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Defying the Pre-Conceived Mold

It’s time to walk out in boldness. It’s time to break out of the pre-conceived mold and claim our true identity in Christ; the one he gave us before we were even born. You have a calling! It’s unique and planned specifically for you to walk in. But how many people never fully access their purpose because they allowed the world to steal their true destiny in turn for a man-made one?

Like the cliché of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole there are times when the world around me has tried to fit me to their pre-conceived mold. Going off that analogy here is one to fully express this picture; imagine the instead of a square peg you are the one being forced into a different shaped hole, or rather, role. That’s how it feels.

It is impossible to be who you are made to be when you are being pulled in several competing directions. It cannot continue but this action will stretch you thinner in every direction. But in addition to being stretched beyond what is healthy, a part of you is taken away to “help” you better fit into another’s mold. A part of your identity is stripped from you when others are trying to change you to meet their expectations.

The downside is when you try to fight for that piece of who you are, you will fail to meet said expectations and maybe begin to loosen your grip of that thing about yourself you fought so hard to hold on to. Eventually you will allow yourself to be remolded to fit someone else’s idea of who you should be. A piece of you, if not a large portion, disappears. That which once helped define who you are, is lost as a result of feeling like you were failing what was expected. Maybe you let go of something of something that meant the world to you, something that set you apart or made you different.

When we let go of those pieces to appease others, we give up our identity and it becomes much easier for others to take away more of the character traits that once defined us.

People will always have their own set of expectations for others to meet. Some are more realistic and others are simply unrealistic if we are to cling to what we are called to be. I have let the world around me shape me for so long that there are parts of me that I have hidden in order to play the part desired of me. But that’s the thing, it’s simply a play and inside it’s not who I want to be. It’s not who I feel I’m meant to be but it’s the role that others have assigned me as insincere as it may be.

Maybe you have been here where you feel like who you are is hidden under the rubble that others may have thrown on you. The dreams in your heart remain unknown to others because it would defy what is expected of you. But by fitting someone’s idea of who you should be, you are denying the true identity God placed inside of you when He made you!

The person you are meant to be is not a common art piece but a unique one of a kind masterpiece. Many times we fail to see ourselves as the Lord sees us and neglect to walk in all we are called to be. As a result we miss something that could have defined who we are, if we had only stepped boldly into it, instead of cowardly stepping back and letting man define us.

It’s time to walk out in boldness. It’s time to break out of the pre-conceived mold and claim our true identity in Christ; the one he gave us before we were even born. You have a calling! It’s unique and planned specifically for you to walk in. But how many people never fully access their purpose because they allowed the world to steal their true destiny in turn for a man-made one?

The Lord is calling you to fit in to one mold; His. It’s not restricting or limiting. It was made with you in mind and is flexible to bend with you as you continue to grow into your identity and chase your destiny Christ placed before you.

Do you feel it rising in your gut or has it been dormant for so long that it’s on the verge of extinction due to neglect? How badly do you want to claim that which is yours? That which was created to fit to you, not mold you to it’s already hardened shape? Are you ready to stand for who God made you to be or will you become hardened by a mold that was never meant to contain you?

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14a

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” 2 Timothy 1:9

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;” Genesis 1:27a

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

White Noise

Sometimes we get so used to being lulled to sleep by white noise that we forget we are meant to be awake. The noise that defines our life is not the sweet sound we used to hear.

During the younger years of childhood, a white noise machine or some sort of rhythmic noise is helpful to get the child to stay asleep. Even adults may use noise machines to sleep more soundly or simply because they enjoy them.

Just like being lulled to sleep by one of these machines, much of society has grown accustom to the white noise of life. The noises become so present that life before them seems like it never existed in the first place. As the noise continues to grow louder, the sound of the sacred silence we once listened to is lost.

When we don’t give God our heart’s affection and attention first, then we allow the background noise to consume the ability to hear His still small voice. He is trying to speak to us and we try and listen but our ears are filled with clutter.

Our ears have been progressively growing more and more deaf to his whisper. Our hands are becoming idol and no longer boast of the work of the Master. Our senses have gone dull as the world sings it’s ensnaring lullaby, allowing a complacent nature to form inside us.

When did I allow all this babble to bring a sound barrier between me and My King? I am made to be a warrior who walks in power and authority of the One True Living God! I was made to be more than happily blissful in my ignorance.

But how can I look like my King and carry his authority, if I cannot hear his quiet whisper? How can I hear him speak to me if my ears are blocked and I have forgotten the sound of his voice?

It is time to turn off the white noise machine I have allowed to put me to sleep. It is time to take up the whole armor of God, as I take my place on the battlefield, once again. I’m tired of being tired. I don’t want to speak of longing to hear the Master Commander give His orders, only be deaf to all He wants to say.

When there is a poor connection on our direct line to Heaven, we know it is time to reengage our senses and get rid of the things slowing down the communication. This is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes it means making a conscious decision to rid ourselves of those things that have lulled us to sleep.

Whatever it is, it needs to lose its grip on us. There are endless options for things that block our senses; music, radio, tv, life in all its grandeur. It’s easy to blindly enter into, but difficult to escape from. Satan knows that if he keeps our senses blocked and dull then we cannot reach our true power and unlock our identity in all we are created to be in Christ.

What gets in the way? Does life get in the way of God or do we believe God gets in the way of our life? In other words, have I allowed living how I want to live to be more important than living how God desires me to live?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
⁃ Isaiah 6:8

For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
⁃ Isaiah 64:4

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
⁃ Ephesians 6:11

So that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
⁃ Mark 4:12

“for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.””

– Ephesians 5:14

Nurture Your God-Given Promise

There are dreams inside of each of us. Sometimes they are more obvious and other times we have to search deeper to find those gifts placed in our hands.

A wise friend once showed me that we are supposed to hold the things that God placed inside of us in our hands surrendered as an act of faith. This revelation was expanded as she continued to tell me that we are called to lift our hands with our palms up towards heaven, ready to receive everything God desires to give us.

The point of this act was to make sure that that which was gently and lovingly placed in our hands by our Heavenly Father is not dropped. To steward these promises well by taking care of them, but still leaving these things delicately offered back to God in complete surrender.

Upon revisiting this divine discovery, there was a greater understanding of it that was released to me. The gift, the dream, the promise placed gently in our care, is in need of nurture and warmth from us in order to keep it alive. The thing we hope for, cannot reach its full potential if it is not tended to and nurtured while it is in the early stages. The promise needs warmth and security, otherwise the coldness of the world around us will kill that infant dream before it can ever reach full fruition.

In elementary school, there were baby birds we kept in our classroom. They were in an incubator until the baby birds were ready to hatch. The incubator kept the chicks warm and cared for the unborn babies while they matured. Once they were born, they no longer needed that heat to keep them alive.

After they hatched, we got to take turns holding them. We were given strict intrusions as to how to hold them because they were so small and fragile. We had to cup our hands so they couldn’t fall out of our little hands. They were so young and still sought the warmth of the incubator, but not to the extent they did before they were born. So we had to hold them close to our hearts to give them our warmth.

It is the same way with the hopes and dreams placed in our hearts. We have to keep them close to our hearts so they are safe, secure and nurtured. When our hands are cupped, the dream in our hands is protected from the elements and from the harsh external climate. But to the same measure, we need to leave our hands open so the dream can grow upward as we hold it. By leaving it in our hands loosely, we are telling the Lord that we trust Him with our promise, or to put it in other words, we are giving Him our “Isaac”.

The promise we now steward from God, for God, is not easy to carry and, like an infant acting up, comes with problems to endure through and overcome. We may feel defeated by the trials we face for our dream, to the point of crying out to God. What we don’t realize, though, is that those tears cried are watering the seed inside of us. God uses that which caused us pain to bring us immense joy when He fulfills what He promised. Tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of agony, tears of elation, God uses every tear we cry in our hearts and for our dreams to nurture and water the seed we contain.

As the seed grows, we can open up our hands a little more to let the sunlight shine down and feed the promise
Just like a baby in it’s mother’s womb, there is growth as the promise develops and matures. In order to allow the growth the hands that hold that hoped thing must be opened wider while still keeping the unborn dream safe and secure.

We have to place our hope in God as He places these things inside of us to tend to. He calls us to keep them warm as they continue growing inside each of us. If there is no warmth, then the likelihood of those things we place our hope in will not survive. The cold threatens to take the life from the hopes and promises. With proper love and care, however, they will always be kept warm despite the environment they are placed in.

It is easy to see how simple it is for dreams and promises to grow cold as a result of lack of care, and as a result can shrivel up and die underneath the frost. This is common when a dream seems impossible and out of reach.

Because of this, the dreamer loses the hope conceived in their hearts and neglect the egg. The heat we were providing is turned down if not shut off completely. The small unhatched egg, the dream inside of us, is forgotten and without being tended to through hope, love and faith will die. With it, a piece of us will be die as well. In the place of the unborn promise, an offensive odor is formed.

We abort our dreams before they can be born lest we have another miscarriage when we don’t see the promise coming true. But one has to wonder, maybe the first time a dream was thought to be miscarried was really an abortion too. What if in our impatience to see the promise birthed now and out of intolerance to wait for its expected time of delivery, we actually killed it? What if it would have lived and became something great if we just waited for it to reach fulfillment?

What was forgotten, was that like the unborn baby bird, our dreams and promises need time to mature completely. They need the heat from being nurtured, even before they are welcomed into the world. That which we hoped for, needs to be hoped in, especially when it seems impossible.

Beloved, do not be discouraged when your dreams have not come true yet. They will take time as they are growing and to rush the process might be detrimental to the promise forming inside of you. Only as you wait upon the Lord’s perfect timing, will the seed within you reach full maturity and be brought into reality. Wait on God to fulfill what He has placed inside of you, what He has promised you.

In the meantime, tend to the dream. It will come to fruition only if it is cared for in every season and in the nurture provided. Hold the promise delicately with open hands and a willing heart surrendered to God. But at the same time, hold it close to your heart with warmth and hope. Without either, the dream will perish. Only when both elements are present will the Lord grow it inside of you and give it to you as a gift when it has fully developed.

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” “He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.””
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭22:1-2, 8, 11-12‬ ‭

“He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭7:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“The son of the free woman was born through promise.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:23‬b ‭ESV‬‬.

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.””
‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬

“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Identity

Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t reach your goal? To make things worse, the devil is right there to rub in your defeat.

This happened to me recently and it devastated me. Up until this point, I was positively optimistic that I was making leaps and bounds toward my end goal.

Immediately following this event, however, I questioned and doubted my improvement so far. I felt like all my hard work had not been successful in getting me where I wanted to go… which was in a forward direction. As the feelings of hopelessness and failure came close to consuming me I began to believe the lies consuming my mind.

Then I heard the whisper of hope, of love, of The One Who gave me my identity. The voice was quiet, yet it spoke with authority and a sweet tenderness that could not be mistaken nor could it be overlooked. These gentle and genuine words made me happy. It made me feel adequate and it spoke to me reminding me of the purpose I had inside that I had forgotten existed. The purpose that was given to me by my Creator and King before I was born.

The voice urged me to realize that I was made in the image of the Creator of the universe and it reminded me that He didn’t make mistakes or failures.

With restored confidence, I found the courage to silence the lies that were screaming and consuming my mind. My heart was able to receive the truth that the still small voice whispered to me in place of those lies.

This was not the cure-all to feeling defeated in my final goals, but it was a small victory in which I won back some ground from the grip of the devil over my life.

We stand with Christ Jesus, our Victor! In knowing that we stand as conquerors, there is no lie or deceitful words that will stand against us. When we walk in our God-given identity, then every distortion and falsehood falls off of us in defeat.

Life is full of battles that are fought in the spiritual realm as well as battles that are paralleled in the physical realm. We are equipped with the Holy Spirit and we are called to stand firm in the truth the Lord instilled in our hearts. Resist the lies that Satan tries to plant in our hearts and minds and walk in the truth of who you are! Walk in the identity that Jesus Christ died to give to us.

Whatever battle we are called to face we must remember, first, we will never face anything alone. Next, the lies have no ground in our lives. We are equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us and we have the armor of the Lord covering us to protect us and equip us. We have to pray the armor of God over every area of our lives if we are to receive the victory we already have in Christ.

Prayer:

Dear true Definer,

When the lies of the devil try to drown me and wrongly define me, let me be reminded of the whisper that tells me who I really am in Christ. Help me tune out every voice that wants my attention except Your own. How often I allow the lies of the enemy to take root in the garden of my heart. Holy Spirit, come and pluck up the deep roots of lies I have accepted and allowed to grow alongside the wheat of Your truth. The harvest has come and I ask that you take the tares that have grown deception in my heart and mind and cast them into the furnace, Father. Help me to see my true identity is found in You alone! Thank you for creating me in Your image, for giving me purpose and a divine design. Thank You for creating me to look like You, Oh, Almighty God.

In Your name, I pray, Amen.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Don’t Blow Away

FullSizeRenderIn case you haven’t noticed yet, I love rollerblading. I have mentioned how it is an escape, as well as a sanctuary for my thoughts to bloom in. I love that I can find new ways to travel down, and given such beautiful views. I love that I can hear the silence and just spend time with God in solitude. There are so many things I love about rollerblading, the ones I have listed are only a few.

But there is one aspect of rollerblading that I do not always enjoy. The wind. The wind is welcomed, only when you’re going with it, but almost impossible to travel in, when you are going against it.

When you were going with the wind, you could go on for miles. When you are going against the wind, however, you could go only a few blocks, if that, and feel completely exhausted.

In life, I find myself often times loving going with the wind, but then when I change direction, and suddenly, I’m going against the wind, my journey becomes so much more difficult.

The wind can represent doing things because others are doing them, or it could even be going with the status quo. Many people are so terrified to go against what others think or act in such a way that those individuals are seen as outcasts so they stick to what they see others do. The only thing is it gets tiring trying to impress others all the time and living for their approval.

The difficult part is that when we go with the wind, i.e. the pressures of this world, internal-pressure, temptations of the flesh and so many other things, the reward of reaching our goal is not accomplished because we were too afraid to go against the wind.

When we go against what everyone else is doing or expects of us and when we finally reached the end goal after pushing hard against the world, what we gain is treasured and that much more worth the opposition we had to face in order to attain it.

For me, when I make it to wherever it is that I’m rollerblading to, I am so elated that I made it there, despite having to go against the wind during my track.

The same goes for life. When I finally reach something that I have been striving to reach, for a long time, the joy that I receive far outweighs the battle it was to get there.

On a hot day, nothing feels better than blading with the breeze, as it basically pushes me, and makes the work easy. But I can not let the wind determine where I go, especially if where I need to get to, is the other direction.

Just like going against the wind, there are times when I need to push back against the pressure and keep pressing into the “wind” as it tries to blow me the wrong way. I have to stand firm in what I know to be true, even when no one else is in agreement with me.

I am called to trust God’s hand will always guide me down his path, that what God tells me is the unfailing truth. I have to trust that the Lord has directed every step I take, even if I take it alone.

Let the wind be your guide, but never be afraid to confront your wind head-on, when the Lord changes your direction.IMG_5550

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Fruit of Your Labor

Recently, I went to Connecticut for a family party and it was incredible! They had a plot of land and they all lived in close proximity to each other. By close, I mean next door or across the street. The siblings, all with families of their own now, still were close not only in proximity but in relationship to one another too.

This was encouraging to see but the part that really amazed me was how they grew all their own produce. They had blackberries, plums, Asian pears, mulberries, hazelnuts, tomatoes, squash, to name only some of the many plants they tended to on their grounds. That was most inspiring to me, the fact that they planted all these plants and had prospered from their fruit and land.

They had livestock and it impressed me how they lived off of their own crop and the work of their hands.

I got to talk with Bill and Amy, the owners of the one section of the plot of land, and they talked about how their son, Andrew, was the true visionary for their abundance.

Apparently, Andrew saw, in his head, what he wanted to plant and where it would grow best. He took into account how tall each tree or bush would grow and what the perfect way to plant each one of them so the view overlooking the mountains was not lost. He did extensive research on this project and it paid off. He even mapped out where each plant had to be planted because of its projected height.

(Backstory: Andrew is one of the most creative people I have ever crossed path with. He works with leather and will make a life-size replica of something like an elephant head. He “dabbles” in art and is able to put professionals to shame. Anything he puts his mind to becomes a masterpiece and now in addition to his long lists of artistic abilities, he has a green thumb as everything he grows thrives.)

When he first had the idea to plant all of the produce, Andrew was the only one who saw the end result before the seeds had even been buried in the ground. This, however, did not discourage him to give up on the whole endeavor. IMG_5404.JPG

The parents relayed to me their skepticism at first, of their son’s most recent project. Andrew was away when some of the trees arrived, Amy recalled, and he told them that they had to go in the ground immediately, so Amy and Bill went out there and planted them despite their ability to grasp their son’s vision. They told me how they were not able to see the goal that their son had seen but waited patiently.

As time went on though, everyone was able to see the progression of the plants and trees as they continued to grow. Suddenly the vision was shared by all and it was all due to one person enduring and persevering despite any and all challenges.

While I was spending time with the family, I got to taste the fruits of their labor, literally. It was all so delicious and naturally sweet. I only saw the final result, I did not get to see the process to get to that point.

This, however, made me think about my own internal growth. I thought how I do not see myself experiencing growth while in that moment of self-expansion. God is the one who sees, like Andrew, what the end result has in store for me but how he differs is that he also sees the journey that we have to face and the victory that awaits us over it. He sees what the climate around me will threaten to do to me and how to best protect me against the elements of life.

(The climate can be those things in life that could launch me forward and they can be the things that could freeze me to the bone and hinder me if I am not sheltered properly.)

The Lord has to make sure that the thorns do not grow around me, stealing all of my nutrients and nourishment. If the weeds do grow around me though, then I have to be so rooted in Christ, that even though I am surrounded by unhealthy growth, I am not affected by it.

Like Bill and Amy, I may not be able to see the end result of what God has planned in my life. I may look at the current state and be unsure how I could possibly be all that I was made to be. I need to remember that like a tree, the seeds in me take time to grow into a big strong foundation. When I look at where I am, I need to remember patience is important but also see how far I have come already as I trust the Lord to take me further, still.

I heard it put this way, “You can rejoice in the outcome but do not live there.”

If I live in the outcome, I would be missing so many lessons that are going to bring me there. I also cannot live there because then I will postpone the joy that the Lord wants me to experience in my current tribulation. To be like Christ, I have to be joyful in the testing, or in this case, as my tree or vine, continues to grow.

I have been equipped to persevere but I need to know that my strength comes from God alone. Even if there are other trees and vines around me, I can only depend on the One True Vine.

In life, others may not see the journey I have traveled so far, to get where I am, but that does not disregard the progress I made so far. I may not see the improvement myself, but a seed takes time to become something great, and my odyssey has to be treated the with the same persistence and patience.

Like me only getting to see the end result of the fruits and vegetables planted, many people may not see how much hard work and diligence that was required of each one of us to get that final outcome.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

When I Think Of Summer

What do you think of when you hear the term summer?

Many people think of cookouts, beaches, breaks from the stresses of life and school, and so forth. Every location celebrates summer differently, and every person, for that matter. When one is in a sunny environment, they tend to think of the beach and swimming to cool off. People in a colder environment might think of joining those in the warmer climate for a break from the chilly temperatures. I do not think of summer as a break, only because I still have responsibilities I have to take care of. Instead, I think of rollerblading, summer scents from the grill, sunrises on the ocean and sunsets on the bay, I think of ice cream at Woohoo (a local homemade ice cream spot).WooHoo

Thinking about summer made me curious what others thought about it, so I decided to do my final interview on the subject of summer. I interviewed everyone that I had previously interviewed, but instead of asking a bunch of questions this time, however, I asked only one. The sole question I asked was ‘what summer meant to them’. It was fun to see what my family and friends thought of when asked about summer. The answers varied as much as the ones who gave them.

The first person I asked was Sam, my sister-in-law, who loved telling me all the different things summer meant to her.

“A summer day on the island usually consists of bare feet, bathing suits, and tan (or burnt) salty skin,” she laughed and added, “gathering with my cousins that I haven’t seen in months.”

Sam’s family has this tradition called the Pearce family beach day. All of her of her relatives come stay at the grandparent’s beach house and spend the day together at the beach. She talked about another aspect she loves about summer, being island camping with her family, where they cookout and have fire pits in the sand, to tell stories around and eat s’mores.

“Summer makes me think of rowing my old blue boat down the creek to the special hidden spot just under the bridge, and crabbing for hours. Saturdays are for Surf City Yacht Club Laser races with my dad. A summer day in Beach Haven makes me think of Fantasy Island, and the occasional Ferris Wheel ride, that I still take when I want to get in on the carnival action.  I think of elephant ears, Country Kettle Fudge, Chowder, and ice cream.”

She said some of her favorite things were the wine tastings and pig roasts, but some other things she thought of, were romantic beach walks with her husband, morning jogs on the beach that leads to a dive in the ocean, fully clothed, a good book and a cup of tea out on the porch, and the unmatchable sunrises, when you are up that early, and sunsets that engulf the night sky with a ray of colors that cannot be replicated.

She ended by talking about what summer used to look like for her.IMG_9429.JPG.jpeg

“Childhood summer memories that have stayed close to my heart are playing in the sand and catching fireflies. We would run through the dune grass, gently catching fireflies only to release them and watch as they fluttered away.  Although I have grown up, it is amazing how the excitement and beauty of summers on Long Beach Island have never changed.”

It was fun seeing all my sister thought about when she thought of summer and how those memories of summers past, still stayed with her.

Next, I interviewed my friend Asia. Asia talked about how summer, for her, is usually a time of transitioning, whether it be in a relationship, a new location, a transition from work to school or whatever it is, her summer is when it happens.Asia

“It seems logical that it would be a transition, but I always thought summer would be a time to just chill and relax. But I’m always reminded by summers, that rather than a long time of rest, I usually tend to experience God when a lot is going on.”

(Side-note, isn’t it so amazing that it does not matter which season of life we are in, God still reveals himself to us, both in the stillness as well as the busyness?).

“I always find that when I’m in summer I want to jump forward to the next task,” concluded Asia.

I love the friendship I share with this girl because she is so inspiring in everything she does and never takes any credit, but instead, gives glory and honor to God. Getting to interview both times was such a delight and encouragement to go further in my own walk with the Lord.

After finishing my interview with that friend, I decided to talk to another friend about his interpretation of what summer meant.

“Church on Sundays, going to the beach two to three times during the week, relaxing by the pool with some friends, going on a nice morning runs, reading my bible outside with iced tea, and being with the ones I love,” responded Andrew

What I loved about this answer was that he was able to sum up the important things in a single sentence. He is one of my spiritual brothers and our relationship has reflected that. He and I have a special friendship, where we know how to push each other’s buttons, and we always have the best time together. It has been cool to see him grow into a man of God, as well as witnessing our friendship blossom too.Memory lane

Following smiles, as I have nicknamed my friend Andrew, I asked another friend who has helped me to grow in God continually. Sean is one of those people who naturally have a servant’s heart and I am honored to have a role model in my life like him. In everything he does, he does it in humility and exalts God in every aspect of his life.

“This summer was probably one of my craziest summers.” He said with a smile in his voice, “most of the time summer means vacation – doing something fun – traveling and being outdoors. This summer, [however], I was working at 2infinity (a trampoline park in Lakeland).”

As he paused, I could hear his wheels turning, “Summer means a time of working. Pushing myself to perform at my best. Summer still means a lot to me with opportunities to travel, but as I’ve grown up, it’s how I can prove myself – the testing period of my life, to see how far I can go, [and] because of my hard work, there is a reward in the fall time.”

The rest he got in the fall, was a gift he was thankful for, from God, because of the summer work and his obedience. It is a gift that God gives his children, after they follow him obediently, through a season of perseverance and labor, but it is never given to us, our way – it always will be in God’s way – in His timing.

Before ending he stated, “It is a time of stretching and growth from the Lord. It’s really interesting – I don’t know why God chooses to do things in me in summer – that’s my tax season.”

He was then, by my pressing, encouraged to add a little snippet about good leadership and what that entails.

“Even if I’m at work, church, or just at home, I serve. I serve by taking initiative. I serve so people don’t have to worry about [the responsibility and stress of] being in leadership. I take initiative be willing to serve. If you allow yourself to give away your time to another human being, that is a good use of your time. We’re never perfect, we make mistakes, but it is just being obedient to the voice of the Lord is key”Sean Sunset

Sean has been appointed to many positions of leadership, especially in the summer time, because of his natural nature to put others above himself and as he continues to serve, God gives him more opportunities to lead.

After hearing Sean’s take on summer and the busyness it brings, I asked Marissa what summer meant to her.

“I think a lot about resting, going to the beach a little bit, and doing nothing.” She continued, “I just went through my first summer where I was still doing things and nothing really changed.”

Her point was valid though when one is in school or a job that takes off in the summer, summer has a completely different meaning than if a job or education is year-round. I love Marissa and how she always brings an optimistic perspective. She is another role-model I look up to, and spending time with her, is always something I enjoy. Even though her summer is packed with work and plans, she still is on the worship team at church and makes time to spend in the word and with fellow disciples. I love her playing – it always allows me to come into a place of pure worship where it is just the Lord and me. I thank God for her heart, and for using her to bring others to sit at his feet as well.

Next, I thought I would reach out to a person that does have a seasonal job and has off only for summer and for school breaks.

My aunt who works at the school said that summer is a time to relax and “a time to recharge my batteries”. She talked about how in the summer, she has more time to spend outdoors and with friends that she has not seen during the school year, as well family she has not seen in the “off” months either. It gives more time just to stop and dwell on what the Lord is putting on your heart. The urgency to get things done is not as strong in the summer so it is easier to stop and rest.

She said, “my fall, winter, and spring is so focused on work, that when summer comes it’s a breath of fresh air.”

In the summer she likes to take on smaller projects, like a taking a teaching or a painting class. This allows her to stay sharp and to keep learning, even as she is not in the actual classroom.

Later on, I interviewed my mom on what summer meant to her. Being a real estate agent, she is always much busier in the summer month since this is a seasonal island. Ask anyone and they will tell you that June to the beginning of September is the most hectic months for a real estate agent. This, however, was not mentioned too much when asked what summer meant to her.

“The fun of having a filled house, with the family, the dog, and the activity” was the first thing she mentioned. “The light reflecting off the bay, putting on our sneakers, and riding our bikes to the end of the island, enjoying the beautiful breeze as we listen to worship music,” were other things she wanted to make note of.

She went further to discuss the beauty of the sunset on the bay and the sunrise over the ocean. Grilling and sitting on the deck with a nice refreshing drink and friends that stopped by, was discussed as well. We have not grilled too much this summer, however, but when we did, we loved basking in the sweet fragrances that filled the air, and the conversation taking place, while we waited.

“This moment is what summer means to me,” referring to the orange glow of the sunrise falling on the houses as the sun rose over the roofs as we sat on the porch, one morning, before our bike ride.

I love that my mom finds beauty in everything and everyone. She sees God moving in everything and is constantly reminding me of God’s presence surrounding us. Watching the sunrise on the ocean and worshipping with her, as we wait for the full picture of the risen sun, is one of both of our favorite summer activities. When I leave in the fall, this will be a sight that I will miss every morning, and look forward to when I come home on school breaks. 

Afterwards, I got to discuss with my sister, the significance of summer to her. Like Sean and Marissa, my sister has a job that does not stop in the summer so summers do not mean the same thing they did when she was growing up.

“Summer to me used to mean spending the entire time at the beach, but now it means trying to get done as much work as possible, before September hits. I say my vacation times have changed to be more April, October, and December.” When she was younger, she said that she would go sailing, surfing, working and “do everything that required me to go off grid”. Summer was an escape for us growing up. None of us wanted it to end and would try to take advantage of the precious time we did get away from the hustle and bustle of schoolwork, homework, planning and structured schedules with no extra room for anything else.

Although my sister’s schedule is a bit more structured now, like it was growing up, it is still nice to be able to see her when she flies up for a week to visit in the middle of the summer. The time we spend together now, even via FaceTime, has brought us much closer in our relationship. The age difference also grows to be less, as we both are getting older.

My nana answered then. “[When her children were young,] Summer became a free time because the kids didn’t have school.

She talked about how once my aunts and uncles were older, they would all go down to the shore house and take sailing lessons. And added how, now, the weather is perfect for gardening.

“When I was a kid growing up in Lyndhurst we would put a screen out on the porch and we would get to eat eat out there,” She reminisced.  “It went by too fast!! We would think ‘I got two months – wonderful. Then the next thing we knew, the cady ditz (August bugs) were making noise, telling us that summer was coming to an end.”

“I like summer clothes better than winter clothes – you don’t have to wear as many,” she as she laughed. “I like the summer food too,” she continued, “right now, we have the New Jersey corn and tomatoes, and we have a farm near us where I get them.”

I loved hearing how summers were for my nana as a child, and as to how they are for her and my papa now. Her birthday is also during the summer so that was always another thing to celebrate beside having off from school. It was fun hearing as she went down memory lane during her summers and it made me feel like I was traveling those old familiar paths with her, in the way she recounted the events and memories that occurred.

Following nana’s trip to the past, I interviewed my pop pop on what his thought of summer was.

He had this to say, “I am so blessed that I have all these blessings, and thank God for blessing us, with so much abundance. [Summer is] To be able to go to the shore, go to the ocean, and the bay and think how fortunate I am.”

Pop pop loves getting to see his family come together and spend time together at the beach house. We all go with him to church on Sunday mornings and since we live together, we are able to go upstairs or downstairs to see each other. Sitting out on the deck, enjoying company and the sunset is another thing that my pop pop enjoys doing. He loves just spending time with us all together – That always makes him the happiest.

 

I later asked my friend mike what summer meant to him.

“What summer means to me is relaxing time spent with family and friends, as much as possible. Most of my life, summer has meant time off from my busy schedule during the year.” Then paused to think for a moment, “However, in the past few years, it has meant just the opposite. Summer time is now filled with constant home renovations on two Victorian homes that require constant attention. Combining that with a busy real estate schedule, results in much less time off than I have been accustomed to. This is not a problem for me, as I love to spend time doing both. I just have to plan relaxing time now and that’s ok, compared to before when I just relaxed without planning.”

It was great talking to Mike and seeing how summer does not look the same now, as it has in previous years. I definitely relate to summers changing over there years and what they represent for me in that specific season. It is nice getting to have a relaxing summer but some people, like Mike, thrive in the busyness of summer but welcome the opportunity to relax when all is said and done.

In concluding my interviews, I asked my uncle his thoughts on the matter.

“Summer is a time that centers around friends and family because you’re with your them more now than you are the rest of the year. It’s about being around the water and being around friends you’ve known for a long time – its like a home away from home.”

He then talked about the appreciation everything we have here. We have so much at our fingertips that we are given. 

“We live in a beautiful area and we are very blessed with this life and blessing we receive from the Lord.”

Summers are ‘people focused’ more than ‘event focused’ – in the winter it tends to seem like many things are focused on the event more, but summer at the beach is more about family and friends – the time shared.

My uncle finished by saying, “It means doing fun things, doing more outdoor activities like tennis and sailing, it means just being at the beach – I have spent all my summers down at the shore, and that’s what it means to me.”

I enjoyed listening to my uncle tell of his summer. He was able to summarize many things about summer that makes it such a delightful season. It allowed me to see what he believed to be important and what summer is supposed to entail. I could not agree more with his take on what summer means. And what a perfect way to outline what summer means.

Life at the beach, in the summer, offers such a fantastic place of fun, laughter, friends, and life! There is always so much activity everywhere and always fun places to visit. Families come together and friends are reunited after a long time away from each other. Summer is a time for physical, emotional and spiritual growth as we persevere through our jobs and responsibilities. It is a time of transition in our lives and our circumstances. It is a time to celebrate life by cooking outside and delighting in the warm weather that meets you as you head to the beach. Summer is hot dogs and hamburgers. It’s warm weather and swimsuits. It’s time that is not rushed and hugs that have been contained for the long months apart. Summer is sunrises, sunsets and unmatchable beauty by the Creator as he displays his artwork for all to partake in. Summer is the memories made that linger long after the sand has left our feet.