• Fish Out of Water

    Something strange happened at the Belcher house this summer. As you may know, we have two pets—an extremely spoiled dog who speaks with a french accent (or so we assume) and has every Belcher wrapped around her paw and a Beta fish. I feel bad for the fish for a few reasons, the first of which is that it is neglected. It occasionally goes unfed and always goes without the benefit of a belly rub (for obvious reasons). Another reason I pity the fish (if you read that in Mr. T's "I pity the fool" voice then we are on the same wavelength) is that I am fairly certain it is suffering from an identity crisis. You see, when the fish first came to our family it was as a birthday present for Drew. At that point in time it was male and named Gloop. However, when Drew went off to school (without Gloop) Butch and Ellen decided that the fish was female and renamed her Prissy Fishy. Ergo, identity crisis.

    I digress. Back to the reason I'm even telling you about the fish. Towards the end of the summer my mom, dad and I went out to dinner. After we returned home, mom went to feed the fish (yes, we actually remembered). The usual routine goes something like this: turn on the light over the fishbowl, tap on the glass, watch the fish get excited, drop in three food morsels then watch the fish eat them. Fairly simple. This night, however, was no typical night. After tapping... and tapping... and tapping... mom said that she couldn't find the fish. Sometimes the curved glass plays tricks on the eyes, so I went to lend my assistance. No fish. So, we began to joke about the dog eating the fish, the fish making a break for it, the fish succumbing to its identity crisis, etc. That's about when mom decided to check under the table.

    There he/she was. Gloop. Prissy Fishy. Flopping around on the floor. I watched from the couch (where I ran upon the sight of the fish flipping around on our kitchen floor) as Butch grabbed the fish and tossed it back into the bowl. For days I was astonished by the stupidity of the fish. I mean really... it was born in the water and has always lived in the water. It has a very spacious fish bowl all to itself. There is a big, fluffy white dog outside the water with hunger in her eyes. So why why why would the fish jump out of the bowl? It ran through my head on repeat: stupid fish.

    Then one day it hit me. I am the fish. We all are. I am a Christian. I live an amazingly blessed life in God and have never wanted for anything. He has a will for my life and I am asked to do nothing to earn His grace and mercy. Sometimes, though, I knowingly choose to do things that I know God would not approve of. Things that do not reflect my beliefs. Things that won't inspire others to choose God's love for their life. I know that in His will there is peace and comfort. I know that His love cannot be matched by any earthly pleasure. I know that there will be consequences in my life if I stray, and yet I do. I stray. I disobey. I jump out of the water... leap from my fish bowl. Then I flop around in sin and materialism, unable to save myself from the mistakes I've made.

    The beauty lies in the grace. The mercy. Every time I leap from the fish bowl God swoops down, plucks me off of the kitchen floor and tosses me right back in. He does not judge me for it. He does not reprimand me. He simply tosses me back in and gives me a second chance. And a third. And a fourth. All because He send His son thousands of years ago to die for my sins, knowing full well that I would still, from time to time, jump from the fish bowl, filled with His love and promises for my life.

    The best part? Prissy Fishy lived! She is still going strong and living as a beautiful (and slimy) reminder of the amazing love, grace and mercy of our Father. She even made the trip to Auburn to live with Drew... which I guess makes her a him named Gloop... again.
  • Father of Mine

    I haven't written a blog post in quite sometime. It's not for lack of wanting either... I wanted to write. And, even more than that, my dad wanted me to write. He continually asks me if I've lost my faith and that's why I don't write anymore (he's joking, of course). It was so strange though... I had plenty of ideas, I even had entire posts written out in my journal. It just felt wrong though. On a few occasions I even logged on and stared at the screen, but something was off. I don't like to post just to say something, so I didn't. Hence, my absence. Now I've got it though, and it feels nothing but right. (And yes, it is 2:00am but don't worry, I'm off of work tomorrow.)

    Have you ever had to do something that you just really didn't want to do? To act like you care about something you'd rather have nothing to do with? I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not very good at that type of thing. I am, however, pretty excellent at not doing things. I just cannot fathom doing something I don't like. But, for the sake of this post, try to wrap your head around it for a second. Imagine waking up, and going do a job that you just didn't enjoy. Now imagine doing it for a week. A month. A year. Tired of it yet? I would have quit 364 days ago.

    23 years. For 23 years (this is an estimate, based on the age of my older brother), my dad (more commonly known as Butch) has been doing things he doesn't enjoy, day in and day out. Why? I can give you four reasons. Ellen, Travis, Aimee and Drew. A lot of people don't like to work. I'd easily put myself in that number. Not Butch. I think he's a worker. But the thing about Butch is he is not a member of his job's fan club. He does not like it. He does not enjoy it. He is not fulfilled by it. Yet, he does it. Every. Single. Day.

    For as long as I can remember, Butch would get home from work and I'd say "how was work?" and the response has always been the same: "sucked." I used to think it's funny. I used to think it was a joke. Then I grew up: now I think that one word beautifully sums up every sacrifice my dad makes for our family.

    Butch is a dreamer, you know. We all know he loves motorcycles and dirt bikes; his "toys" as it were. He's always talked about retiring and opening up a parts shop in the hills of Alabama. We all know he loves the Civil War. A lot. He wants to open an online bookstore, even. One summer Butch hired me to organize his filing system. In one folder I found a sheet from a yellow legal pad, written on in red ink: very Butch. It was a list of goals. Things like going to college again, taking history classes, maybe becoming a professor. Things Butch talks about to this day. The date on the paper, though? 1995.

    1995.

    My dad has been putting off his dreams for fifteen years in order to make the dreams of my mother, brothers and I come alive. Fifteen years! And the best part? He doesn't resent us for it. Not. One. Bit. That man is a lover. He is a hugger, and he is a lover. And if he loves anyone, it's his wife. And then it's his kids. Hang out with him for a day... you'll see.

    So you know, here's how I see it. Butch is definitely human. He gets angry, he gets sunburned, and he gets beer in his belly. He sins. We all do. But, in my personal opinion, I could not choose any other man on the face of this planet who more accurately depicts God: the sacrifice, the unconditional love, the mercy. The more I think of it, the more obvious it is. Especially as I watch one of my best friends lose her father's presence in her life. And now I see why I couldn't write a blog for Butch... I had to write a blog about Butch.

    A father's love. I'm drowning in it. God's love. Butch's love. It's all perfect.
  • Stand Up

    Spring has hit. In a nutshell, this means I have been doing a lot of driving around, windows down, music blaring. My CD of choice this week is Everyday Sunday's debut album which features the song Stand Up. The chorus gets me every time:

    I will stand up now, I will not step down. I will do my best to wear this crown.

    We have been called to take a stand for our faith. We have been called to reach out to people and share our faith. It seems so simple, right? Then what is stopping us? I think it's fear. Fear of rejection, maybe. Fear of being judged. Fear of people not liking what we have to say.

    But rather than fear stopping us, it is fear that should be driving us. Fear of people not knowing our God. Fear of people never hearing the Truth. Fear of people not getting into heaven.

    "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord..." 2 Timothy 1: 7-8
  • Curious

    I get to points in my life where I sort of fear this blog. I try to treat it as a vessel for the things untold in life and I get worried. What if I don't have anything good enough to say? What if my words don't matter? What if I am inadequate?

    Is it possible to have writer's block if I'm not a writer? Or does the fact that I have things to say and I sometimes publish them in some form or another make me a writer?

    I am in my head. I am always in my head. I don't write things in journals because they are better in my mind. I have journals, but the entries are few and far between.

    I think everything through. I observe all of the little details. I analyze people's actions and words. I ask questions. When I study with one of my friends she gets frustrated because I ask questions that don't matter, questions of things that we are not being held responsible for. But I want to know. I need to know. I crave to know.

    I think that is my point here. Curiosity. God made this unbelievable world for us to live in. It is full of beauty and mystery and complexity. Do you ever wonder why? I do. Daily. I haven't figured it out, obviously, but I have my theories.

    He made it so that we could be in awe, of His power and His ingenuity. He made it so that we would need faith, to trust that things will grow and people will live. He made it so that we would think, about how things work and why they exist.

    My biology professor often refers to unexpected things in the body as "bad engineering." It makes me question if he believes. Do his questions about why the body was constructed the way it was prevent him from having that child-like faith? It does the opposite for me.

    Because if I didn't have all of these questions but instead had all of the answers, why would I believe?
  • In Your Eyes

    I am going to go out on a limb here and state that I often feel Valentine's day is an overly commercialized holiday. That being said, I love it. I love to see people in love and if for some reason this random day in February gives them an excuse to be all wrapped up in each other, go for it. My favorite part is the cards. Some make me want to vomit due to their sheer cheesy-ness, others make me warm and fuzzy inside and some are just plain hilarious.

    Every year my mom and dad make a point to give my brothers and I Valentine's day cards. Though I opened the candy ahead of time, I actually managed to save my card for the actual day this year. I was (pleasantly) surprised at what I read.

    There, at the bottom of the card, was the greatest thing I've ever been told: We are proud of who you are.

    Whoever claimed that Hallmark says it best has clearly never met Butch and Ellen Belcher. This seemingly simple statement really got me thinking. How many of my younger years did I spend trying to be someone else? Trying to shed a few pounds, change my hair, buy trendy clothes. More than physical appearance, I will admit to having adopted the thoughts and opinions of others to fit in or be "cool." Somewhere in the transition from high school to college I really began to become comfortable in my faith and, through that, I found comfort in my own skin. I began to express my own thoughts and opinions and style and I found that I was accepted. (Gasp!) More than that, I was commended. People liked what I had to say. I found new meaning in songs like Bethany Dillon's "Beautiful" and Jonny Diaz's "More Beautiful You" and Livingstones' "Be Yourself."

    I want to encourage you. Wherever you are in your life, whoever you've become, whatever you believe. Don't be afraid to be yourself because someone, somewhere will find beauty in your style and your thoughts and you as a person. Someone will be proud of who you are. And in your moments of doubt always remember... you are perfect in God's eyes and, let's be honest... His is the only opinion that matters.
  • Listen

    For a lot of my life I've longed to hear God. I wanted a story like Abraham, Noah, the Virgin Mary... I wanted a booming voice to come out of the clouds and speak to me. I wanted an angel of God to appear to me with a specific message. I guess I didn't necessarily want to be told to build an ark or that I was going to birth the son of God, but I just wanted something. Maybe I wanted proof... proof He is real but mostly proof that He cares about ME. Selfish, right? But I think that if we look deep inside, it's a desire we've all faced at some point or another. At least I hope I'm not the only one.

    This has changed lately. I won't say that the desire to hear Him has disappeared, but I've realized that He has been speaking to me. Often. I'm just too dense to shut up and listen. He's sending me messages all of the time; through friends, music, movies. He's all around me.

    And the best part of it is He knows what I need to hear. While our ultimate goal is to live for the Kingdom and things greater than this earth, we all have worldly needs and desires. I will be the first to admit that there are some days when I need someone to tell me they love me. I need to hear someone say they think I'm pretty. I need a compliment on my thoughts and personality. God, being who He is, knows this. He understands my mortal desires and He is the first one to respond. He will play the right song at just the right moment to let me know that He's here and He thinks I'm beautiful. He'll speak through a friend on a long road trip to tell me I'm wise. Me? Wise? Doubtful, but it encourages me and spurs me on to keep doing what I'm doing. He even uses what I think are ridiculous plots I've cooked up and turns them back around and uses them to compliment me in the most special and humbling ways possible.

    The good news? It's not just me. There is nothing I've said or done to get God to speak to me. He's speaking to all of us in ways specific to our wants and needs. All you have to do is stop and listen. Trust me, you'll find Him where you least expect it.
  • All My People

    I'm back on the topic of Passion. It's been a few weeks and I still can't wrap my head around everything that was said, done and given. However, I can sit here and tell you that I learned something about myself that I can honestly say I never realized before. I guess all of the signs were there and I had tip-toed around the edge of discovering it, but He showed me.

    God has given me a heart for people. His people. And at Passion he broke it.

    Broken. Shattered? I'm not really sure but it was a feeling I haven't ever felt. The whole premise of Passion is pairing worship with justice. They have partner organizations and at the beginning of the event they announced specific goals for each cause. In total, they wanted to raise $500,000. Excuse me? $500,000? Did they realize they were talking to a bunch of "poor college kids"? No way. No way!

    I went to the Do Something Now center, where you could get up close and personal with each cause and learn more fully about who they are and what they aim to do. So I funded the translation of a bible verse. That's good, right? $25? After all, I have no money. My savings account has been hanging out below the two dollar mark for much longer than I'd care to admit. So I gave some of my Christmas money. I was feeling pretty good about that... I mean this money was meant for a new camera and here I was giving $25 of it away. I should be commended!

    Then something happened. I got to the Hope International station. They were trying to raise money for small business loans for women in Haiti. A staggering number of these women live on less than $1 a day. $1 a day. I'm sure my savings account balance looks pretty hefty to them! And these women have the ideas and heart to start a business to support their families, but they don't have the means. Loans are something we Americans take for granted. So I stood and watched a video and that's when it happened.

    Heart? Broken.

    I had to buy one. I had to give money for a loan. But I walked away. Why? Couldn't tell you. I was using logic and reason. I don't have the money! I'm supposed to buy a camera! I am going back to school! Savings account = hungry! You know what, though? God transcends logic. He transcends reason. So guess where I found myself by the end of the next day? Standing on a metal pail hanging up a stub stamped "PAID" with my signature on it. I have never felt so proud or significant in my life. I was giving someone the means. I felt so blessed to be able to give my money to such a beautiful cause, to such beautiful women.

    Guess what? End of day four, about to leave Atlanta... I was back at that station, buying another loan. Literally spending all of the money I had been given and earned. I didn't care. I couldn't resist. I had to. I didn't need that money, but they do.

    Then I came home and before I could even get comfortable, Haiti was struck by tragedy. Homes, lost. Families, lost. Jobs, lost. But you know what remains? God. And with him comes Hope. And I can proudly say that I funded a small tid-bit of that Hope. God did such a beautiful and heroic thing in my heart that I will never fully be able to express. Something I never deserved.

    My heart was broken, and hopefully, in that, a beautiful Haitian woman's will be healed.

    Click here to see the totals raised on our four day venture. Then tell me you don't believe.
  • Speechless

    I attended Passion 2010 from January 2nd until January 5th. All I could really think about was how badly I wanted to get home and write all about it. It is currently after midnight on January 7th. I have tried to put into words all that I heard, learned, processed. But I can't.

    I have no words.

    It's amazing that the one who gives me words to speak can so easily take them from me. He has left me speechless. Speechless at His power. Speechless at His grace. Speechless at His glory. Speechless at His healing.

    I have chills even thinking back on it. My heart was broken. My pride was diminished. My world was rocked. And yet I can put nothing into words. Luckily I wrote things down in a journal so as I continue to process and learn and dig, I'll be able to share it with you all.

    There are two things I can tell you for certain, and they are that I am changed and I am praying for each and every one of you. I pray that you're finding happiness in God our Father and that you'll find the hope that only He can provide.
  • Gift of a Friend

    This fall has been really different from any other season of my life, and I've been presented with some really cool experiences. Just over a year and a half ago (I think) my friend Lauren told me about this up-and-coming band, Honor Society. You may remember my blog post about them. I was able to see them for the first time (and three subsequent times, but who's counting?) this fall. As a little added bonus, I got to meet this really amazing girl named Kat (who also happens to be a best friend of Lauren).

    Kat was on tour with Honor Society this fall. On tour. As in living on a tour bus. Have I ever mentioned that living on a tour bus is easily top five on my bucket list? Coolest. Thing. Ever. But I digress, that is not the point here. From everything I can tell, Kat is a picture of John 15:12-13.
    My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
    This has always been one of those verses I could ponder for hours. I love it. Love it. Perhaps it's because I'm very connected with my friends, or perhaps it's because I know the feeling of putting a friend ahead of myself. I really don't know, it's just one of those things. I just like it.

    Meeting Kat has shed an entirely new light on this verse for me. She left behind her home and her family to hit the road with four of her friends. She believed in them when no one else did. She stood behind them when they played for a handful of people, and she was there when they played sold out arenas. She has been there every step of the way, through the good times and bad. The fans love Kat as much as they love they boys in the band. I watched many-a-fan get their picture taken with her right after getting their picture taken with Honor Society.

    Is there a better picture of love? She laid down her life. She's given her all to this band, as much as the actual members. Because they are her friends. Because she loves them. Because she believes in them. Because their dreams are her dreams. It's God's commandment, and there really is no greater love.
  • I Never Knew the Meaning of Christmas

    I love Christmas. I love birthdays and I love Jesus so obvi I love Jesus' birthday. Also, I love Christmas music. Like... I really, really, really love Christmas music. My friend Mandy and I tend to listen to it starting in June, if not all year round. So, not surprisingly, I was jamming out to one of my personal favorite Christmas albums (*NSYNC Home for Christmas) when it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why are so many Christmas songs about love? God's love is one thing, but these songs are about human love. I know that love is in the air and all of that stuff but when did that become the focus of the season?

    Here is a prime lyrical example: "I never knew the meaning of Christmas, 'til I looked into your eyes." Really? Really JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake? You never knew the meaning of Christmas until you looked into her eyes? Who was she, JESUS? I think not, seeing as he died for YOUR sins on a wooden cross approximately 1,998 years before you released that song. So chances are you didn't look into His eyes and discover the meaning of Christmas. Which leads me to my next point...

    What exactly do you people thing the meaning of Christmas is?!? I'm guessing if you found it by looking into some unsuspecting lady's eyes you're not correct in your assumptions. It's true that the meaning of Christmas may differ a little bit for everyone and hold different memories and sentimental value, but I want to start a revolution.

    When God sent his one and only begotten son to be born to a virgin in a manger on December 25 he started a revolution. One little revolution. That revolution has been snowballing for 2009 (or so) years. I am lucky enough to have been called to be a part of it. If you are a believer, you've been called too. If you're not then this is your chance. Do something. Make a change. The cool thing is the foundation has been laid. Jesus Christ was already born and already died for our sins. That is a lot of love. That is the reason for the giant celebration that is Christmas. We were given the greatest gift of all, presented as a tiny baby boy. Every year we give gifts and spread the love but are people really getting it? Do they understand why we have all of these traditions in the first place?

    I'm not asking for a lot here, folks. I'm asking for one statement. One tiny testament of your faith. As you're walking to class with a friend or chatting it up around the water cooler and someone starts talking about Christmas, that's your moment. Throw out your line. All you have to say is "I love Christmas, it's so wonderful to celebrate the gift of life given to me through Jesus." Or you could go with something more subtle... maybe "Thank goodness for that Inn keeper." You could be witty: "Thank heavens for the gift of heaven." Maybe a little street slang: "Jesus is my homeboy." Whatever you want to say people, just do it. It won't be hard... face it, someone is going to bring up Christmas. You don't have to work for it.

    One statement. Easy as pie. Actually, pie could be another seguay... "I love apple pie... remember when Eve ate that apple? Good thing Jesus was born on Christmas and then died for our sins." Be the reminder for everyone else out there. Now, go make some conversation!