Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Who died and made you God?"

Pastor Jeff's sermon a few weeks ago entitled "Who died and made you God" has really been on my mind this week. I don't know why I feel like I must be perfect ALL the time, but I am constantly comparing myself with this perfect idealistic image of myself which only discourages me because I'm NOT perfect.

I was looking through all the sermon outlines that I have written over the last few months, but couldn't find this one. Figures... yet another example that I am not perfect. I obviously misplaced it or never put it in the folder.

The main point of the sermon was that we shouldn't hold ourselves to such a high standard. We are human and will make mistakes and fail. If we were able to achieve perfection, then we would have a status like that of God. Now, this doesn't mean that we don't give a care in this world because we will never be perfect in this life, but that we must be willing to accept our failures and the failures of others.

I guess this topic has been on my mind for the same reason as many of the other posts... because of these group projects. When I am assigned a particular task, I make it as professional as I possibly can. I spell check, think of a theme, the colors, the fonts, the sizes, the images used throughout the PowerPoint, etc. So working on this group project, I was in charge of the presentation board last time. The senior girls were in charge of it for this past presentation, and I was just floored. Maybe they spent 15 minutes on it.. not sure. I was in awe. Then the PowerPoint.... only words on white slides.. Shoot me!!! I was so frustrated! I mean, this is my grade! I am trying to get into nursing school and if these two seniors are the reasons that I make a B and not get into nursing school then I will become overly dramatic and DIE! (which I'm good at being dramatic- probably learned from mom! :) haha Love you!) Why did I feel so frustrated? Why should I really care about how their presentation board and PowerPoint looked? I'm sure they were really proud of their work, so who was I to tear them down? I never said anything to them about it. I just smiled and said that since you did the presentation board this time, I'll do it next time! Seriously, who died and made me God? No one. Their presentation board and PowerPoint were perfectly fine! It had all the information that was needed, and yes, I would have completely presented everything differently, but what they did worked.
How I felt when I first saw their Presentation Board and Power Point!

I also made a 98 on a recent exam, and while most people would be enthusiastic for receiving such an excellent grade, I felt disappointed. I vividly remember asking myself walking to the bus from class, "How could you miss that one question? You are so stupid AJ! You could have made a 100 and you missed that one dumb question that made you fail by making a 98!" I have got to let go of this perfectionistic attitude. God wants my best. That's what I did and made a 98. I'm sure He is not ashamed that I made a 98! So, why should I be ashamed? I don't have any reason to be ashamed except for putting my standards higher than God's.

Why do I put so much pressure on myself in everything? Washing the car, completing homework, landscaping, what I'm wearing, cleaning, my job? I even sang in church this past Sunday and during rehearsals and the service missed one note that let me not be able to find the notes written for the ending. Was what I sang the part that was written? No. Was God still honored and glorified? I think so.

For this week, I am going to continue to remind myself that no one died and made me God! I am just going to do my best, and if that falls short from what my ideals of perfection are, then fine! God has sent a reminder through music the past few days though. Seriously, the last four times I have gotten into my car, "Do Everything" has been on the radio by Steven Curtis Chapman. The main lyrics that got me...

"And while I may not know you I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes does it matter at all
Well let me remind you it all matters just as long as you

Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made youCause He made you to do
Every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do"

"You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."
-Psalm 16:2-

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Brief Recap.

So sorry everyone. It has been far too long since I have written a new post, but have been caught up with the third round of exams and started a new job. So, here it goes.

1. Halloween Party. I went as a Proctologist because I had all the nursing stuff and didn't have to spend a dime. The Proctologist was actually deemed "scariest costume award." haha. We had a great time!

2. My Aunt Tonya came to town to see the ECU vs. Southern Miss game. We had a touchdown so early in the game, then completely lost it. However, the streaker during half time was fairly entertaining...

3. After being driven to insanity by so many group projects, I was assigned an additional group project and an individual presentation. Luckily, one group project and one presentation is completed. 4 group projects left and one individual project left before this semester is over! Thank God!

4. For the past few weeks, I have been able to landscape a few peoples lawns. I have mulched, weeded, and created planting beds, drawn two landscape presentation boards that include the names of the plants and how many would be needed. I may be a little busy this coming spring if everyone wants me to landscape their yard. I love it all though, and can't wait.

5. I have started my job at the hospital. This was the first week I have been there and have only been through orientation the entire time. If anyone wants to feel what "exhausting" means, then they should have to sit through the two days of corporate orientation... Glad those two days are over, and now working on departmental orientation. I am working part time during the night shift, but orientation is full time 8-5 Monday through Friday. Doesn't make sense to me, but it is what it is. I love walking around of the floor though. You definitely feel like a super hero on this team. Every hall you walk down has people who stop and wave (sometimes high five you-- total flashback to the 80's or some other decade before my time), sometimes even applaud. All of this and those awesome double doors that when you hit the button pushes a bunch of air into your face! :) Yeah, Superhero status!

6. Cypress Glen University just might send me to an early grave. I have completed one presentation (THANK YOU SO MUCH BROOKE STANCILL!!!!- You have no idea how important you were!). I feel like I should be getting paid for as much work I am putting in to this project. It's a constant battle with the seniors trying to establish meeting times. It's a constant battle with the seniors deciding what we want to present. It's a constant battle just trying to get a response via e-mail, text, or calling. I guess it's a great learning experience, but besides them, I have Cypress Glen people who need schedules, times, fliers, news blobs, etc. Our service contact person seems to only talk to me and one other girl in our group because we are the only ones who will respond, but the added workload is too much to handle. READY FOR THIS PROJECT TO BE COMPLETED THE MOST! Ahhhhhh!!!!

7. Started talking to this really nice and pretty girl who lives a christian life from what I can tell so far, and instantly there are three other girls fighting for my attention. It's the weirdest thing! I mean, I have gone for a few months without hearing of any ones interests and I begin talking to one girl and BAM, hello!

8. I ordered my my first set of scrubs and waiting for them to be monogrammed.

9. God gave me a gift by allowing my car to pass inspection. It's the small things in life, ya know. I have two good tires and two tires that are so bald that they may spontaneously explode at any moment! I took my vehicle in on the very last day in October, so I could have the entire month of November to be able to come up with the money for two new tires to pass inspection. Fortunately- and somewhat unfortunately- he only looked at the two good tires and allowed my car to pass. Now I can wait for my Dec 1st paycheck to buy some tires. Oh... I also recently learned that you have to rotate your tires. Who knew? I sure wasn't taught. Why don't they teach us this VALUABLE information in highschool? Is this just common knowledge? If it is, then I clearly missed out! I also learned this summer how to change my oil by myself.. What? I'm only 21. I guess the plan was to become wealthy enough to pay someone else to do it for me! :)

10. We recently had a family from Goldsboro at our church who are going to be medical missionaries to Togo, West Africa. For the past few months, I have been thinking that I would love to go on a medical missions trip. If I went now, I would only officially be an NA2, but it would be more than nothing. People need dressings, and I know sterile procedure! I am sure I could be used one way or another. I can't wait to be a nurse and go on trips, so I could really do some good!

11. The previous comment brings me to another point. Still waiting on nursing school. Really trying hard to be patient and trying to remember that God has perfect timing. He knows the best time to let me into nursing school. I should hear at some point between the middle of December until the day before spring semester. I have no idea how much money I need to begin to save. I am not good at this last minute stuff, but there is always a lesson in everything. Maybe this is just one of His small lessons to remind us about how awesome He is!

12. Finally, I know it's only Nov 10th, but Christmas is right around the corner. I have made my Christmas List and will start pulling out the outdoor Christmas lights out of the attic tomorrow afternoon. If we don't start now, then it might not be up by the weekend of Thanksgiving. We will focus on indoor decor that weekend! I know Jesus is the ONLY reason for the season, but I still love those shining lights and ornaments! This year I will actually get enjoy the season!Since working at Hallmark, the holiday season typically consisted of working 45-55 hours a week in 4-5 hour increments. This year, I work only 24 hours and two days the week of Christmas! Here's some pictures of what I look forward to each year, and yes, I may just be the only person in the entire world who actually enjoys untangling those Christmas lights! I also don't like "pre-lit" trees. It's takes away that feeling of accomplishment! :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Any garden enthusiast like me understands the importance of "deadheading"
--especially when growing geraniums, petunias, and other similar flowers.  Deadheading is the process of removing the old, withered, faded blooms from the plant to make room for the new flowers. If the dead flowers are not removed from the plant, the petals can actually cover other buds and, besides just looking really ugly, can prevent the buds from blossoming. Dead flowers are a hindrance, holding back the true beauty of the plant.

While deadheading my plants, I realized I needed to "deadhead" my life. Of course my body doesn't have a bunch of dead flowers all over it, but negative thoughts from the past can cover up the new happy moments trying to emerge.

As most of you know, I am the grandson of Dr. Max Barton. A preacher who is nationally recognized as a great leader by everyone with the exception of a few people from my old church. The past year has been very tough and it started with my grandfather retiring from the church I have attended for the past 16 years of my existence.

In his retiring, there were many people who said horrible things about him. I guess they felt much more comfortable talking trash to my face because they were too cowardly to confront him themselves with their disapproval. Things such as, "I can't wait for your granddad to no longer be pastor here!" "I'm only staying if your grandfather leaves!" "Things are going to be a lot different if Pastor Barton would actually retire" and many more hurtful things. I just couldn't help but to think that if you were so displeased with my grandfather being pastor, then why wouldn't you move your church membership somewhere that will make you happy? Why stay if you are so miserable?

It is just simply amazing what all has been blamed on my grandfather... how dead the youth group is, how dead the music is, how ineffective the Sunday school classes are, even the musical choices in upcoming weddings were turned down "because of my grandfather." My grandfather is no longer pastor and is still being blamed! At what point will people begin to accept responsibility for themselves and realize that ineffectiveness is from them not taking the initiative?

Besides the hurtful things said, it's been hard to live on Rountree Road (aka People's Baptist South). It's hard walking your dog, and people come out in the yard and say that they miss seeing you in church and your youthful edge that you brought to the music ministry (of which my grandfather LOVED the new music I sang, just throwing that out there). I would respond with "I do miss everyone, but I believe that this is God's will for me to be at Unity and believe it whole heatedly" just to receive the response, "Well, I'm pretty sure it's God's will for you not to be at Unity!" While I have excellent neighbors (Mr. Richard and the Swanners--you know you're awesome!), many of them- I feel- would rather pull out their teeth with pliers in their garage than to acknowledge I am outside. It's hard when you yell across the street "hey neighbor!" just for them to continue walking away. Maybe the first time they didn't hear me, maybe the second, I mean... it happens. I don't always hear everything. But after almost a full year of my attempts, you think at least one of the hello's would have been heard.

This is where the deadheading my life comes in. I am choosing to no longer dwell on these hurtful saying and events in my life-- Removing the constant negative thoughts to make room for beautiful new growth. God has allowed me to attend an incredible church where people have fire to advance His kingdom. Passions in every area- at least for what I can see. I LOVE the sermons! I LOVE the music ministry and actually being allowed to be serve! And I actually LOVE my Sunday School Class!  *Gasp!* WHAT!?! Yes, I actually enjoy Sunday school. I have never been in a Sunday school class that is taught as a lesson that allows personal interjections and searching for other verses that correspond with our teachings. I LOVE being able to have a prayer request time to share our concerns for other people and for ourselves. It's such a blessing, so freeing. 

Of course, I don't mean to paint a picture that people who attend People's are fake. They really aren't! There are many excellent people who truly desire God's will for their life. There are many excellent people who want the best for the church and give their absolute best! It just was no longer a place for me, and that is OK.

God sometimes allows us to go through change to rejuvenate us. We are the plant. He is the gardener. He wants us as Christians to be rejuvenated! He wants us to be rid of those dead flowers in life that prevent us from blooming to our full potential. As plants, we simply cannot deadhead ourselves, we need help from our Lord, The Master Gardener, to help us not focus on those past events but to focus on those beautiful new buds that He has allowed to grow into our life.

These experiences have definitely shaped me into the man I am today. I am sure God has allowed these events to happen to teach me that I can't make everyone happy, to teach me to live according to His word and not just be a "people-pleaser." So, I am going to say to those who have said hurtful things, thank you for allowing me to grow, I'm sorry for holding on to this hurt for so long, I forgive you.

Then Peter came to him and asked,
“Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!"

Matthew 18:21-22

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


"Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop,
patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. "
-James 5:7-

The term "patience" has been on my mind for a great deal of the day today. I guess it has been on my mind lately because of waiting to hear if I have been accepted into nursing school. Patience is definitely not something that is easily acquired, for me anyways. In today's world, you have instant access to anything you want! You take an exam and within 10 seconds you have a grade posted in blackboard. Have a question? Google it. You just might have to wait an entire three seconds for the page to load, but you get an answer.

I wonder why God just doesn't allow us to go ahead and know things in life, but I am glad that I don't know all the answers. I am glad that God gives us the opportunity to practice patience. Do you think we would have such a dependence on Him if we didn't need to wait for His perfect timing?

God has allowed me PLENTY of opportunity to practice patience this semester. If you know me at all, you know that I like to do everything to my absolute best! Perfection is something I constantly find myself striving for, but I know I will never be perfect... until that day I get to see my Savior face to face!

Opportunities for "Practicing Patience"

1. Patience has been difficult to find sometimes, especially with being assigned to FIVE different group projects! It's too much to handle sometimes. The lessons in patience occur when trying to schedule a time for everyone in our group to meet. I guess I am just a natural leader, because I find myself being the "project leader" for absolutely every project. It often pays off by earning an A, but it would be nice if the people I didn't get to choose to work with would have some motivation to make an A. Patience!

2. Being placed onto the alternate list for nursing school has been another lesson for patience. I am very fortunate that I was able to make the alternate list rather than being flat out rejected, but it's hard sometimes when you see most of your friends know that they were accepted into the program and you won't find out until middle of December or the day before school starts. (I appreciate all your prayers for me to get a seat!)

3. Waiting to start my new job. I am excited that I was hired on at the hospital, but it has been frustrating waiting to get started. Having an interview in August and being told you will start by the end of the month, then getting your start date pushed back all the way to Nov 7th can be a challenge. Challenging because I don't have that steady income- although small- coming in to help pay for gas. It has been quite amazing how God has allowed me to get "odd jobs" here and there just in time to fill the gas tank.

4. Living at home. While this is more of a blessing while attending college, it also requires patience. Me and family members sometimes have disagreements about certain things. I have to learn that it is ok that they have different views on life than I do, and that one day when I have children, they will have different opinions than my own.

5. Waiting for a girlfriend/wife. It's probably more on my mind now more than ever since Rachel has been engaged. Maybe God has been wanting me to wait because He knows I will be accepted into Nursing School and that will consume a lot of my time. I don't want to get a girlfriend that I have to put on the backburner because I need to study for an exam or have clinicals the next day. Maybe I will find a girl while I'm in nursing school and she will have just as busy a schedule as I have and it work out great. Who really knows? It will all happen in His time, and I pray that I will be wise enough to realize it when that moment comes.

Tests on patience are not my favorite, but where would I be if I didn't have to depend on God to guide me through these challenges. Having patience and giving my stress over to Him is a constant battle, but to the best of my ability, I am going to choose to be patient.

"Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap,
which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.
Of how much more value are you than the birds?
And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?"
-Luke 12: 24-25-

Monday, October 17, 2011

An Eventful Weekend.

It is currently 11:30 Monday morning and have been working on a Microsoft Excell Project for the past 3 hours in Joyner Library at ECU! I just couldn't handle much more without taking a break, so in the mean time, I thought I would fill you in on my very eventful weekend.

Friday night didn't consist of much besides finishing up some homework, making a quick trip to Your Perfect Cake and watching "The Green Hornet," so let's just go ahead and start with Saturday morning.

I woke up, drank a cup of coffee and was instantly excited to begin my day. I got ready and headed out for Buies Creek, NC. A small spec on a map that Campbell University calls home. I arrived around 12 and met up with Lydia- a great friend- and Derrick- my roommate while attending Campbell. After catching up for a while, we went to eat lunch at Mi Casita (definitely the BEST mexican food in the entire world!) We talked about class schedules, plans for graduating, current jobs, and other people. I only was able to see Lydia and Derrick because the rest of our group of friends were working, on other trips, or in weddings. We probably could planned a weekend that worked out better for us all to meet, but I swung by before the Group 1 Crew Concert in Smithfield that night!

I shopped at the outlets for a little bit before the concert and found NOTHING! How poor must you be to realize that you can't even afford the 50% off rack at an outlet! For example, I was in Tommy Hillfiger and looking at the clearance rack because everything was advertised as 50% off. I picked up a polo that I really liked with the price tag of $79.99. I thought it was 50% off that price. Nope! That WAS the 50% off price! Can you believe it? I can't imagine someone paying $160 for a polo that is going to shrink and fade! Wow. Anyways, I drove away from the outlets with a new pack of gum and a diet mountain dew.

Me, Brittany and Keith met up at Zaxby's then went to the concert.

We had a great time talking, then Ryan Stevenson, Rapture Ruckus, Rachel Lampa, and ShonLock began to open the concert. We had never heard of any of these people, but they were all decent-- except one! ShonLock! Ryan Stevenson, Rapture Ruckus, and Rachel Lampa all gave their testimonies and talked about how God has impacted their life. They had some incredible stories to share that, I feel, encouraged alot of people. However, after these people sang their songs, it was ShonLock's turn. Didn't like him AT ALL. He came out hollering and his entire three songs were weird. Everyone in his group all had t-shirts with his name on it.I believe the Holy Spirit made me uncomfortable with him because he might not have been there for the right reasons.

The whole atmosphere he made, red lights, fog machines, huge steam cloud things he used, and his final song... "I'm a Monsta" was- in my opinion- a little demonic. He never gave a testimony, encouraging story, how his life has changed, or even spoke the name of Jesus... well, I take that back... He said the name of Jesus ONE time, and that was at the end of his song "I'm a Monsta, ma-ma-ma-ma monsta." He stated, "I'm a monsta for Jesus!"

Again, completely uncomfortable. I am thankful that God allows us to feel uncomfortable to realize that our spirits might not be in sync. During his songs, I just looked out into the audience and saw two very different reactions. The reactions of half, like mine, was people looking around thinking "really?" The other half of the crowd made the letter "M" with their hands and were pumping them into the air yelling that they were also "monstas." However, after this awkward, unworshipful experience, Group 1 Crew came on stage.

They brought so much energy. We were all jumping during their opening song and having a great time. After the first three songs or so, each member shared their personal testimony and how they used to be fake. Their testimonies reminded me of what Pastor Jeff has stated in church the past few weeks about how we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are saved and not truly giving our lives to God. One of the crew members spoke about how he grew up in church, and it was all a show. He would go up to the alter crying and praying for Jesus, then leave the service, rob someone and have sex with his girlfriend. It's amazing how easily we can put on a "stained glass masquerade" and
think know one needs to know what we do outside of church. Fortunately for us, Christ sees ALL! His testimony was very moving for me though. Very sincere.

Moving on to the last event of the weekend, Unity's Night of Drama! I have enjoyed attending Unity for the past year, and excited that God has allowed me and my family to be used at this church. The drama was excellent! Everything about it was great. Some parts were incredibly funny, other parts made you think and reflect. Pure excellence!

To end the weekend, I received my ECU School of Nursing letter. I did not get accepted for spring 2012... YET! I have been placed on the alternate list, so if you get a chance, I would greatly appreciate your prayers. God has a plan and will continue to lead my life regardless, but I definitely think that I am ready to get this college experience behind me and move forward with life. Regardless of what I think, God knows what is best for me and has perfect timing!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Wedding in the Works.

This past Saturday my BABY sister became engaged to Jordan Bowen. I absolutely couldn't believe it! I mean, I'm her older brother! I'm supposed to get married first, finish college first, buy a house, have children, etc etc. I am very excited for her though.

That Saturday afternoon, our Sunday school class, Crossbearers, had an activity, but Rachel couldn't make it because of her class on Saturday. So, I decided to go ahead with the group to see the new movie "Courageous." (I must say that it was an excellent movie, and if you haven't seen it yet, then you should!) Afterwards, we decided to go to Moe's and just enjoy talking while eating some very good food. It must have been Unity FWB night at Moe's because we saw four people from Unity while we were eating. The more the merrier!

I came home to an empty house and immediately thought "Oh my gosh, where is everyone? Did I miss the rapture?" I mean, mom and dad should be home. They are OLD and what else did they have to do on a Saturday night before church? I only use the term "old" because people constantly think that she is my sister, or girlfriend, or on some occasions, my wife.... AWKWARD! She is my mother!-- but that is a post of its own! I soon discovered that I didn't miss the rapture, but that they were burning under our tree and eating s'mores. Rachel and Jordan decided that they were going to leave and hang out at his parents house for a little bit, so they left, and I took a shower and got ready for bed. When I woke up in the morning, Rachel walked into the kitchen with a HUGE, shiny, diamond ring. I was shocked, excited, worried, happy, a whole bunch of things instantly flooded my mind. The rest of the day (and pretty much since that day) mom and her have been looking at "dream NC beach weddings" and other related searches. It has been a fun time, and hopefully it will stay fun. Hopefully the days to come of decision making stress about minute details, like how we are going to fold the napkins, will not get in our way of enjoying these days together.

Rachel- You know I love you, and I will try not to get on your nerves too much throughout this process. I only want the best for lil' rayrich. I think you know this, but I will continue to remind you continuously throughout the next few months! :)  I promise to be supportive of your decisions and pray that we all keep our focus on God and not allow all these wedding details to consume our every thought.

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord." -Proverbs 18:22

Jordan is a VERY lucky guy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Hey Everyone!

As you can tell, I have decided to start my own blog. For the last year, I have thorougly enjoyed reading a number of my friends blogs on a regular basis and have laughed, cried, and been inspired by all of these posts. I wanted to start this blog so my friends and family can read about what is going on in my life. Thought that this might be an excellent way to feel better connected, so as I get started setting this up, I hope you enjoy the posts to come! I have to admit, I can't honestly believe I am creating a blog because I am the most technologically challenged person I know! (Rachel-- get prepared for MANY questions to come!) Even before I posted this, I was reading up on how to change my background, how to post pictures, etc and now I feel completely challenged at what I am getting myself into. Anyways, I really do hope you enjoy the posts that follow as I go through the mountains, valleys, and hysterical events in between that only seem to happen to me! (Just kidding, seriously!)