is.

Admit it. You’ve done it.

While technically there are similarities, there are also important discrepancies that give each word a specific identity, a unique identity that changes how we interpret the surrounding words and the overall meaning.

Language and semantics are complicated and messy. And I love it.

And mercy has some complicated and messy connotations, if you will. On the positive side of the coin, I think everyone would agree that mercy is a wonderful thing that we love to be applied to us in great abundance. We love the moments where we scrape through by the skin of our teeth and barely avoid what we had coming for us and sigh a relieved “That was a close one.”

When the police officer lets you off with a warning, when someone seems to believe the lie or half-truth you nervously squeaked out, or when gossip gets back to the “gossipee” and she chooses to let it slide, your relief fills the atmosphere and sits heavy like humid Oklahoma-summer air. Your body tingles with the adrenaline of “phew.”

But the word “mercy” is a double-edged sword. Because in any situation in which mercy is doled out there is a certain amount of baggage that preceded it.

There’s a reason that we receive mercy and never is it a response to good.

Mercy is not a response to perfection. It’s a response to our shortcomings, to our missing of the mark, to our flat out defiance and rejection to Perfection.

Mercy is not a response to good but a response that labors to bring good out of bad.

Because we all know receiving mercy is wonderful, but giving it…not so much. Giving mercy is a labor and much like forgiveness it is something you have to choose day after day after day after day. Mercy is not only forgiving someone the moment they wrong you, but also it is overlooking that wrong the next day and the next day and the next week and the month after that and so on.

That is hard, backbreaking, spiritual labor…

…because if you’re anything like me, forgiveness in the moment is trivial. It’s like that tough workout that as the day goes on the pain fades. But wake up the next morning and your heart is screaming with anguish and frustration and confusion. And all you want to do is give that person a piece of your mind and rip them a new one.

I’ve probably just struck a deep cord in everyone who reads this. I’d almost be willing to bet that all of you instantly pictured someone in your mind. Because that’s how hard mercy is.

And our God doles that out

every

single

morning.

Nothing we have in this life or the next have we earned. We like to think we deserve all the good things that come our way. We like to think our blessings are a result of our works…or at least that a portion of them are because we were good. But if I’m speaking honestly, our blessings are all colored by a tinge of mercy’s hue.

Blessings are more than just presents or God saying, “I just thought I’d do a nice thing. Just because.” Every good thing we have in life is probably a peace offering from God, Him saying, “I forgive you. Now let Me show you so you can come to Me and know Me.”

The author of Lamentations was inspired to proclaim this very truth in chapter 3.

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Changing our view of blessings to mercies could be life changing. Like eternal life changing. It could mutate the very spiritual DNA that has been evolving in us since we became a New Creation.

Changing how we forgive others.

Changing how we approach the Father. May this draw us closer to Him.

 

Advertisements
Standard
Taking Flight

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thankful to be out of the chilling daggers of Oklahoma’s winter winds, I slammed the door of my car and exhaled the breath I had been holding the whole walk from the Barnes and Noble front door. Actually, it was more of an equal parts sigh and exhale. The day before it had been in the 60s for a high. Today my car thermometer read 28 around mid-day.

After I took a moment to savor the shelter from the wind, I whipped out my phone from my purse to cue up Spotify and saw the email notification. Mini @ Book and Corner had nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award (more on what that is in a minute).

My initial thought was This is kinda cool! When I first started blogging in probably 2014, these awards weren’t a thing or at least I wasn’t aware that they were. I was a bit of an incognito blogger who maybe published once a month. I didn’t really share my posts anywhere. I hadn’t figured out the whole tags and categories benefits. I didn’t even understand or even know about the whole social media aspect to WordPress.

Then, for a couple of years I wasn’t even on WordPress. You can read more about that here. But now I’m back and I am so grateful that Mini thought of Taking Flight when she was nominating!

So here’s how this works. The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to bloggers who are creative, positive and inspiring as they spread sunshine to the blogging community. It’s a privilege to know that what I write here on Taking Flight is making a positive difference. My prayer is that God his revealing Himself through every word that is written here and I can’t help but think that this award is a small piece of proof for that.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

So let’s get started with questions!

  1. What is your guilty pleasure? There aren’t many things that I would say are my guilty pleasure. I’m pretty comfortable in my interests and hobbies, but if I had to pick something I would say a Dr. Pepper from McDonalds. Being for a more southern state, I think it’s part of my DNA to love this fizzy beverage so if I can conveniently zip through a drive-thru on the way home and grab on for just $1, then why the heck not!
  2. If given a chance to meet an author, who would you meet and why? Assuming this has to be a living author, I would sat J.K. Rowling for obvious reasons…the woman created an instant classic with the Harry Potter series that will define my generation’s relationship with literature and reading for the rest of our lives.
  3. Why do you blog? I blog because God gave me a gift for writing that I want to invest in and make more of Jesus with. However, not only do I write about faith, but I’ll also write about book reviews and my travels…which only reminds me of the myriad of posts I have floating around in my head and pending on my drafts.
  4. Describe your reading style. Are you a planner or a random reader? I would say I’m a combination of both. I don’t set out each year with a list of books that I desperately cling to, but I also have an idea of what I’m going to read next based on a number of criteria. For example, there are a few books on my Goodreads To-Read list that are coming out with a movie in the next couple of months so between now and April I plan to read A Wrinkle in Time (which I’m currently reading), Ready Player One, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I also try to always have a religious book going so I am also reading The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel (which I would definitely recommend if deep philosophical questions are barring you from walking in faith).
  5. What would you choose; Book or Internet? Book. If I’m being honest, sometimes the internet and social media grind my gears. Technology is a double-edged sword in my opinion so I will always and forever choose a book over Internet.
  6. Three things you always carry with yourself. A book, lip balm, and my phone.
  7. Where would you like to live and why? I’ve always had some weird obsession with London, England. I think the over-2,000 years of history draw me, but also some of my favorite authors are from there. Also, one of my hobbies/goals in life is to learn French so I also think living in France for immersion purposes would be need. But realistically, I have no idea where I want to live…God will lead me where he wants me.
  8. If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? Assuming this were a perfect world and I wouldn’t reap the consequences, I would say pancakes. I. Love. Pancakes. So. Stinking. Much.
  9. Tell me one fact about yourself. I wrote a novella my senior year of high school for an English project.
  10. If traveling became free, where would you like to go? United Kingdom, France, Greece, Israel, Egypt, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand. That would be my short list!
  11. What is at the top of your bucket list? Learning French!

Now, it’s time for another round of nominations and questions! I don’t think I follow 11 blogs that have new content consistently, but here are the ones that I find to be positive and encouraging and all around fun to follow.

Editing Advantage

The Godly Chic Diaries

MySweetJesus

Okie Sunshine

RoamWildandFree

And I think if I could return the nomination and include Book and Corner here, I would. But I’m not sure that’s allowed. Any who, I can’t wait to see their responses to these questions!

  1. What television show are you watching right now (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, network TV, etc.)?
  2. More importantly, what are you reading right now?
  3. What is your coffee drink of choice?
  4. Why do you blog?
  5. If traveling were free, where would you like to go?
  6. If you were stranded on an island, what three people would you want with you?
  7. What is a feat that you think is really cool, but would never do (e.g. climbing Everest)?
  8. What are your three favorite books of all time?
  9. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
  10. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  11. What are your reading goals for this year?

Hope you enjoyed this break in between Thoughts on Matthew!

Sunshine Blogger

Standard
Taking Flight

Thoughts on the book of Matthew | Part I

Just a few days after the new year rolled around, I made the startling realization that I had not made one single resolution. Not a one. Sure, I had pondered things in my mind that I wanted to work on in the new year, but it probably wasn’t a solid week after the impetus of 2018 until I put my goals down in words.

For anyone who is a follower of Jesus, it is so essential to our walk as disciples to immerse ourselves in the word daily, to really dig down deep and take root in the fertile, solid, holy ground that is the Word of God. It doesn’t matter what plan you use! Just find a plan or make one yourself. Through prayer and reflection, decide what you want and need out of scripture to grow in your walk with Christ and go from there.

When I made my resolution, I wanted and needed more Gospel, more of the life of Jesus, more of the early church. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Old Testament with all of it’s beauty and history. It’s absolutely fascinating to read the retelling of this tapestry God is continually weaving even to this day. However, I was not willing to wait until what might be August at the earliest before I got to the life of Jesus.

In my head, I can already hear the very wise and knowledgeable Bible teachers that I’ve been blessed to receive guidance and instruction from. Yes, Jesus was there from the very beginning. Yes, Jesus is woven throughout the Old Testament portion of the most amazing masterpiece to ever be crafted. But I craved to see the very life of Jesus – how he walked, how he talked, how he treated people. Not to be cheesy (but why not!), but I wanted to know what Love is…the very Love, perfect and true, that would walk the dusty decay of this earth in the flesh. I wanted to refresh myself and breathe in the sweet details of his story because we all have an amazing story created by God, but for me and any other Christ follower, that story always comes back to Jesus.

Now, without further ado here are some of my thoughts on Matthew. In the college Bible class last summer, we were studying how to read the Bible. Throughout the whole series, the main theme was to obviously read the Bible but to look for details you didn’t notice before. Part of me was like “duh! Why didn’t I think of that?” But it can be so arduous to refrain from slipping into mindless reading so we can tick daily Bible reading off the never ending To Do list. I’ll admit there were times in reading Matthew where I would zone out, exhausted from a day full of grad school and GA-ing or running to and fro trying to complete all of those other things on the never ending To Do list. Nonetheless, I wanted to share some moments from Matthew (where I wasn’t zoned out) that really stood out to me and some thoughts about those moments from the life of our Savior.

King Herod didn’t want baby Jesus killed because he denied that Jesus was the Christ.

Before reading Matthew this time, I’m not sure what I believed Herod’s motives were for wanting to kill Jesus. I suppose I never thought about it and just categorized him with everyone else who wanted to kill Jesus. But now as I think about it…their reasons were all the same.

Matthew 2:3-4 tell a different story than I thought. Let’s look at those verses.

When Herod the king heard this [of the birth of the King of the Jews…aka Jesus], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Does anything peculiar stand out to you? A few things do to me.

First, I think it is fascinating that Herod was concerned that the prophesied King of the Jews had finally come. It says he was “troubled” that the Christ was here. This was something that had been prophesied long ago. It should have been no surprise. In fact, it should have come as a great surprise that the messiah was coming at this time, that the season for salvation had come upon them. This was what the Jews had been waiting for for hundreds of years. This was something that should have brought King Herod great joy, that his people would have their redeemer.

Second, not only was Herod troubled at the news of the three wise men, but so was all of Jerusalem with him. In my head I’m thinking that while it is feasible that one person who grew up knowing the prophesies and the holy scriptures could have the wrong reaction to what should be a joyous occasion, could a whole nation that had the same instruction really be so far off with their reaction, too?

Third, Herod got all of the people who knew the scriptures best to go straight to the scriptures themselves to figure out where Jesus would be born so that they could find and kill him.

My mind is all over the place as I try to piece together these observations. I reeled when I read these passages last month. Because it wasn’t that Herod or the religious leaders didn’t believe the validity of the prophesies. The thing is that Herod didn’t want to give up his power to a new King.

This reminds me of the parables about the bridegroom, how we’re waiting for him to return and how He will be returning very soon. And while some of us won’t be prepared to persevere through the long, dark nights that will come before the dawn of eternal life, there is a whole other group of us who will be unwilling to lay down our own crowns so that He can take His throne in our lives just like Herod.

I write that as if that time should come in the distant future, as if it’s an event that is coming an not yet here. But that moment is here and is in every day of our lives. It’s in how we rigidly cling to our own 10 year plan for our lives. It’s in how we demand that the church service should go this order and this order only. It’s in how we believe with our whole being that our way is the only way instead of remembering that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Often times we think of the New Testament as the more relaxed covenant. Instead, Jesus ups the ante and calls us to higher standards.

When I got to chapter 5, I noticed that the phrase “But I say to you…” is riddled throughout this chapter, scattered like rainbow-colored sprinkles on top of chocolatey brownies. Jesus kicks off this portion of the Sermon on the Mount by telling the crowd that he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.

And then he comes down hard with this hammer in verse 19:

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” 

Wait, what?!?! I think we like to focus so much on the grace and mercy that God gives us that we forget that maybe he is giving us that grace and mercy because of the higher standard he as calling us to. Yes, God gives us abundant grace and mercy and I am so thankful that he does, but take a look at every time the phrase “but I say to you” comes up. In fact, go ahead and take a few minutes to underline each one in your Bible right now. Jesus uses this phrase SIX times in one whole chapter.

Honestly, when I read this passage, it kind of reminded me of when I was a child and I wanted to do something that my friends were doing. Of course, I used the usual child rationale for why I should be able to do this thing when trying to convince my mom that I should.

“But so-and-so’s parents let her do that.”

You can probably guess that my mom retorted, “I’m not so-and-so’s mom. I’m your mom.” In many situations where that dialogue ensued, my mom was usually calling me to a higher standard. And as adopted heirs with Christ, God calls us to live to a higher standard, a standard worthy of our adoption as heirs with Christ.

Some sun andvitamin sea

Chapter 8 establishes Jesus as the one with great authority.

By the end of chapter 7, the crowds he spoke to recognized his authority through his teachings, but chapter 8 shows us his authority through action as he heals lepers, casts out demons, and calms storms. If you do a close analysis here, you’ll probably see that Jesus has been granted the ultimate authority to do one major thing: heal.

With close analysis, we learn that Jesus has authority to heal…

The body. From verse 1-17, Jesus is healing lepers, paralyzed servants, Peter’s mother-in-law and many more. Jesus had the authority to heal afflictions then and to this day. This is a little harder for us to comprehend since we aren’t physically taking ourselves to Jesus for various ailments, but this passage serves as a reminder that even our physical sufferings should be laid at the feet of Jesus for him to heal. Because on the day of the resurrection they certainly will be.

Situations. When it feels like we can’t hold out any more and like we’ve done all we can and the troubles of life are still barking at our door like a pack of ferocious wolves, Jesus is there for us to turn to for calm and peace. Not only that but he has the power to assuage the trials of life just as he did with the storm.

The Spirit. Jesus has the power to cast aside the demons that haunt us, the sins and struggles we can’t seem to shake. Walking with Christ in Word and prayer and allowing him to carry us through the storms of life will bring healing to our spirit caused by the situations we did not let him into before.

This part of Matthew speaks to Jesus’s sole purpose for making himself a little lower than the angels to walk with us in the flesh for just a short time. He is the balm to a broken world, the assurance of new earth. In Jesus, everything is made new once more. The healing we need to renew our decaying flesh, our broken relationships and circumstances, and our downcast spirit can all be found if we follow Jesus wherever he leads us (verses 18-22). There is no earthly home where this healing is found, but there will be healing nonetheless.

So, I’m going to cap this post off here – not because I’m done and this is all that I gleaned from this round of reading Matthew. Believe me! I would already love to dive deeper into all the nuggets of gold Jesus gave to us through the Word. But this blog post is starting to become obnoxiously long. There is so much more I want to share with you from Matthew’s account of Jesus’s life and ministry and I don’t want to wear y’all out. For now, stay tuned for scenes from our next episode!

Standard
Taking Flight

New year, new site…sort of

(Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash)

So, I feel like I should explain all this moving around and junk that’s been happening with Taking Flight.

If you’ve been following this site by WordPress Reader for like three years and wondering why I’m showing up on your feed again, then you’re questions will be answered shortly.

If you subscribed by email for forever and a day ago and you’re all of a sudden getting email updates when I post after receiving two years of nothing from me, then you’re in the right place.

If you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting articles that are old but mysteriously have never been published on this site, then just hold on to your seats.

If you’ve been keeping up with Taking Flight through my various social media channels and you’re wondering why my link has suddenly changed or why the site has a fresh new look, then stay tuned for just a teensy bit longer because I’m about to answer all the little inquiries you’ve kept in your noggin for the last few weeks.

For those who follow Taking Flight blog on Facebook (shameless plug…please hop on over and like that page real quick if ya don’t mind), you probably saw my post about going back to WordPress.

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 11.24.00 PM

About two years ago–almost to date–I decided I wanted to try Squarespace. I was starting to get really serious about my writing again, and I had big ambitions about taking my blog even further. Honestly, at the time, I anticipated having a full time job and being out of college at this point…or at least not going right into grad school after my undergrad. So, even if Taking Flight wasn’t…well taking flight quite like my ambitions had anticipated, then at least I would have a decent income to support my hobby until it might take off a little more.

Fast forward two years later, I am in grad school (which I love…mostly) with not a ton of time to write and not a ton of income either. Not to mention that before making the move back I took about a 5 month break from writing, which resulted in readerships tanking and social media algorithms leaving me behind in the dust. Thus, I decided that it might be time to leave my cushy and official domain and Squarespace behind and go back to freely blogging without a fee.

But there would be a downside to leaving Squarespace other than losing the super easy CMS and fancy shmancy domain–I couldn’t sync anything from Squarespace back to WordPress like I could when I switched from WordPress to Squarespace.

So, before canceling everything, I quickly copy and pasted every article I wrote and published on Squarespace to Word documents so that I could sporadically add my old articles back here. Which explains why you’ve been seeing old dates in parentheses along with some blog posts. It’s kind of turned out to be a win-win because I won’t be losing content that I worked so hard to create AND that content gets to work overtime without the pay…a great ethical tactic as long as no humans or living things are involved.

Well, there you have it! That’s what’s up with Taking Flight, and I hope you stick around to read more awesome posts to come or that you’ll jump back into Taking Flight and be part of all the fun!

Standard
Taking Flight, Writing

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

candace||kpp-5.jpg

(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.)

 

Standard
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)!

Standard