Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wait! There's a holiday before Black Friday?!?!?!?

So as you may or may not know I work in retail, which means Black Friday is not a long night of lines, finding that much sought after amazing deal, and crazed post-turkey dinner madness.  What it means is that I have a long, all-night shift tonight and it has been weeks of preparation, planning, and stuffing the store full of the items people will be breaking the door down to get.  The responsibility of which has fallen more so then before on my shoulders since I’m one of three people responsible for product receiving and placement and that I’m the one in charge of the women’s department, which is a one of our key departments.  Let’s just say there’s a lot of new stuff to learn and a lot of running around.  So as today has been rapidly approaching I’ve been more focused on tomorrow then today.  Sadly at times I’d forget that there was even a holiday.  I was convicted of this last Sunday at church as a friend asked me if I was free anytime in the afternoons to catch-up.  She was talking in general but I thought of the week ahead (this week) and said, “Yes normally I am, but not this week because it’s Black Friday week.”  She responded, “Oh yeah, not this week because of Thanksgiving, I meant maybe after.”  Oddly this response made my heart sink.  I started thinking about what I had said.  I had TOTALLY forgotten about Thanksgiving, awesome K  I started realizing how often I said “Black Friday” instead of “Thanksgiving.”  The ratio was not proportionate; in fact it was very much lopsided in favor of the wrong side.  So I decided to actively get myself into the spirit of the holiday.  I started thinking about things I’m thankful for, I started trying to focus on the days of the week in order, which meant Thursday before Friday, and started listening to Winter/Christmas/Holiday music.  Now I know that listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving may seem like I was skipping Thanksgiving and not giving it it’s “own space.”  Well that’s not how it works for me.  Christmas music for me focuses on God, family, friends, joy, and truly living the reason we celebrate.  Even though some of the songs specifically focus on Christmas a lot of them simply focus on all the things I mentioned before.  This has helped me get my priorities in order, at least most of the time; Rome wasn’t built in a day after-all.  Anyways, it’s been nice to get rid of the stuff in the way and take back Thanksgiving, even if I am still having to think about Black Friday.  I have always wanted to do the 30 days of thanks giving thing that a lot of people do on Facebook but never have.  I remembered that I wanted to do those far to far into November so I wouldn’t be able to catch-up in time without bombarding my status’ and everyone’s news feeds with my massive posts.  So I decided instead to blog them J  So here goes my catching up on 30 days of thanks giving (P.S. these are in no particular order) (P.P.S. I’m going to have keep these things short since there will be 22 of them… I could write forever about each one, gonna keep it short and sweet):
1.     Salvation:  I’m thankful that God has given me the gift of salvation.  I’m thankful that everything in my life led me to accept the gift He offered and that to this day He is working in my life to continue to prefect my very imperfect life.  Ephesians 2:8-9 For by Grace you have been save through faith, this is not of yourself it is a gift of God, not of works so that no one can boast.
2.     My parents:  God gave me the perfect parents to train me into the women He wants me to be.  Like any relationships, ours isn’t perfect but I know they love me, pray for me daily, and would do anything for me.  I love them and know I will continue to learn from them.
3.     My siblings: Four siblings is a lot at times, but like my parents I know that God gave me each of my siblings for a reason.  I’ve loved growing up with all of them and have a lot of great memories with them, individually and all together.
4.     My pets: Past and present!  Animals make the world a better place and pets make my life a lot less stressful (most of the time).  They may make a mess but their unconditional love sure makes up for it!
5.     My house: I lived on the BEST street growing up and continue to live in a great neighborhood.  Our house is such a blessing and I know it came directly from God.
6.     My schooling:  From being home-schooled, to S.T.AR., to Cypress College, to UCR, all of them were exactly what I needed and where I needed to be.  I’m so appreciative for the things I learned, the opportunities I had, the people I met, the hard work of my teachers, and the abilities to be educated in general. 
7.     Hope:  Hope is a powerful thing.  I have hope because I know the promises of the God who loves me.  There are a lot of things I hope for, some silly and some heart wrenching but they are all things that keep me moving forward.  Maybe someday I write a blog about some of my hopes… I think that’s something I’d like to write about!   
8.     My country:  The good ole U.S. of A.  God was gracious enough to have me be born in the States and I’m grateful for it.  Now I don’t agree with everything that my country has done or is doing and I LOVE quite a few other countries, but overall the U.S. is a great nation that has done and is doing a lot of good.  I pray that God continues to bless us and that we will continue to be a tool in His hand.
9.     The Bible:  People have died for having a piece of the Bible and in the very room I sit in I have at least six… that’s just my bedroom.  God out of love for us gave us His amazing book to draw us closer to Him, give us Hope, and teach us things that are beyond man’s capabilities to teach.  What a gift to have one in my own language and to live in a country where I can read it without fear. Without the Bible I’d be lost.  
10.  My time abroad:  I have been to Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Spain, Portugal, and Italy and I’ve loved each and every one of places I’ve visited.  Whether it be for school, missions trip, or fun, each adventure is a life experience I’ll never forget.  I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without these opportunities.  I am grateful not only for the time there and the things I got to do and see but also for the people who helped make these trips a reality and the amazing people I met along the way!
11.  Work:  I may not always appreciate my jobs but I’m so grateful to have work to be able to pay of loans, bills, and to have fun.  In this economy so may people are out of work, I’m luck to still have more than one job. 
12.  My friends:  Past and present, new and old, they are all amazing!  God truly uses you all to shape me into a better person.  I love the memories I have with each of them and for the deeper relationships I have made with them as we have grown up.    
13.  Aunts and Uncles:  I’m grateful for the time I have had with each of my aunts and uncles.  Some I’ve had LOTS of time with and some I sadly have not.  I’ll never forget all the fun times and all the things they all have taught me.  I’m grateful that God gave me each of them. 
14.  Cousins:  Some of my longest friends are my cousins.  We have been through a lot together, both good and bad, and that means a lot.  I’m thankful for each one and the uniqueness of each of our relationships.  I have to say that God picked some pretty awesome cousins for me! 
15.  Grandma Max:  I love her and miss.  I’m so thankful for the time I had with her and for all that she taught me.  To this day I accredit my love of games and skill at a lot of games to her.  She was one of my first card buddies!  She loved her grandkids and “adopted” grandkids with all that she had and did everything to make our little dreams come true!   
16.  Church Family:  Village Bible Church is my second home.  I’ve spent a good portion of my life in that building and with my church family.  I’m thankful that we landed at VBC so many years ago and that God continues to use it to grow me into a godly woman.  I have SO many good memories with my church family and miss them so much when I’m away.  A great community of faith is of importance in a Christian’s life and I’m blessed to have found just that.  
17.  AWANA:  I’m SO grateful that I grew up going to AWANA programs!  They were fun and exciting but more importantly taught me discipline and SOOOO many Bible verses.  I may not be able to spout all of them perfectly at the drop of a hat today but it built a foundation and to this day all of the verse are familiar and common to mind often, even if I can’t remember the darn references!  I’m also thankful to be able to be a leader in AWANA now, what a joy every Wednesday night!!
18.  BYT:  While I may never have been the star of the show, but Biola Youth Theater was amazingly fun and helped me come out of my shell.  I overcame fears, learned so much about the ins and outs of theater, met a lot of great people, and just loved doing it!  So thankful for the 2 ½ years I had there J
19.  Passion:  I thankful that God has given me passion for certain things.  Languages and volunteering being two big ones.  I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to pursue and satisfy my passion and I’m SOOO looking forward to a job that allows me to use those passions every day!  
20.  Creation:  I LOVE the outdoors, I love all the different types of plants, weather events (minus heat waves!), landscapes, stars, and animals.  I’m thankful that God carefully crafted this world to be perfect for sustaining life and that all creation points back to Him!
21.  Nieces and Nephews:  Some of the dearest things in my life!  God has blessed me with some pretty amazing nieces and nephews and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  I’m thankful for their little hearts, for the chance to see them grow, for the chance to be a good role model for them, for all their questions, for their AMAZING laughter, and so much more!  Love those kids!!
22.  My medicine:  I know this is an odd one… but my life before figuring out I have a thyroid problem was harder.  I’m thankful that God led me to amazing doctors and surgeons to help figure it out and find solutions.  I’ve seen what happens after not having medicine for a day or two and it’s not pretty so I’m very thankful that I live in a day and age were people much smarter than I know how to make medicine and that I live in a place were I can easily get it!

Well there you have it, sorry that was long… as you can see I have a lot to be thankful for!  So, I hope that this will bless you in some way, maybe it will convict your heart, maybe it will just be a nice break from all the junk around us, maybe it will teach you something new.  Maybe it won’t do any of those things, but it was on my heart and I wanted to share.  When things get in the way of what’s truly important take a second to refocus and then enjoy!  Happy Thanksgiving and remember who we truly have to thank for everything we have!

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Has it really been a year already?

Yep one year ago today, the 20th of September 2011, I left Portugal and yet I can remember that day, especially the last hour like it was yesterday.  After a little over 3 months living life in Portugal I was boarding a bus headed for Spain.  One of my most vibe memories is saying good-bye to my friend Carolina the night before and not crying, which is shocking because I ALWAYS cry, I don’t like good-byes, in fact I hate them.  Anyways, I didn’t cry when we said good-bye the night before, but as I was standing in the station with Mario, Lancy, and Burna waiting for my bus to leave, already with tears in my eyes, I looked up and saw Carolina running across the station towards me.  I cried.  It was like the kind of things you see in a movie; at the last minute right before ________ (fill in your favorite character) boards the bus/train/plane/taxi his/her friend/love interest/relationship strained family member comes running in!  They embrace, they cry, they smile, they share some sentimental words, and they part.  I’m not kidding it was EXACTLY like that.  It was awesome.  It was a testament of my time there.  In only three months I had built friendships and family.  We had served together, served separately, and served each other.  While I was there I had learned culture, learned things about myself, and I actually learned Portuguese.  More importantly I learned about God.  I was reminded that He is faithful, I was reminded of the power of His Word, and I was reminded of the strength He gives.  I think I saw for the first time in my life Him clearly directing my path.  I saw people in my life be His hands and feet to me.  I was blessed to have my time there.  I was blessed meet everyone in Miratejo and at Word of Life Camp.  Something that I’ve been thinking about is whether or not what I learned a year ago is still affecting my life today.  Have I grown?  Or did I walk away and not let it change me.  Am I like a man who looks at himself in the mirror, walks away, and immediately forgets what he looks like?  A lot of what I learned in Portugal has stuck with me, but a lot has also become memories and/or just head knowledge.  My pray is that as I reminisces about Portugal, as I miss my friends and family there, as I wonder where God is leading me right now, I would be doing so with the purpose of moving forward, taking where I was and using it to propel myself forward in my walk with Him and in the mundane parts of my life.  So what about you?  When was a time that you clearly saw God working?  When was a time that you had a time when you felt closer to God and at peace with your life?  Now, have you grown from that moment or have you stayed there?  Or perhaps you have fallen back.  As a Christian, as a person in general, we are to be constantly moving forward.  God allows circumstances in our lives to cause growth in our lives.  But sometimes we stand in the way, or we don’t let it truly change us.  My challenge to myself and to you is to find ways to allow lasting change.  Find ways to use what God has done in the past to build you up in every aspect of your life, because we know “…that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6. 

~Heather Plotz

P.S. A tudo os meus amigos e família em Portugal, tenho muito saudades de vocês.  Muito obrigada para os três meses que eu estava com vocês em Portugal.  Muito obrigada a vocês para sendo os mãos e pés de Deus em minha vida.  Muito obrigada para ainda sendo um parte de me vida agora.  Espero que um dia vou ver vocês de novo em Portugal, ou talvez cá em os Estados Unidos ;) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

From Jerusalem to Babylon

So, last week I was read through some stuff in my Bible and the verse that this blog is titled after popped into my head.  For your reference here's the verse: Jeremiah 29:11 "11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  As I thought about the verse it occurred to me that there were at least 10 other verse in that chapter... and I had no idea what they had to say!  So I decided to read chapter 29 of Jeremiah.  Since at that point my computer was closer than my Bible I opened it up and went to the handy-dandy site called (an AWESOME resource!).  I came to find out that Jeremiah 29 had not 10 other verse but 31!  So I read them.  And as it turns out they had a lot to say about my life as it is right now... funny how that works out!  The 29th chapter of Jeremiah is a letter from the prophet Jeremiah in Jerusalem sent to the Israelites who had been carried into exile in Babylon.  

At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with my life... well I'll tell you.  A huge part of me feels like I'm in Babylon right now.  I'm not where I want to be, where I think I should be, or where I feel like I am supposed to be.  I'm not necessarily talking geographically... although maybe that is part of it.  On October 19th last year (2011) I arrived back in the U.S. after an amazing summer abroad.  Amazing because I was stretched, pruned, and grown and I was using skills that I had spent my college years and a lot of my life acquiring.  I knew I was where I was supposed to be last summer.  But as my time overseas grew to an end I knew that home, back in the U.S., was where I was meant to be.  There were some callings in my life that I knew God wanted me to accomplish.  Some of those things I've completed and some I'm still working on.  But most of those things were/are extra curricular activities so to speak, they don't pay the bills and the don't take up all my time... in fact they leave me A LOT of free time.  So I've spent the past seven months looking for a job that meets my physical, as well as personal needs.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not starving, homeless, or unclothed but I know that things can't always stay as they are now, I can't always lean on others, I do need to contribute my share and pay off my debt (because the government might not be as lenient or gracious as my family...).  I also know that God has put certain passions in my life and equipped me with certain gifts and skills for a reason, so finding that reason is something I'm striving towards.  Anyways, all that to say that things aren't as I had pictured them.  I feel like I was were I was supposed to be, and now I've been taken from it and can't get back.  So as I was reading the beginning of the chapter I connected a lot with the Israelites.  Even though I'm sure my situation is not nearly as bad as theirs.  Eventually I got to verse 10 "10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place."  SEVENTY YEARS!  Holy smokes!  Ugh... makes my seven months pale in comparison... But the second half of the verse reminded me that God does not ever go back on His word and He will never leave us, He will never leave you, He will never leave me.  My perspective can very easily be WAY off, but that doesn't mean I'm lost.  It was a huge encouragement to see God's faithfulness, and knowing the end of the story I know that the Israelites eventually returned back to Jerusalem.

That doesn't make the 70 years easy though.  I'm sure there were times that they forgot the promise again, and I'm sure there were times when they wondered why they were in this rut, and where God and His plan was then.  I'm sure because I forget the promise, and I'm wondering why I'm in this rut, and I'd love a sneak peek into God's plan and fast forward to my return to Jerusalem, my return to doing something and being somewhere that I knew was what I've been waiting and searching for.  But I left out some stuff in the middle:
"4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from     
Jerusalem to Babylon:“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6            Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord."  
While I'm in the Babylon so to speak, I'm not to not live.  I need to settle in, to live life.  That's not saying that I no longer have the dream, or that I've forgotten that something immensely better is waiting around the corner.  But I can't decrease, I most increase in faith, in skills, in training, in everything.  I've been living the past seven months waiting for my return to Jerusalem and I've neglected in some areas living in Babylon.  I am where I am for a reason and for a season, and I need to be were I've been placed, however long or short that placement is.  And who knows what good may come of it!  I also need to be careful not to listen to the lies being placed in my life.  I need to make sure that the only one I'm following and listening to is God.  The rest of the chapter talks about those aren't where they are supposed to be and others who are deceiving people... Man do I want to steer clear of that!  Both listening to the lies in my life and not being willing to move when I'm told to move.  Mario Pina last summer talked about living under God's grace and blessing or God's mercy.  I pray that I live a life worth of His grace and blessings.   


P.S.  Please don't take this as mean saying that life is terrible right now and there is nothing good about were I am at, that's not what I'm saying at all.  I'm not talking specifically about any person or place, I'm just talking about the feeling that I could be doing so much more, or that there is something that fulfills passions and desires to their fullest extent.

Back in the Saddle!

So... sorry for kind of falling off the face of the planet... there were/are some technical difficulties with the blog and it all kind of snowballed into I just stopped posting.  Which stinks because I had some REALLY good posts that I was going to post... maybe I'll post them sometime in the future under "lost posts" or something... maybe not... we'll see.  Anyways I'm going to try to get back in the saddle and post more regularly.  Sorry there probably won't be any pictures from far of lands for a while :/  I'll try to keep them interesting though!

P.S.  I just used the word "post" like a billion times in this... post... ugh... if this was a college essay I'd TOTALLY get an F!  (Which if you know me an F could quit easily equal an B+... I HATE B+... I'd almost rather have an F! Seriously...they stink...)