Happy Everything!

I love celebrations. I’m not elaborate or fancy with them, but I’m all in when it comes to remembering, acknowledging, and savoring the gifts and goodnesses of our days.

I’ve thought a lot about celebration as a spiritual discipline lately and love how celebrating allows us to enter into God’s joy as we remember His faithfulness and goodness.

Throughout the Old Testament, God commands His people to celebrate feasts each year (feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover, Feast of Harvest, Feast of Ingathering) and the New Testament reiterates the value of celebration with commands to “Rejoice Always!” Jesus enters the world in jubilee as the angels tell the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy” in Luke 2 and some of His last words before ascending to Heaven were recorded in John 15, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” God’s great big rescue plan even culminates in celebration with the wedding feast of Christ with His bride the Church.

Artwork featured in a gallery is an honor, but celebrating small often looks more like affixing events, people, and moments to the refrigerator door like children’s artwork…often the most honoring space. Moments of significance are constantly happening, but so often we just pile them all away in a cluttered drawer or trash can instead of recognizing the beauty before us.

Celebrating small is my jam. I want to both honor the big things in small ways and highlight the small joys in big ways. In a not-so-celebratory season, it’s easy to stop celebrating, but I’m choosing to celebrate small, believing that celebration tethers me to God’s greater story that starts, ends, and is constantly filled with celebratory joy.

Blursday everyday has forced me into intentionality. I’m typically good at chasing the fun, but the fun is not really flying by like butterflies these days…the fun lies hidden like buried treasure. So I consider what would add joy and life to the moments and I chase that.

I eat my simple meal on my Oh Happy Day plate, no longer reserved for birthdays, engagements, or new jobs; I go hunting for wildflowers, butterflies, or my favorite bird with the bright blue and teal feathers; I wear my favorite pjs all day; I eat Cheerios; I hang streamers for our last staff meeting and twinkle lights just because; I cover my Christmas tree with lights and photographs; I try to grow plants and nurture life; I write and read and learn; I tell my people they’re the best and try to share my deep affection for them; I watch sunsets and rainstorms and clouds that make shapes; I Marco Polo and text and porch sit with my people; I take bunny breaks and laugh with myself; I skip and run through the rain.

I’m celebrating the small moments with big joy and offering small gestures to honor the big milestones. I will celebrate small. Celebrate with me. Rejoice in the Lord always and celebrate good times, come on!

Certainly Uncertain

Sure, we’re living in uncertain times. Certainly I don’t know what the future holds. And yet these are not the first days I’ve experienced uncertainty nor are these the first days this world has faced uncertainty.

As I consider the moments of greatest uncertainty in my life, the pattern I recognize is that each uncertain season was masked in a veil of certainty.

When I wasn’t wondering what would happen next it was only because I thought I knew what was around the next bend. The truth is we never truly know what’s coming, but every once in a while our eyes are opened to that reality.

Expecting to know what’s coming and experiencing the unexpected makes me feel unsettled in the inevitable, constant uncertainty. However, leaning into the reality of perpetual uncertainty allows me to better ride the waves because I know they’re coming. I can trust the waves will come even if I don’t know what the waves will be.

My home church spends a week with another church family on a reservation in Montana. We set a schedule for the week with times allotted for meals, small group events, work projects, conversations, VBS, and showering. The community’s relationship to time is looser than our own, projects take longer than planned, conversations linger, the doors to the showers are locked, the food takes longer to cook, and the teens give piggyback rides hours longer than we could have ever anticipated. When my expectation is the plan we wrote down and passed out in our schedule, the days feel chaotic. There’s an unsettling feeling of having veered off course. If, however, my expectation is that throughout the week we will go with the flow, prioritize relationships, see needs and meet them (whether those needs are dishes, encouraging words, piggyback rides, or dry walling), try to get a shower at some point in the week, and be faithfully present to whatever the days hold, the days suddenly feel less unstable.

With chronic health issues, a global pandemic, and a job that’s constantly adapting to the changes in our world, life feels uncertain. If I focus on the details of how I thought each day would look and notice the disparity between my expectation and my reality, I begin to unravel. Instead, I’m choosing – or rather trying to choose – to be faithfully present, do the best next thing as it comes, and focus on what is certain, known, and true.

I’m grateful that in a world where my life is not the same yesterday as it was today and in a world where tomorrow is sure to be different still, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s word remains unchanged, His character is a constant, and His presence is tried and true. After rising from the dead, Jesus instructs His disciples to go and make more disciples and then assures them He will be with them always. In Matthew 28, the NIV uses the word surelySurely I am with you always, even to the end of the age. We can be sure – certain – that God will never leave us.

During this certainly uncertain season, we can choose to either set our schedules and plans with our hopes and expectations or we can choose to set our hearts and our minds on the God who promises to always be with us. God’s presence and immutability are certain.

Belonging

I’ve been here just over two months. People often ask what I think so far. This question feels so broad.

My typical answer has been something like this:
“I really enjoy my job and my students. I love what I’m learning, but wish I could learn it outside of the context of school. I’m having a hard time keeping up with the school work, but it’s happening. I’m just not sure how well I fit here or who I’m connecting with.”

I long for a sense of belonging. Who are my people? How do I fit in this place?

What does it mean to belong?
-to be the member of, the property of, or a part of
-to be in, be affiliated to/with, be allied to, be associated with, be linked to, be an adherent of
-to be in a close or intimate relationship
-to be connected

Today, I opened an Amazon package and was confused, did I order in the middle of the night, half by accident…again? Is this another Mouse Rat shirt? It was a MAIGG water bottle. A whole family from church has these water bottles. There’s a note. She writes that she wanted to fill it with enjoy life candy bars and tie an orange ribbon, but she’ll let me imagine. I will imagine. It’s a good image. 

This generous and thoughtful gift spoke to me of belonging. I belong with their family. Their people will be my people. We drink out of the same bottles. We are bound together. 

I think of the movie, The Blind Side, when Michael Oher answers the question about why he wanted to go to Ole Miss. He simply says, “because it’s where my family goes to school.” His belonged with his family. He belonged at Ole Miss, a school that bound his family together. 

I’m a part of, affiliated with, in, associated with, linked to, close with, and connected to lots of groups…lots of people. 

Within the bonds of Christ the common ground of the gospel binds us to one another. Sometimes the bonds are less visual than all sitting in front of the same television show together or all drinking Starbucks arm in arm, but I no less belong to these people, to the truth of Christ, and to countless communities to some degree or another. 

I worked a puzzle last night and sometimes want to work my life in the same way where I fit on all sides just perfectly jammed in with the perfect others. Upon deeper thought, I don’t believe this is how we belong. I think we belong to one another in the same way that Mama’s homemade pizza was bound together…hodgepodge and delicious. I loved these pizzas, often made with toast or leftover hamburger buns and topped with whatever needed to be eaten. Leftover sloppy joe meet instead of pizza sauce? Sure! Cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella? Why not? We don’t fit in a neat and tidy way; we fit in a thrown together way. We choose to bloom where we’re planted and connect within those places. The connections may not be the most natural, but they compensate with intentionality.

As I carry this bottle around, I will carry a tangible reminder of the choice to belong and the way others have chosen to belong to me. My family drinks out of these bottles, my family reminds me of where I belong – with them and with our Jesus.

*Sidenote: I feared this would be my first birthday in which there was no gift to open, and God knew that hurt my heart and he sent me this gift through these people. He is so personal to me and loves me in the most tangible puzzle-piece like ways that speak powerfully to my heart. He is faithful, always faithful.

Kindrid Spirits

Have you ever had a friend so dear to your heart that you felt most like yourself when you were with that person? What a gift. How lucky I am to have something worth missing! (Paraphrasing Winnie the Pooh) My heart still deeply aches for my sweet friend. Will I ever quit yearning for her friendship?

 

We could sit silently in comfort. How rare. She would gently strum the guitar as I let silent tears stream down my face. I would wash dishes as she reluctantly gave in to the tears. We could sit in tears together comfortably. Neither of us big criers, but each honestly gifted the other with our own shedding of tears. What freedom. We were strong, independent women who let down our walls with each other. We felt loved through time spent together and touch tenderly shared. The hand to hold when we felt week gave courage, the hug when we felt empty filled our souls, and the act of sitting squished together made us certain we were not alone. We would lean into each other on hard days and rest our heads on each others’ shoulders, letting our hearts metaphorically follow suit.

 

We fiercely prayed over each other and pleaded with God for big things. We hoped for each other when hope felt lost. We gently nudged each other with hard truths. We sought out the good in the other’s life. On days when she could no longer see the goodness herself, I would find it for her, protecting that goodness as truth. When I could not see the goodness myself, she found it and she reminded me with persistence. There was a sweetness in our friendship that overflowed from the sweetness of Christ’s presence and love seeping out of our lives. Like two mugs being carelessly carried in one hand, the liquid sloshed from one mug to the other. Whichever cup was fuller on any given day, freely mixed with the other, splashing and overflowing with Jesus. I like to picture hers as tea, calm and restful without lacking any fierceness; mine would be coffee, intense and warm, always caffeinated. Like mixing coffee and tea, our friendship was not obvious, but it became more natural than any other friendship.

 

When we first met, my husband declared we would be lifer friends with her and her husband. I didn’t see this, but I am forever grateful that he did. We pressed in, dove deep, and never looked back. She was the best friend I never knew I needed.

 

She would drop life’s chaos to be present when I needed friendship. She would listen for hours, give advice, and pray expectantly. She entered the hard of life with authenticity and courage. This is the friend I could call at midnight and she would sit with me and calm me down for hours, only to get up for work by 5am. This girl did friendship well. Her sacrificial heart was humbling. Her loyalty, empathy, and unconditional love were powerful.

 

Our friendship, though only a few short years in length, has forever changed me. She pointed me toward Jesus and spurred me on in ways that will far outlast our time together. Though we no longer connect, her heart is tied to mine as a piece of my story.

 

How could two friends become strangers so quickly? I suppose in the same way that two strangers could become friends so quickly.

 

Sweet friend, Grace and Peace to you. I always thank God for you and continually mention you in prayers. I remember before God your work produced by faith, your labor compelled by love, and your endurance that stemmed from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Paraphrasing Paul in 1 Thessalonians) I love you dearly.

Chick-fil-A Grand Opening Event

Chick-fil-A has got to be one of our very favorite places. We love the food, atmosphere, and service. We also are impressed with the company’s commitment to maintaining their values despite backlash from those who disagree. I think it takes courage to stand for something that isn’t always popular and am both inspired and encouraged by the example of Chick-fil-A.

When we heard that there would be new Chick-fil-A’s opening in Colorado, we knew that we wanted to make the Grand Opening Events. CFA holds an event for the first 100 customers at a new store and going to one of these events is something that has been on our Life List (or bucket list) for quite a while. We missed the first opening due to the forest fire, but kept the next one in mind. The night before the event was to start, we were still not sure about making it happen. The husband had lots of school to catch up on and there were many projects around here, but we finally decided that this would be a much needed opportunity to relax and have fun. We threw some things together and went to bed early. We left home in the night and enjoyed a drive to Denver with only a few other cars and stars to break through the dark. We arrived at Chick-fil-A a little after 5am and got in the line that was already forming. We were exhausted and still very sleepy, however, we were running on the excitement flowing through our veins. At 6am the staff began counting the participants and found more than 100 waiting. They then checked our ID’s to confirm that everyone receiving a raffle ticket was over the age of 18. Once all ticket holders were organized in their parking lot, the raffle drawing began. With each number announced came cheers of excitement for the winners as well as anxiousness from those whose numbers had not yet been called. Finally, my husband’s number was called! We were thrilled as he ran up to sign in as an official winner. I continued to wait, hopeful that I may also win, but also content that one of us had made it in. Following the announcement of the first 100 winners, ten more numbers were drawn as alternates (alternates can win the grand prize if any of the first 100 drop-out). Unfortunately, my number was not announced, but I was able to stay on the premises for the remainder of the Grand Opening Event as K’s guest. We were given wristbands, plastic cups for the water and tea that was provided, and waivers to participate in the event. Over the course of the day, we met other participants, ate meals, played games, and just relaxed. It was a great getaway and so, completely our thing! We camped out in the parking lot and when we awoke, the winners lined up and could claim their prizes (a lifetime of chick-fil-a – which equals 52 meal coupons). K went through and received his prize and then we broke down camp and bought a cinnamon role before heading home.

If you are want to have a super fun time and potentially win Chick-fil-A for a year, I would totally recommend going to a first 100 event! If a store opens on a Thursday (which is typical), get to the store no later than 6am on Wednesday and be prepared to spend 24 hours at the store. Leave your tent and other gear in the car until you know if you are a winner or alternate. After winners are selected, they send you out to get your things and then help you set up camp. Once everyone is set up, participants are not allowed to return to their vehicles or leave the premises for any reason during the event. They provide meals while you are there, games in the afternoon, and a DJ for fun and dancing in the evening.

I would suggest bringing snacks (especially healthy options, they give you a couple options for your meals, but they are pretty basic and don’t include the salads and healthier options typically available at the restaurant), games, camping gear, lawn chairs, and weather-appropriate clothing/gear. They allow you inside for the restrooms and for the dinner meal, but otherwise you are in their parking lot all day. In addition to all of the organized fun, we played cards, made new friends, took naps, and walked around the restaurant’s property. The staff will also periodically check that all of the participants are still on their premises. Another thing to be aware of is that children under 5 are typically not allowed to stay at the restaurant, even as a guest and anyone under 18 is not qualified to win the grand prize. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience and are excited about the oportunities we’ll have to use our free meal coupons!