Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful in the Midst

“Not another thing to add to my list of an insane amount of things to do. If I add one more deadline to my agenda I might go crazy. More demands? Cleaning? Who cares about a clean house when everything else is demanding to get done and seems so much more important? I mean seriously, no one cares if there’s spiders crawling around their plates or that it’s dust on the mashed potatoes instead of pepper, right?”
These might be your thoughts in the middle of November. As Thanksgiving approaches and falls in the middle of your busy life. As the chaos is interrupted for five minutes, and the things you are grateful for fill your heart for all of two seconds before you continue stuffing your face full of food and your mind once again bombards you all of life’s demands.
Of course, this is also the day where you are thrown into a midst of questions that all hit like cannonballs in the middle of a warzone. “How’s college?” Yes, let me tell you all about college.. That is obviously the thing I want to think about while I’m trying to be thankful. “Are you still single after all these years? I can’t believe a girl like you hasn’t been caught (like a fly in a spider web or a stray dog?) by now. Do you enjoy being alone?” Yes, every college girl loves this bundle of questions. It’s exactly what she wants to think about any day of the year, especially on a holiday. This is when all those Hallmark movies where two people pretend to be dating so they don’t have to answer that question all start to make sense (because, let’s face we used to think they were crazy) and the temptation to make something up flies across your mind way more times than you’d like to admit.
In the midst of all of these questions, you are more grateful than ever for the food sitting right in front of you, calling your name loud and clear - so you can pretend you didn’t hear any of those questions, of course. Then, after the food is all gone, you are thankful you can start cleaning up the kitchen to escape such questions - and here we thought we’d never be thankful to have stuff to clean.
Honestly, in the midst of all of this, I’m more grateful than ever to be surrounded with the crazy but awesome family I’ve been blessed with. I wouldn’t want to spend my Thanksgiving any other way. I mean, it just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t get to participate in teasing my uncle over spelling cute with a Q and quick with a K. It’s also a necessity to relive my aunts disastrous coffee making that she will probably never be able to live down (I don’t see how coffee could get any worse than its usual burnt dirt status, but evidently it can when my aunt makes it). As everyone takes turns telling funny stories, and everyone (thank goodness, finally not just me) gets teased I look around at all the smiling faces and realize how truly blessed I am to have such an amazing family.

When I’m surrounded by these amazing people, I’m reminded to take a few seconds every day and remember how good God is. A few seconds to remember how worthy He is of being thanked every single day, not just on Thanksgiving. He has given me a family that loves me and is always there for me - family and friends who make me laugh when I’m so tired I just want to give up and sleep on the steps because it would take to much effort to walk up them. While stressful, I’m also thankful to be given the opportunity to go to college and pursue my dreams. I’m thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had to travel the world, the people I’ve met along the way, and those who have touched my heart in ways I never could have dreamed of. Most of all, I’m thankful for my Creator, my Savior, my Heavenly Father who is my joy, peace, and comfort in the midst of all that life throws at me - for the one who has given me so very much to be thankful for.
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Friday, April 14, 2017

Tale As Old As Time

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Beauty and the Beast has been one of my all time favorite movies since I was a child. Belle was always my favorite princess. She was kind, strong, smart, and courageous. She liked books and she didn’t quite fit in with the people in her village. She saw the beast at some of his worst moments, yet, she was able to look past his faults in order to see who he truly was. She put in effort and took the time to learn that He wasn’t as scary as he looked, or even as scary as he acted. She discovered that the beast that was on the outside was the opposite of what was on the inside. Belle brought out the Beast’s best qualities, and he brought out hers.

Love. It’s a tale as old as time and a song as old as rhyme. Love is a surprise, appearing when least expected. It’s something every girl dreams of finding at some point in her life. A beautiful love story like Beauty and the Beast. A love that goes beyond appearance, beyond the mask, beyond the horns and the walls, illuminating the truly beautiful person that you can’t hide when that person is around.

I’ve found my love everlasting. His love surrounds me and fills me in the most unexpected ways. It comforts me, and gives me peace, when I need it the most. It glows in the way he smiles at me, illuminating me with an unshakable joy. It flows around me when he talks and laughs. It’s evident in the gentle way he brushes away my tears, and his comforting, protective embrace. His love is constant and ever present, even when I am not lovable. I would follow this love anywhere He leads me.

This love is as old as time. It’s crazy, relentless, and completely underserved. It’s a love that we can never prepare for, and a love we can never earn. It’s sure and true.

The best part?

We all have this love that is more than a tale, and older than time. Belle and the Beast and married/dating couples are not the only ones that have a love like this. We all have this love (even us single ladies) whether we know it or not.

This love created us. He sees every single one of our faults, and He loves us anyway. Whereas Belle sacrificed herself to the dungeon and the unknown terror of the Beast, Jesus Christ died a completely undeserved, painful death for us on the cross. He was tortured for us. He died for us, so that we could begin to grasp His undying love for us.

This is the love that started time. This love is timeless, unending, relentless, and unchanging!

When we embrace this love, we admit that we were wrong. We accept that we’re not perfect, and we see that because of this love, we can change because even when we think that the last petal has fallen, we can still come to know Him. We begin to bend in unexpected ways, giving up our plans like Belle gave up hers. We abandon our masks, and seek to love others, including the “beasts” in our own lives. We seek Jesus in all that we do and in all that we are, in order to fully embrace this love.

When we do, the sun will certainly rise!

Sure, we may still hope for a “Beauty and the Beast” kind of romantic love, and I pray that someday I have that, but if I never do, then I am content in being loved by The One, my Heavenly Father, my everlasting Savior.

For His love is the tale that began time, and the tale that lasts for all of time.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

To the Place I Thought I'd Always Call Home

I don’t like saying goodbye, so this is not goodbye. That would hurt too much, so this is farewell, and I’ll walk past you occasionally. Most of all, this is thank you.

You were my Green Gables - the place I knew I belonged, when I didn’t belong anywhere else. You were the place with the view that belongs on a postcard but never made it there. You were my view, the “happy place” that will stay in my heart forever. You were the place that cultivated my love for nature. You had the perfect melodies to accompany my thoughts and reading with the “River of Babbling Waters.” You had the flowered meadows, protective hills, and picturesque bridges, leaping deer, and chipper squirrels, all surrounded by magical woods. You had tall, waving trees that danced and wove stories with the breeze.

You were there after every bad day, when all I wanted to do was escape. You were the place that embodied my childhood. You were where I was taught to dream big, and to go after those dreams with my whole heart, and the place where I learned to have a heart that isn’t afraid to dream and love. You were there for me when I needed to “just be.” When I needed to think, and when I needed to “just exist,” you let me. You were the place I went to when I needed comfort. The place I would sit in for hours, camouflaged and embraced by nature, when I’d had a rough day and needed to feel closer to God.

You had the perfect hill, where I could lay in the grass and search for shapes in the sky during the day, and stargaze at night. You had just the right place to put my porch swing in the middle of the yard, where I became a part of nature. I sat in that swing, in that spot, from the time I could sit. That was my spot. The place where I discovered my favorite books, and where I dreamed my most precious and farfetched dreams. The spot where everything felt right and anything was possible. The spot where I knew that everything was going to be okay. The spot I went to when I wanted to be held by God.

You were the place I thought I would always live, the place that would always be home. Sure, I may have built a new house, I may even have lived in another country, but I thought that I would always come back to my spot. I never would have abandoned my perfect setting, with my perfect view, and I know you never would have abandoned me. Just like in Anne of Green Gables I would have always come home.

I never would have left you by choice. You will always be a part of my heart, and you are still the view I wish for when I long to be surrounded by nature, when I need to “just be,” or need to feel closer to God. I hope that whoever calls you home in the future will appreciate you as much as I did, and I hope that you make them feel the same way you made me feel.

But, one thing I’ve come to realize since I moved is that, the place I thought I would always call home, as wonderful as it was, is not where I belong. The place where we moved is also, definitely, not where I belong. The country that stole part of my heart, and feels like a second home, is also not where I belong. I’ve come to see that, as cliche as it may sound, home is not a place, and I don’t belong in any place at all. Home is the people I love, not the place I love. Most of all, home is not on this earth, and this earth is not where I belong. I belong with my Creator, the one who created my favorite views. He who created me, and placed me here for a reason. My savior, whom I will return to when this life is through, and then I will (hopefully) be in the place I will call home forever.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Invincibly Vulnerable: Ending the Masquerade

Invincible. According to Merriam-Webster, invincible means “incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued.” Sounds pretty nice, right? “(Insert name here) the Invincible.” The cruel words and actions of others could not bring you down, even for a second. Sickness could not enter you, let alone infuse your blood cells with cancer. Car or plane crash? It’s like you’re wrapped in eighty layers of fireproof bubble wrap. Your biggest fears...vanquished.

Vulnerable. Merriam-Webster says that vulnerable means “Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded,” “open to attack or damage.” Let’s be honest. We all cringe at the sound of the word vulnerable. When we start to feel vulnerable, our survival instincts kick in and we wish we had the speed of a cheetah because we can’t run away fast enough. Being vulnerable is our worst nightmare. Who, in their right mind, wants to be open to physical and emotional abuse? Not me. No, I’d rather hide under a mask of invisibility.

The bright paint and sparkles that we spackle ourselves with are quite an unbelievable spectacle. The camouflage that we cover our faces with fails at the job it was supposed to do, for we can never be completely invisible. The moments when we pretend that everything's just fine, when it feels anything but fine. Poker faces and game faces are at their height, and silence reigns. Until we fully accept who God made us, the mask will remain in place. True friendships will not take root and blossom. You will never be the person you were created to be with a mask in place.

Sometimes, the most vulnerable things are the most beautiful things. The miracle of a baby bird hatching from an egg and the pure innocence of an infant. The smallest bird taking flight into the great unknown, and a toddler taking its very first step. The courageous battles fought by those with cancer. The unrivaled beauty of a world so full of extraordinarily individual animals and exquisite flower. The words “I love you” and every love story ever told. All of these things can be easily crushed or hurt, yet they are extremely beautiful and inspiring.

In movies, shows, and books we are all drawn to that one character. The one that is a bit of a mystery, who we are curious about, and we just can’t wait for their story to unfold. Sometimes it takes forever for a glimpse of vulnerability to peek through, but when it finally does, it is a magical moment. Understanding dawns and we see something about them, a hint as to why they do what they do and act how they act. It all makes sense now...or at least some of it does...and you begin to see who they really are. Perhaps, you even catch a truth about yourself or about life in general. You can relate to them. They overcame, and it is through their vulnerability that they become invincible.

It’s not being in control and having all the answers that makes you invincible. It’s not planning out every second of your life that makes you invincible. And no matter what you thought, it is not making sure no one sees the real you that makes you invincible. It’s accepting that you don’t have all of the answers, and knowing that you are human. Giving up control, overcoming fears, dreaming big, having the guts to follow God’s calling, trusting God no matter what, finding your strength in Him, welcoming friendship, loving and being loved, overcoming what other people think, that’s what makes someone invincible.

On my own, I am far from invincible. By myself I can’t do any of the things I mentioned above. I’d never have the courage to chase so many of the things I dream about doing. There is only one that I can trust with my fears, plans, friendships, dreams, and the most fragile pieces of myself - God. And He will use my vulnerability for His perfect purposes.

Our Heavenly Father makes us invincible in our vulnerability. He is a God that moves mountains, parts oceans, calms raging storms, cleanses us of our imperfect natures, and holds His hurting children in the most loving embrace imaginable. In those moments when we dare to be real with ourselves, venture into the unknown abyss God is calling us toward, risk everything for the people we love, and go out on a limb for those who are hurting, that is when the gulf between vulnerability and invincibility is closed. When our mask drops away and the masquerade has come to an end, that is when the chasm of dreaded, deadly vulnerability is defeated by God holding us in our vulnerable invincibility.

It is in those rare moments when we dare to remove the mask, stop masquerading, speak up, laugh out loud, and be our true selves that we have hope of showing Christ to others through our own stories, circumstances, fails, triumphs, and God moments. No more paralyzing fear of what others think, no more worrying about things that we can’t control. Just trust, as our Savior turns our vulnerability into invincibility, for His view of us is the only one that matters, there is nothing that He can’t overcome. He created you and you are enough. So stop hiding and isolating yourself. You are the only one holding you back. Embrace who He made you and end the masquerade.