Thursday, August 25, 2011

{another moment etched in stone}

Yesterday was my birthday.

Blessed and favored doesn't even begin to cover it. It still amazes me that God would extend grace and mercy, let alone blessings to those of us who least deserve it.

I was surrounded by friends and family, laughs and the telling of old memories.

I celebrated my twenty-second birthday much like many other Americans do, but unlike so much of the rest of the world. I had the choice of where I would eat. A bill printed for $105 signified good food and full stomachs. What could have fed a distant family for a year was devoured in a little over 2 hours.

Again I will say; I am so very blessed.

When I was younger, birthdays were a race of sorts between my sister and I. Who got the most presents? Who got the most expensive presents? Our birthdays are 22 days apart, and with that came a battle (a fun one of course), to see who reigned supreme.

Looking back on those birthdays, as I sat at dinner with my family last night, I was reminded of how much of God's favor has rested upon me. My family has been through hard times, but at the end of the day, we always made ends meet. We always scraped up enough to pay the bill or fix the car. We've always had food and a roof over our heads.

My birthday, full of love and extravagance, humbled me.

I could have been given any other life. Different parents, different schools, a different living environment. I could have been born with a handicap. I could have grown up in a life of alcohol and drugs.

But I wasn't. I was perfectly placed in the life that God planned for me, all for a reason.

I don't intend to be unappreciative of my blessed life. I intend to soak up every minute and be grateful to God, while taking the blessings He's poured on my life and pour them into the lives of others.

What good are blessings if they go unshared?

Another moment of my life has been etched in stone.

As I enter the life of a twenty-two year old college student, this is my self-reminder:
  • Be grateful - Moments pass by all too quickly
  • You can never love someone too much...never
  • Bless others as you've been blessed
  • Above all, love God
Blessings my friends,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

{essential to my being}

I am so very thankful for my sister.

This morning, as I sat in my bedroom, a thought crossed my mind.

I haven't spent much time with Ryann lately.

My sister is one of the most important people in my life, but I rarely go out of my way to show that to her. Today I called her and asked if she'd like to have a little lunch date with me. I drove over, picked her and my niece up, and spent the better part of the day talking, laughing, driving around and investing in each others lives.

I am so blessed to have the sister that I do.

Don't get me wrong, we've hit bumps along the road. We disagree on things that won't matter when we're fifty. We've bruised each others hearts. Words have been spoken that can never be taken back.

But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, we love each other. She is essential to my being.

We've mended each others hearts. We've carried each others burdens. Countless hours have been logged into our sister talks. Our lungs and stomachs have hurt from the amount of laughter we've sustained.

I've watched her grow into a beautiful young lady, and now, I've witnessed how far her love extends, as she nurtures her young daughter. Her potential reaches the stars and I am so excited to see where God leads her.

Today, I am thankful for my sister.


Monday, August 8, 2011

{by our love, we will be known}

Happy Monday my friends!

As it is Make-A-Difference Monday, I thought I'd start off with a story.

This morning I walked into my local coffee shop, a place where I frequently spend my time during the summer months. As I sat down at a corner table, a man who I've been sitting across from the past few days, engaged me in conversation. When I arrived, I had no intention of speaking to anyone because I had assignments to complete, things to do..I had a plan: to lay my things out on the table, plug in my headphones and tune everything, and everyone, out.

Enter, divine intervention.

After sitting down, this man (let's call him Bob), asked me how I was doing. I answered back, not expecting the conversation to last more than a few minutes. Little did I know that it would lead to over an hour of discussion and him sharing his heart.

Bob is a man after God's own heart and his words spoke life to me.

Where did I "make a difference" you may ask? Other than hopefully allowing him to see into the world of my faith, I didn't. Bob made a difference in my life.

He caused me to evaluate how I respond to people, how I interact and engage with them. Ultimately, he planted a seed, beckoning me to examine how I love people.

Towards the end of the conversation, Bob told a story of woman he knows, who personally changed how he loves others. He described her as a woman who truly lives out the love of Christ in situations that the world would say are least deserving of love. It was in that moment that I realized why I woke up, drove to the coffee shop and chose that table.

God's voice was clear.

My love for those around me, in actions and in words, is nowhere near the standard that Christ calls me to. I am slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to get angry. I pass judgment unknowingly and treat people out of that judgment rather than from a place of love. I am impatient and at times hold grudges. I act self-righteously and my pride swells to attain glory that it's not due.

When all of these thoughts came rushing to me, I suddenly realized how human I really am.

I've regarded myself as a Christian; one who serves the Living God and has offered the throne of my heart to the King of Kings..but how can I say that, with honesty, when my life has somehow found its way onto the path paved with good intentions rather than the straight and narrow path?

This Scripture couldn't explain it any better:
He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  (Mark 7:6 ESV)
It hit me like a ton of bricks! What a hypocrite I've been! My heart so easily strays from God, while my lips speak His name.

My takeaway from this experience? My life, but more importantly my heart, needs to operate out of love, rather than pride. When I learn to love, or rather be love, only then can Christ rightly be glorified through me. We each need to be an example of Christ to a lost and hurting world, but when honest and pure love is replaced by so many half-truths and false feelings, we're left with a bigger wound and hearts that have turned away.

Most of us are familiar with John 13:34-35:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
And Paul writes this in Ephesians 4:1-3:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Every person, every life that I encounter should be done in a manner that breathes humility, gentleness and patience. How can I expect to truly love someone if I'm not willing to bear with, understand and accept them?

Harsh words need to be cast aside. Forgiveness needs to be extended.  Ears need to be opened. Tongues need to be silenced. Anger and judgment need to be replaced with patience and humility.

Where does it start? A pure heart.
Love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22 ESV)
Wrong intentions and personal gain will never give life to the righteous life that God has called us to. Love is born of God, and because of that, we must come to know Him and understand His heart so that our actions and words reflect His own.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7 ESV)
My heart rejoices at that thought. Each day that passes, and through interactions like the one I experienced this morning, I am coming to know God and understand His heart more and more.

Friends, let us love.

It is by our love that we will be known.