A Decade Later

I remember the day very well. The morning was cool, despite the soon to be Florida summer heat index of 100 degrees. The day held promise, the birds sang outside, and the house was quiet. It was June 24th, 2006.  A gorgeous summer day, that would also hold a thousand painful memories.

At this point in time I was nine years old. I liked playing outside, drawing pictures of horses and riding my bike (which I would pretend was my very own elegant steed). My favorite food was probably Ice cream, and my favorite game was probably Parcheesi (Weird, right?). I had a dog named Checkers, and a whale blanket I would sleep with at night. My best friend in the whole world, and a real life super hero (to me), was my incredible grandfather- I called him Pappy. Wherever he was, I was right behind…or clinging onto his leg.  I didn’t know much about myself yet, and was quickly learning about the world, life, and my own personality.

My ninth year held so many different life lessons. Most nine year olds will learn the general stuff; Don’t steal things, don’t bully other kids, treat others well. Things like; how many planets there are, basic world history or maybe how to write in cursive font. I however had a very different year. The end of my 8th year I learned about a wretched, horrible, life debilitating disease called cancer. It had came and made its disgusting home in my child hood hero, and that’s where my story begins.

For a year and a half I quietly witnessed hundreds of doctor visits, hospital stays, various treatments, and the adults in my family try to figure things out. Many days were spent dancing around the hallway of Moffit Cancer Center trying to entertain myself. Occasionally the nurses there would bend the rules a little bit, and give me and my siblings tiny cups of ice cream that were meant to be for the patients. Those days were super awesome! Other days I would scan out-dated magazines, watch movies in the waiting room, or just sit in Pappy’s room and color. I became very familiar with life in and out of a hospital, something I hope most nine year olds won’t have to deal with. (Even though my childhood seemed to be stunted by doctors and hospitals, I wouldn’t have changed it. Given the circumstances, I learned so many things and had so much fun.)

I didn’t know anything about cancer except that it killed people. That fact alone scared me to pieces. How could I bear to lose my best friend?

The summer came around and Pappy’s health was declining rapidly. Looking back my mind couldn’t comprehend death and it wasn’t even something I considered to be a realistic outcome in our situation. It was all slipping away so fast. Pappy was strong, he was my superhero. Nothing could ever stop him. God was good and he would heal him, this was something I was sure of and prayed for day in and day out.

I remember the day they took Pappy home from the hospital. “They wanted him to be comfortable”, was what I was told. The next few days were filled with many relatives flying in, many people driving long distances through the night to be there. My cousins (all 11) were there, Aunts and Uncles I rarely saw came into town. People from our church came over and there was so much food everywhere. What was happening began to sink in. I was very afraid. I tried to stay in the room with Pappy as much as I could. What was once a favorite play room, living room and football watching room, where Pappy would play with us and read to us, now became a place of sorrow and gloom. Looking through the lens of salty tears was the new normal. The pain in my chest and lump in my throat was constant. The breaking of my heart was almost audible in my small ears. I didn’t know that I could feel so much. I didn’t know that death was so real.

The last day I was around Pappy was both my favorite day, and my least favorite day in all of history. I only wanted to be as close to him as I could. I even refused to leave with the rest of the cousins to go swimming and have fun because I was scared I would come back and he would be gone. The day moved so very slowly, various people were all around my grandmothers house. She being so strong and also so broken holding tightly to his limp hand, was the grandest gesture of love and loyalty I have ever witnessed. It was a beautiful picture of one big family, made of many different families, all coming together for a man who had impacted every life in an incredible way. The evening came and I was told that it was time to say goodbye to Pappy. The grown ups knew that it was more than likely the last time I’d see him. I carefully walked up to the bed and looked at my strong childhood hero, laying there, unable to move, unable to make a sound or even open his eyes. So many things I wished I could say, but only one phrase I was able to choke out. “I love you Pappy, See you later alligator.”, as I bent over and kissed his cheek. All I wanted in the world was to hear him finish our traditional farewell with “After a while crocodile!” There was no response. It had never been so hard to walk out of a room in my whole life.

I remember the day very well. The morning was cool, despite the soon to be Florida summer heat index of 100 degrees. The day held promise, the birds sang outside, and the house was quiet. It was June 24th, 2006.  A gorgeous summer day, that would also hold a thousand painful memories.

My father walked down the hall way to the front room where several of my cousins were sleeping on a pull out sofa bed, and I on the floor bundled up. He quietly gave us the news. His words were, “Pappy has been healed in the best possible way. He’s in Heaven now”. I believe I know what it feels like to have your heart stop completely and your life crash down before your eyes, for that is what I felt that day. My little world had ceased. I slowly pulled the covers over my head and curled up into a ball, unable to move. No tears came out because I had cried all of them already. My  best friend had left this world, and I was left behind.

Years went by until I was finally able to grieve properly and understood the goodness through all of this. Pappy was ultimately healed and his life legacy impacted so many people around the world. Though he was only 64 years old, he left behind the most wonderful memories, life lessons and legacy to a loving wife, four children and 12 grandchildren. Paul Henry Harshbarger was the most magnificent man I have ever met. He loved others more than himself and before himself. He served constantly and willingly. If there was a need to be met, he would try his hardest to meet it. He led people to Jesus so well, and made sure they knew what the actions of Christ looked like. He was a shepherd, a pastor, a mentor, a servant, a joker, a culdesac kickball umpire,  an ice cream man, a cuddler, a story teller, a videographer, a superhero, the best damn grandpa in the whole world. He was my Pappy and I am forever grateful. I owe my life today to him, because his influence made me who I am now. I wish every day that I had more time with him, that I could ask him more questions, that I could be held in his arms one more time. So many life events have come and gone that I struggle with, because he’s “missing it”. Even as I look forward to my future, my wedding day, when I have my own kids, and still even birthdays and Christmas, my heart breaks. Folks, you hear this a lot, but please go call your grandparents, or even go see them! Don’t regret the conversations and memories you didn’t make. Every second matters.

Pappy, you are never forgotten and always appreciated. May your legacy forever live on in my life and the life of others. “I love you” is not a strong enough phrase.

See you later alligator,

Your “babe”

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Food Prepping Saves Bank Accounts

Hi friends.

I have totally failed at keeping this blog up to date, however, I am going to try and stay on top of things this time!

If you’re like me and a 20 something millennial (or not) that’s always on the go, almost broke,  and scraping for time in the mornings, then you’ll probably appreciate this post. It’s way different than all my others, but I figured I’d give it a shot!

Last fall I was starting my first semester of college (I totally dropped out, read about it here). During that semester I developed the HORRIBLE habit of going to Starbucks, or even Dunkin’ Donuts if I was real desperate, to grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich nearly every day. How could you say no to a creamy, sugary, iced coffee and warm, savory, sandwich in the morning? It was quick, it was tasty, and it was so convenient! Oh right, and it was also very expensive.

The sandwich I would get every morning was about $4.00 with taxes. It was also packed with over 500 calories. Yikes!

This addiction quickly sucked the life out of my bank account, while also adding life to my body weight. I’ve come to realize after learning to budget with Dave Ramsey, and watching my jeans seemingly “shrink”, that all this coffee shop nonsense is dangerous! One month I handed over $90+ to my favorite green siren. NINTEY DOLLARS. I lower my head in shame as I look back now!

So how can I still get my quick breakfast sandwich in the morning, save time, Save calories, and most importantly save money? Well I’m glad you asked, dear friend.

I’ll simply put it this way; Pinterest is a wonderful invention. Look up some pre-made breakfast ideas! You’ll be happily surprised! I found a great idea for pre-made sausage breakfast sandwiches, so I took that idea and made it my own! *I’ve adapted this recipe to be more healthy, and more frugal. It cost me about $10.00 to purchase all the ingredients I needed to make 24 breakfasts.

Start off by taking a trip to your local grocery store. I went to Aldi because it’s the best place around to get cheap food! You’ll want to get one dozen eggs, two tubes of ground sausage (or bacon if you like that better),  and two bags of whole wheat mini bagels. You can also add cheddar cheese to the mix if you desire to do so.

I cook my ingredients one at a time, starting with the eggs. Crack all of them open and whisk to your hearts content! Season them the way you like it, and then start cooking about one eggs worth at a time. You’ll end up having around 12 egg rounds (They’ll be way bigger than the bagel). Set that aside to cool off while you start cooking the Sausage!

Open up the meat package and put the raw meat into a large bowl. Add whatever seasonings you want, or none at all. I usually go for some pepper and seasoning salt. Mix it all together, and then make 28 2-inch round patties. Pull out your skillet, and cook those bad boys for a few minutes on each side. Once they’re cooled off you can begin assembling the sandwiches!

Place one patty and half an egg round on each bagel (add the cheese in here if you go that route). You can wrap your beautiful breakfasts in tin foil or press ‘n seal plastic wrap. All that’s left to do is put them in the freezer! Whenever you want a sandwich you can pull it out of the freezer, microwave for 30 seconds to one minute, and toast it slightly. It’s quick, easy and so good!

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If I were to buy breakfast at Sbux 5 times a week, it would cost me $20. That’s $80 a month and almost $1000 a year! By making these sandwiches I’m saving $70 a month and almost $900 a year!

Food prepping saves bank accounts.

Enjoy your breakfast friends.

-Toridactyl

P.S.

Iced coffee recipe coming soon!

 

 

 

It Is Well With My College Drop-Out Soul & Other Life Updates

It’s been a long while.

Many things have happened since I’ve posted my last blog.

I entered into a new relationship, and it is truly wonderful to say the least. Patrick and I have been together a little over 3 months now, and God is doing great things in our relationship. It really is an amazing adventure when you find the one God wants you to be with! (Shout out to Patrick) ❤ IMG_8343

I completed my first and only semester of college- It’s just not for me.

I’ve thought a lot about my future, careers and family.

I’ve made many new friends and started new adventures.

I find myself in a very strange season of transition and waiting. At some point, everyone has been there. It’s that awkward “I know what I want/need to do, but I can’t for whatever reason do it right now” moment. Not only is it a confusing time of trying to get your life together, it’s also a time of relying heavily on The Lord and waiting on Him.

So let’s back up.

In September I started my very first semester of college at Valencia (Go Matadors?). As every new freshie quickly discovers, college is no joke. At this point in my life, I had no idea what I wanted to do, nor did I find any interest in the offered career paths. I had really prayed about it, but nothing was sticking out, so I figured I’d go to school and at least get an A.A. in General Studies. Can’t be that difficult, right?

Unfortunately for me, as a former 12-year, home-school student, going to school was not something that I found easy to do. It wasn’t my learning style, and there were far too many people around. I really didn’t enjoy any second of my experience. It became a source of stress, and a black hole of sadness (I might be exaggerating a bit). At the end of the semester, I sat down and really thought about why I was going to school. I didn’t know what I was doing, I hated being there, and I had no time for anything else, or money for anything else.

Which led me to my final decision, I’d take a break from school.

Do I really need school to be successful? I know plenty of very successful adults who either didn’t go to college or dropped out. College isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! If in the future I find something that I really want to do, then I can always go back.

Coming off of that new decision, I had to figure out what I’m going to do in the mean time. I’m still working on that one. It’s been an up and down roller-coaster. Sometimes I’m really hopeful, and sometimes I feel hopeless and confused. I still don’t know where God is leading me, I still don’t have a full-time job, I still have bills to pay, I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but The Lord is still good.

Some days it’s almost like fumbling around through a darkened room. The weight of not knowing anything on top of many other things going on can be pretty overwhelming. Waiting is difficult, but waiting without knowing what’s going on, in some cases, is even worse.

If you’re in a season of waiting, transition or difficult situations like I am, and feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I urge you to listen to or read the song It Is Well. It’s an older hymn with an incredible story. The man who wrote it was a very successful business owner. He had a great life, a happy family and considered by many to be rich. His life was seemingly perfect. Then, the unthinkable happened. His son died of sickness, the Chicago Fire destroyed most of his belongings and real estate, his life took a horrible turn. In hopes to give his family a much needed vacation, he booked a boat trip for his wife and daughters to travel to England. He was planning on meeting them there after taking care of some business. A few days after their departure, he received notice that his family’s ship had come across a collision. His three daughters were killed, only his wife survived. It was on his trip to England to console his grieving wife that he wrote the song It Is Well.

Knowing that story puts a whole new perspective on the lyrics to the hymn,“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows as sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou has taught me to say, it is well with my soul”. 

I find this song incredibly encouraging, so encouraging that I actually have the title tattooed on my side. When life is horrible, Jesus still knows whats going on. When you don’t know what to do, Jesus still knows which way you should go. When you don’t know where your income is going to come from, Jesus still knows how He will provide. When you feel hopeless in a difficult situation, Jesus is still ever present with you. God is so sovereign and good in whatever He does.

“do not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?…31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

 

Matthew 6:24-25;31-33 NLT

How sweet is it to know that He is watching out for you, and that He will provide and take care of you. Even in the midst of crazy seasons in our life, God is still God. He is still sovereign and working out His plan in your life. Sometimes His plan looks very different from our own, sometimes we have to go through tough times or crappy situations- that  doesn’t mean we should freak out or be worried, because guess what? He is still good and we can rest in that truth.

If there’s one thing that keeps me going and helps me stay sane is this; whatever my lot, He has taught me to say “It is well with my soul.”

 

-Toridactyl

 

 

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall Part II

Hi friends!

As many of you know, I am just coming off of a month-long psychology experiment/project. If you are unfamiliar with this, please take a moment to catch up by following this link. 🙂 Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

This post will be a recap of my project, as I had promised. Before we begin, I would like to say thank you to the many people who encouraged me throughout this experience. You made this project doable. Many times I wanted to quit, and it seemed on those days one of you would give me positive feedback that would help me stay on track. You guys rock!

This past month has definitely been a challenge; I went from wearing makeup every single day, to quitting cold turkey (That’s a weird phrase, by the way). At first I absolutely hated it! Seeing my unaltered face every day actually sickened me a little bit. That being said, it also made me sad because I didn’t appreciate the way God had made me, and I really wanted to.

The purpose of this experiment was to change the way I thought or felt about something; to better myself in some way. Let me tell you what, it served it’s purpose. Not only did it change the way I think and feel, it also changed the physical appearance of my skin. (We’ll get into that a little further on.) I can honestly say that this project has made me see myself in a whole new way. I enjoy the way I look without makeup on, and I feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m no longer concerned about what people think of me, or what their reactions will be when they see me without makeup. That’s a really cool feeling! I do admit that it took about two weeks for me to get used to myself. After the half way point, it was just normal for me and I didn’t even worry about it.

Emotionally, I feel relieved and very happy with the outcome. Throughout the experiment I did some deep searching within myself to try and figure where all of these insecurities were coming from, and how I could uproot them and kill them off. The root issue I landed on was that I was believing that I wasn’t good enough, mostly due to some painful experiences in my past. That lie was causing me to feel like I needed to hide myself. I am so thankful that through the grace of God I was able to break out of that state of mind. Going into this project, I really didn’t expect to uncover such a deep set issue. It truly is a blessing to have that burden lifted, and an even bigger blessing to have strengthened my relationship with Jesus. He is so SO good y’all.

Physically, I had no idea that makeup was that harmful to your skin! Chemicals and other things we put on our skin are actually absorbed right into our bloodstream. This process only takes about 26 seconds. On average, one woman will absorb 5 POUNDS of chemicals through her skin each year. These chemicals include, but are not limited to, carbon black (eyeliner color), lead (lipstick), mercury (lipstick/eye shadow), arsenic (eye shadow/blush), mica (mineral used as a filler in asphalt and insulation, also used in bronzer and powder foundation), and titanium dioxide (liquid foundation). Thats a good list of scary words. These chemicals have been directly linked to many serious illnesses, such as cancer, thyroid issues, nerve damage, organ failure, hormone imbalance, infertility and so many more. Some more common side affects of makeup are dizziness, headaches, nausea, exhaustion, and of course, acne. Guys, or Girls rather, that’s some scary stuff! The makeup you put on your skin is damaging your body! After researching these chemicals and the symptoms, I can honestly say it does make sense. Being makeup free for one month genuinely made me feel better and healthier. I didn’t get headaches, I didn’t feel sick randomly, I was sleeping a lot better  (I have insomnia, so that’s saying something), and my face cleared up from any acne I had previously. If you wear makeup often, take a look what’s in it! Theres actually a website that lists all cosmetics, their ingredients, and if they’re generally safe to use. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be doing more in depth research for my class report. If you would like to know more about what I find, let me know.

All in all, this project was really hard; however, it was needed and it was successful. I would highly recommend anyone to go makeup free for a while. It will change the way you feel about yourself, and your health! You may even learn something about yourself that you didn’t realize was there! I’m very glad I subjected myself to this project, it truly was life changing. I hope that recapped it all fairly well. As always, I welcome any feedback, or questions anyone has. The research aspect of the project is not over, so feel free to add any comments you have! I appreciate all the help and support I have received from my community, once again, thank you very much!

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Photo credit to the talented and beautiful Alejandra, Thank you girl!

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First day compared to the last day

“I sought The Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and became radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.” – Psalms 34:5

-Toridactyl

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works, which my soul knows very well.” -Psalm 139:14

Last week I began work in a Psychology class at my college. Over the course of our class, which is eight weeks long, the students are required to conduct an experiment or social project, if you will. We were charged with the task of choosing our own projects. These projects had to physically and/or emotionally change us over the span of 4 weeks. (Exercise and weight loss did not count) We were to keep a daily log or journal about our experience as well as research and document changes. At the end of the four weeks we would put together our final report and present it to the class.

Upon hearing about this project, I was really excited! This sounds so cool, AND I get to choose what I want to do! I thought over it for a good week. I really wanted to choose something that was meaningful to me and would also benefit me. Then it hit me in the face.  Almost literally. My face was the answer.

*Insert dramatic flash back bubble here*

Ever since I was 12 years old, makeup has been a part of my daily routine. In the past two years, I wouldn’t go out of my house without it. My makeup face is my face, that’s it. The plaster of plastic and chemicals that I carefully craft and place on my skin each morning, has become the safety blanket that I cower behind.

Makeup is by no means a bad thing. It’s nice to get dressed up, especially for special occasions! Makeup can also be used to enhance natural beauty and facial features. There’s nothing wrong with it. Makeup is not the bad guy. The problem arises when you start to put your value in the way you look because of makeup. For me, this has been an issue for a while and I didn’t even notice it. In all honesty, I love makeup. I love the way it makes me look and I love the compliments I receive when I’m wearing it. I do not like my natural face. When I don’t wear makeup, I get a lot of negative comments and people do treat me differently. I wear makeup to feel good about myself and I feel that when I don’t wear it, people notice (in a bad way).

But that’s just the way the world works, right?

I’ve been really convicted of this recently. God made us in His very own image! My face, is a reflection of my creator and sometimes I can’t even look at my reflection in the mirror. Something is wrong.

I have chosen to do my experiment on myself. For the next four weeks, I will not be wearing makeup.*

*Some exceptions apply due to important events in the next month. 

I’ll be documenting my journey in the form of photos, a daily journal, and a comment log. Yes, that’s right, your opinions and random comments are being recorded! I’m also going to be conducting interviews among my friends and researching makeup in depth. What are we actually putting on our faces? What do these chemicals do to our bodies when they enter our blood stream?

What do I hope to get out of this?

I want to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and I want others to see that you don’t need makeup to be pretty, or to be noticed. In society today there is a huge double standard when it comes to beauty and appearance between men and women. Too many young girls are being raised up in a society that expects women to cover up their natural beauty. If you’re one of the middle school girls that I lead at youth group, this is for you. I love you guys very much and I want all of you to see that beauty is WAY deeper than the skin. You do not need to change the way you look to please others. On the other side of things, too many women are stuck in the cycle of masking ourselves and not letting our true beauty shine!

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”

I would like to encourage all of you ladies out there to maybe skip a day or two of wearing makeup and see what you learn about yourself. If you’re really up for it, take a selfie and post it with the hashtag #Project334 to support me and be a part of my project!

Remember that beauty is who you are, not what you put on. Above all else, beauty comes from the Creator. Indulge yourself in Him and His beauty will explode out of you.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

-Toridactyl

#Project334

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I Am a Pharisee

Hi friends!

It’s been some time since I’ve written a post so here you go.

For my entire childhood I was in church. If there was anything happening in the building, I was there. If there was a Bible Study, Sunday School class, AWANA meeting, Prayer service, visiting Preacher, Missionary or anything else happening, I was there. I grew up studying the Bible and memorizing Bible verses. Seriously, so many verses. This was all really great. I am so thankful that I was brought up in such a Christian environment.

I took great pride in the fact that I knew more about the Bible than all of my friends or sometimes even adults. I knew Bible history, I knew all the books of the Bible, I knew all those rules. I had a lot of head knowledge. However, I was lacking something. At no point in my childhood or high school years can I remember doing something “Christian” because I genuinely wanted to. I loved Jesus, don’t get me wrong! But I wasn’t acting like He was the most important part of my “religion”. You see, I was focused on the things I should DO and on my outward image. Was I praying the right words? Did I sing loud enough? Did I know all the words in that Bible verse? Did I answer the discussion question in an impressive way? WHAT I believed became more important than WHO I believed in. My relationship with Jesus wasn’t even a relationship because my heart wasn’t in it. It was all about those darn rules, and my pride. The sad part is, that’s what I thought was right.

Fast forward to now.

I am so blessed to be a part of a church that has helped me grow in my walk with Christ. For real, Vista is amazing and I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything. Over the past two years I’ve matured a lot in my ways of thinking and especially in my relationship with Christ. No longer am I concerned so much about the rules. It finally clicked that to be in a healthy relationship with Jesus is to have a heart that is eager and willing to serve Him, no matter what others think or see. Even though I have developed a stronger faith there are still things that I am working on. If you know me, or have spent any time with me at all, you know that some people or things really aggravate me and get me worked up. I know that Jesus says “Love everyone” and often people tell me “what would Jesus do?” (you know who you are.) But does that mean that I really do love everyone? Do I really try to do what Jesus would?

Another example; currently I’m a worship leader at my church. Even though I absolutely love pouring my heart out in musical worship, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the performance of things. It’s a tricky area because you don’t want to seem like you’re trying too hard to impress others but you also don’t want it to look like you don’t care. There has been times where I feel exhausted or not particularly in the mood for being on stage and it’s been hard not letting that get in the way, or cause me to “fake it till I make it”.

It’s simple really, I am a pharisee.

Before we jump in I want to make a public service announcement. I am NOT by any means saying that I have this all figured out. I’m writing about this because this is something that has been convicting me personally. It is something I am still struggling with. If you know me at all, you know what I’m talking about. Okay, on we go!

So what do we know about Pharisees?

Most people refer to them as “hypocrites”, “prideful”, sometimes even “hated” gets thrown in there. That’s what we know of them today. If you look back into the culture in the time of Jesus you’ll find that Pharisees were actually highly respected men. It was a big deal to be one of them. They were the guys who knew just what to say and do. They were the super spiritual bunch that everyone looked up to. It wasn’t until Jesus came around and started teaching that the word “hypocrite” and “pride” was associated with the Pharisees.

So what’s the big deal?

The problem with the Pharisees wasn’t necessarily that they were “bad” people. Over all they did good things like giving to the poor, and helping in their community. The problem was that they had the wrong motives and attitudes about what they were doing. They didn’t actually care about why they were doing good things. They cared about what people thought of them when they saw them doing those good things.

In the book of Matthew it talks a lot about the Pharisees and how we should NOT be like them. Jesus is pretty straight forward about his opinions of hypocrites. One of my favorite analogies Jesus uses is when he compares hypocrites to a dirty cup, found in Matthew 23 verse 25.

 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.”

I love this because how many times are we so concerned about what our appearance is to others? Yeah, the outside of our cup may look nice and clean but on the inside we might be filthy. In order to truly be clean you have to work on the inside first. Naturally the outside being clean with follow. So what’s in your cup?  I find myself becoming like the blind pharisee sometimes. I think things are great and that I’m “clean” but if I look closer at myself and my heart I find that things are not what they seem.

Knowing what to do and how to act is easy. Putting on a show and making a big deal about your spiritual life is something that a lot of people get wrapped up in. Day in and day out “good christians” wake up and put on their Jesus face. It’s common for christians these days to be more concerned about the legalities of our faith rather than the position that their hearts take. It’s really great to serve your community, church, family and friends. It’s really great to be kind to others and give to the poor. It’s really great to let your heart overflow in worship. However, is it great that a lot of the times these things just become the motions we go through, or the fuel for our pride?

In Matthew 6 Jesus talks about the pharisees again and how all the “spiritual” things they do are made to be these grand gestures of their faith for all to see. He says “Don’t be like them, they already have their reward, that was it for them. Instead, do those things on your own, in secret and The Lord will reward you.” (Tori Paraphrase Version)   Am I doing things so that others will see, or am I doing things for others to see Jesus through me? If all I care about is people’s recognition when I do good things, than that’s the only reward I’m going to get. It won’t go any deeper than that. But if those actions are the true reflections of my relationship with Jesus, than the Lord will see and the reward will be so much deeper than human approval.

Being a Christian means that we get to live out the love of Christ. This is a unique opportunity the God gives His church. It’s time for us to open up our hearts and reflect the message of God’s love to those around us. The Pharisees of the Bible used the scriptures as a warranty for their righteousness rather than a window into God’s heart. Are we really a generation that desires to seek after God? Are we the people who truly want to be in His presence and serve Him wholeheartedly?

 Or are we becoming more and more like modern-day Pharisees?

-Toridactyl

I’ve Got A Blank Space Baby

To quote the famous words of Miss Swift, “So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames”.

As a teenager entering adult hood the issue of relationships is not a foreign concept to me. I dated right into high school and had both good and very bad relationships through high school. When one ended, I would say “It’s ok, I don’t need a guy to make me happy!” only to turn around and start crushing on the next guy who came my way. It’s a twisted cycle that I’m sure anyone reading this has experienced or will experience at some point.

We run around looking for a new relationship like it’s the next iPhone. We try to justify our actions by telling ourselves “This could be forever!” and then watch in agony as it goes down in flames. I’ve been there… more than once. I find myself flip-flopping from being content with being single to longing to be in a romantic relationship. I know I’m not alone in this, I’ve had many conversations with my friends who are struggling with the same problems. We live in a society that says being single is lame, or you need another person to complete you. As 20 somethings there’s this enormous pressure to be in a relationship! You’re in college, maybe just graduating and now you’re supposed to meet the love of your life. And if you’re not in a relationship, then you’re supposed to be completely content with being single, because it’s what God’s will is for you right now! It’s just you and God, yay!

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that when God has called you to be single at any season in your life you should be content and happy in a relationship with Him. But guys let’s be honest, that’s a really hard thing to do.

Right now, it feels like a lot of my friends and even family are entering into new relationships. There’s little cartoon hearts and tweety birds everywhere. I know that obviously God doesn’t want me in a relationship right now, but does that make the longing for companionship go away? NOPE. I find myself comparing my circumstances to everyone else’s around me. It’s a difficult struggle. Man (or woman) was not created to be alone. Marriage is God’s design for everyone. It’s that in-between part that’s a real killer. So what do you do when you’re in a season of singleness but want to be with a special someone?

God does this cool thing whenever I’m feeling like I need to be with someone. Every single time this happens, these set of verses comes up in some way.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

“But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

Before we get into all this I want to make sure you know that I am NOT the best example in this. I am still struggling with being devoted to The Lord and being content in this season of my life. These words I write are to hopefully encourage others but also to remind myself of what I should be doing. 🙂

So what can we do as Christians in our time of Singleness? There’s three things that I’m going to write about today.

Number one: When you’re single you have more time and opportunities to serve.

This goes back to the UNDISTRACTED devotion thing.

Boyfriends and girlfriends are really distracting to be honest. Being single gives you many opportunities to serve your church, community, and family. Serving will teach you how to be selfless and take care of others before yourself. This is a vital quality to have for any of your future relationships. A fundamental part of any relationship, especially marriage, is serving your significant other and thinking of them before yourself.

Travel the world, go on missions trips, experience loving others in different cultures, take care of the orphans and widows. Serve in your church in kids ministry, worship, or Bible studies. Find a homeless shelter to get involved with or a local children’s home, discover how you like to serve best! This is a perfect time to do that!

For example, some of the most fulfilling serving experiences and missions trips I’ve ever done have happened when I was single and not involved with anyone. I wasn’t distracted. My heart was focused on others.

Number two: When you’re single you have more time to work on yourself.

Everyone has issues. Everyone has baggage.

I’m still trying to forgive people who have hurt me badly in the past. The failed relationships in my past haunt every attempted relationship I’ve had. Dealing with these things now can really help you and your parter in the future. To quote one of my pastors: “Draw a circle around your feet and work on the person inside the circle.” Get right with yourself. Sometimes we’re our own stumbling blocks.

Finally number three: When you’re single you have time to get closer to God.

This is easily the biggest and most important point. If you are not tight with God, you’re basically screwed. Instead of focusing all of our worries and late night thoughts on finding our next boo, we could shift all of that devotion to God and discovering who He is. Because, HE is the one that will complete us. We have the opportunity to fall in love with our creator and experience a love that surpasses every earthly love there is. Do you get that? Our CREATOR…as in the one who made everything. Nothing will compare to the relationship we have with God. Even if in this time of being single the only thing you accomplish is growing in your relationship with God, IT IS WORTH IT. That is literally the best thing you could do. So dive into His word, sing your heart out, talk to Him like you would if He was your crush. Get to know God and you’ll get to know His plan for your life. When you’re tight with God, your will starts becoming what His will is. It becomes the same, you begin to want what God wants for you.

Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Run towards God wholeheartedly, with no distractions. If you look around and someone is actually keeping up with you, then consider getting to know them better. If no one is there, keep running. He is the only thing that can satisfy our longing hearts.

So, I’ve got a blank space baby…. and I think I’ll write His name.

Toridactyl

He Is Deeper Still

So I’m gonna get real personal real quickly in this blog post. I might rant, I might have strong opinions about things, but over all I hope to put at ease some questions that people have been asking me and questions that I myself am asking. Now, I’m not a pastor, I’ve never been to seminary, or any of that fancy stuff. I’m just a Christ follower who has studied God’s book and uses the Bible as the basis for the things I’m going to talk about in this post.

Why do bad things happen good people… or any people really? 

Recently my family and I have been going through some really tough stuff.

In June, my two year-old niece drowned unexpectedly. It was a horribly tragedy and one that you can never be prepared for. That was followed by my grandmother being diagnosed with a serious form of cancer, as well as another important person in my life. All of this happened in the same week that my grandfather passed away from cancer 9 years ago. He was easily one of the most important people in my life. That whole week is always hard on me, so everything piled on top of that did not go well.  All these bad things were happening and it sucked honestly. It was hard for me to care about anything at all because the moment I would start caring was the very moment that all the pain would come rushing in again.

But that was just what was happening in MY life. My friends were also going through horrible situations. My country had seen awful acts of violence, racism, riots and so on. My Christian family around the globe is being heavily persecuted for following who they believe in. Innocent christians are being MURDERED. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is chaos and falling apart.

Why? Why do bad things happen? Many people go further and ask “Why does GOD let bad things happen to good people?”

I’m going to try to not make this sound like a sermon or something I’m preaching. But I really want to break things down, maybe for my own sanity and understanding but hopefully for others too.

First of all, there is no such thing as a “good” person. It clearly states this in a the Bible more than a few times. Romans 3:10-18 talks about how there is NO ONE who is righteous (or good) not even one. All people are sinners. All people have done wrong. No one is good. It doesn’t matter if you are a model citizen or a murderer, you’re still a sinner. A christian or a non christian, you’re still a sinner.

So really the question should be Why does God let GOOD things happen to BAD people?”. I mean looking back on my life so far I can conclude that I am a sinner. I sin everyday. I don’t deserve a lot of the good things that happen in my life! God has blessed me and continues to bless me, but do I deserve that? Probably not.

The beauty in this is that God’s grace is sufficient for everyone. Salvation is a free gift to anyone who chooses to believe, regardless of your  origin story or life choices. God’s perfect love conquers the sin and dirtiness in our lives. So no, there is no such thing as a good person, but yes, there is such a thing as a good and gracious God.

Now that we have that as a basis, why does God let bad things happen in general?

In the beginning when God created the world, He saw that it was GOOD. God did not create evil, it wasn’t part of His original plan. He gave Adam and Eve free will to obey His one rule or not. They chose to disobey, we all know how the story goes. Evil entered the world through sin, and God cursed the earth as a punishment. Bad things happen because we live in a sinful world.

Now that doesn’t mean that every time we sin something bad will happen. Theres consequences for sin but the only one to judge and determine that is God Himself.

I think an important thing to understand is that even though suffering isn’t a good thing, God can use it to accomplish good things. If you think about it, God used the absolute worst thing to ever happen – Deicide (the killing of a god- Jesus) to become the best thing in the history of the world. Because Jesus died we have a chance at a perfect eternity with the God of the universe. That is easily the best thing ever.

Another example is the church persecution crisis in the Middle East. Thousands of innocent people are dying for what they believe in. These christians are becoming modern-day Martyrs. There’s no doubt that what is happening over there is absolutely horrible. But in the midst of that, there is still hope. There is a revival that is happening.

Here’s part of an interview with a Syrian woman taken from CharismaNews:

“We are now experiencing that this is the best spiritual time for Syria and other countries, like Egypt, because as much as their suffering is great, they are growing. We experience how refugees run away from their places because of the bombing from the government. They came to the churches, and they came to find the truth of the real God.”

In this horrible situation, God is taking the bad things and turning them into good things. I am truly amazed at the faith that these people have. As the body of Christ we need to continue to lift them up in prayer.

As humans, we don’t always see what God is doing or why He is doing something. It doesn’t make sense to us. We tend to lash out and ask “Why, God?!” We can’t see the whole picture that He is putting together.  Take the story of Job for example, everything in his life was taken away from him. His home, family, wife, possessions, friends, health, EVERYTHING. Job didn’t know or understand why God was allowing these things to happen in his life. Instead of turning away and choosing to be bitter and angry because he had no idea what was happening, he trusted The Lord and praised him in the midst of his trials. In the end, God blessed Job, his life turned out pretty well!

The truth is sometimes, bad things will happen to us, our faith will be tested, and our life will be hard. But compared to whats in store for us as christians in eternity, the trials of this life don’t seem so bad. A perfect forever with God is way better than anything that could happen to us on earth.

It’s like the story that British church leader Galvin Reid tells about meeting a young man who had fallen down a flight of stairs as a baby and shattered his back. He had been in and out of hospitals his whole life — and yet he made the astounding comment that God is fair. Reid asked him, “How old are you?” The boy said, “Seventeen.” Reid asked, “How many years have you spend in hospitals?” The boy said, “Thirteen years.” The pastor said with astonishment, “And you think that is fair?” And the boy replied: “Well, God has all eternity to make it up to me.”

I really enjoyed that story and the boy’s point of view. He had a lot of reasons to be upset, however he still found joy in his circumstances. I feel like many times in my own life it’s easy to get caught up in the bad things that happen and become bitter or even angry towards God. It’s hard to completely trust Him and realize that He’s got it under control even when it seems like you’re stuck in a hopeless place of utter chaos.

One of my favorite Bible verses is John 16:33. “In this world you will have troubles, but take heart. I have over come the world!”. In this verse Jesus straight up tells us that sometimes life is going to be hard and things are going to suck (Tori Paraphrase Version). But then He comes right back to say “Don’t be afraid, I’ve already dealt with the world”. (Again TPV)

How wonderful is it that Jesus looks out for us in the way that He does! We don’t have to worry about what the world throws at us! It’s already taken care of, the fight is already won! I’ve finished the book! Good wins in the end! (Spoilers)

As I was researching different opinions people had about this subject, I came across this quote from a pastor named Lee Strobel. I love how he worded this paragraph and this is what I’ll leave you with today.

” God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation. Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity; He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote these words: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” Every tear we shed becomes his tear.”
-Toridactyl

Salerno II Chapter 3 – Veni, Vedi, Amavi

Hi friends!

By now you probably know that I am back in America, which to me is sad but also comforting. I miss Italy so much, and yet I’m thankful to be home.

So many good things happened while I was abroad. I was reunited with old friends like Andrea, Gianluca, Lika, and the Valiquette family. I also was introduced to new friends like the Davidson family, Emanuele, Mariamo and many more. It was very encouraging to see how much God has done in the lives of the people I met there last year as well as the work that has gone on at Nuova Vita. The church has grown almost 10 times the size it was the last time I was there! Praise The Lord! Another cool thing that happened, I was healed of my horrible dairy allergy and was able to enjoy pizza, gelato and most importantly Mythos greek gyros. 🙂

While in Italy, I had the privilege of painting a mural for the brand new Nuova Vita children’s space. It was so much fun for me to use the talents God has given me to further His church. The children of Salerno are going to be using this space for so many different things. From English lessons, to music, VBS, Sunday school and hopefully so much more. When they look around them they’ll be surrounded hopefully something they enjoy looking at! My prayer for the children’s room is that it will be used well and that they will quickly out grow it. I want the children of Salerno to want to be in that space. For them to want to be around the people that love God and love them. I want them to hear about the gospel but also experience in first hand.

As always, while in Italy we did many “Italian things”. Having espresso in the morning and  getting gelato at night became our daily routine. It may seem small but thats probably because you haven’t tried Italian espresso and gelato. Friends, you are missing out.

We also had a few home cooked Italian meals thanks to the Davidson family. I’m so glad we got the chance to get to know them. Over the week we had several opportunities to serve each of the missionary families there by hanging out with their kids and also helping clean their homes. We developed fantastic friendships with the kids and also their parents. We love all of them so very much! The Davidson family have just joined the Salerno/ Nuova Vita team! Keep them in your prayers as well as the Valiquette family. Both have a pretty big job to do in Salerno.

I also would like to say thank you to the many people that made this trip possible. Whether you were involved financially, or through prayer, YOU made this happen. Without the support of our families and friends the Italy team would not have been able to serve the way we did. Missions isn’t possible without a vital support team. So thank you for all your support.

My trip to Salerno began and ended on completely different notes. As I stepped off the train into the city for the first time in over a year I was blown away with excitement! I had no idea how much I actually cared for Salerno. And as I began the long walk back to the train station with all my luggage at 6am, my heart was breaking. I have fallen in love with Salerno, Italy, I consider it a second home. That city is very special, though it might not look like much to everyone else. Over all the city seemed the same but if you looked closely, you could see the change. God is moving in Salerno and it’s becoming more and more evident. I cannot wait to return to Italy. Until then, arrivederci splendida Salerno!

I’ll leave you with some pictures and a nice Italian quote.

Painting faces The Single ladies ;) Painting Lilly and Addison The team with the Kids Salerno The finished mural Andrea Salerno Squad 2k15

“Siate allegri come il sole, indomabili come il mare.”

(Be as happy as sunlight and untamable as the sea)

– Toridactyl

Salerno II Chapter 2

Hey there friends! 

So we’re about half way through the the trip now and things are going very well! 

This city is truly beautiful and I can’t tell you how much I love it. I originally came to Salerno a year ago on a missions trip. Last year we developed many relationships, and this year I have been able to reconnect with many of those people. It’s amazing to see God working in these peoples lives and growing the Christian family of Salerno. 

In the last couple of days we have been able to minister to the missionary families here by babysitting the kids while the parents have church leader meetings, errands to run and also date night. This is something that they don’t get very often so it’s been really great to encourage them in this way,  and we love the kids! 

One of our main projects this week has been to remodel an old pizzaria into a kids space for the church here. a After we demo and clean up the room, I’ll be sketching a mural for the wall.  It has been VERY hard work and yet very rewarding. This space is going to be used for years to come to minister to the next generation of Nuova Vita. How cool is that? 

Tomorrow night will start our music outreach. A few of us from the team will be playing a gig at the local pub. This gives us the opportunity to talk to people as well as play Christian songs and whatever else the Lord decides to do! We’ll also have an open mic night a few days later, it’s gonna be a blast! 

One thing that I am completely blown away with is a little miracle that God has done. Coming on this trip I had a severe dairy allergy. It was really difficult to eat anything in America let alone in Italy where EVERYTHING has dairy and everything is in another language. I was really worried that I would constantly be sick and that would get in the way of me participating and serving alongside the team. On one of the first nights in town I had some gelato because hey we’re in Italy, I had to. I ended up pretty sick and unable to do anything. I was miserable. At our team meeting we prayed as a group and then one of my teammates prayed over me and asked God to heal my allergy. It’s been 3 days since that, I’ve had cheese pizza, gelato, pastries and other things and have NOT gotten sick. I have no idea what happened or how to explain it other than God has healed me! At least for now that is. Who knows what will happen when I get home in America, but for now I am not complaining! Yay for gelatoooo!!! 

Please keep praying for our team as we go about the rest of our trip here. Pray especially for rest and energy. We’re all exhausted! Thank you all for your support thus far. ❤️

Toridactyl