Friday, October 27, 2017

The Extent of Love


This summer I purchased my very first dog. It was a momentous occasion to say the least. I cannot quite put into words the feeling of stepping out the front door and seeing Brooks—who drove a four hour round trip to fetch my dog—standing on the patio with a four-legged 10 lb. pointy-eared fluff ball standing next to him. There is an ingrained instinctive reaction in every human’s brain to love puppies. I have never known this because while I have seen puppies before, I have never loved one that belongs to me. I never owned a dog growing up and I always presumed pet-sitting other peoples’ dogs was sort of like owning a dog of my own—been there done that, you know? Well, I was wrong.

Something opened up in my heart when I saw my puppy for the first time. Like I said, I cannot quite describe it, and if you think I am just being over-the-top ridiculous (like all those fanatic dog owners!) well then you have simply never owned a puppy of your own. All I remember was the puppy was dirty. She was really dirty and smelly. And covered in fleas. But I picked her up. I couldn’t help but pick her up.

The next few weeks were a messy adjustment to owning a puppy. Brooks had to deal with most of the mess since Dierdre lives with him and his Siberian husky. I got to deal with some of the mess though when Brooks was gone for a week at a work conference and I volunteered to check in on the dogs a couple times a day to feed them, walk them, etc. Well as it turns out Dierdre had worms, not surprising considering I got her off of a farm and she probably had not received any worm-prevention treatment. Needless to say, things were very messy and the dogs were very unhappy that week.


It was a good inauguration into pet-owning for me. Owning pets, owning a puppy especially, is incredibly inconvenient. Puppies pee and poo everywhere. Puppies are expensive. They need a lot of shots, kennels, collars, leashes, food bowls, food, water, baths, flea treatment, and most of them eventually need surgeries. I learned something really important the week I missed two days’ worth of classes and a day of work in order to take care of a sick puppy and take her to the vet.

I learned that it is one thing to hold a cute puppy and an entirely different thing to really love a puppy. One of my friends recently shared this quote, “We love to the extent we are willing to be inconvenienced.” For some reason that quote has been resonating in my mind ever since I saw it because when it comes down to it, love is not convenient.
The people who probably understand this more than anyone else are mothers. Think of all the love and care mothers give their children. Think of all the many ways mothers have let children inconvenience their lives, schedules, careers, goals, and everything else.

Yet for all of the ways I know I have inconvenienced my parents, I have never once felt like an inconvenience upon them. I have never felt like a nuisance, something they are eager to be rid of or something they resent. We all know the difference. We all know what it feels like to have someone begrudgingly accommodate your existence in their lives…and then the people who welcome you into their world, move around the furniture, make space in their life for you, and don’t think twice about it because nothing could make them happier than your happiness and your comfort.

The world seems so deprived of love right now, especially where it should be the strongest—the family, the church. The more I see of it, the more aware I become of how much love has been bestowed upon me even when I feel like there is so little love in my heart.

To be completely honest, I was afraid for a while to let anyone or anything disrupt my existence. I was afraid to be inconvenienced, afraid to have my carefully crafted plans derailed, but let me tell you…if you open up your heart, if you let yourself be inconvenienced, if you can meet other people where they are, if you can learn how to willingly accommodate the existence of someone else (or even something else like a puppy!) you might just find the boundaries of your heart expanding and growing. You might find that the inconvenience, mess, and disruption are completely worth it.

Hey thanks for reading this blog post! 
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Friday, August 11, 2017

College Life, Rest, and the Christian Identity


I dropped out of college going-on-four years ago. But I did not drop out because I was failing. If anything, I had every opportunity to succeed. So what happened? What happened was I burned out. Plain and simple. I overextended myself, overcommitted myself, took on too many credit hours, took on too many work hours, and got involved in too many social commitments.

Our society has little to no regard for rest, especially when you are eighteen years old, young, and strong. What’s more, our society has about zero regard for God’s designated rest, the Lord’s Day or Sunday.

The Ten Commandments are becoming more and more offensive to our society, but let us not forget that God gave the commandments, especially the Fourth Commandment, as a means of liberation for his people. The law gave the Hebrew nation constraints, but it also defined them as a free people, free from the Egyptians, free from slavery, and free from sin. Instead the Israelites were now free to love one another, and free to worship their God.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Ten Commandments were the blueprint for how to love God and love one another. Remember, Jesus said all the Law and Prophets are summarized by the commandment to love God, love one another, and do unto others as you would have them to do to you (Matthew 7:12, 22:34-40). If you are looking to know how to love God and love your neighbor, look no further than the Law and the Prophets (i.e. everything in the Old Testament). When we see God's Law, we are not simply looking at a set of rules imposed upon some ancient civilization. We are looking at the essence of what it means to love God and love one another. In short, these commandments are important and relevant to us, especially God's command for us to rest. 

Two of the most defining characteristics of the nation of Israel were worship and rest.

The Israelites were a people who rested from their work. Every seven days they rested. Every seven years their land rested. They were a people who rested in order to worship God and complete good work the following week. This characteristic separated them from their former identity as slaves in the nation of Egypt. Who knows how frequently Pharaoh let them take a day off? Now they no longer served Pharaoh. Instead they served and worshipped Yahweh the Creator, a merciful and good God who gave His people rest. God wove rest into the very fabric of His Law and into the core of the entire civil Law that structured the nation of Israel.

God’s people are no longer restricted to one nation. His church is global, but the defining characteristics and the heart of His law remain the same, and this includes His day of rest. The Christian life should be characterized by rest. It should be the rhythm of our life. Because we are not slaves. We are not slaves to our sin, work, money, success, studies, grades, or even the social expectations and demands of our friends. Yes, we should want to glorify God in our work, but we need to remember that good work is always preceded and completed by rest. If we fail to rest, we will inevitably fail in all other areas of life.

Think about it.

Everything and everyone in this world demands something from you. Time. Energy. Attention. Work.

But God beckons you to come and rest.

Instead of heaping more burdens upon you, He invites you to lay aside your burdens for one day every week and instead worship and praise Him and, yes, take a nap or two because sometimes sleeping is the most holy action possible.

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
So you should sleep every night. Because God gives His loved ones sleep. And God gives you enough time to do all the work you need to do. He also gives you enough grace (through faith in Jesus Christ) to conquer sin. I promise this is true, even if it does not feel like it is true. There is enough time. There is more than enough grace. And even if there is not enough time, anxiety and sleeplessness are never going to give you more time. So go to bed. Go to sleep. Let rest and peace define your life, not your anxieties and deadlines.

Rest is about more than simply getting enough sleep and doing a good job in college. Rest is about holiness. Rest is about possessing the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It is about being a follower of Christ. It is about ultimately trusting God with your time, your work, with everything. God called the Israelites out of Egypt to be a nation set apart, a holy nation, a sanctified people. In the same way, God calls you, the saint, the Christian, and the entire church to come and rest

My challenge this semester and this year and for the rest of my life is to approach Sunday, the Lord's Day, and the Worship of God, not as another burdensome task I begrudgingly complete, but instead as a respite I cheerfully anticipate whether I am tired or well-rested. Because when it comes down to it, the Lord's Day is something I need more than it is something I need to do.

I want to approach this day as a day when I can do less, put aside everything else that has been causing me anxiety the rest of the week, be tired if I want, dress casual if I want, but still have a joyful attitude and peace of heart because I know God welcomes me into His worship regardless. I want to make it a day to put aside my needs and instead find ways to extend mercy to others. Because God has given me more than enough time and more than enough grace! And He gives His loved ones rest.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:9-12).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sayonara Twenty-Two





Last year when I turned twenty-two I had a premonition that this was going to be one of the greatest years of my life. While the year did not turn out like anything I expected, my premonition ultimately proved accurate and it has been one of the most exciting, unpredictable, busy, and satisfying years to date. I really enjoyed being twenty-two years old. 

Twenty-two was a year of coming into adulthood. It was a year of settling and being satisfied, a year of learning and relearning contentment.

Twenty-two was a year of new beginnings and opportunities, answered prayers and fulfilled desires. 

Twenty-two was a year of learning, of finding my foothold again in the classroom.

Twenty-two was a year of spreading my wings and leaving the nest, because you really have not left the nest until all of your older sisters (i.e. alternative mothers haha) have married, moved on, and left the nest themselves. 

Twenty-two was a year of a renewed joy, strength, and happiness. It was a year of learning to fully trust Jesus Christ, precede every decision with prayer, and leave it all in God’s hands at the end of every day. Twenty-two was a year of growing in a deeper love and appreciation for the church and for the Word of God. 

Twenty-two was a year of comebacks, of discovering that all my perceived failures and setbacks have really been the building blocks of something new. 

Twenty-two was a year of opening up my heart, taking risks, and loving again. 

I am not sure if there has ever been a year that has challenged, grown, and stretched me more than this past year! 

I loved being twenty-two. It was probably one of the most enjoyable and wonderful years to date. Not every year will be so exciting and breezy. There is a time for everything. There are seasons of planting and sowing seeds, waiting patiently for the harvest. There are seasons of weary toil with no end in sight. There are seasons of famine, darkness, and cold. But then there are seasons when we reap the rewards of our patient steadfast faith, when we bring the sheaves in singing with joy, when God sends us incredible reminders of His redemption and resurrection! 

Thank you for sharing twenty-two with me. Here is to growing more in my faith and trust of God in the year to come. Here is to becoming more unashamed and bold in proclaiming the Gospel. Here is to Christ reigning all the more in my life, in every thought, word, and deed! Here is to going back to school and continuing the good work I have been given. Here is to loving others more fiercely and selflessly. Here's to twenty-three! Because I have a premonition that this will be another fantastic, challenging, busy, and fruitful year. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

FAVORITE THINGS || SUMMER 2017


There are a few things that are definitely not cool about this summer, like the heat (haha:P), the bugs, packing and moving, and College Algebra. Since the end of the spring semester life has started moving full speed ahead. June began with packing and moving my stuff into my college house. Then my sister got married. The week after my sister’s wedding I began my Algebra summer class. And that is where you find me here, scrambling every evening to finish all my homework and try and study before these six weeks are up. The good news is I am already halfway done! I guess that is the bright side of having to do school in the summer. You get it done really fast! 
 
The downside of summer college classes is I don’t really feel like I get much of a summer break. But maybe that’s for the best. It’ll keep me on my toes for when the semester begins fulltime this fall. In spite of home work and moving and being perpetually tired (haha) this summer has included some beautiful interludes of fun fellowship with friends and family, road trips, adventures, and rest. Without further ado, here are my favorite things from this summer (so far)...

>>watching my sister get married (such a lovely ceremony and day!!)
>>being a bridesmaid for the 4th time;)

>>standing up as my sister's maid of honor
>>catching the bouquet for the second time:o)
>>evening walks
>>fireflies in the trees at night
>>Spider-man Homecoming (favorite movie this year so far!)
>>meeting my brand new niece!

>>catching up with all my siblings (we are spread across the country this summer!)
>>watching my youngest siblings grow up
>>letters from faraway friends
>>ice cream
>>Ultimate Frisbee
>>church potlucks with friends and family

>>hiking in Weston, MO
>>O'Malley's Irish pub in Weston, MO
>>coffee dates
>>glorious summer sunsets

>>sunflowers!!
>>not being outside (in the heat)

>>finally getting updated photos for my blog

But…the best thing by far this summer is this little sweet face (see below). She is a (Malamute?) husky. Her name is Dierdre (DEER-dra). She was filthy and flea-infested when she arrived, a pup straight from a litter off of a farm, but I still could not resist picking her up and squeezing her the moment I saw her. After a bath and some flea-treatment, she was just the fluffiest softest cutest thing ever. I wish I could take her with me to school, but that’s not really an option so…I will just have to make frequent visits home because my heart is definitely with her!


What have you been up to this summer? What are your favorite things about this summer or summer time in general?? Please share in the comments below!:)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Goodbye, for Now



There are few things I dislike more than saying goodbye. Maybe the only thing worse than saying goodbye is never getting to say goodbye at all. This month has been a roller coaster of experiences and emotions as my family celebrated the marriage of my sister and the start of a new family and then in the next week said goodbye to the pastor of our church for the past eight years. I cannot believe it has been eight years since the church plant we started so many years before then was finally particularized. I cannot believe it has already been eight years since I met my pastor’s family. Three of their children were born in Oklahoma! And now we say goodbye. For now. 

That is the redemptive twist of the Gospel. For now. The beauty of the Gospel is that everything in this life is temporary – vanity – fleeting – futile. Everything we accomplish in this world is for this world alone. Death gets it all in the end. But because of Jesus Christ death does not claim us in the end. The Gospel is about redeeming the world from sin and bringing the ultimate glory and victory to God and in that package deal of God’s covenant is the death of death itself. This world is about saying goodbyes and saying farewell. From the time we are born we are virtually learning how to die. Everything in this life is temporary, for this life alone, but by the grace of God death itself becomes temporary. Goodbye is temporary. 

Everyone has a different idea of what it means to live a good life or in other words how to die well. Praise God we were not left grasping for all the answers with truth always just beyond our fingertips. Instead we can know with full assurance that death is not the end.

I hate saying goodbye. I hate not being able to say goodbye. I hate painful goodbyes that end on painful terms. I hate goodbyes that should have happened but never did. In this life we never get to fully make peace with everything and everyone. And even if we do, can we ever make peace with ourselves? Or more importantly, with God? Apart from Christ, the answer is only a deafening silence. But by His grace and sacrifice, we can find peace, we can rest easy, we can stop our striving, and we can mourn as those with hope.

In Jesus Christ our grief becomes less of a longing for the past and more of a straining for the future, for eternity. It becomes not simply a tearful goodbye, but also an eager anticipation for that beautiful reunion. I hope every single goodbye we exchange in this life stirs up that anticipation. Because in Christ, we have this hope, that goodbye is never really goodbye. Even if we never see each other again in this life, goodbye is always “Goodbye for now.” By God’s grace may we always hold this life loosely and continually anticipate that final reunion. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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