A Good Story

I love a good story.  I’ve always loved reading and I can remember getting really, really, excited about the next The Babysitters Club book (shout out to you 1990’s).  There’s something about a good story that just draws you in and makes you believe anything and everything is possible.  Good stories don’t all have great writing.  Sometimes the writing is only ok but people will find the story compelling (thus the success of the Twilight series).  But when you combine great writing and a good story you end up with something absolutely amazing.  The book series that immediately pops in my mind is the Song of Fire and Ice series, although lots of people are calling it the Game of Thrones series now since it has been made into a tv show.  Don’t get me wrong I love the show…but the books!  It’s great writing with a great story.  The characters are amazing!  And for me, ultimately that is the sign of a good story.  How interesting, engaging, and dynamic are the characters.  Jamie Lannister is one of those characters.  He seems so evil (his nickname is the Kingslayer…so…not the hero then), so twisted (he is a little too close to his twin sister…if ya catch my drift), and so selfish.  But the more you read the more you begin to see him as something else.  And over time he starts to change and transform.  I haven’t finished the series yet, mostly because neither has the author.  But good stories take time.  I’ll wait.

 

Mom and Me hanging out on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Mom and Me hanging out on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

This picture has a pretty good story behind it.  I guess technically it has a lot of stories because it was taken while I was on a trip to Israel with my bible study group and other people from that church which is also where my parents attend.  So my parents were on this incredible trip with me.  And we learned a lot about a lot of stuff.  And I could tell you about all the jokes and laughs because there tons.  Clearly somebody had said something that made me laugh and giggle in this picture but I don’t remember what it was now.  I don’t even honestly remember taking the picture.  I was jet lagged and had been taken all over Israel where everything is uphill so my memory of picture moments is sketchy at best.  But this is still my favorite picture from our trip.  Not because of where we were or how adorable we look but because it’s me and my mom laughing and hugging.  ‘Cause that wouldn’t have been such a likely picture about a decade ago.  We fought A LOT when I was a teenager.  I was difficult and more than a little crazy and my mom had her own stuff to deal with (like we all do) and we just kept colliding.  I remember the time I told her in one particularly painful phone call that I didn’t believe in Jesus anymore.  She cried.  I was shocked she didn’t already know.  It took work, lots of patience, lots of talking, honesty, and unconditional love (my mom’s particular specialty) but now we are best friends.  I trust her 100% and I love her like crazy.  I didn’t know we would ever be able to be this close or that I would ever think of her as my friend. We share our faith as easily as we share everything else.  I count on her for guidance and support more than any other person on this planet and I am never let down.  Our relationship is such an unexpected gift.  And this picture captures it perfectly- love, fun, and faith.  That’s me and the Tougs (my mom’s awesome nickname).  I think we have a pretty good story.

I have these two great friends who are in youth ministry.  They got married a few years ago after finding each other later in life.  They both have other kids but they are older- in fact they just graduated their youngest daughters from high school.  And they also just found out they are expecting a baby!  We were celebrating this incredible news last weekend when my friend started to talk about his reaction to finding out he is going to be a new dad again at 51 (his wife has given me permission to say she is only 37 😉  Seriously they are one of the cutest couples on the planet).  I thought it was really beautiful.  He said “I lay down to go to sleep at night and all the sudden open my eyes, look at my wife, and am like…we’re pregnant!  It’s crazy!  Who gets to have such an amazing life?  To find her, to share in this amazing, fulfilled life, and to have a baby now?  Who gets something this crazy good?  Who gets a life this good?”

Who get a life this good?  The redeemed.  That’s who.  Those who know they have been bought at a price and brought into the family.  People who are living in the richness of God’s grace.  Life isn’t always perfect or easy (I would imagine a baby will add some new challenges) but it is always blessed.  Every redemption story is a good story.

 

I don’t know what your story is or what you want it to be.  I don’t know what kinds of tragedies, mistakes, and heartaches have been written on your heart.  But I do know it isn’t too late to celebrate a good story.  The redemption that was offered to me is offered to you too.  You don’t have to write another line.  Let the Author and Perfecter of our faith write your story.  God is the ORIGINAL writer and He writes some good stuff.  He writes stories of love, rescue, peace, joy, defying the odds, and so much more.  The Bible isn’t a collection of just random stuff.  It’s the collection of the redemption stories of our faith.  It shows and reminds us of the power of redemption.  Because in the redemption story what was cursed becomes blessed, what was damaged becomes whole, and what was broken becomes beautiful.

 

May you find grace in the redemption of your story.  May you see the ways God is already at work in your life just waiting to bring you back into the family.  And may you find joy in a good, good story.

 

I would love to hear your story of redemption if you would like to share it!  You can email me or post it in the comments.

Love Letters: My first love

The first people I ever loved were my parents.  Chances are they are the first people you ever loved too.  I was blessed that my parents were and are people who are worthy of love, respect, and gratitude.  Maybe yours were too.  Maybe they weren’t.

As I’ve gotten older my relationship with my parents has changed a lot and in very unexpected ways.  My mom was 25 when she had me.  I’m 28 now and don’t see kids anywhere near in my future.  So as I look back I see my parents through the lens of what I know it was like in my own head at 25.  How on earth did they make room for a tiny person in the midst of all the head-noise that is your 20’s?  They bought a house, had jobs, managed all those things that I still feel like are overwhelming and all-consuming and they loved me too.  Honestly my memory of being a kid is pretty sketchy.  But I remember the weird and the random.  I remember a day (I think it was a Sunday after church) that my parents took my sister and me for a surprise trip to the rollerskating rink.  I remember going fishing with my dad.  I remember pieces of conversations with my mom where she basically explained life to 5 year old me.  I remember the way she smelled and what it felt like to sit on her lap with my head on her chest.  I remember it so exactly that even now when I need to be comforted it’s that specific feeling that I’m longing for- the feel of being in my mom’s arms.

One of my absolute favorite memories is of a camping trip with my dad and Pawpaw.  I don’t remember when it was or how old I was but I remember the feeling of catching a fish!  I remember being so happy I literally sang about it, which made my Pawpaw laugh and shake his head indulgently.  Apparently that night it rained and poured and Dad was afraid the tent was going to fall down on us, but I don’t remember that.  I never woke up.  I didn’t need to worry about the storm because Dad was holding the tent up over me.

My parents love for me has always been the thing that holds the storms back and the thing that has protected me.   Their love protected, guided, and encouraged me.  It wasn’t a love of always yes or do whatever you want.  It was a love of we want what’s best for you and always do your best.  Their love for me and for others taught me how to love.

My parents love for me and my love for them has shaped me.  My Mom and Dad are, and always will be, my first love.

My love and appreciation for them has changed as I’ve grown to understand more of the sacrifice they have made of their lives in order to raise and love kids.  And even now that my sister and I are grown my parents continue to sacrifice time, energy, and emotion to our well-being.  You never stop being a parent.  What a gift they give us!

Now when I’m with teenagers, especially teenage girls, I find myself wanting to shake them.  Don’t take your mom for granted!  She has things to teach you!  Listen to your dad!  He knows stuff you need to know!

My whole life has been filled with love because of the two people who gave me life.  In those silly and wasteful moments where I think that I’ll never find love I have to stop myself and laugh at my foolishness.  I’ve never had to look for it!  Since the moment my heart started beating I’ve been loved.  My whole life has been formed and guided by the love of Mom and Dad.

My parents fill my life with love and I love them. 

I didn’t ask for that.

20131112-074443.jpg

I remember very vividly the moment I fell in love with my nephew. I was sitting in worship on Sunday morning at the 11am service. We were still finishing up construction so we were in the gym and I was on the far right closest to the kitchen, always a distracting place to sit. It was children’s time and Pastor Pam called all the kiddos up to hear the children’s message. As the kids ran up, some of them laughing and some of them looking pretty nervous about leaving mom and dad behind, I realized that one day in the near future I would see my nephew (or niece we didn’t know yet) run up there. I started thinking about all the wonderful things this new little person would get to try and do and the joy he would bring to every part of our family life. And I cried. Not an ugly cry or anything. Tears of joy.

My nephew was born on May 20, 2013 almost exactly 9 months to the day that my sister and her husband were married. So you see he wasn’t exactly planned. I had the extreme privilege of being on the phone with my sister when she realized she was pregnant and it was both a beautiful and scary moment. Were they ready? This wasn’t the plan. But there was a joy, even in that scary moment of something new and unexpected, that came from the certain knowledge that this was a wonderful surprise. I’ll never forget the first moment I saw him and fell in love with him all over again. He was very unhappy but still so adorable (a quality he retains to this day).

We didn’t know to pray for a miracle like little baby J. We had no way of knowing how to ask for all the blessings he has brought our family. He’s an answer to a prayer none of us knew we had been praying.

There are things in this life that we long for. We pray for them daily, maybe even hourly, asking and pleading with God to hear our prayer and answer it. Sometimes we pray this way for years without ever hearing from the Father. There are people who long for children that never come. People who pray for healing that doesn’t happen. Prayers for relationships that don’t get better and don’t last. We pray for the things we want to see God do in our lives and the lives of those we love. And sometimes it feels like he doesn’t hear us. I have been there and it is agony.

But I have seen the other side of this as well. I have seen God answer prayers I never prayed but would have and should have if only I had known the words.

In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.
Romans 8: 26

I don’t know what’s on your heart or even how God is moving in your life. I don’t know what pain you are in because of unanswered prayers. But I know that God is moving in your life. I know that God does hear your prayers. He never sleeps, never drifts far away. Say what you need to say to Him, even if it is how hurt and alone you feel. If you cannot believe that He is near or that He hears you that is ok. I will believe it for you and pray and hope that one day you will know it too.

It is good to serve a God who answers prayers we don’t know we are praying. A God who blesses us in ways we can’t foresee or think to ask for. A God who sees us and loves us. There are things in my life that I want to have or happen. But all I have to do is look at my nephew to remember that His plan is so much better than mine. It may feel scary terrifying or heartbreaking. And yet when I have surrendered and trusted (and yes, waited…sometimes what felt like forever because I am not a patient person) I have found that the blessings that God has for me are so much bigger and better than any that I could have imagined. Those blessings answer the prayer I didn’t know I was praying.

May you see God at work in your life today and may you know the joy of an answer to a prayer you didn’t know you were praying.

7 years…and still going strong!

Today marks 7 years of bliss…with my sweet little puppy, Gus!

My favorite little man!

My favorite little man!

This sweet face has been the one that greets me when I get home everyday for the past 7 years.   I am so thankful for this little (ok medium-size) guy.  I got Gus at a time in my life when I really shouldn’t have been looking to adopt a dog.  I was trying to finish up college and living in an apartment that did not have room for another dog.  I didn’t have enough money to be able to afford all of the expenses that come from having a dog and I certainly didn’t have time to spend training and caring for one.  And it only got worse from there.

About 6 months after I got Gus I was diagnosed as bi-polar, a diagnosis that came about as a result of some seriously negative and even dangerous choices that had repercussions for my entire family.  It was absolutely the hardest time in my life.  There were many days when I couldn’t get out of bed…and my little puppy was there loving me and forcing me to get up at least for 10 minutes to take him out.    There were days when I wanted to just say forget it and not bother going to work or class until I would remember that I needed to make sure to have enough money to at least be able to feed my little man.  There were days when I didn’t think I would make it to the next day but then I would be worried about who would take care of my puppy and I would hold on for one more day.  He was my only friend for a long time and he’s been my most loyal companion since the day I got him.

Now my life is drastically different.  I have a job I love and that is definitely exciting enough to get me out of bed every day.  I have friends who have become more like family and I thank God for them every day.  My relationships with my family have been restored and renewed in ways I never knew would even be possible.  7 years ago I thought my life would never get better and that I would always be in so much pain.  But today I am blessed by a life of love and joy I didn’t know was possible.

And through it all I’ve had my Gus, keeping me company and giving me love.  He greets me with excitement and kisses every day, even when I come home late and I’m sure he’s starving.  He never judges me for choosing to sleep late instead of getting up for a walk but man does he celebrate when we do get up and go.

I don’t always know where my life will take me but I have always known that Gus would be there with me and that has given me comfort and confidence.

Over the past 7 years he’s been my friend, my motivation, and my inspiration.  I’ll always be grateful for his constant and loving presence in my life, in times of pain and in times of celebration.   I’m a little sad because I know he is getting older (although you really can’t tell from how crazy he acts when he gets hyper!).  I know a sad, sad day will come when he’s not there to cuddle and sing to (don’t judge me…he’s the only one who doesn’t complain about my awful singing!!!).  But I’ve got TONS of memories and pictures and we’ve still got a few years to make plenty more.

So happy adoption day, sweet Gus!  I’m so glad you are my puppy.

Share-day Saturday

It was never really my intention to make this blog an online journal, however  thats what’s about to happen…So brace yourself.  I seem to get the most feedback from personal posts so I figured I could dedicate just one day a week to that and here it is!

With school back in session stuff around the church, while busy and full, has leveled off.  I’ve been able to stick to a routine for a couple of weeks now and that’s been really refreshing.  We are currently running a pretty awesome Wednesday night ministry called “Family Time Out”.  Children, youth, and adults eat dinner together (and our best chef is cooking so it’s soooo yummy) and then split up for separate programs.  Youth have bible study, kids have different activities, and the adults have been doing exciting stuff like dance and cooking lessons.  It’s so much fun to get to have dinner with my church family once a week.  I’m going to be sad when it’s over in a couple of weeks.  But I’m looking forward to doing it again in January or so.

Sunrise as we head out on the water...beautiful start to the day.

Sunrise as we head out on the water…beautiful start to the day.

This weekend my dad and I took the dogs and headed down to the coast for a weekend of fishing.  We haven’t caught a whole lot but it sure has been fun!  I have Fridays off but Dad has a lot of conference calls, which he naturally took while we were out on the water.  And obviously I caught the only keeper of the day while he is trying to explain some sort of accounting thing to his team.  So he gets the net, nets the fish, gets it in the boat, and measures it (just spot on the legal limit) all while explaining this complicated whatever to his people.  It was pretty impressive!

My fish!  I bet he is gonna be yummy!

My fish! I bet he is gonna be yummy!

We are having our staff retreat down here in a couple of weeks so after we got back from the am fishing I headed into town to see if I could find us a place to eat lunch.  A lot of places aren’t open for lunch or aren’t open on the day we are going to be here. I didn’t have as much luck as I was hoping for but I still think it’s going to be a fun retreat for us.  I’m looking forward to it.  This town just has its own vibe and I love it.  It’s a weird mix of super laid back and fancy.  I found this little gem on one of the store windows.

I really like the "ish"...not sure exactly what that means but I guess that's the point.

I really like the “ish”…not sure exactly what that means but I guess that’s the point.

Well that’s it for my first share-day.  I hope things are going well for you and yours!  What are you doing this weekend?