Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Since I've been a Christian, things have gotten pretty weird in my friendships.
I can only imagine how freaked out my friends are as they have watched me transform into someone I have never been. I love my friends so much but God was tugging on my heart to change my life style for Him, so I did. This means I did not go back home for the summer and I let go of the HUGE party scene I was apart of. Some friends have stuck by my side and some friends have distanced themselves but either way it has been very hard for me to watch them continue an empty lifestyle that I use to be so deeply rooted in. My heart broke for my friends during the few times I visited home over the summer. I use to think what we did was normal but God really changed my heart and showed me how broken it really was. My last visit I cried the whole way home because each and every conversation I had with a loved one I could hear and feel the sorrow and emptiness in them. I get a lot of "you seem so happy" and "you're so different" when I get back home and I want to scream at the top of my lungs, "IT'S BECAUSE I KNOW JESUS NOW," but I lack courage. I was trying to find "cool" ways to show Jesus to my friends but I just fell short. My heart was broken and I was so disappointed in myself because I couldn't be that light in my friend's lives.
After sharing this frustration to someone who is also from my hometown and use to be in that exact same friend group, we came to the conclusion that God is God and He is going to do what He's going to do. We can't do anything about that! Of course I fell short because I am not God! I felt very relieved to have come to this realization but my heart was still turning as I watched my friends spiral deeper into their lifestyles. I started a prayer journal where I wrote out every single friend and family member that I want to know Jesus (the list is long) but my very best friend was at the top of that list. This girl holds such a special place in my heart. I've seen her go through more than I've ever watched anyone go through and she comes out of it joking, laughing and dancing. I always envied her care-free spirit but loved being around it. She's not much of a serious person and I use to think, "ah, she's just fun and goofy, that's just her," but she really does push down all the junk in her life which is very unhealthy. She's a wild card and when I became a believer I wanted so badly for her to be one too but she really wasn't into it. We met at Young Life camp and we went to Wilderness (a Young Life mountain backpacking trip) the summer after our senior year. I will never ever forget my dearest best friend, who can never stay serious for more than 5 minutes, shed tears because she KNEW she was broken and something was missing. When I became a believer I started praying that one day she would start to listen to God when He calls her because I know in my heart He does.
Well people, she heard Him.
She texted me yesterday about how she feels like God is calling her to do more but she doesn't know what to do or how to talk to Him. She said that she feels sad all the time and she really believes that something is missing and that something is Jesus but she doesn't know the first step. Never in the 4 years of our friendship have I heard her cry out for The Lord like that and I know heaven was rejoicing with trumpet sounds! I couldn't believe that:
1) She wanted to ask me what the first step is.
2) God had answered my prayers.
I cannot wait for the day that the Holy Spirit fills up her life in ways that she cannot comprehend and I thank the Lord that He allowed me to be apart of it.
God is God and He's going to do what He's going to do.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Friday, August 14, 2015
I hope each summer for the years to come will help me overcome any fear of mine. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of blessings I’ve received in people, events and out of God’s love. I’m ready to take on this semester with a new head on my shoulders.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
The past couple of days were spent exploring the city of Dallas with my mom and sister. Our short lived family vacation came with lots of laughs, stories and discoveries and it was time well spent to say the least.
Day 1: After driving to the wrong airport and to 3 different parking lots I finally found my mom and sister. It would have been way too weird if we had an easier way to meet up with each other. We got to our hotel to unload, which was the Hyatt Regency located right next to Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas. Our suite had a beautiful view of the city and an entire dining room area connected to it. We got ready and headed to Klyde Warren Park to eat at the food trailers for an early dinner. Though the heat was taking a hard beating on us, I still enjoyed the company of the city buildings surrounding us and the catch-up conversation of the two people that mean the most to me. We walked around the park and rode the trolley, which only went around the block, before we headed back to the hotel to watch dramatic reality TV together. My mom got us snacks and wine to enjoy as we laughed and mocked the lives of the people starring in “Bachelor in Paradise.” I think we laughed until we fell asleep that night.
Day 2: I woke up around 7:45 AM and shared coffee with my mom while we chit-chatted about our separate lives. It was so strange to me to be sitting with my mom early morning in a hotel, catching her up on my endless stories that go in my life and then listening to her every day life. The woman I came home to every night, who raised me, I now have to keep her up to date with phone calls and short visits.I love it though... If I could keep those moments somehow I would go back to them every single morning. My sister woke up and the three of us got ready for our day. We found the most delicious southern breakfast place right in the middle of downtown and devoured endless amounts of carbs together. After, my mom took us to the Bank of America building to show us the 64th floor (where she use to work) and the underground city beneath the building. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I now live 40 minutes away from this city that holds so much adventure. After breakfast we headed to the Dallas Zoo. We spent the entire day walking around admiring the animals and our company. I had no idea that going to the zoo would be so much fun! The three of us girls can find the “funny” in just about anything so even as the day got hotter and our attitudes grew cranky, we still laughed at ourselves. That’s the best part about being with my mom and sister… We are all one big mess but being messy together makes life more enjoyable. After feeding giraffes, playing with monkeys and watching a dinosaur puppet show (of course Mollie’s idea), we grabbed an early dinner and headed back to the hotel.
“Night two of the dramatic premiere of this season’s Bachelor in Paradise.” Oh yes, that’s right, another night of drama. What are the odds that we plan a two night vacation together on both the nights our favorite reality TV show is premiering? We are THAT kind of family. After the show ended we went over to Reunion Tower. It was about 9PM and we were on top of the city. The lights sparkled through the dark of the night and we watched the city buzz below us. It was beautiful and I felt so lucky to be living in such a beautiful city. We took lots of pictures and explored all the tourist-y things the tower had to offer. We went back to our hotel and watched TV, drank wine and ate chocolate together quietly. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy such relaxing time if I had a huge family with a bunch of boys in it. It makes me appreciate my small, happy family.
We packed our things and got ready for our departure. Before we split my mom drove us around the neighborhood she lived in when she was in her early 20s. She showed us the house her and my dad lived in before they got married and all the cool hangouts back then. I was grumpy and in a bad mood while we were driving around but it was cool to see how my mom’s life, when she was about my age, is 40 minutes down the street from where my life is today. I created a bad mood for myself because I think I wasn’t ready to be apart from them again. I love living life here and getting to see them every once in a while but it hit me on this trip that this is it! Our tight knit trio is now only together on visits and holidays and I live a busy separate life from them. The travel bug in me wanted to plan trips everywhere with them. On my drive back to Denton I kept thinking of us three cuddled up in hotels in Australia, Spain, California, New York… Just living life together before we split. God has given me a special gift with my mom and sister. I know our lives are separate but we always find a way back to each other, laughing and joking about the same things. Praise the Lord for endless family blessings!
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
As the month of June passed, so did my anxieties and fears of being alone. One thing that has really been revealed to me is that loneliness is a fear that a person CAN overcome. I have always been the person to fill up every single second of every day with a to-do list. I fill up my schedule until I have no room to breathe and suddenly, when summer came around, I had hours in the day when all my friends were at work and I was stuck with nobody but myself. I thought that to be alone meant that all I had was time to let my dark thoughts consume me. I started picking up more hours at the restaurant I worked at just so that way I wouldn't have any free time to spare. That backfired on me when my manager asked me not to work for 5 days in a row because I went over my maximum amount of hours for that week. Time became my biggest enemy as I tried to speed it up as fast as I could.
I went back home to celebrate my 19th birthday with my family and friends and for 48 hours I probably only slept a total of 6 because I was so jam-packed with company. I was constantly with people, conversation was continually flowing or I was on the move to my next destination. I spent the daylight soaking up the sun with people so familiar to me that I felt as if I never left home. I appeared to be so free in the sense that I had not one hour of loneliness and I thought to myself, "this is how I should feel all the time." I even faced my fears and had breakfast with someone who I thought I could never forgive and a terrible memory of a person became a peaceful one. Everything was wonderful, my emotions were controlled and for the first time in a while I felt at ease. I drove back to Denton after my restless birthday weekend and the second I walked in my room of the empty house I was staying in, my lungs closed up on me. I started sweating and crying as a wave of pure fear hurled over me. I was alone. I paced back and forth as I tried to control my anxiety attack. There was no conversation, no familiar faces, no laughter around me. Silence could not get any louder. I had no idea what to do so I prayed to God to give me peace. I finally controlled my breathing and tears and began writing in my journal every emotion I had just experienced.
The next day, I went to the square (downtown Denton) and sat on the grass with a few books and journals. I tried to read, I tried to write, but I felt this need to do absolutely nothing. So I did. I lied in the grass with my eyes closed for about an hour and did nothing. I had no dark thoughts, no anxiety attacks, no feelings. All that I could feel was the warm air on my skin and all I could hear was the buzz of life around me. All of a sudden it wasn't so bad to be by myself. I could feel God asking me, "why don't you trust me?"
The Lord has given me so much peace in overcoming the fear of being alone. I get lost in books, I write until I cannot move my hand, I go on long early morning runs and I make healthier meals for myself. I have been given time to myself to do nothing but love myself. To love yourself is something that is not often practiced in this world and I am overwhelmed with joy and gratefulness that I have been given such blissful time to find the things that truly make me happy.
What is it that you love about yourself?
Praise God for such an amazing lesson!
Monday, June 15, 2015
Most waitresses would agree that Sunday mornings are busy shifts with many guests coming from church. As the hustle and bustle of the morning shift at Babe's continued I was having a rough morning. Spilling drinks, dropping plates, forgetting things, etc. A very gentle couple in their early 40s sits at one of my tables and when I go to greet them they tell me to come back because one more person is joining them. When I saw an older man sit down across from the couple I go to get their drink orders. As I am serving the three of them I find out that the older man is from California (who's name I learn later is Pastor Gabe) and is visiting Texas to guest speak at a church that the man across from him is a pastor at (his name was Pastor Billy). I ask what church it is and they tell me it's off of the high way in Fort Worth.
"Oh I bet I pass it a million times because that's on the way home for me," I responded.
They ask me where home is and I tell them Austin and they follow up by asking me what I am doing here. I explain that I just finished my freshman year at UNT in Denton.
Pastor Billy collected a puzzled look on his face, "So you have only been in one year of school, your family lives 4 hours away and it's the summertime... Why are you here?"
I explained to the three of them that I have 2 jobs and I'm saving up to pay for my apartment and school expenses.
As I tended to my other tables and ran around like a chicken with it's head cut off as I grabbed what each of my tables needed. "How is everything tasting," I ask Pastor Gabe since he was out of state and had never ate here before. His response was, "almost as good as this service I'm receiving." My confidence went through the roof and I stopped sweating and really started to get the flow in the chaos of my shift. I look over and my manager is talking to my table of 3. He shortly calls me into his office and said to me, "Alyssa I don't know what you are feeding them or telling them but I have never gotten a complement like that from a guest about a server. He told me that if he ever opened a restaurant that he would do whatever it takes to hire you away from us."
I go back to my table to thank them for speaking highly of me to my manager and Pastor Gabe tells me that he really wants me to hear him speak at their church tonight. I nervously laugh and he continues to be persistent in his invitation. I finally say, "you know what, what the heck. I'll be there!"
Pastor Gabe looks at me and says, "Alyssa, I've been in Texas for about 3 days now and every day I wanted to go to a 'Texas-y' restaurant. Today I said let's go somewhere with fried chicken so we came to Babe's. But now I know that we didn't come here to eat fried chicken, I think we are here to meet you."
Flattered, I thanked him and told him that I would come see him speak later.
Pastor Gabe stands up to leave and says, "I feel like I could help you with school Alyssa, I want to stay in touch."
So there I was, halfway through my shift, completely filled with all sorts of confidence and emotion from these pastors that I served fried chicken to. As soon as I got off of work I called my mom and of course she's completely sketched out by the whole thing. I call a few friends and I find one, Nolan, to tag along with me to hear Pastor Gabe speak. I tell Nolan the story in the car as we drive 45 min away to find this church.
We pull in to a parking lot of a building smaller than any church I've ever seen. Skeptical, but interested, we walked in and there was probably about 20 people sitting in a living sized room. Pastor Gabe runs and grabs me and Nolan and sits us up front and Pastor Billy, the very calm customer I served earlier that morning yelled, "Here is my waitress!!!"
All the people clapped and yelled, "Amen."
Nolan and I couldn't look at each other because we were both thinking the same thing; 'what is going on.'
Pastor Gabe stood up to speak and introduced me many times through out his speech. He told stories of healing people and speaking in tongues and the people in the "crowd" were clapping and throwing their hands up and screaming out things like, "Glory to God."
Everything that Pastor Gabe said was biblical so I kept thinking to myself, "is it really crazy if it's all correct to what I believe?"
Almost two hours into the service, Pastor Gabe started calling people to the altar who felt that "if they died tonight they were not sure they could get into Heaven."
About 10 people (half of us there) went to the front and fell to their knees as they cried and trembled. Pastor Gabe started speaking in tongues and Hebrew and said that he was going to drive out the demons and doubt these people had in their hearts. He said at one point, "God is telling me that someone here is addicted to nicotine and patches aren't working. He wants me to take out the addiction from you! Come to the altar, Glory to God!!"
At this point in the night I am thinking in my head, 'I am a waitress. I am a waitress where I talk to hundreds of customers a day and now here I am at the church of one of those hundred customers. Okay.'
I leaned to Nolan and whispered, "let's sneak out of here."
"I feel like I am in a movie," Nolan whispered back to me.
We slowly get up and leave the church service. Pastor Billy CHASED after us to thank us for attending. The second we got in the car to drive away I laughed so hard I was in tears.
Nolan and I decided that everything that they talked about was biblically right but it was not how we worship God and that's okay that they do. Everyone was kind and happy, nothing was wrong about it but WOW... talk about passionate!
What an experience that was.
Moral of the story: Being a waitress means you can meet people that might convince you that you are the most amazing person in the world because you are serving them awesome food when they are hungry. Do not go to church with them.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
I said about 345 times as I talked to old friends, "this is so weird." I loved seeing everyone and how they have changed and grown but it was so sobering. The people I put all my love and time in are doing different things with their time, I'm even doing different things with my time. There wasn't one thing that felt the same or one person that was the same.
I was filled with so much emotion because I know that "home" is not a place anymore. It can't be. My house has different furniture and fresh paint on the walls. My room is bland and my bed doesn't feel like my own. The town I've grown up in has new houses, gas stations and ice cream shops. I can't soak up those places anymore and call it my home because it is forever changing, which is partly why I think I was so emotional.
My home can't be my college town either because when I graduate where will I go? I can't stay in one place forever wishing that I will eventually get comfortable because there is something in me that won't let me get attached to anything.
So what do you do when you don't want to go back to where you were but you don't want to be where you are?
I think God gave me a heart of a wanderer, where I can't get attached to a certain place for too long. Of course I feel like I don't belong anywhere because I yet have so many places to go. I've never been outside of America or to Tennessee or New Hampshire, how do I know I don't belong there?
Coming home after a year off at college was difficult for me, not because it's hard to follow the rules of my mothers' house but because I am growing and constantly changing and to feel comfortable in one place isn't what my heart wants anymore.
So advice to the young audience who may be feeling a type of "homesick" that isn't associated with their hometown like I am... Fill your time, thoughts and actions with loving the people who make it "home." The moments I spend with my family is where I feel at home. The time I spend working to save money so I can pay for my college and eventually graduate to have a career is when I feel at home. Exploring the places I've never been is when I feel at home. Running outside with no music is when I feel at home. Home is what will establish you and what I have discovered it is ultimately what makes up who you are. The change that comes with post college is a good thing because you can't move forward if you stay the same. Find who you are and what is important and that will be your home forever.
Monday, June 1, 2015
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
For a quick morning workout: (or any time of the day)-Run 2 miles (at least 1 mile if you're not much of a runner)
-20 jumping jacks, 20 jumping lunges, 20 squats, 20 burpees, 20 push-ups and 20 sit ups (repeat 3 times)
Food:Breakfast: Greek Yogurt PLAIN with honey, granola, strawberries & blueberries
OR scrambled egg whites with cheese, avocado & spinach. DON'T SKIP- most important meal of the day :)
Lunch: White meat chicken with brown rice, mixed veggie salad with chicken, pretty much anything with protein in it plus veggies.
Dinner: Grilled tilapia or salmon, white meat chicken, all natural ground beef, sweet potatoes, green beans, brown rice.
Snacks in between meals: Apples and peanut butter, carrots and humus, cheese string or the little cheese wheels that are in a red shell, almonds (or any type of nuts), banana's with peanut butter, mixed berries and nuts, greek yogurt cups.
It is super important to eat through out the day, especially if you are on the move a lot. I also have low blood sugar so I need to have energy to keep going.
I hope this is helpful, it sure is for me! If you have any other suggestions or questions I would love to hear them, feel free to comment.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
My freshman year has come to a close this week as I wrapped up my finals and packed my things to move out of my dorm. Earlier in the semester I decided to live in Denton for the summer and the plan was to live with my brother who is just down the road. As summer crept up on me my plan to live with my brother started to fall apart. He finally told me, only 2 weeks before I was suppose to move in, that he was moving 45 minutes away from Denton. My backup plan was to live with a friend where I have to pay rent over the summer, so saving money was going to be an even bigger obstacle, and now I would be separated from my brother and sister law which I was very excited to be spending time with. This awesome plan that I created for myself in my head started to seem like a curse. A week before school ended I got a call that a women named Janelle, who works with my friend, wants me to live with her for free this summer. I was very skeptical to live with someone I had never met before, although this was the best route for me to take to save money. I was filled with lots of anger that things were not going my way, that I would be separated from all my friends and family in a stranger's home, that I have to work two jobs because money is tight and my famous complaint that I often tell myself, "I never get what I want."
I met Janelle the day before I moved in and she was very kind to me. As I was moving in to my new room Janelle's husband, Doc, came out to help me. Janelle said, "Oh Doc would you take it easy! Alyssa, give him the small boxes, he's going blind."
I was taken back but I quickly realized that Doc was literally going blind in both of his eyes! I grabbed the giant boxes and he smiled with the most warming smile I have ever seen, and continued to help me.
Doc saw my running shoes and asked if I liked to run and I told him I loved to.
"We should go running together sometime, I run pretty slow but I run everyday to Eureka Park," Doc said to me. I asked how far that was from their house, knowing that it was not close at all.
"Ahhh, it's about 5 miles," Doc said very casually.
Okay, at this moment I realized something is very different about this elder couple, especially Doc.
I sat down with Doc and Janelle to go over some of my schedule and their house rules. I explained I would be up very early to work out before I have to work at 8 and Doc said he would be up as well and would make me coffee. My skeptical heart began warming up to my new Mom and Dad for the summer.
The first night I came home from babysitting, Doc and Janelle were in the living room watching Gilmore Girls (which was so hilarious to me). I sat down with them to visit and started to put the pieces together about my mystery foster parents.
Doc had been a pastor at a church in Austin (my home town) for 13 years and is now preaching to various students in China. He had traveled all over Asia to preach the gospel and he Skype's students in China to teach them English using the Bible. He told me a story that once he was preaching in an underground church in China and the police had came in the lobby so all the church hid Doc in the bathroom to protect him. Religion is very restricted there and they could get arrested for speaking about Jesus in their country.
Doc is leaving for China to preach and meet with his students for two months on Thursday. Eventually, in about a year from now, Doc and Janelle are going to move to China to minister full time.
The Lord right then and there opened my eyes to show me that he placed me in a very special home to grow me this summer.
It has been very hard for me to accept that this summer will be filled by lots of hard work and minimum amount of play time but I am clear on why I am here. I am not here to please my selfish needs, I am here to grow in my relationship with God and He sure did make sure I was somewhere where His word is relevant.
He's chasing after me even when my heart is hard and angry. It's the most graceful love I will ever receive.
Pray for Doc's journey to China! I am excited to see what I will learn here in my new home.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Since I was about two years old my mom has been moving mountains for me and my little sister. Through all the times I have lied to her, been unappreciative of her and have hurt her she has never stopped loving me and I do not deserve it by any means. For this mother's day I really want to recognize the things my mom has done for me that have really shaped who I am today.
For as long as I can remember my mom has had the hardest work ethic. I have never seen her half-ass anything in my life. When she needs to work until 8 PM to get the job done she will work until 9 PM. Her career has always been important to her and I've always recognized that but at times, I couldn't understand why work was so important. My mom gives 150% to everything she does in order to provide for me, my sister and herself.
Any heart break, failure or pain I've experienced in my life my mom has experienced with me. Despite what I may have told myself in the past, I know now that there has yet to be a day go by where she has not been on my side rooting for me. If she could she would put me in a little box because she is so terrified of the world hurting me, but since she can't do that she has willingly gone through hell and back with me.
As a single parent she has had to be the mother and father, though it exhausts her, she was made for the role. There are some funny stories I cherish of our pipes bursting and A/C going out, or even all of us girls screaming when a lizard gets in the house. My life would look so different if we didn't have those hilarious moments because a dad was there to fix everything up. She had relationships but she never would let a man take over her entire life because my sister and I came first. She taught me to love everyone but be an independent woman at the same time and I am forever grateful.
Any part of me that is good comes from the goodness of her.
I have a heart to travel and experience the whole world, something my mom gave me.
I have an extremely sociable side and a side where I love to be alone, something my mom gave me.
I have a hard work ethic, something my mom gave me.
I have a love for writing, something my mom gave me.
If I become even half of the woman my mom is today, I would be one heck of a gal!
I love you Mom, Happy Mother's Day!
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Monday, May 4, 2015
- A fresh start: I’ve gained the ability to let go of everything that was holding me down in my hometown. Going away to college isn’t necessarily going to get rid of all your problems but taking a step into a new town with new people opens up a door that you just can’t open at home.
- Confidence: Whether I wanted to admit it or not, in high school I was consumed with caring what everyone thought. That’s something that is almost impossible to overcome and easy to do subconsciously. Since my time in college, my fear of being liked has dwindled and my confidence has grown just by the freedom of getting to start over.
- Fear of the Future: Although this is a fear, it is something important to gain! I have dreams, goals and career aspirations that would have never crossed my mind if I didn’t attend college. It’s a scary, inspiring thing to fear the future.
- Trial and Error: Boy have I screwed up this year. What I've learned really is that college is a whole lot of testing the waters.
- People to miss: Being 4 hours away from my family and closest friends has given me a heavy heart in loving as many people as I can from a distance.
- Independence: This one may seem like a given but it will hit you like a bus. I’ve always felt very independent growing up but I am now experienced to the true meaning of freedom. By the way, grocery shopping comes with that and it is no fun.
- Tattoos: Ok but seriously, I came in with one and I’m leaving with four…
- Anxiety: If you really knew me you’d know that I’ve never struggled with anxiety or understood it prior to college. Well now I can say I can understand the feeling crystal clear.
- Friendships: I have met the most amazing people here and the absolute worst people here. The biggest aspect of college that I am grateful for is the ability to separate yourself from the “bad apples.” You can pick and choose who to have valuable friendships with and I have made the best of friends over the past year!
- How to be a pro at being lonely: As much time that I get to spend with people, the majority of my day when I am in and out of classes is spent alone. This was really hard for me at first because I talk so much that when I have no one to talk to I get a little crazy. It’s something that I am grateful to have learned because it has made me so aware of what is best for me.
- How to live off of $5 for two weeks: No explanation needed.
- Curiosity: Since I have lived in the same area my whole life, moving to Denton has meant that I’ve had to find all the best coffee shops, restaurants and fun things to do around here. Man, has it been an awesome adventure.
- Planner: I’ve never used a planner before and now I write down what time I’m going to eat otherwise I’ll just forget.
- YOUNGLIFE: I’ve done YL all throughout high school, I came to college not even wanting to be a leader and now I am a college leader at UNT. Probably the biggest part of me that was gained my freshmen year was through YoungLife.
- A Relationship with Jesus: If you really knew me you would know that a relationship with Jesus was never something I was chasing after. Honestly for me to be saved during my first year of college was the last thing I expected but the love of Jesus was something that I couldn’t run away from anymore. Not to say I haven’t made mistakes this school year, actually my first semester was nothing but mistakes, to say the least. I'm thankful for a graceful God!