An appetite for Christ

Imagine this with me..

It’s the end of a long day and you have been working non-stop since you woke up that morning. It hits around 5pm and you feel that pain in your stomach and the loudest “whale-type” noise comes from your gut and it hits you… “I should probably eat something…” Now the thought is in your mind about food the lusting begins. Your mind quickly turns up an image of what you most desire. Suddenly its not hard to remember the greatest meal you’ve ever had and you’re craving it like a prisoner on Death Row. 

Okay, well now that I have all of you slobbering like Pavlov’s dogs its time to think about some things. 

This morning I woke up with a phone call from my sister who is struggling currently in school with being a girl who is “set-apart.” As we all know High School can be one of the best or worst experiences in your life. Some would love to go back and re-live the glory days but most of us could attest to never re-entering the awkward phase of your life. It’s a time where adulthood is beginning to pull at you and, depending on the “adults” you’re surrounded by, it can pull in different ways. Anyway, my sister is struggling with something I like to call “having your Christian turned on.” As many of us know we choose days where we are more “on” than others. If it’s Easter, Christmas, or even the beginning of a New Year when you promise to read the Bible everyday, we are considered turned “on.” (I know… Just go with it) However, it’s really hard to be “on” the whole time. Many days we need to be turned “off” so we can relieve the weight of the Christian life off our shoulders. And aren’t those days great?! No pressure to live up to the image of Christ and we can actually be ourselves! 

Most of you can see where I’m going here… Being “turned on” with our Christian walk can seem exhausting when we look at ourselves. We look at our choices and our desires and our own hearts and it can disgust us because we know who Christ is. Looking in the mirror is when you’re most ugly. Of course this is a metaphor but it’s true. When we look into who we are it’s a scary place. I get tired of looking at myself and seeing this ugly person who has selfish desires and hates many things around her. But then I have to turn around and pretend that everything is good so that I can display the image of Christ to those who are struggling around me. I’m tired of it! I’m tired of being the pillar and the rock that so many rely on. I’m tired of having this Christian thing turned “on.” So, I turn it off. Now, I can really be free! I can talk how I want and I can believe what I want and forget about upholding these impossible ideals. 

Now, its a couple days, weeks, months, or even years later and I’m ready to be turned back “on.” Here is where the guilt begins. As God convicts my heart, I call out in hurt and pain because of what I did to Him. I look at what I did to others, and I look at what I did to myself. But this time it’s going to be different! I’m going to stay turned “on” all the time and I’m going to live a life for Christ and I’m going to make sure that everyday I do the right thing! It’s going to be better this time… But then the same cycle starts back over. 

Has anyone else ever felt this way? Have your thoughts ever been some of these? Well, these are and were my thoughts. The most intimate way to know me and my greatest struggle in my faith is right here. I never realized I was missing the entire picture. 

That’s just it! Our walk and Christian life is a picture, not a mirror. Our life is moments of service to others and the King captured in His heart. We aren’t living this life to look back and see how our performance was. When we call ourselves to constantly look into the mirror and evaluate our own hearts, we will some times always be disappointed.  However, when we look outside the bubble we live in and see others we become a photographer looking to capture moments of service. The spotlight is no longer on us. We are no longer turned “on.” This life is not an exam with the right or wrong answers but rather a service project. Take comfort in the fact that you will always be wrong. That is a promise but when you look to the One who is always right, you cannot fail. 

The title says it all. We must have an appetite for Christ. We must desire Him, and the change in our life will follow. When we focus on service to others and what we can do for His kingdom. We no longer have to be turned “on,” we start living. Crave service to Christ like you would your favorite meal. 

My Journal

This is my journal page. This shows all that I have been fighting the last couple months with the conviction of taking on the 1 year challenge by Andy Stanley. He did a series on Love, Sex, and Dating with a new goal for singles to take on. No dating, talking, or interestingly looking at the opposite and instead turn all that energy into a stronger desire for The Lord. Of course when I heard this I immediately wanted to do it but I knew I had some reservations and honestly was a little scared. I decided to write down the fears and desires of my heart that were holding me back.
1. I have a desire for the life God planned for me. I desire it more than anything, its just my patience that waivers slightly. I need to focus on that everything around me is His plan, not mine. I have to learn to quit being so selfish and try to change it.
2. My other great heart desire is to be in love and with the man God made for me. This is such a great desire of mine. I believe much of it has to do with the fact that I am about to graduate college and I’m surrounded by friends who are always getting engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for them but a girl starts to wonder when its her turn. My two big problems are that I don’t know if I’m supposed to be looking or will God deliver with no effort by myself and am I limiting God by choosing this 1 Year Challenge. Am I cutting out very important possibilities for making myself unavailable for so long?
3. I desire a healthy relationship. My greatest problem is that I pour my heart out too easily and I don’t want to do this again but for the man I will marry. I desire love so greatly that I need to remember where my love needs to be poured out unconditionally. However, I begin to worry if I am capable of a healthy relationship at this time. I believe God could make me capable and better suited for him after I learn to walk with Him for a year.
4. My what if’s hold me back so much! So what if I meet the man I feel like I might marry in 3 months? Do I ask him to wait or do I give up on the challenge. Andy talked about this in the sermon. If he is the man God has for you he will have no choice but to wait. Also what if I make it, this big long amazing year and nothing happens afterwords. Technically the challenge was morphing my thought process and who I gave my heart to but at the end I want my story book ending.
5. This was a really hard question to ask myself but I have to be honest: Are my expectations to grow in my walk with Christ or to make God happy and show Him I can be in a relationship? Am I doing this challenge just to get the guy?
6. Am I desiring love more than submission? Simple and easy.
I wrote all of those questions last night before I went to bed and I laid in bed thinking about what is really in my heart when The Lord reminded me of some very important scripture. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things; and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I was going through this whole process like a Disney movie; constantly asking how my heart feels when I know my heart is a liar. Just because my heart has specific desires doesn’t mean my soul can’t have a stronger one for Christ. Also I looked at Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” I haven’t guarded my heart in the past and thats why a strong desire of love seems to be the only thing radiating from it. Another quote I found was on christianpost.com by Greg Laurie and he said, “We need a higher standard of authority than our heart, a higher standard of authority than opinion, and that is the Word of God.”
The Verdict:
My heart is holding me back. It is deceiving me into believing I desire love with a man when the hole can only be filled by Christ. However, I need discipline in my heart and mind to forget thoughts of my future and focus on His future. I have to abandon and surrender my will to Him to gain greater submission.
December 26th 2013 is my magic date.

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My Convictions

I believe that the Lord has opened my eyes lately to two things I need to change to be a more effective vessel. Of course these are only my convictions and since everyone lives a different life than I do your convictions are probably very different from mine. My hope, however, is to live a transparent life and if you are struggling in the same way I am you might find encouragement knowing someone understands how you feel.
1. How I spend my free time
This really hit me today especially, but I love this little thing called Netflix. One of my favorite things is to find a new TV show that I like and watch all of it. (I know my friends are probably laughing at how much this is true…) Now I do work on homework or clean or get ready for school while watching it but I still spend entirely too much time invested in something that has no return. Today I thought about all the hours I have spent watching TV shows or movies that I could have matched that amount of time in prayer or bible study and I haven’t. Lord knows if I had I would probably already have my M.Div… In addition to Netflix I spend and invest way too much of my time on social media. First thing I do in the morning is roll over and check Twitter, Facebook, and my email… This is ridiculous… When thinking about the time invested in this I also felt convicted. My Savior died so that I could live and I’m too busy checking notifications to get on my hands and knees and praise Him every morning. I’m so selfish and with my eyes opened to it, its something I desperately want to change. Thats why I am cutting out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and anything else but my blog for the rest of the year. It doesn’t seem long but it might stick long after that as well. I have a duty to Christ to be the best vessel I can and I’m not heading in that direction. Now, this might come across as I am telling you to do the same thing but I am not. These are convictions on my life from Christ. Personal convictions because of the way I am choosing to live. I only hope to share the way Christ is working in me to change me. As for the Netflix I am going to challenge myself that any time spent watching needs to be equally met in studying the Word.
2. Who I am for different people
This seems to be a struggle I have battling for a very long time. I would first describe myself as a serial people pleaser. I want everyone happy at all times and will do anything to help change someone’s unhappiness. I love all the people in my life and want to see them uplifted and cherished in the Lord. Lately I have been battling who I am and my JourneyMan application has helped me see that. One question on my application stopped me and caused me to reevaluate the life I have been living.
“Tell us about the last person you led to Christ?”
Ummmm… This was a punch in the chest. I haven’t led anyone to Christ in a very long time. Then I started wondering about why that might be. I am applying to be a missionary in a different country for 2 years. I am praying for God to prepare my heart and I can’t say that I have helped lead a person to Christ in the last year. It also made me question, “Who am I?” The past semester has been a very challenging self evaluation journey for me. A giant struggle where God is stretching me as thin as possible to mold me into something I can’t even see coming. I then realized that I am Jonah. Now the story of Jonah has always been one that I liked as a child but never my favorite. In my eyes I saw Jonah as a coward. God called him and he avoided that calling so much that he would rather be dead than be the man of God he was called to. I am Jonah. Only I change from fleeing to chasing God on a daily basis. At church or in the company of uplifting and affirming Christians I am chasing Him. However, when I have to stand alone, I flee. I feel He is calling me into the mission field and I can’t even share the gospel with my classmates. How in the world could I possibly be effective? My conviction is simple who am I going to choose to be as the permeant Mary Beth? I want invisibility in my personality and in who I show others. I want to be lost in Christ and share His story of love with such passion that people only see how he is working in me and desire Him to change their lives. This is a huge conviction on my life and I don’t have a clear cut answer for how to change it but I do know that I’m done fleeing and ready to start chasing. I want to be chasing Him the way a missionary is called to do. I want to be His Mary Beth, the one He knew before anyone did and the one He set apart.

Single, Saved, and Serving

So, I’m in college and ready to graduate. I feel like I have the plan God has for me all figured out. I’m going to be a teacher and I’m dating a wonderful man whom I feel is “the one.” However, as we all know God takes our understanding and comfort and trades it for pain and confusion in an attempt to forcefully grow us into greater servants. Well, he did that with my life. My relationship ended and the teaching didn’t work out. All that I was confident in was stripped from me and I felt God saying, “Okay, now I have your attention.” You see I was making an idol out of planning my life. I found no greater joy than planning my life out as I saw fit. God took the things from me that blinded me to Him. Seeing Him in the light of my necessity was almost overwhelming. I was a child again looking up to Christ for every step. It almost felt as if I was beginning this new dance and instead of me being in control, He knew all of the steps. Embarking on this new journey was exciting and refreshing at first, and then came the loneliness. I will not sugarcoat things but instead be transparent. I started the new school year, my last, not sure where my life was headed. The only thing I knew for certain was that God had control and I could not take the next step in the dance without His lead. So I waited… I felt God calling me to seminary so that I can learn to be a better writer and more educated in the ministry, but not sure of anything else beyond that. So I waited… Eventually this waiting became much harder than I had ever imagined. I was waiting, sometimes patiently, for my prince to come. I am a woman about to graduate college and it’s time for my prince to show up, right? This was my mindset and even if it wasn’t that simple. I was still feeling the urge for that special man to come into my life. I felt it was time for that, but it wasn’t, not for me it wasn’t. This was like a knife to the chest. The hurt from the loneliness could easily be worse than that of my worst breakup. I was tired of allowing God to have control in this dance, it was my turn. The hunt was on! I was single, saved, and searching for my prince to come. Every day I woke up dressing and acting my best. Like a peacock looking for a mate I put on a big show for those around me. I even did this at the church. I viewed coming to church as an opportunity to meet a “real” man of God, not like the hood rats at school. Sermon after sermon I struggled to remember what the pastor talked about but I could tell you the 4 boys that were on my radar. I felt in control of the dance once again. I was the fool because, in fact, I was dancing alone. My Father was no longer my partner but instead the date I stood up. This was when I began to be punched by loneliness. It came like clockwork every week or so I would have a night of crying and asking God to send someone. My relationship with Him was built off my asking and seeking more than my service and appreciation. You see, it’s not that God needs my service to Him but rather I need my service to Him. This thought changed how I felt about things completely. I needed the service to God. It was a way to tame the loneliness.
While being a single woman today I needed to see that God was calling me to do more than wait for “Prince Charming.” I’m fighting the desire to search with the desire to serve. In doing this I have discovered three great reasons for service. First, we’re called; as Christians God calls everyone to a life of service to His kingdom and His creations. This is not to say we are all called to the mission field or the pulpit but service is found in everyday submission to Christ. We should serve because it is the will God has for our lives. Secondly, it masks the feeling of loneliness. This can sound like a selfish reason to serve but many times our heart starts with selfish motives. The selfishness only serves to peak our interests but as God uses us more and more that selfishness changes. As a single woman I wanted and desired to be fulfilled and I sought that in a man. Sometimes we seek a relationship because it forces us to live in the present. Stay with me on this one. Many women are future thinkers. We think about what the five year plan looks like while overlooking the next 5 minutes. When we are in relationships it forces us to live in the here and now, to really appreciate God’s blessings in this moment. I didn’t realize that this same fulfillment that comes from relationships is also found in Christ. We get lost in service and forget to search for that man, forget the pain, and forget ourselves. What starts out as a selfish motive turns into a self-less act. Third reason, He molds and grows us. God can push and pull us in so many directions to make us stronger for Him. Serving can cause us to discover parts of ourselves we never thought possible. It is our super power. If our God is with us then what can stand against us.
The closing is simple. Loneliness is painful and many single adults are faced with it. However, instead of focusing our energy on what we are searching for and when we are going to find it, we need to focus on what God can use us for while we are the most free to do so. Being single is a blessing; we just need to start seeing it as one.
Update: God is doing amazing things in my life since working on this article for the past couple of months. 3 weeks ago I took communion at church and had one of the most honest prayers of my life. I told God if this is the relationship with Him I get from being single and fighting loneliness then I never want to fall in love with anyone else. It was a very difficult statement to say and mean but the relationship we have out of my brokenness is irreplaceable. I know that one day I will fall in love with someone else, until then He has blessed me with amazing relationships and a promise to guide me through any storm.

Who Am I?

Alright you Arrowhead-ers who started their reading plan today? I did! Well, the day isn’t over, so in case you didn’t get to it this morning check it out tonight! Now I don’t normally do a blog after every devotion I do, but I thought that I would take the time to share with you the ones that really rocked my world. This morning Exodus 3 rocked my world.
So I have basically grown up in the veggies tales era of christianity and with veggie tales came the awesome rendition of the story of Moses called, “Prince of Egypt.” I will admit this is one of my favorite movies growing up but it has done something that most movies do to you, if they are factual movies they make you appreciate the facts a little less. We know the story about Moses floating down a river, is adopted into the Pharaohs family, grows up, kills a man, then flees to the dessert. This part of the movie goes by rather quickly so we can get to the good stuff, the plagues. However, in the reading today we focused on Moses’ calling. Before I read, I prayed like most of you do for God to allow me to convicted by something or since we are in this new series, to be in awe of something. Be careful what you pray for right?
Before I start to get deep I want to share some things about my life. Right now, I am a senior in college and in applying for seminary. God really has control of my life. I believe he placed a special calling on my life many years ago, but it wasn’t until 6 months ago that I stopped fighting it.
Anyway, I’m reading along struggling with the names of Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Struggle in the same way that you probably just jumped over all of those… Yeah, I know. I’m reading along and then it hits me, verse 11. Moses desperately asks God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” I know many of you, in your life, are not facing the battle of the liberation of a nation of people, but you are facing things as equally big. The way this hit me in my life is that I am struggling to know what the next step is from God. I feel I am called by God but then I screw up and I ask myself, “why would He use me?” It goes on to say that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So you mean to tell me that the God of those men, the God who called those men, also called me. Wow! Just sit and think on that one for a minute.
When we come before God we don’t have that mentality. We have the one of Moses when he first came upon the burning bush. The Lord basically said, “Hey Moses” and he responds with “Here I am.” I’m pretty sure, “What up DAWG?!” would have been the tone of today’s society. Later we see that he falls on his face in worship. When is the last time you did that? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has called you to do amazing things and we need to be falling on our face.
In the end we think, why us? We think we can’t do what God is calling us to do or that we are terrible sinners that could never accomplish what He has asked of us. But remember the great promise in verse 12, “I am with you.” Don’t mistake your calling because God didn’t make a mistake in calling you.

The Last Letter

This post is not going to have some great intro but the premise is simple. I write letters to my future husband. Now, this may sound crazy but in this world of hurt and loneliness you want to reach out to someone. Who better than the person you want to spend your life with? I got this idea from a book, “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy. It’s and amazing book and I suggest it to anyone who is struggling with relationships. Anyway, in the book Eric writes Leslie letters even before they met because he longs for his future wife to know the pain he is feeling. I write these too. However, I write them in joyous occasions as well. Last night God convicted me of something that I wrote about in my last letter to my future husband. I’ll let the letter speak for itself. At the end of reading contemplate Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

My Sweet Man,
I want to write you the last letter you will receive until we are married. It’s hard for me to say this will be the last one because I enjoy this connection I feel I have to you but this is me saying I’m letting go of the grasp I have on you to live this life God has for me. I find myself thinking about you endlessly. So much that I’m putting you in the way of my walk with Him. He is constantly at battle for my attention and I have to say I’ve given you more than Him. It hurts me but I can’t live my life waiting for you to come or for God to send you to me. I have a life, in the now, and its purpose is to serve Him. This hurts me but I can’t say God has the control when I still have my letters to you. I love you so very much but I’m a servant first and I refuse to be ineffective because I long for you. God is allowing me to graduate into a single life for a very specific purpose, other than to torture me. He has plans for me! He has plans for you! I have to stop allowing my thought to be consumed by you. This is, in no way, your fault but mine. I’ve made you and my Disney ideals of love to be an idol. I have to stop asking myself, “is he the one.” I’ve said this so many times before but now I want it real. Our God is big and amazing and doesn’t need my worries about finding you. I have to give Him all the comforts of my life, including my thoughts of you. I continue to pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, yourself included. I love you, chase Him without ceasing. See you.

God I’m Hurting

That simple 3 word prayer was one that escaped my lips many nights. Most of those nights the prayer was so short because my crying and tears did leave me time or strength to say much else. I would be laying in my bed unable to shake the feeling of complete loneliness. I can’t begin to describe the hurt and ripping of my heart as I cried out to my savior, my dad. I needed him like I never had before.
It’s the 2nd week of my senior year in college and I feel as if my life is falling apart and all I have is Elmer’s and duct tape to hold it together. Just 4 months ago I ended the relationship that I thought would be “the one” and it left me at the scariest moment in my life again; starting over. However, this was an exciting time. I felt God calling me to a life in the ministry. I finally had discovered my place and was ready to attack it full force. I landed this amazing internship at my local church, was surrounded by the best friends you could ask for, and ready to start looking into seminary schools. Coming to school I was the happiest I had been and life was going so well.
It then hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m alone. I’m surrounded by so many people who love me but I’m very alone. Now, let it be known I’m not a girl who bases happiness on whether she is in a relationship or not, but coming up into your last year of college it isn’t something that can be ignored. Don’t get me wrong, to the 25,000 Facebook friends who are madly in love, engaged, or married, I’m very happy for you and pray you the best but a girl can’t help but wonder when it’s her turn.
This pang of loneliness has quickly turned into me making an idol out of men and who my husband might be. (This is the part where I lay my soul on the table) I’m obsessed, and really, that’s the best word for it. I feel as if I’m walking around constantly wondering if the guy who is the religion major might be my man. It’s sickening but it’s almost like a cancer. I’m not going to sugar coat things because I know many readers have felt this way before but maybe too embarrassed to say it.
The cycle is always the same. You see a cute guy who “seems” to love the Lord, go home and creep him on Facebook, just to discover he has a girlfriend or a guy who can’t recite 2 of the 10 commandments. Bummer, start over again. The cycle continues till you feel drained and have the lowest self worth imaginable. If you’re emotional like me, you cry 3 times a day about it hoping the loneliness will eventually turn to numbness.
Now I know this sounds so extreme but it’s all true.
So after deciding that I’m an idiot I tell God that I don’t want to bare this burden anymore. God is now carrying my burden and even though I trust him to know who my mate is, its still hard to sit patiently waiting for my knight to come. Even harder to wait when you know how much growing you need to go through before God can shape you into the woman you need to be.
I guess what hurts so bad about the loneliness is its uncertainty. As a person in the “give it to me now” society we do not enjoy waiting and even if we are asked to wait we need to know exactly how long. This is where my hurting begins. The unknowing. I know I have given God my burdens but in my heart I want to know how long before I meet him, my guy. I’m hurting so much that I have a craving to devote my life to others for the selfish reason of escaping my own pain.
At this point in time I don’t know what will happen, but all I can muster to pray, “God I’m hurting.”

Desires of Your Heart

Sometimes we get annoyed with the people who always have to “one-up” us in any situation. For example, “I feel so sick, I think I might have food poisoning.” “Lucky you! I had the swine flu and I broke my arm!” Okay, so this might be exaggerating it a bit, but we all know those people. And maybe if we were honest to ourselves would admit that we think or say these very things. Society has us set on who has it worse. When we look at the news we only think of those who are in really terrible circumstances. My favorite has to be the ASPCA commercials. Thats right! You know it! I bet you’re singing it right now, “IN THE ARMS OF AN ANGEL!!!!!!” So now every time that song is sung or played at a funeral all I can think about it that shivering dog in the first bit. But the commercial serves its purpose! It causes you to want to pull out your wallet and donate or bring home every stray dog you see.
The thought today is why we so focused on the negative. Many times we miss some of the greatest times in our life because we are living one negative moment to the next. We have been taught that since we were young, but I challenge you to relearn a more positive thought process.
Since I am a psychology major I get to do some really cool stuff, not brain surgery yet… Except on my sister, hehe…. However, today I visited the local high school where I have been doing a field study experience all semester. Now, if you have ever talked to me you know that this is one of the biggest complaints on my list. I serve as a student counselor and I asked for this placement because I thought this might be what I wanted to do with my life. I was so wrong… So like any other human, I complained about it. Well, today I had a large foot shoved in my mouth when God reminded me of what I should be doing. Yes, here I go with the Jesus stuff again.
At field study I was working on homework on the computer when I saw an icon that said, “Hey Bruce” on it. And would you guess that my curiosity got the better of me. **Mental Note: Never tell my supervisor I have a blog** I opened the file and started reading. It was from one of his friends about taking delight in everyday. Of course! Recently I have been asking God to criticize me daily on my flaws and today it hit me like a stone between the eyes. I started thinking about the things I take delight in and there are many things that I do, but I am much quicker to complain to everyone (including God) than give praise.
I just want you to sit and think about the things you have to be thankful for today. Yes, its cliche I know but really think about it. In college many of my friends and myself have experienced breakups and my first advice is to find joy in 3 things a day. I always tell people that. When you are forced to think of the good it can change your whole life, including your relationship with God. He makes all things work together for your good! That includes loosing your keys the morning of a meeting that makes you 20 minutes late. Take delight!

Your Love Never Fails

This will be my second blog, but this one has a whole new meaning to my life. I want to show people the ways that God is moving in my life. I am a 21 year old college student but what makes my life extraordinary is the relationship that I have with God. I’m quick to point out that it isn’t my relationship with Him, but his mercy and grace that pours down on me each day. I know that everyday I fail continuously in my race to know Him more, but His grace saves me and covers me in love. Some people may read this and not have a relationship with God. You might be confused why I say that I owe my God so much. You may think that my life is all fun and rainbows or that I never get mad or impatient with God and you would be wrong. I get lonely, angry, and stubborn with my Creator daily. That is why I mention His grace so much. I fail but He never fails. He picks up where I fall short.
Recently my life has experienced a paradigm shift. A season of my life closed in deciding that I would become single and God has done amazing things with that decision. He has opened my eyes to see what my future could include. For the first time in my life I can say that I trust Him fully. This is a very large leap for my life and I can owe it to no one but Him. I desire your prayers in that I am considering attending seminary and also your prayers for the molding my life is going to experience. I pray everyday that God pushes me and builds me to be a Proverbs 31 woman. That said its not going to be an easy journey, but it will be a wonderful one and I hope you stick around for the ride.