Oh Christmas tree.

We’re getting my parents’ Christmas tree today so, I was thinking about where Christmas trees came from and what they symbolize. (My tree has been up since the first week in October! I needed the Christmas spirit a little early this year.) Christmas trees can mean a lot of different things to people. Onechristianministry.com gave these explanations for the symbolism:

A tree (remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross which is called a tree).
Lights and ornaments (representational of the glory, and wonder of what Jesus did on the cross).
A star at the top (representing the star that was above Jesus Christ at his birth time).
And we give gifts (God gave us the gift of Jesus on his birth, the wise men gave Jesus birthday presents, and Jesus gave us the gift of salvation on the tree. We continue in the tradition by following in the joy of giving gifts).”

For me, the tree symbolizes the life You gave for us and the life we share with our loved ones. My mama is a pro at decorating the tree. She gets one like a million feet tall every year and then puts so many strands of lights on it that people can see it miles away. She has a very precise way that she puts the ornaments on. Each one has a specific place for a special reason. There is nothing my mama does with more care than that tree. (She hates to take it down so, it usually stays up way longer than most people. I can’t say anything though, my tree has been up for almost two months already.)

I found some Christmas tree facts thanks to History.com:

“The tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington.”

“In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.”

“In 1912, the first community Christmas tree in the United States was erected in New York City.”

“Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees.”

As much as I love ornaments, the lights were always my favorite. They mean the most to me. I love how they light up the whole room including the people in it.

I could sit around watching Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel and drinking hot chocolate all day! Nothing gets me in a better mood than watching people come alive with the Christmas spirit. I love the fairy tales and love stories, the families coming together, the lessons learned, and the way they always seem to find their way back home to You.

So, this is my prayer today. I pray that we are able to pick out a tree today that will bring honor and glory to you. I pray that we remember the most important gift you ever gave us. I pray we reflect on what Christmas means to us. I pray that tree makes it home safely. I pray that the tree brings my mama as much joy as it always does. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And greater is the One living inside of me.

Taylor Swift wrote this letter to her fan that was being bullied back in September. I saved the link because I really liked what Taylor said in the letter and thought I would want to reread it one day. I was right. This is the letter:

“Reading this made me so sad because I love seeing you in your videos and photos being so happy and wide eyed, like the world isn’t as harsh and unfair as it actually is. I hate thinking about your pretty face covered in tears, but I know why you’re crying because I’ve been in your place. This isn’t a high school thing or an age thing. It’s a people thing. A life thing. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t end or change. People cut other people down for entertainment, amusement, out of jealousy, because of something broken inside them. Or for no reason at all.

It’s just what they do, and you’re a target because you live your life loudly and boldly. You’re bright and joyful and so many people are cynical. They won’t understand you and they won’t understand me. But the only way they win is if your tears turn to stone and make you bitter like them. It’s okay to ask why. It’s okay to wonder how you could try so hard and still get stomped all over. Just don’t let them change you or stop you from singing or dancing around to your favorite song.

You’re going into high school this week and this is your chance to push the reset button on how much value you give the opinion of these kids, most of whom have NO idea who they are. I’m so proud of you and protective of you because you DO. If they don’t like you for being yourself, be yourself even more.

Every time someone picks on me, I’ll think of you in the hopes that every time someone picks on you, you’ll think of me…and how we have this thread that connects us. Let them keep living in the darkness and we’ll keep walking in the sunlight. Forever on your side, Taylor.”

People are unnecessarily mean sometimes. People will try to cut you down or break you. People will hurt you. They will leave you out. They will tell you all your flaws. They will belittle you and tell you that you are inadequate. No matter what you do, people will always find something to criticize. I heard this quote once: “You may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or throw it in someone’s face. There’s a third option: You can just let it go, and only when you do that, is it really gone and you can move forward.” To be honest, I struggle with this. I get bitter and I take things personally. I take their words and actions straight to heart.

On the radio, the other day, was a new Mercy Me song called Greater.

Lord, You are greater than all my doubt. You are greater than all my bitterness. You are greater than my fears of inadequacy. You are greater than all my flaws. You are greater than all the bad in the world. You are greater than any battle I could ever win or lose.

So, that is my prayer today. I pray that I remember that you are greater. I pray for the mean people. I pray they find love and peace. I pray they learn to spread more kindness than hatred. I pray for the girl that Taylor wrote this letter for. I pray that tomorrow she has a wonderful day. I pray for Taylor. I pray she keeps writing letters like these. I pray she keeps inspiring people to walk in the sunshine rather than the darkness. I pray that I remember not to let the darkness control me. I pray that you lead me, Lord. I pray that I try to walk with you more. I pray that I grow closer to you.  And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tell her we love her and tell her she’s wanted.

There is an article going around Facebook called: “8 Reasons Why America Needs More Sadie And Less Miley.” I’m all for good role models and trying to live in a way that pleases You, Lord. I think Sadie is doing a great job sticking to her values, but doesn’t anyone remember just a few years ago when Miley was the “good girl?” I think that Sadie should be rewarded for efforts and I think she is a smart young woman. America totally deserves more good role models, but I don’t think that holding Sadie to an impossible standard or condemning Miley is the way to do it. That’s not fair to her or to Miley. Yes, she is doing great so far, but what happens if she messes up once or twice? Are we going to send her to the wolves too?

That is way too much pressure. That’s the kind of pressure that we put Miley under and Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and The Jonas Brothers. We’re human. We make mistakes and we try to make up for those mistakes and learn from them. It makes it even harder to do that when everyone in your small town is watching you, much less the entire world watching.

I am very proud of Sadie and the level of grace she is carrying. I hope and pray for her only the best. I think she is starting a beautiful legacy about modesty and staying true to your family and faith. I have been watching her on Dancing with the Stars and I watched her on Duck Dynasty. She is certainly using the talents and gifts You gave her to make a positive difference and I admire that so much! I hope she continues to thrive and bring glory to You. I think she really shines a wonderful light for You, Lord.

I think Miley is a lost young woman that wants attention and that’s exactly what they are giving her. She is still a human being. Doesn’t anyone remember the story of the prodigal son? Aren’t we called as Christians to love like Jesus does; like You do? Yes, I know we are also called to hold each other accountable, but I think we confuse and blur the lines a little. We think holding them accountable means condemning and shaming. I remembered this song.

When I was in middle school, a friend of mine, at the time, literally rooted for Miley for fail. She couldn’t believe someone was that much of a “good girl.” I never understood why people did that. When someone does something good, they want them to fail. When someone does something bad, they shame them out of existence. There is no winning. Barlow Girl has another song called Pedestal about role models that I think fits.

“Add you to my fallen list
One more has hit the ground
The fault was mine
Held you too high
Your only what was down”

Instead of more Sadie or less Miley, I think America needs more of You. Billy Graham said: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”

So, that is my prayer today. I pray for Sadie. I pray that she continues to shine for you. I pray for her family too. I pray for Miley. I pray for her and her family. I pray that she finds her way home. I pray for Selena, Demi, Joe, Nick, and Kevin. I pray they all know they are loved and wanted by you. I pray you put a hand on their lives and guide them. I pray that you protect them. Lord, I pray for more of you. Lord, I want to be consumed by you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We are one body.

When I was a kid, we used to sing this song in church. We would all hold hands across the pews and sing our hearts out. It’s one of my favorite memories. We did it practically every Sunday, which made me totally happy. I felt empowered after and ready to go out into the world. I have tried to find the song everywhere. All I can remember is “we are one body.” It made so much sense to me that we were one body. We were extensions of You. We were Your hands and feet. We were sent here to share Your love. What I like most is that we are one body. We are united through You. Philippians 4:13 says: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Casting Crowns has a similar song.

Colossians 3:15 says: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” So, since it’s Thanksgiving. Here is what I’m thankful for:

1. My family, my friends, my sisters, my person, my soulmate, my littles, and all the lovely people in my life.

2. The University of South Alabama and all the wonderful people that work there.

3. My country, the great state of Alabama, and all the brave men and women in uniform.

4. Country music and southern accents.

5. Albert, my beautiful car.

6. The Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation and all the amazing people contributing to the world’s work.

7. Faith, Hope, and Love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

8. Taylor Swift for showing me it’s ok to dance everywhere you go and fall in love with everyone you meet.

9. Hannah Brencher for inspiring me to bring more love to the world.

10. Miranda Lambert for showing me how to be strong and kind at the same time.

11. Dolly Parton for showing me how to stay humble and have big hair.

12. My life. I’m thankful that I’m here and I get to continue to use my talents and gifts for You.

So, that is my prayer. I pray that you use me. I pray that we are one body. I pray that your arms are reaching. I pray that your hands are healing. I pray that your words are teaching. I pray that your feet are going. I pray that your love is showing them the way. I pray that I use Psalm 119:105, which is: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I pray that I keep listening to you. I pray that I keep seeing you. Thank you for sending your son for us. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for making me who I am. I pray that I use the talents and gifts you gave me to bring glory to you. I pray that I show more love. I pray that I show more kindness. I pray that I show more compassion. I pray that I show more generosity. I pray that I continue to be thankful for everything around me. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Just wrap Your arms around me, let me know I’m safe.

“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” Sarah Dessen wrote that in her book, The Truth About Forever. The more I thought about “how it holds you in place,” the more I remembered this song from Dolly Parton.

Today is my birthday, but it’s also Christopher’s. I don’t even know what to say. All my words just seem like they aren’t enough. I want to just sit in the bed and hide away from today, to be completely honest. Christopher taught me better than that though.

The other day I saw this article about the top 10 upcoming women in country music and one of the women was Mickey Guyton. I really liked her so I just kept listening to her songs. Safe is one of her songs and these are the lyrics:

“The storm is calling, rain’s falling down like tears
The water’s rising, bringing on my darkest fears
I need a lighthouse, someone to guide my way
Oh, just wrap your arms around me, let me know I’m safe

Sometimes it’s heavy, this life can be so cold
Sometimes I feel lost, can’t seem to get back home
I need a compass, someone to guide my way
Oh, just wrap your arms around me, let me know I’m safe

Come on love, show me love, take this crying from my eyes
Come on love, show me love, I could use some tonight
All the daylight’s fading, my hope is slippin’ away
Oh, baby wrap your arms around me, let me know I’m safe”

The more I listened to the song, the more I realized how blessed I am, because You are holding me.

So, that is my prayer today. Thank you Lord for being my lighthouse. Thank you for being my compass. Thank you for letting me know I’m safe. Thank you for holding me when the tears fall. Thank you for my friendship with Christopher. Thank you for all that he taught me. Thank you for the time I did have. Thank you for sending him. Thank you for your love. Thank you for holding me together. Lord, I’m running to you today. Thank you for catching me.  And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It’s all about you Jesus.

I was on Facebook today and this quote scrolled by that said: “God didn’t add another day in your life because you needed it, he added it because someone out there needs you.” I think I get so caught up in all the things I want to accomplish, all the things I want to do, all the things I want to be. (See that key word, I? I can be pretty selfish sometimes.) Lord, I forget that it’s not about me. It’s about You.

I think we are all put on this earth to help someone else, to bring people to You. I get so focused on the step in my big plan that I need to be reminded that I am just a very small part of the plan. That’s not to say that I don’t still want those things or that they aren’t important because they are important and I should still strive to accomplish my goals. They just are a very tiny part of the plan. They aren’t the reason I’m still here. I’m still here because my work isn’t done yet. I’m here because Your plan is so much bigger than mine.

One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison and it says: “If we did all the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Let me repeat that. We would literally astound ourselves. We often underestimate our own potential. We give ourselves the short end of the stick. We let others condense us and put us in boxes. You don’t make mistakes. You don’t make meaningless things. You make everything with a purpose. You make everything glorious. That’s why I like this quote so much because what if we did all that we were capable of? Can You imagine the possibilities? Can You imagine what all we could accomplish? Of course You can because You made us with that idea in mind. Now, what if we used all that potential to help people and to serve You and to love others and bring people to You?  Well I think today has served as a call to action for me.

So, this is my prayer today. I pray that I remember that it’s your will and your plan. I pray that I focus on you. I pray that I keep looking to you. I pray that I learn to love more. I pray that I learn to honor you. I pray that I learn to bring people to you. I pray that I learn to help people more. I pray that I give back to you because I am so thankful for all that you have given me. I pray that I learn to stay humble. I pray that I learn to be kinder. I pray that I don’t lose sight of what is important. I pray that I continue to work towards my goals, but that I work even harder to be closer to you. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I have been changed for good.

Yesterday, I was thinking about what I had learned in college. So, today I thought I would make a list of things I would go back and tell myself as a freshman:

1. Don’t confuse friendship for love. It only gets you hurt.

2. Stand up for yourself the moment something happens. Do not dwell on it.

3. There are two sides to every story.

4. Don’t take online classes lightly.

5. Everyone has a story, listen and don’t be afraid to share yours too.

6. You know your own issues better than anyone. Stop letting others have control over you.

7. Move into the house on bid day and don’t move out until you’re an Alum. All of your best memories will be in that house. Cherish them.

8. Talk to someone and swallow your pride. It’s ok that you have anxiety and depression sometimes. Accept your imperfections. You are a work in progress.

9. Don’t listen to what others say about you. You will never their true intentions. I heard that “people are not against you, they are just for themselves.” That one sentence changed my entire perspective on life.

10. Leave the past in the past. Stop holding onto it. Allow yourself to heal and move on.

11. Don’t trust everyone you meet, but don’t hold grudges either.

12. Keep putting yourself out there. Don’t get bitter when you face rejection. Not everyone and everything is meant to be.

13. Remember that you are a lot stronger than you think you are.

14. You are going to experience real heartbreak and loss for the first real time and it’s going to suck and you are going to think the world is ending. You are going to struggle and you are going to be lost, but you have wonderful sisters and family and they will keep finding you no matter how lost you get. You can lean on your faith and find comfort in God.

15. You are going to have to deal with drama from the moment you are born until the very end. It’s at school, work, organizations, and everywhere you go. It is inevitable but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it or feed it. You can chose to set yourself free of the negative. That doesn’t mean when things get rough that you have a free pass to run away from the problems. Your problems will follow you where ever you go. As an Alpha Gamma Delta more is expected of you and that is not supposed to be a scary thing, it is a responsibility to do better and be better, to make the world better.

16. I went through recruitment because of what it could give me: friends, community service, leadership, etc. I came to bid day because of mattress surfing and For Good. I went to initiation because of what my big was teaching me. I stayed because I found my person, my soulmate, and my littles. I stayed because I gave each one of my sisters a piece of my heart.

So, this is my prayer today. Thank you for the experience I’ve had here. Thank you for the love and joy that I’ve seen. Thank you for the lessons learned. Thank you for forgiving my mistakes. Thank you for changing me for good. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.