{note to self} you will plant seeds

At the beginning of every week, I get paid from the school. I usually put it in my bag before the students come in, but this morning I had forgotten. In the search for a pencil, one of my students found my envelope.

“What’s this??” He yelled, waving it in the air.

“Oh that’s just my pay check. Can you put it in my bag?” I asked, as I continued passing out papers.

“You mean you get PAID for teaching us?”

“Yes…” I replied, unsure of where this was going.

“So, you’re only doing this because you’re getting paid? You actually DON’T want to be here?!” He said dramatically as he “faints” into his chair.

At this point, he had the class’ attention and all I could hear were the woes and sighs of students pretending to be hurt by this dramatic declaration. However, I decided to take it a step further. I mean, how could you pass up such a great teaching moment?

“Hold up a sec. Do you really think I’m only here because I’m getting paid?”

A chorus of yesses came from my snickering students. I knew they were trying to see how far this joke would go, but I ventured further.

“Ok, so am I only acting like I like this job because I’m getting paid? Does money equal happiness?”

“Uh oh, here it comes.” someone whispered – I tried not to giggle.

Then one of my dear students, that one who takes joy in pretending to give you grief, raised his hand.

“Yes?” I said, interested in what his response might be.

“If you were not getting paid, you wouldn’t be here but not because you don’t like being here. We know you love us and we know you love teaching us, but we also know that you need to earn money to live and stuff. You wouldn’t be here because you would need to be working somewhere else to earn money, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love us, ’cause you do. No, money doesn’t equal happiness, but you do need to survive.”

“BUT teachers hardly get paid like, anything so, like, OBVIOUSLY she likes us.” Another student piped up.

He turned around in his chair and replied, “Well you know, she likes planting seeds and watching things grow, so that’s why she loves us so much.”

I stood there beaming – so happy that they understood this concept.

“Yes, you all are my little seedlings.” I said with a smile as the class groaned. “I’ve been able to see you twelve grow and flourish this year and it makes me so happy, but you know what? It’s not just me planting seeds, you get to as well. If each of you plants just one seed in another life, that’s twenty-four people growing and if they do the same, that’s forty-eight! This just keep going and going until there is a whole field of beautiful knowledge for everyone to learn from. I’m thankful for you all and I do love this job. Now, back to our originally scheduled programming…”

Everyone laughed and turned to their papers and my heart became incredibly full.

{note to self} brokenness isn’t beautiful

“It is in human’s greatest weakness where we find human’s greatest creativity and God’s greatest strength.” -My Dad

Who is your first love? Is it the pleasures of this world? The finite relationships? The faded treasures? Who is your first love? What holds fast in your heart? Something that would seem to tear you apart if it were to vanish from your life? Let Christ be your first love. Infinite in love and abounding in mercy. Hold fast to Him, knowing full well the gravity and great reward of a life of devotion and commitment lived in faith.

I wrote this days before I left for my month of adventure. I was excited, I was nervous, and I could not wait to meet all of these new people and form all of these brand new relationships. There was such a pull on my heart, so much of a love and a burden for people I had never even met. It was exciting to me. After all, adventuring is my most favorite thing and new situations are my comfort zone. I absolutely couldn’t wait to get started.

Weakness, vulnerability, brokenness –  these were the words that held the subject of many conversations in the beginning of the month. I knew it was going to be hard, spiritual warfare is never easy. However, I was not fully expecting that most of that weakness, vulnerability and brokenness was going to be coming from my end. My pride got hurt a lot and the tears seemed to flow a lot more than usual. It was messy, it was sticky, it was not my shining moment or my finest hour. Many times, I was on the floor in physical or emotional pain.

It was not what I would call an ideal ministry tactic.

I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it. I hated that I was confined to these afflictions. I hated that it seemed like I was trapped by my body. Because, I’ll admit, I’m very stubborn and it’s not easy for me to tell someone I am physically hurting. Mainly because if I did, they would send me to bed and I would consider myself useless and a burden.

To my dismay, my pain became too much to hide one day and I was sent to bed. As I laid there, tears of pain and frustration streaming down my face, a quiet whisper flooded my heart.

“Who is your first love?”

I paused and immediately thought, “Well, it’s God, obviously.”

“Really?” the whisper said.

I pondered it again, slowly a thought started to form.

“Is your love in your strength? Do you pride yourself in being strong in the midst of pain and in the midst of suffering? Your strength has been torn away from you, where are you clinging? What are you longing for? Let me be your strength, let me be your stronghold. Because when everything else fades away, when everything else is gone, I am the only one who can sustain you. The very life you live is held in my hands. Why do you think you can rely on your own strength and your own will to survive?”

Ouch. Oh, right.

Slowly, I began to praise. Slowly, I began to enjoy God’s sweetness and rest in His strength and not in my own.

{note to self} Don’t be fooled, your broken pieces are not what make you beautiful.

Rather, it’s what you decide to do with them that makes the difference. You can be ashamed of them and bury them underneath the rugs of defeat or be afraid of them and throw them away in shame, and is that not where our temptation lies day after day? But let us not forget the victory we have in Christ. The one who takes our brokenness and makes it into a beautiful mosaic. The kind of mosaic where the colors dance joyfully as the light glimmers off of the broken pieces and shines radiantly making murals on the walls.

When we surrender our shame, our anger, our rejection, our confusion, and give it all to the one who knows us inside and out, our great Creator; He can make something beautiful out of what has been broken. All of these pieces that have been broken and scattered and our hands that have been scarred for trying desperately to make something out of the mess we created is healed, mended, and pieced together in a marvelous array of broken wholeness.

Do not underestimate the power of brokenness, the power of weakness, the power of testimony. For in your vulnerable state, that is where Christ’s glory can shine the most. Even in your deepest afflictions, you can experience the deepness of his affections for you. Father has given you gifts, use them for His glory. You have weakness, let Him shine in your pain. For in it we find a beauty that can only be made when we give up our own agenda and give Him all our pieces. Holding nothing back from Him.

“The sun and the wind were having an argument…”

“The sun and the wind were having an argument. ‘Nothing is stronger than love.’ said the sun. ‘Nonsensssse’ hissed the wind. ‘I can make anyone do anything I want them to if I blow hard enough.’ ‘Want to bet?’ Winked the sun. “Sure, sure, sure I’ll show you! I’ll show you!’ ‘Alright,’ smiled the sun, ‘see that man down there?’ ‘yesssss…’ hissed the wind, ‘what about him?’ ‘He is wearing a coat, I bet I can persuade him to take it off, but you can’t make him do it.’ ‘oh ho ho,’ roared the wind ‘I’ll show you!’ ‘Very well,’ said the sun, ‘go ahead.'” I looked up from the book and glanced at the children all around me. All eyes and ears were attentive to the story, anxious to hear what the wind would do next. The story continued with the wind trying with all his strength and force to get the man to take off his coat. Finally, when he was all out of breath, he had the sun take over. As the sun smiled warmly down on the man, it did not take very long for him to take off his coat and carry it with him on the rest of his journey. “‘Which is stronger, love or force?’ Asked the sun.” I paused and looked at the children, “LOVE” they all shouted with enthusiasm, their faces glowing with the knowledge that the sun’s love had most definitely won the argument. I smiled as I finished the story, fondly remembering the countless times my mom had read me the exact same book and how I would always give the exact same answer that was currently ringing in my ears.

In the past few months, I have learned a lot from the multiple children who have been placed in my life. Probably the biggest thing I have learned from them is love. I cannot even begin to describe to you that amazing feeling of joy when a child runs straight into you, almost knocking you over, with the most aggressive and powerful hug imaginable, smiling the biggest smile. Or when they search you out specifically to tell you about the amazing lunch they had that day and why it was so special. Or when they sit and talk telling you story after story about their friends, their pets, their siblings and their favorite things to do. This is love. Raw, real, unfiltered love and it’s the kind of love I want to emulate with my Father.

Imagine, if you can feel immeasurable joy from a child running into your arms and telling you all about their day, how much more is our Father’s immeasurable joy for us? This year I feel that God is working on me to believe again. To believe the simple truths of love, trust, grace, and forgiveness and what better teachers than children?

God has formed our hearts for loving. He has created us to love wholly, fully and with the utmost devotion. At what point do we lose the innocence of reckless and boundless love, and take on insecurities, doubts, fears, and worries? Because, when we take on the insecurities of love, we lose our security. When we take on the doubts, we lose our trust. When we take on the fears, we lose our fearlessness. And when we take on the worries, we lose the treasure of comfort.

The force of our inner struggles, unabashedly linked with the desire to love and be loved has thrown our hearts into a whirl wind of longing and confusion. At the same time, the knowledge of the cross and our Savior’s immeasurable love for us, fills us with the hope and security that we can experience what we lack from this world.

The first priority is to strengthen the relationship between oneself and God. To learn to love again with reckless abandonment, not tarnished by our fears and outward struggles. Only when we can say that we are truly at peace in the love and presence of the Most High can we then experience the innocence and purity of agape, God’s love as it was intended.

 

You formed my heart for loving

And in you I have found

Complete and total comfort

A love that is unbound

{Olivia Imchen}

 

 

 

 

How do you know?

“How do you know when you’re in love?”

She asked with a smile, her eyes turned down.

You could tell in her voice, You could tell in her step

There was nothing mistaking it now.

How do you know when you’re in love?

The question rang in the air

She glanced around from side to side looking for one to share

“How do you know?”

Her friend replied, looking into her eyes.

When your hearts collide?

And you get butterflies?

And everything seems right?

But when the butterflies die

And the embers subside

The excitement you hold inside

Is still there?
Still strong?
Still alive?

She looked up and smiled

And grabbed her hand

And looked into her eyes

“Then friend,” She replied

I have nothing to hide

For I believe what I’m feeling is true

For if what you say is how love stands

I think I’m in love with him too

Hope is on the way

Hope is most special,

Most needed,

Most wanted,

when the embers die and your world freezes.

A hope like that cannot be bought,

Not earned,

Not borrowed,

Not stolen.

A hope like that before found and nurtured can sometimes be used

And tattered

And broken.

But when God meets His child and their pieces collide, then will their story be told.

Of a hope that lived after embers died

And the trees turned white from the cold.

{note to self} I mean, I think so…

This past Christmas I attended a volunteer banquet. After the dinner, each volunteer was given a word. Something that God wanted them to know and keep in mind throughout the coming year. Excitedly, I reached in to obtain my word, eager to see what kind of promise The Lord wanted to reveal to me this year.

Achieve.

That was my word. And, note to self, be ready to accept and act upon God’s word when you ask for revelation. Because, He will give it to you.

{note to self} forget the box

I like labels. I like boxes. I like opening boxes and reading labels because you know what’s inside and you get exactly that when you open the box. I want to tell you something, forget the box and the labels in life for they are useless. If you try to fit everything you know into separate categories and neat little boxes, you will be stressed and obsessed with matters that you have made infinitely complicated, when all that was required was faith.

Of course I’ve been taught and know that I can achieve nothing on my own. That’s not a new concept for me. But, for some reason, I like to forget that. Obviously the big things in life are the things I cry out to God for. The ones where I know for sure I cannot bring about on my own. However, what about those little things? The details in my little box. The ones I can totally handle on my own. (Wink, wink)

{note to self} you are not enough for you

Really, truly, you will never be enough for you if you keep thinking you need to be enough for everything else. I remember one night, I was feeling way too stressed out and fed up with all these little things. I sat there in the stillness and the quietness and cried, “Lord, you promised achievement. You told me I can do all things through You. Why has this not happened? Why can’t I?” Then, something tugged at my heart. Suddenly, the question came to me. “Are you doing all things through Me?”

I mean… I hadn’t really thought about it that way. “Well sure.” I thought, “I mean… I think so…”

Ecclesiastes 2:11 says, “Thus, I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”

{note to self} you can do nothing on your own

Ok, maybe these sound like depressing notes. But, they are only depressing if you look at them from self and nothing more. I realized that no matter how hard I tried to make things work on my own, everything would be meaningless if I wasn’t asking God to help me in every single thing I do. Big or small, I realized how dependent I need to be on God. That He’s not just a lifesaver that I can call out for when I am almost drowning. That the reason I get to the point of almost drowning is because I haven’t been holding his hand while walking on top of the water.

{note to self} achieving greatness is not the goal

The Bible doesn’t say much on how to achieve your dreams. That’s a worldly view. That’s a selfish view. But, the Bible does talk a lot about laying down your life. Being crucified in Christ. Throwing off your desires and making Christ your desire. Achieving greatness is not the goal, achieving oneness with Christ is. Remember the first {note to self}? “If a relationship stems from self, it will, inevitably, fall apart.” That’s not just for worldly relationships, it should also be applied to our relationship with Christ. Because, just like any relationship, our focus should never be on what we can get out of it or how we can benefit.

{note to self} be active in achieving oneness

Yes, it’s easy to write this post and it’s easy to read it. But, actively doing? Well, that’s a different story. However, might I remind you of something?

Remember to rely on God for everything by praying over those “little things” in life. Like, “Lord, help me write this paper.” “Lord, please silence my tongue if I know I shouldn’t say something.” Or even, “Lord please help me open this jar.” 🙂

The point is, being in that constant state of prayer helps remind us that achievement is not earned through self. Achievement is through sacrificing self.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

{note to self} it’s ok

Nostalgia.

Walking through the empty rooms, running my fingers over the yellowed pages of her diaries. Sitting on her bed, closing my eyes and imagining that hearty laughter I have always loved so much. Pain is natural. Tears are good. The love is still real. I will never forget

Nostalgia.

Slowly the house gets empty, slowly the drawers become less full. Slowly the closets become bare, slowly the house seems less inviting.

Nostalgia.

If I glance quickly, my mind may play tricks. If I glance quickly, I may see her walking through a room, or hear her knocking softly on my door.

Nostalgia.

If I close my eyes tightly, I can almost see her standing on the front porch waving ecstatically upon my arrival. If I sit still long enough, I can almost feel her loving arms wrapped tightly around me. If I hold my breath long enough, I can almost forget that what I’m longing for is not reality.

Pain is natural. Tears are good. The love is still real. I will never forget.

Nostalgia.

{note to self} hand holding and other dreamings

To my lovely friends who are wonderfully and beautifully happy with your significant other: believe me when I say, I am so extremely happy for you. This is not a post to make you feel guilty, it is simply my thoughts on what I have observed and how I have determined to handle the current situation. All this to say, you may continue to hold hands and skip into the sunset through the ever so romantic wildflower fields and I am by no means judging you. 😉

She looks down forlornly at the book in her lap. It’s obvious she can’t concentrate on the words and her eyes keep drifting. Suddenly he comes up behind her, picks her up and twirls her around. She smiles the biggest smile and of course it ends with a kiss.

As the credits role, you’re smiling, happy that the character is with her true love at last. However, as you look down forlornly at the rather large (and empty, I might add) bowl of ice cream in your lap, you can’t help but let out a sigh. Casually you glance behind you, just in case there was that slight chance that he was standing behind you in that moment, ready to pick you up and twirl you around. But, to no avail, there is no such thing and instead you flop on your bed and stare at the ceiling.

There’s this season in life, usually beginning with the graduation of high school, where by some strange force of nature it seems that all your friends have magically fallen in love. Ok, let’s be honest, obviously, not all of them have fallen in love. However, it’s easy to feel left out when you see adorable relationship quotes under the equally adorable picture of your friend and their new found significant other. Then, all of sudden, there’s a ring in the picture and you receive an invitation to the wedding.

The easy thing to do would be to wallow in self-pity whilst clicking through your love-struck friends’ engagement pictures. Or gather your single friends and vent about your love life… or lack there of. Yes, there’s even the option of pigging out on junk food and watching sappy romance movies. (I must add here that I will not confirm or deny that I have done any or all of these things.) However, might I note a few things?

{note to self} I am not entitled to a significant other

Seeing friends coupling up is tough when it seems that you are the only one who’s not a couple. The whole “Woe is me” vibe seems to be going pretty strong in your book and you spend a scary amount of time wondering why you are not a couple with some amazing out of this world person. Most likely, you are not the problem, your mindset is. If your only reason for wanting to be in a relationship is because you feel you are ready or that you should have one, you are not ready. A romantic relationship is not a right, it is, in fact, a real relationship with another real person. A person who has their own set of emotions, passions, needs and desires. If you begin a relationship with the mindset that you are entitled to one, the whole relationship is based off of what you can get out of it. If a relationship stems from self, it will, inevitably, fall apart. Nothing can stand if you try to be the center of it and if that is your mindset you are not ready for a relationship. Which brings us to the next note…

{note to self} Being “single” is OK

I use “single” in quotation marks because, what even is the meaning of that word? Single literally means alone, only one and I’m pretty sure you’re not alone. You have family, friends, and most importantly God. You are never alone. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but nothing is more important than realizing that you can never be alone. Even if family and friends have left you, God will never leave you or abandon you, and that is an absolute promise. However, in the worldly sense of the word, being “single” should not be looked down upon. Even the apostle Paul says he wishes everyone would be unmarried. (of course, that would be bad… so, let’s be glad Paul didn’t get his wish.) But, what Paul does say about unmarried men and women is this,

32 “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” -1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Paul isn’t trying to condemn married life or put one on a higher pedestal than another. He is simply saying, embrace being in this season! Singleness is a beautiful time of devoting yourself fully to the Lord and fully immersing yourself in His presence. Of course couples can do this as well, but as Paul explained they also have another person that they need to have oneness with. You being single means that you have no commitment to oneness with anyone outside of God and you can focus solely on Him. Isn’t that fantastic? Your aim should not be to “find your perfect match”. If you are living your life with God as the focal point, people will see that and the right one will be attracted to that.

And lastly…

{note to self} stop looking!

Another cliché, heard it before type of note, but honestly, it’s the truth. Being desperate is not attractive. But, being desperately and wholly devoted to God is. This is not to say you must lock yourself in your room and wait for “the one” to come ringing your doorbell. But, in social settings or any type of setting really, instead of looking at someone as a potential, look at them as a friend. Honoring them not only with your words and actions, but also with your thoughts. Understand that when the time is right, you will meet someone special and it will be lovely. But, until then, be happy where you are. Yes, it’s natural to be attracted to someone, and it’s natural to want relationship with others. But it is so important to realize and determine in your heart that you accept where you are at and that you will serve the Lord in this season, however long or short it may be.

And so, as I sit in this coffee shop, alone with my computer, my headphones, my Bible and of course a cup of coffee. I will be happy and content with the fact that every season has a purpose. That the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. That being patient is a wonderful character quality to build and right now is the perfect time to build it. Also, that the cute guy sitting across the room from me may or may not be single, perhaps he’d like to read my post? Just kidding ;).

I love you?

Love is a word that is so often misused, abused and mistreated. It seems to float in the air and land on whatever is fitting in the current sentence of words. I LOVE you, I LOVE food, I LOVE your pants, I LOVE that song, I LOVE God… It seems this word should be reserved for the best. Or perhaps, when expressing a deep feeling for One who deserves the utmost respect and love, we should use a different word?

I often wonder why English in particular is so vague with this word. Many languages have multiple words for our one word of love and each of these multiple words has a specific meaning describing love. But, us? All sorts of love are lumped into one category making it confusing and demeaning in some instances.

But, what if there are other words to describe love, but we just don’t use them? The dictionary defines love as an intense feeling of deep affection. What if instead of, I LOVE(have an intense feeling or deep affection for) grapes, we would say, I LIKE grapes or I really LIKE grapes (Depending on your flavorful inclination towards said fruit). There are many others, adore, fond of, cherish, like, delight, treasure… just to name a few.

I know I am guilty of this too. Saying love to describe your passion for something just seems so much easier. It’s sort of like a habit. However, when we use it to really describe that intense feeling of deep affection. The word loses it’s specialness because in our last sentence we had just described our love for pickles.

What if we could change our mindset, make love special again? Something that you get excited about hearing. Something reserved for that moment when you realize you cannot live without it. An intense feeling of deep affection. That is what love is.

I want you to know that if I ever tell you I love you, I don’t say it out of habit. I say it to remind you that you’re one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I never want to see you leave my life.

I want it now!

Can you think of a time when you’ve been impatient for something? Maybe there was a party to go to, or a big event happening, maybe you were going on vacation and the days before just couldn’t go fast enough. We all have things that we’ve been impatient for, I’m sure. I know just recently I became very impatient for a certain event to take place, and when it didn’t turn out just the way I wanted it to, I got upset and a little hurt. It was almost as if the idea of what I had been longing for was better than what had actually taken place. Even though in reality, what had taken place was very good. It’s easy to become impatient. It’s easy to feel discontent and have a desire to rush to the “good part”. It’s like eating a strawberry cream filled piece of chocolate and only wanting the strawberry part. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do things that are exciting and fulfilling. But, if it means that we become discontent with where we are in the moment and forgetting what God has called us to do now, we will never be satisfied.
I think of Veruca Salt in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Although her case of discontentment was rather extreme, dare I say it’s quite possible to relate?

I want today
I want tomorrow
I want to wear ’em like braids in my hair
And I don’t want to share ’em

I want a party with room fulls of laughter
Ten thousand tons of ice cream
And if I don’t get the things I am after
I’m going to scream!

It’s so easy to become impatient. It is so easy to want things right away. Why is that? Is it because our lives are centered around a fast paced society? Maybe because all the information we could ever imagine is right at our finger tips. Or, it could just be because we just don’t like waiting. To be honest, I think that’s it. At least, it is for me. But, what if God’s trying to tell us something? What if He’s saying, I want you to be content right where you are. I have a purpose for you right now. You don’t have to plan for next month, or next year. All I want is that you focus on Me, right here and right now.
Maybe God has given us things, really good things in our lives. But, He’s putting them a little bit out of reach, to save for later. Kind of like when mom would put all the sweets on the top shelf of the cupboard so that little hands wouldn’t steal the goodies before it was time to be enjoyed. The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.
In the same way that sweets before dinner will “ruin your appetite” I suppose that our own wants, desires, and love for temporary things will prevent us from living a godly life, causing our light to become dim. We need to desire to be a light right where we are. Forgetting about tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Whatever will be happening will come soon enough. We need to be focused on the present and what God wants us to do with each day, each hour and each minute. It’s tough to be content with veggies when it seems like everyone else is already on dessert, but by refusing to accept what’s before us, we could possibly be prolonging the wait. I’d like a spoonful of patience and a serving of contentment, please.