Lakeside Cheers

Last weekend, I found myself helping my roommate cat-sit for one of her friends. And by “helping”, I mean “mooching”. You see, the cat lives in a cabin on a lake… Need I say more?

I’d been excited for this weekend since I knew of its possibility. Though house-sitting with this cat usually means sleepless nights lulled into alertness by its broken meow, to me, nothing beats days spend pondering life on their dock. It also means a few day escape from the “real world” where I still don’t have a job. Somehow, worries subside when seaside (or in this case, lakeside).

In preparation for this weekend, last week, I felt God urge me to bring one of my cherished bottles of wine to celebrate. But my Kentucky wine God? What do I have to celebrate? I asked frantically, not willing to minimize my Kentucky stash from three bottles to two. It’s not what I have done, but what I have yet to do, God responded boldly. Ah yes, one of those risks I get to take, I responded with slight sarcasm. So, basically, I’m going to trust that You’ll provide even when the job-world seems like a desert? And then I’m going to celebrate what You’re going to bring even, and especially before You bring it to me? Yes. Okay, I agreed, somehow comforted by His confidence, As long as we’re on the same page… Packing my sole bottle of Talon Winery’s Equestrian VI, I prayerfully prepared for God’s special celebration of trust.

It happened on Saturday. Spending much of the day switching from reading on the couch, to writing on the dock, I felt God okay the opening of the bottle once I finished the book I was reading. (It was cheesy, and terribly, terribly, written, so a reward was very much necessary.)

Around 5pm, the perfect “somewhere” time, I reached for the $23 bottle of Equestrian VI, momentarily pausing as I realized its representation in my life. For the nearly six years I spent in the land of the horses, Kentucky, I will now take a moment of silence.

winerrd

After a minute of respect for my past, and an epic product-placement photo opp. outside, I opened the bottle, and poured me a glass… Well more rustically so, a mug (classy, I know). I swirled it, sniffed it, and then let the dry’n’sweet Kentucky aroma flood my senses.

Making my way to the end of the small, wooden dock, I sat down at the end, dipping my feet in the icy cold, refreshing lake water. Raising my glass Heavenward, I cheers’d my beloved Maker, “To all the people nearby, who think I am crazy cheersing the sky, outloud, and by myself… To this summer, for helping me survive… No… For surviving me, is that a thing? I couldn’t do any of it without You. Thank You for all You’ve provided so far, and this really tasty wine! Finally, thank You for the job You will provide. You know, the one I want – the $17 an hour one in Moose Lake, Agency-Wide Advocate – the one I’ll be good at – yeah, to that!”

cheersrrd

Raising my glass slightly higher, I cheers’d, and then took a generous sip. The wine warmed my heart and soul as the tannins danced deliciously amongst the aromas of pepper, cherry, and spicy cocoa. To me, I’ve always tasted a red wine base soaked in a french oak barrel, with essence of cigar spice, deep berry, and the warmth of Kentucky love, but that’s just my wine inexperience talking…

After this short, soulful indulgence, I raised my glass again Heavenward, “To the jobs my friends want, that You will provide.”

Raised glass cheers and delicious sip.

“To the relationships blossoming in the lives of my friends. May You bless them, and may they bring glory to You.”

Cheers.

. . .

And then it hit me.

What if we prayed in cheers?

You may consider me crazy, or slightly sacrelig. for this idea, but nonetheless… What if?

Slowly, but surely, I continued to empty my glass to the praising of God – of all the things He’s done, and especially those He has yet to do!

. . .

Isn’t this how we’re supposed to live our lives? Taking the mundane tasks and directing them Heavenward? What if we took the activities we use to bring ourselves pleasure, and instead used them to bring pleasure to God? Do you think, perhaps, if done in the right spirit, that our blessings would multiply not just to ourselves, but to those around us as well?

I think so.

I’d like to see a ripple of cheers breakout from around the lake, to around the world. God knows we enjoy it already, so why not take it, let Him shape it, and celebrate God – for all that He has done, and all that He has yet to do?

I can cheers to that!

Can you?

MUGDOCKRRD

Leaving Better

Today I found myself traveling an hour and half away from home to take a test. It sounds exciting right?! Well, actually, it was!

Mantorville, Minnesota is a small town northwest of Rochester, Minnesota. Before a few days ago, I never knew it existed. I have been out of state for the past six years, nevertheless it is a small dot on a map that can easily be overlooked. Then again, so is the town where I grew up.

It would have been easy to GPS my way into town, take the exam and then leave without anyone ever having a clue I’d been there, but that’s just not my style. Deep down I have this desire to leave places better than when I found them. This doesn’t mean I’m some super hero passing through, changing one life after another after another. It can be as simple as my tedious habit of drying off each sink I use in a public restroom, assuming paper towels are handy. Today it meant that, and also one act of kindness manifested by God.

Have you ever had that feeling, like God’s asking you to do something? For me, it feels like a slight pressure on my heart, or really, my soul. I always know it’s God, because the idea usually includes me taking a risk or doing something seemingly uncomfortable at the time. Though it’s usually simple or menial, I regularly try to shrug it off. But God is persistent, even, and especially, when the task doesn’t really make sense to me. You want me to do what?! Really? Are you sure? … Are you still sure? Yes, God’s patience with me is impeccable, and so is His grace. If I’ve been learning anything this past year, it’s that I always feel better, and adrenaline-rushed, when I take those tiny risks of faith and obey. I also repeatedly learn that God always comes through, always.

Arriving in town with time to spare before the merit test, I found my way .2 miles down the road to the County Seat Coffeehouse. Their sweet, yummy coffee drink list was extensive, but unfortunately I knew they would make me shaky, and distracted by the need to use the restroom while being tested, so I resigned to a cup of delicious chicken tortellini soup. I smiled awkwardly and distracted myself with Facebook and Instagram as I felt the eyes of the elders of the town look upon me, knowingly recognizing that I was an out-of-towner. They seemed nice nonetheless; Minnesotans generally are. I dined and ditched (pre-paying of course) and giddily jaunted the .2 miles up to the courthouse.

Upon entering, I was greeted by the officer behind the security entrance. He gladly offered me directions to where I needed to be: down the stairs, to the right and then to the left. In Conference Room 1 surrounded by seven other ladies of varying ages, I mused at the fact that half of them, including the test proctor, received the memo to wear cuffed capris. Clearly, we were all testing for the same job and we seemed to dress the part.

This exam, my second test of the week, humored me through angry customer questions, and cleared me of the test anxiety I once felt as a student. Actually, I quite liked it. I thoroughly enjoyed categorizing numbers and calculating the petty cash totals allotted in the example pages of the test. Honestly, though, my favorite part was editing. I really love editing. I didn’t realize how much until this exam. Perhaps I’ll become an editor when I grow up… Well… and a writer too!

Post-exam, the kind security officer wished me well, and I was off to celebrate my fine office support abilities with a sugary, delicious drink from the coffeehouse. Can you say Peanut Butter Bliss? With one sip of that sugary delight you’d join me in the ooo-ing and aw-ing of coffee meets sugar meets peanut butter. Accompanying my well-sipped sugar rush, the .4 miles more of meandering readied me to gas up my Honda, and head home. However, while I was feeding “Horse” my sturdy, steady Honda, I felt the pressure as I heard the still, small idea:

What if you ask the security officer if he wants a coffee?’

“No God, what?! I already have mine. It’d be weird. Why would I do that? I’m so not doing it. I know you’ll love me anyway.”

I will, but you’ll never know what would’ve happen if you did.’ 

“Playing with my curiosity strings God? … So not cool. I’m still not going.”

‘Okay…’

As I drove up the hill beside the courthouse, I pulled in. I had to know what in the world God was up to. Plus, a part of me gets a thrill out of random acts of kindness. I parked, and headed towards the courthouse doors, again. I spotted another worker visiting with the security guard and I almost turned around, but I was already through the first set of doors. No turning back, no turning back.

There I was. There he was. Arms crossed over my stomach, I confidently asked if I could get him a coffee from town. He mentioned to the other worker he was more of a soda person, and thanked me in a questioning way. I told him he was sitting there through it all, and he had been so kind to me, I thought I’d offer to buy him a coffee drink. Though he didn’t accept, he seemed grateful for the thoughtfulness, and if anything, the officer behind him seemed amused. Continuing to chat, he asked me if I was local and was applying for a job with their county. I told him no, that I drove in from the cities and was interested in work even further north. “I’m all over the place, “I confessed with a chuckle. He smiled just the same, and offered his knuckle. Just kidding, but he seemed grateful nonetheless. (I can’t turn down a rhyme.)

Afterwards, I felt that familiar rush that comes alongside these random-acts-of-kindness moments. It was the same rush I felt last week when I paid for the fries of the lady in the drive-through behind me at Wendy’s. I don’t know what happened, if either really made a difference or not, but through the beats of joy I felt, I know that God was grateful for my obedience (which in the end, is all that really matters). I do hope to see the big picture someday – the giant scheme that perfectly fits together all these acts-of-kindness puzzle pieces.

I’m not bragging, as none of these ideas were of my own accord, but of God. Our Father in Heaven is reaching down to us on earth, reminding us to take care of each other. No matter where we live, how well we know each other, whether or not we agree on our beliefs, how we look or whether or not we are worthy, God asks us to love one another. Take care of each other. None of us are worthy, and no one has it all together. Sometimes all we need is a free coffee on Friday, a compliment on Monday, or a smile on Wednesday. However God asks you to show love, kindness and care, just do it. I promise you that it will make someone’s day, and it will make your day.

Instead of hearing”You better leave,” leave a place better than you found it. Be the change and you will make a difference. I mean look at me – I wasn’t just a stranger in a small town easily overlooked on a map. I was a pebble, hopefully creating a ripple of kindness into a living, breathing community of people who need to know that they are appreciated. They are worthy. They are loved. Even, if only, by a stranger passing through.

PEBBLE

 

“So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” -Luke 10:27

 

A Moving Gratitude

There are stages in life that consist of air mattresses and boxes. They are messy, chaotic, sleepless and many times full of several unknowns. Emptiness dares to consume as endings become sadder and beginnings up the fear factor.

Amongst the sad, fear and chaos, there is something truly beautiful. Blink, or focus on the stress of the mess, and you’ll miss it. You don’t want to miss it. What is it?

Gratitude.

Coming in all different shapes and sizes, it is of the past, present and future. I’m always amazed how many folks (myself included) wait until the near end to share their affirmations with each other. Perhaps, it is as the they-sayers put it, You never appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

As I’m closing in on my Kentucky end, I’m quite comforted by the presence of gratitude. Found in moments of giving, as well as moments of receiving, gratitude beams a brighter light shining on the soon-to-be what-was.

In the tone of the voices of co-workers, as they bid me adieu, I hear it. Some folks I rarely spoke to, now seemingly sad to see me go. Others, some of the most loving hearts I’ve met leave me with beautiful blessings for the future. Gratitude. 

The determined customer service agent at the storage rental facility who tirelessly listened to and answered all my parentals’ questions, trying her best to secure the most affordable deal for me. Gratitude.

Friends willingly spent an afternoon after a full day of work, helping me haul my furniture to storage… Despite my own exhaustion, my ears heard no grumbles nor did my eyes see any grimaces – only selflessness and kindness shone through their smiles and effortlessness through their strength. Gratitude.

Extra hugs have been awarded by customers, along with questions of curiosity and kinder compliments than I’ve known during my year and a half of service. They wish me luck in my future ventures, and hope for a return visit. Some blessing even include cards, gifts and free meals. Oh dear, how I delight with Gratitude.

Words scrawl across a page in hopes of reminding people of the difference they make. The kindness and love they’ve expressed and, I know, will continue to show to everyone they encounter. They’ve been created purposefully to use gifts He crafted uniquely for such a time as this. Scribbling words that hope to suffice on special notes of Gratitude.

Last minute gifts, crafted on nearly sleepless nights, created to help friends accept and value their worth. Reminding myself that even in the most chaotic of times, God still grants opportunities to love on the individuals He strategically places on our paths. Loving through moments of personal confusion can create an unconditional understanding. Gratitude.

God has been effortlessly connecting the dots, healing old wounds and bringing chapters full circle. Providing everything I could want or need, He continues to earnestly listen to my desires, and the prayers of my loving warriors. I am so incredibly thankful for His timing of opening, and especially closed doors. Despite myself, He is subtle and obvious in His reminders of love for me, granting opportunities to love Him in return. Moments become available to share with others this radical faith amidst my doubt and confusion. To still believe and, in some ways, not simultaneously is among my less acknowledged abilities (and He pursues me nonetheless). Not knowing, but still following, I am reassured that He is already there (wherever there is). When every fiber of my being is saying ‘Run away! As fast as you can!’ I will still trust, even though it may seem ridiculous to do so. For all of this and muchly, much-much more, I am moved by Gratitude.

luckyducky

 

 

The Magic of Generosity

Today was a good day. Today was a great day! Today was Santa Day at the humble thrift store where I serve. Santa Day for us, is like Black Friday, but with more affordable items and for a good cause.

For awhile now, I knew that this day would be special. In the many moments when I thought about moving or was interested in a different job, I would pray that life would keep me at the store until at least, Santa Day. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

On Santa Day at our thrift store, children from all over the county come to share their Christmas wishes with Santa and munch on delightful holiday treats as their parents capture memorable photos of them with Santa (for free)! Parents enjoy shopping through a store full of new clothing and toys priced at a very affordable rate. And we, the workers, enjoy dressing up in our elvish costumes as we spread Christmas joy to everyone who enters in.

This year was incredibly special for me, because God gave me an opportunity to be a part of it. God let me in on the magic of generosity.

Our thrift store, linked with a larger Christian non-profit, is solely based off of donations. And any money we raise beyond operation costs benefits our food pantry, which serves nearly 800 families per month in the country where we serve.

We collect new donations all year in preparation for our big day. We contact Santa and arrange his visit to our small Kentucky town from the North Pole. Homemade snacks are baked, elves are gathered, and we pray – oh how we pray: for donations of clothes and toys, for safety, for joy and to ward off greed. And God who is compassionate and loves so dearly to provide for his children, provides! He delights in our delights, and through gratitude he multiplies our fishes.

This season, while praying for God’s providence in the toys realm, I felt him whisper, “Be the change.” He was granting me an opportunity to be generous, to be a part of the magic of Santa Day. I love opportunities to be generous!

You don’t have to be rich to be generous, that’s for sure. I live very simply, and nearly comfortably. 🙂 I don’t make much, but I always have what I need (though sometimes it comes through seemingly uncomfortable circumstances).

The thing about giving, is it usually takes some sort of sacrifice. I knew what God was calling me to do, and I knew that in order to obey, I would need to sacrifice my joy of creating and giving gifts to my friends and family. And I love giving gifts! So. Much. 🙂 It felt weird and uncomfortable as I made the Facebook event informing my friends and family that I wasn’t going to be sending them cards or gifts this year. In some instances, I even felt guilty. I had to double-triple check with my mom to make sure that she wouldn’t feel disappointed at Christmas when all my other siblings gave her and my step-father gifts, and I did not. She was fine with it, and even wanted to be a part of it, because she’s a generous person too!

I explained that “This year I’m changing things up.” I said that instead of spending money on stamps and Christmas cards, or presents and gift wrap, that I would use the money to buy toys for children and families in need. Instead of creating something cool (because I am pretty crafty) for people who have more than they need (and it would probably gather dust on a shelf or in a shed anyway), I would show my appreciation for their presence in my life by paying it forward. The joy of a child brings out the true meaning of Christmas anyway. I also invited family/friends who usually send me cards or buy me gifts, to pay it forward as well. By the urging of the Holy Spirit I asked friends to donate gifts to the store, or to give to an organization of their choice. I knew that even though I love receiving gifts (almost as much as I enjoy giving them) that I really didn’t need anything. I am already blessed beyond belief!

I learned a lot about generosity and God’s providence in this season of preparation for Santa Day. God showed me the benefits that could be reaped by asking others for help. He taught me to listen and obey. I learned the importance of patience, and the promise of his faithfulness. He always provides. Whenever I started to saddle up my high-horse, Pride, he threw me to my knees. Humility became a close companion. Though one of the most crucial things I learned was the importance of gratitude. While reading, “The Broken Way,” by Ann Voskamp, God awakened this revelation in me through these words:

Charis. Grace. Eucharisto. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. A triplet of stars to reveal the outline of the fullest life, thanksgiving, joy…

He took it and gave thanks. Eucharisto. Then He broke it and gave. How many times had I said it, ‘Eucharisto precedes the miracle’? Thanksgiving precedes the miracle – the miracle of knowing all is enough. And how many times had I read it – how Jesus, ‘took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people’? Eucharisto – Jesus embracing and giving thanks for His not-enough – that preceded the miracle. But why hadn’t I been awakened at the detonation of the revelation before? What was the actual miracle?…

Not enough was given thanks for, and then the miracle happened. There was a breaking and giving – into a kind of communion – into abundant filing within the community” (Voskamp, 30-31).

Though this passage is talking about the miracle of the breaking, I was struck my lack of gratitude in my prayers for providence. While asking over and over again for God to provide more toys, how had I forgotten to thank him for the ones he had already given us? Though it seemed like not enough, it was still something to be thankful for. I was praying that he would multiply the loaves and fishes, but I didn’t even think to thank him first.

. . .

Gratitude. What if Thanksgiving wasn’t the only day we focused on gratitude? This year seems to be a year of changing things up for me, as I spent this Thanksgiving quite differently than I usually do. Instead of eating myself sick, I fasted. Instead of being surrounded by close friends and family, I fellowshipped with my Lord. Instead of boycotting Thanksgiving day shopping – I went on a shopping spree. Though my friends and family thought I was “struggling” being all alone on a holiday, this time I thrived! I sipped tea (I allowed myself hot tea and water during my fast) and journaled, I watched the parade and worked out, I took the dog I was sitting out for a walk, and I spent my Christmas budget’s worth on toys! Not too often do I get to buy cartloads full of toys. 😀

I also did one other thing differently (that I hope to repeat).

Impressed by the Holy Spirit, again, I decided that I wanted to be a blessing on Black Thursday. I prayed that I would be a calming presence for my fellow shoppers, and in the spirit of giving, used some of my budget money to purchase five $5 Starbucks gift cards. My thoughts were that I would find a mother with a cart full of kids, or someone incredibly rude (you never know who’s fighting a battle) and bless them with a cup of sugar/caffeine. However, when the time approached, it was much too chaotic to seek out individuals and in all honesty, I was a bit faint from my fasting.

While waiting in the line that weaved through the aisles, I remembered something. I thought of a few instances when families showed me kindness while I was a front desk clerk at a hotel. The light in the darkness of that job were the moments when guests would buy me supper while they were out to eat in town. Such a simple gesture, but it meant so much to me! With those memories in mind, I decided to show my gratitude to the store clerks that checked me out at each store. They have to deal with us crazy customers, and I know that it can be a completely thankless job. However, they are necessary and deserve to be appreciated! Their smiles revealed joy to me, the same joy I felt. The magic of generosity.

. . .

My coworkers and I start each morning out with prayer. Soon after my revelation of gratitude before the abundance, I thanked God for the toys he had already provided us. That afternoon, we received a shipment of toys that put my donations to shame. (Comparison is no bueno, another lesson I learned… The more the merrier is more like it!) God provided, he provided indeed! And though I struggled between shame and defensive pride of my donations, through seeking God, I realized that someone else’s gifts can’t outshine mine, and vice versa. Comparison is a fruitless sport because we all are necessary. All the toys and clothes that were donated were necessary.

And as I checked people out today, seeing who purchased what, I knew that God had a plan for each gift. There were a few gifts I remember thinking while shopping Really? You want me to buy this Lord? but today as I saw who bought them I knew that it wasn’t just a crazy voice in my head, but that God had a purpose way beyond me buying whatever it was. I was just the messenger. 

It blows my mind really. God’s timing, his providence and the fact that he would let me be a part of something so wonderful. He doesn’t need me, but he wants me, which is the beauty of it all. I’m so incredibly thankful that he let me in on the magic of generosity this holiday season.

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Torrential Rain

Torrential – “(of rain) falling in copious amounts” – copious, heavy, teeming, pelting, severe, relentless, violent

Rain- moisture condensed from the atmosphere that falls visibly in several drops; a large or overwhelming quantity of things that fall or descend.

To speak honestly, this summer has been rough, emotionally. One luck of the draw situation sent my emotions on a never-ending tilt-a-whirl-style rollercoaster. Though mentally and physically I’ve tried to be a “Positive Polly”, my insides have been a mixture of Negative Nancys, Frustrated Fionas, Sad Suzies and Angry Anitas.

A week ago tomorrow was my birthday, and for the first time ever [besides maybe my 20th birthday…] I wasn’t completely enthralled by its amazinginess. I actually came to the conclusion that it would be alright if I never celebrate another birthday again [besides my 30th when my bestie Jordan and I travel through Europe – but more so the being together and traveling part, and less the birthday part]. Those of you who know me, or knew me, will find this quite appalling, but it actually makes sense, and I’m going to use it to prove a really delicious point.

[Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day! I cooked for friends, we ate gyros, we drank Rahrahritas, we played a Disney trivia game! Truly a dandy of a day.]

It’s like every other holiday that Hallmark uses to celebrate people, one day a year. I now get why mothers and fathers claim that they should be thanked far more often than just once a year. [It’s true, my mom is fantastic! She should be thanked weekly (I would have said daily, but lets be real, let’s not be excessive).] Being in the state of Sad Suzie, it very depressing thinking that people were only encouraging and celebrating me because they had to, because it was the 28th anniversary of my birth. But why should anyone, really, besides my mother and myself, care about the day I was born? I don’t like the idea that people are being forced to encourage me or give me gifts. I want people to want to encourage me when they want to, not when they have to.

Today I met someone really cool. His name is Bill, and it’s possible you’ve heard of him. He’s biking across America on what he told me was a “Thank You Tour”. He ducked into our store as the rain was coming down in torrents outside. He told me he was biking from Seattle to Florida and then up to Boston, and I overheard him explain to another customer that along the way he is expressing his gratitude to all the law enforcement, firefighters and military folks he meets along the way. HOW FREAKIN’ COOL IS THAT?! He gave me his card on the way out, and noticing the scripture on it, I told him that we would be keeping him in our prayers [bubble of safety, bubble of safety, bubble of safety Lord] Biking is scary.

You can check out his journey here: https://www.facebook.com/TwiceAcrossAmerica/ [includes GPS tracking and links to his blog]. I was excited to see that I made his story today! I blog about people I meet as much as I can, but it’s rare the moments I get be a character in someone else’s blog.

 I climbed about a mile and reached the top for a nice down hill and I mean nice, steep, straight, and good pavement; a great combination with the exception of one thing, a down pour. Just as I reached the top the worst of the rain hit and I had nowhere to go but down, so I took the lane and road as fast as I safely could riding the brakes to keep the rims dry so I would have some control to stop if needed. Well, by the time I got to the bottom, the rain mixed with the sweat coming off of my brow and into my eyes; I could not see. (When that happens the water and your sweat, with the salts from your body get into  your eyes and begin to burn to the point that you cannot see) My right eye was closed because of the burning and the downpour was so bad that I had to find a way to stop, so when I reached what I thought was the bottom I applied as much brake as I could safely without falling over because of wet roads and very little traction. I got it stopped in front of a thrift shop and rolled into the lot and under the overhang of the building and wiped my eyes so I could see and went inside for “sanctuary” from the rain. The lady running the store was kind to let me drip off in the entry of her store. I thought I saw a yellow sign across the street when I stopped so when the rain slowed down I went out to see what it was and sure enough it was a KOA, so you can guess where we are spending the night.  -Bill

and I was mentioned by his wife too in her post… Who knew “kind lady running a thrift store” would be one of my personas 🙂

As I drove toward Mt. Vernon, there would be 3 miles of pouring down rain, then about 3 miles of dry weather, then back to pouring rain. I didn’t know if Bill hit any of that or not. I pulled over to wait in Mt. Vernon when Bill called. He was headed to the KOA campground nearby so I turned around and went back a couple miles and pulled up at the office. My Bill was in the office dripping wet! He had hit the rain too and it came down so hard, it mixed with the sweat on his head, ran into his eyes and almost blinded him. He found his way to a thrift shop on the way to the campground and the kind lady there let him stand in the foyer until the rain eased up a bit. -Debra

I’m so thankful that God grants me moments to show kindness to others.

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What my point is, is in this world where there seems to be a relentless, overwhelming quantity of things falling visibly in several drops, we need to be intentional about encouraging others. Not when we HAVE to, but when it’s NECESSARY. [Myself included], we NEED to be more intentional about looking into each other’s messes and finding the moments… Predicting the moments… when someone will need a hug, thoughtful gift or high-five, or even five bucks. We all have messes, and I’ll admit, they can be distracting. But we need to recognize the moments when God is calling us to be someone’s shelter from the rain, and the moments when we need to seek refuge and allow someone else to be our shelter.

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Thank you for reading. 🙂

Trust Me, You’ll Make it Home

Well tonight, I must give a BIG SHOUTOUT to Jesus. He treated me to a very thoughtful and then adventurous Valentine’s Day.

We started out the morning with waffles, eggs and tea, while being a cliché and watching Valentine’s Day. So wonderful. We did laundry all the while – fresh sheets = amazingness! I even found time to change my room around. I love changes that I can control 🙂

Then I called to wish mum a happy birthday, “Happy Birthday Mom! You’re the greatest!”

As the snow began to fall, ever so beautifully, we headed off to Trader Joe’s. I packed a cooler [for my cold food], hat and mittens, and sweat pants [just in case I needed to stay at a hotel in Lexington for the night – safety first!] On the way, I filled up my gas tank, as well as oil. [I can hear my uncle Dean’s voice in my head, “If you let the oil run out, it’ll burn up your engine, and it’ll be as good as gone,” or something like that.] Enough to scare me into filling it, if there’s a possibility of it running low. And then I kept on.

We got to Trader Joe’s and the roads were starting to get a bit sketch, but along the way I had seen a few salt trucks, which gave me much hope! I got everything I needed [and more!] at the store, and then took a minute to pray. “Okay God, should I turn around? I really want to go to 608, but I guess, if I have to… I’ll head home.” I didn’t hear anything back, or perhaps I was too stubborn to listen… But I did feel peaceful about heading to Newk’s to eat supper and work on my Bible study homework.

I was smart about it. I parked at Southland, and walked over to Newk’s. I ate a delicious kale and quinoa salad. Yum. I caught up on my 7 Realities for Experiencing God. The snow outside kept falling, and though it was magically mesmerizing, it also was frightful enough to push me back into a state of prayer. I sought God again, “Okay God, I would like to get home tonight, be it your will, what should I do?” This time, I heard a still small voice, “You’ll get home safe, trust me.”

So I did, though not perfectly. Ever so often, I’d look up and see the snow falling and think, “Are you sure?” And I’d hear, “Trust me, you’ll get home.” Before worship, I checked KY-511, and at the time, it looked clear – snow plows were doing their thing, and the roads were safe.

Worship was great, and the message too! I was so thankful that God had safely gotten me there! I really couldn’t have imagined another way to spend V-day, then surrounded by a bunch of people praising our One True Love, Jesus!

After worship, I tried to check KY-511, and saw a glimpse, but I think that’s all God wanted me to see – if I saw how truly terrible it was, I probably would have doubted him more. So I prayed one more time, “Okay God, I’ll get a hotel if you need me to, though I do really want to go home tonight.” He reassured, “You’ll get home safe, just go slow.”

So I did. I drove as slow as the clearest lane drove, and tried to be polite to the vehicles that desired to speed by. Many times God simply reminded me to, “Breathe, it’s gonna be okay. But you gotta keep breathing.” Part of the way, God generously placed snowplows in front of us, clearing our way for nearly a 5-10 mile stretch. There were only a couple accidents, and God maneuvered the crowd safely around them. That was the thing, I was never alone. There was always at least one car [or most likely truck] driving near me. And though the visibility was low, there was always a path for me to follow. Sometimes it wasn’t always clear, but it was only for a short period of time. In the depths of the storm, God gently reminded me, “Keep breathing, it’s going to be okay. You’re gonna get home. It’s okay. Breathe.”

How cool is He? How great is our God? Sing with me. Please do. My “Seek” playlist was of great comfort to me, but two songs in particular:

  1. Climb by Will Reagan & the United Pursuit Band
    1. “I know that I can trust you. I know that I can trust you. I know that I can trust you. I lean not on my own understanding, my life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLPb7bfT2rg
  2. I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe
    1. “I am not alone, I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfveawSAHJA

Amazing what God will lead you to, and get you through, when you obey the still small voice. Through my desire to Seek Him [MyOneWord 2016 is “Seek”] and through the life group study I attend [7 Realities for Experiencing God], I’ve started to obey Him on the simplest of things. In Crosspoint’s “IQuit Being Overcommitted” message, Lysa TerKeurst mentioned, “Little acts of obedience aren’t little, they’re big.”In another podcast, I heard someone else say, “How you live the next 15 minutes is how you’ll live your life. Focus on the next 15 minutes, and then the next 15 minutes, and then the next 15 minutes.

I’m hoping that my desire to obey God on the little things, will help me to be less fearful and more trusting in obeying God on the big things. Because God is faithful, and I have nothing to fear.

I’m so thankful Lord, that you brought me home safely, as you told me you would. I pray for all the others that need to be driving somewhere – I pray that you’ll remind them to breathe and reassure them that everything will be okay. I thank you ever so dearly for the snow plows, salt trucks and tow trucks, for EMTs and firefighters, and for all the police officers that are responding to this storm, and those affected by it. Keep them safe and warm and dry. Warm their hearts and minds, as they traverse through this storm to care for your dearly beloveds. Thank you for loving me so well. Amen. 

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8: 18, 23-27 [NIV]

 

Living Life

A little bit over a week ago, God received one of His beautiful daughters into the care of His Heavenly home. She was one of my co-volunteers at the Christian Appalachian Project. When I saw the post on Facebook and then read the corresponding news article my initial thoughts were, “No way… No way… NO WAY!!! WHAT?!!!” She was 27. SO YOUNG. That’s one year older than me. I always pictured my 27th year as going to be the best year of my life – which is not really an important side-note, but nonetheless it suddenly seemed dampened.

Looking through the memorial on her Facebook page, I questioned God, Why? She had a passion for children and was great with them. She loved serving and her friends and her family, and Kentucky. As a matter of fact, she was on her way to visit friends in Kentucky when a car accident took her to her Heavenly home. Tomorrow is her funeral, and I pray for safe travels for her friends and family as they gather to celebrate the 27 years Jennifer spent blessing each and everyone of their lives, and for comfort as they mourn.

Now I realize that Jen is filled with so much love and joy in Heaven, unfathomable to us here on Earth, but throughout the weeks I can’t help but think about if that had been me, what I would be missing. There are so many parts of life that I LOVE. Simple things. Moments I hold dear. People I love spending time with. People I’d like to get to know better.

I get to be here on Earth. I get to live today, and each day until God takes me home too. I’m going to live my life to the fullest, bringing glory to God while enjoying the little things I love about it.

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I LOVE:

Hot showers in the winter months.  Runner’s high. Deep conversations with friends, especially the unexpected ones that continue late into the night. That feeling I get when I see and converse with the guy I like – a spark of energy keeping me awake because life in that moment is simply too wonderful to sleep. Belly-aching laughter with friends. Reminiscing loved ones with family members. Traveling. Road-trips. Dogs. Horseys. Pizza. When the worship team plays a song that my soul really needed to sing. The chance to be an auntie. Trying new things. Puddle-jumping! Coffee. Singing loud to my favorite tunes while driving. Making friends out of strangers. Cooking for guests. Using my time to help another. Grandparents. Sitting on a dock early in the morning watching ducks and loons glide across the otherwise still lake, as the morning birds sing. Turning to a verse in the Bible that really speaks to me. An epic blog post. Writing letters to friends and family. Watching God provide [even though it’s super scary at times]. Smiling. Learning a new song on the piano. Games. Yahtzee! Troll2 with J-Hood. Photo adventures. LONDON ❤ Big Ben. College basketball. Massages. Watching TV/movies. Saying something that makes someone else smile. Rodeos. Cowboy boots. A cheering crowd and medal after 13.1 miles of running. Haircuts. Visiting sites from movies/TV shows and taking pictures. Dreaming and hoping. Being grateful.

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