Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Saturday Kind of Worship

If you know me at all, you know that I'm a huge college football fan. I think my favorite day of the year besides Christmas is opening day of NCAA football. I love getting up to watch College GameDay, I love the rivalries, I love the pride and passion of football traditions... I just love everything about it. During the time we lived in Tennessee, and the years my sister Stephanie was at the University of Tennessee, I became a giant Volunteers fan. There's just nothing more awesome than 100,000+ people in bright orange, roaring around you as you hear "It's football time in Tennessee!"... and the Power T opens up, Rocky Top starts playing, and the Vols come running out of the tunnel. I mean I literally have chills just writing about it right now. It's awesome.

My little sister Sydney now goes to Texas A&M, which, as you probably know, is known for being a very tradition rich school. So about a month ago, Stephanie and I went to College Station to see our first Aggie football game. I knew it was supposedly a really cool environment to see a football game in, I'd seen Kyle Field on TV plenty of times, with the Corp and all of its traditions, waving the white towels and all that... but nothing I had seen on TV or heard about from people who'd been there before could have done justice to what I got to experience in that stadium. To see like 90,000 people, arms around one another, singing in unison and swaying back and forth... I don't care who "your team" is, that is hands down one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to see in person. I promise it will make every hair on your body stand straight up. It's incredible. Stephanie and I just looked at each other and said, "Yeah... that was awesome."

So then I started thinking, why is this such a powerful thing? What is it about people, unified by a common love or passion, that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, give you goose bumps and even put tears in your eyes? What is it within us that wires us to feel that way?

It's worship.

The definition of worship is "a feeling or expression of reverence and adoration."

And if God put inside of us the desire to have that feeling of unity and power for one greater good — which we use on Saturdays to cheer on our team — what kind of power would it have if we really used it for what it's intended for?

I wonder what Sunday mornings would look like if we worshipped with the same passion and unity then as we do on Saturday afternoon. I wonder what our communities would look like if we lived a lifestyle of worship that was as unified and passionate as a stadium full of football fans. I wonder what our nation would look like.

I just can't imagine that God gave us those feelings just so we could use them for ourselves. Because believe me, I believe one hundred percent that the joy I get from college football is from the Lord... seriously! But how much more powerful would that joy be if we used it to glorify HIM as much as we do to glorify the earthly things we love... like our favorite team. Or whatever else it is that you're so passionate about.

Just something that's been on my heart lately...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ode to Williamsburg.

I feel like this year my roommates and I have found ourselves reminiscing a lot. I guess with the end of college on the horizon, there's this sort of sense of self-observation and reflection that's set in ... hoping for what's next, loving where we are and appreciating where we've been together over the last few years. We spent some time tonight talking and laughing about our sophomore year — it was an interesting one.

Your sophomore year is awesome in a lot of ways, because you're no longer a scared or homesick — and probably a little to "free" — freshman. You've probably found your friends by then ... the ones that are going to last. You've been away from home for long enough to feel independent and "grown up," but you're still young enough to be a bit of an idiot. You're settled in to your college life, and life is just pretty fantastic.

When I was a sophomore, me and two of my best friends spent about 70% of our time with a group of people who became somewhat like family to us at our friends Jake and Kevin's apartment. None of us quite knew who we were or even who we wanted to be yet, but we sure had a good time together. Tonight we were reminiscing on all those good times, and it inspired Kelsey and I to co-write an "Ode to Williamsburg" ... a painted picture of the movie of memories that plays in our heads when we think about that year.

When I think about Williamsburg, I see...

dance parties.interpretive dancing to "hide and seek".PBR.clouds of cigarette smoke.ten friends standing in a circle with arms around each other, singing "hey jude" but inserting each others' names instead.jake standing on furniture singing "piano man". a police man at the door because we were singing miley cyrus "party in the usa" too loud.james coming into the living room, guitar in hand, ready to sing a few johnny cash numbers.rooftop chats.lacey walking it out.bob dylan, rilo kiley, mgmt, avett brothers, cold war kids, and edward sharpe sing-alongs (among many others).heated political debates between kevin and randoms.seth and all of his peer pressure.colton's free spirit... and all of his ginger hair....remember that time kelsey broke the ice tray?. aleigha's epic dance moves.the later it got, the more mysterious james was in his corner.the little blonde from atlanta came along, and kevin fell in love. glad we found you, matter how loud the music got, jake's personality was always louder.once in a while we were graced with jody's presence, and the party would start all over again.we found haley that year, when she started dating... well, you know. the day we ventured to little rock to see frightened rabbit ... and seth and i thought it would be a good idea to drive back before the sun came up.

It was a year of laughter, of not quite having ourselves or anything else figured out, and embracing our youth in the meantime. It's funny how we've all grown up and gone in different directions... whether that's grad school, a big kid job, dental school, being a nomad, or running away to the mountains, each of us has somehow found where we always wondered we'd be going, or are at least on our way. But for that one year, we really loved each other well. Our friendships have lasted, but they've evolved as we've all grown up. But when I think about that year, it's like time stopped for a bit, just so we could enjoy life and enjoy each other... I'm really thankful for that. We'll probably never (nor should ever) relive the times we had in that Williamsburg apartment, but I think in a way we were all somehow, in some small way, shaped by that place.

From Kelsey and I, here's to you... 
Jake, Kevin, Dawson, Seth, Lacey, Aleigha, James, Haley, Colton, Jody, Melanie...

We sure are thankful for you. As our friends the Avett Bros would say...
"Decide what to be, and go be it."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Momma Bear.

The family series continues... almost a month later. I've been a little busy, OK?


In case you're struggling to figure out which of these is my mother and not my sister, she's the second from the left. I remember someone asking her once why she looks like she's our sister instead of our mother and she jokingly replied, "I started having them when I was 12."

... Fairly close. Mom was 18 when she got married and had my older sister, Stephanie. (The brunette between Mom and me) The reason I tell you that is because it highlights an important thing about my mom: she's spent more of her life being a mom than not. And she's only 42! Whew, Trish. Good job.

As soon as she grew up and left home, she started her own family. Being a Mom is all she's ever known, really. And she's really good at it. My mom is the epitome of "the mother hen." I wouldn't call her an overbearing mother — that term has a really negative connotation. She's just a good mom. Though I did think about jokingly writing about how my mom, like God, is omnipresent — thanks to facebook. Haha just kidding, mom. :)

My mom loves to have us all together at once, which seems to happen less and less as we get older. The reason I chose the picture above is because the moment this picture is capturing is a perfect example of how much my mom loves us, and loves having us all together. Mom always gives us matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. So this one year, I want to say this was two Christmases ago now, she gave us our pajamas and made us all put them on to take the ritual "matching PJ photo in front of the tree." As Dad's about to take a picture of us, Mom has disappeared into the back of the house... and then she comes out, cracking up laughing and fist pumping better than The Situation himself, because she's bought the same ones for herself this year. She had gone into her room to put on her matching pajamas... she was so proud, and it was awesome. We still laugh about it. I'm actually laughing writing about it right now.

The point is that my mom just loves having us home... it turns her into the joyful goofball that buys matching pajamas. And I love it! She hates that we are no longer all in the same place. For the last 3 years, my parents have been in Houston, where they still are now. My older sister has been in Knoxville and I've been in Jonesboro. So Stephanie and I haven't spent a whole lot of time at home since they moved back to Texas. That drives my mom crazy. She just doesn't like missing out on our lives, only seeing us once or twice a semester and at Christmas. And who can blame her? We're pretty cool. (Right, Steph?)

Stephanie has recently moved home though, so I'm now the lone faraway kid in the family. And my mom is constantly dropping hints (that are really more like atomic bombs) about all the pros of me moving back to Texas after I graduate in May. If she could have it her way, we'd all live in the same place again. Which sounds great... I keep telling her if God calls me home I'll be there in a heartbeat. It's safe to say she's praying often for that to happen. And to be honest, though I've been coined "the independent one that's always just passing through," I'd love to go home. I love to be home.

When I was sixteen, I ran away. That is a story for a different time, but I did run away... for an afternoon. I was probably gone 2 or 3 hours at the most. Most sixteen year olds probably get angry and leave in their car... I decided to go old fashioned, and run on foot. Over the river and through the woods, literally. All I took with me was my phone, which my parents were calling constantly, each time leaving a more emotional voicemail. I think my dad threatened to call the police a few times. I'll never forget what my mom looked like when I finally came home. She was laying in her bed, sobbing. I walked in the door and she wasn't angry, she just looked at me, and through her tears and sobs she told me to never do that to her again... and she hugged me, and told me she loved me. I felt awful. I felt selfish. But I felt loved... and even though I knew there was a serious grounding coming, I felt forgiven.

I think we do the same thing to God. We run away, and we come home expecting punishment. And sure, because God is a just God, we get what's due to us. But more than anything, what He sees as due to us is grace. We get grace when we come home... because I really believe that just like my mom, God just wants us home. And He hates that we don't get it... He hates that we only show up once or twice a semester, and on Christmas. He doesn't want to miss out on our lives.

I wish I could be home more often, because I know the joy and fullness my mom's heart feels when we're all under the same roof. But what being away has taught me is that just like my mom longs for me to come home and be with her, my God longs for me to be with Him. And the best part about a God that's omnipresent is that I have the option of being at home with him every single day.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sharing my dad.

Today I was missing my family, and as I spent some time thinking about them and praying for them I was inspired to start a little series of posts in their honor. I realized today as I talked to God about my family members, that each one of them has taught me about different aspects of who HE is.

So I'll start with my Dad.

My Dad is a teacher and football coach at Kingwood High School, in a suburb of Houston, TX. He started out teaching and coaching right out of college, then went full time into ministry with Young Life for something like 20 years, and has only recently gone back to teaching and coaching in the last couple of years. The reason I'm telling you what my dad does for a living is because you can learn something important about him by knowing what he does: he's got a huge heart for high school kids. Such a huge heart for them that he's basically been in high school his whole life.

I've always admired my dad's heart for people. All people, really. I'm really not sure if I've ever seen a better example than he is of what it looks like to love like Jesus. I think a lot of the reason for that is because he has such a heart for the lost. Most parents like to make sure their kids are staying away from "those people" ... you know the people I'm talking about. The ones your mom wouldn't let you hang out with, and if she heard you were seen with them, you were grounded. My dad, though, has asked me on multiple occasions if I'm spending just as much time with people who need Jesus as I am with people who already know him.

How many times have your parents called and said, "Hey, how many heathens have you hung out with this week? None? Oh, you should probably get on that."

When I was in high school my dad was on Young Life staff. He led the YL club I attended every Monday night for four years, and he met weekly with most of my guy friends. Basically, I went to high school with my dad. And I think at times that got on my nerves (as it would any teenager). At times I just wanted to blend in and know that my dad didn't know every single thing about every single person I ever hung out with. Sometimes I wanted to walk into the lunch room and not see my dad sitting at the next table with a bunch of my friends. Haha.

But one day when I was probably sixteen I had a conversation with a friend who changed my perspective on my dad forever. This friend of mine, she had a pretty broken home life. Her dad had cheated on her mom and left their family, and as you can imagine it was just a hard season for her and her mom and siblings. One day she and I had been at my house... we got in the car to leave, and I guess my dad had just done something goofy that we were laughing about. And she said, "I love your dad. I wish he was my dad."

Man, those two sentences hit me pretty hard. All I could say back was, "Well, I'd love to share him with you."

And at the time I think it just seemed like the right response to her comment about my dad. But looking back, what I said to her was pretty profound. I don't think I realized when those words came out of my mouth what I was learning at that moment. In fact, I don't think I learned it until much later.

When I was seventeen, my best friend's dad died. Her dad also happened to be my dad's best friend. It was a pretty hard time for all of us... and later that year, my friend who had lost her dad came to live with my family. Because she needed a dad, and I had one that I could share with her. Her living with us didn't last long and it's kind of a long story how she ended up leaving, but to this day she would tell you that if there's any man in her life who she still looks at as a father figure, it's my dad. In fact, she told me that just last week. I love that though she probably doesn't take advantage of it often, he would be there for her if ever she needed him. I love that I get to share my dad with her.

My dad has taught me not only how to love like Jesus, but how to share the love of Jesus. And he's taught me how to share Jesus simply by being a dad that I want to share with other people.

I was reminded of that this morning as I sat in church thinking about how I miss him, and how it's about to be football season. See, what happens to football coaches' families during football season is this: football wives and football children become football widows and football orphans. (OK, so that might be a harsh term. But let's just go with it for the sake of making a point) From August to November, Dad's a pretty busy guy. School all day, practices in the afternoons and evenings, freshman games on Thursdays, varsity games on Fridays. Film watching and coaches meetings on the weekends. And then it starts all over! Needless to say, Dad and I play a lot of phone tag during the fall.

But this morning I thought, "Gosh, so many high school kids get to be so blessed by my dad. They get to be so loved on. They get to experience a love that's bigger than they ever imagined, because my Dad loves to love on people with the love of Jesus. I'm glad I get to share him with them."

And then I started thinking about how this should be the same way we feel about God. We should have the mentality of, "I can't wait to share my Dad with everyone I encounter. I can't wait for them to experience the love He has to give."

That's essentially what Jesus did. Whether it was the religious, the lost, the blind, the sick, the rich, the poor, Jews, Gentiles, men, women... I feel like Jesus, no matter who it was he was interacting with, just wanted to ask people, "Do you know who my Dad is? I want to share him with you."

I love that. I love that I have an earthly Dad who I've always enjoyed sharing with other people. And I love that no matter what our earthly dads our like, we all share a Heavenly Dad who we get to share with others.

That is a gift.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My story isn't about me. Ouch.

I've been talking a lot about stories lately. I just love a good story... who doesn't love a good story? You know, the kind that has you up late at night because you can't put a book down and sleep until you know what happens. Like in any Harry Potter books... as soon as Voldemort is on the scene, you're not sleeping til it's over. Or the kind of movie that has you on the edge of your seat in a theater, adrenaline pumping or tears flowing. Or the kind of story that your hilarious friend tells in a room full of people, where you know that it doesn't matter what the story is about, the way he or she tells it will have you rolling with laughter. My friend from high school, Grace, has that ability. I always tell her she missed her calling — she's supposed to be doing stand up comedy.

I think it's in our human nature to crave a good story. I think it's also in our human nature to desire to live a good story.

But what does that mean? What exactly makes a "good story?"

I like to get lost in a good book or watch a good movie because during that time you immerse yourself in another world. It's an escape, in a sense. A good story by my own definition makes me feel for the characters in it as if I were living it with them. There's laughter and there's conflict and there's emotion. Life happens in a good story.

I wonder if we live those kinds of stories. The kind that takes people to another place. A place they want to be... a story they want to experience for themselves.

Don Miller defines a good story in "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" as a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

What do we want? And what kinds of conflict do we have to overcome to get it?

It's funny how every good story in literature and in film usually has an element of love in it. Almost always, the conflict at hand is resolved in an act of love. It doesn't necessarily have to be romantic love, it could be a love between a parent and child, or just the love of a friendship. But it seems like most stories that we deem "good stories" or even "great stories" are in some form or fashion, a love story. We crave that as human beings... and I think we were designed that way for a reason.

So, if we know conflict will make our stories great, and if we know love will be not only something we crave but something we need along the way... then I think we're in a great place to begin our good story.

And I think up until this summer, I had those two things down for the most part. I've seen enough conflict, enough adversity in my life to understand first of all that it's inevitable, and second of all that the old saying is true... it does build our characters, shape us into a different person in the end than we were in the beginning, and probably make us a little stronger. And, again, in a good story we usually see that happen to characters. And there's been a love relationship along the way that's held my hand through it all — my relationship with Jesus. And on top of that, He's given me love relationships with other people that have showed me bits of HIS character... unconditional love and incredible wisdom of a great earthly Dad, the love of earnest prayer and constant encouragement from my Mom, the love of friends and sisters that have showed me grace over and over, and have taught me the power of community, and, most recently, he's given me a romantic love relationship with my best friend, who consistently leads and challenges me in my faith.

So by those two standards, overcoming conflict and being in love in every sense of the word, up until this last month or so I would say that this year, I've been living a great story. And I really do believe that I still am — but here's the kicker. The lesson God's been teaching me about my story this summer: my story isn't about me.

WHAT!? I was a little bit offended when He first told me this. MY story... isn't about ME? Come on, God. Are you sure? ... Turns out He is.

See, the world tells us that this life is about us. Especially in America. Do what YOU want. Life on YOUR terms. American dream. And you know, I don't think that's all bad. I know I tend to usually lean to the "radically liberal hippy" side of things, slamming the American Dream mentality. And I do have some strong opinions about how we don't love on the needy enough, and one day I do want to do a social experiment and just go live on the streets with some homeless friends and see how it feels. (Sorry if you're reading this, Mom... I know that just made you very nervous.) But I know there are people who make millions of dollars and give much of that away for the kingdom, so I know it's not all bad. But I do also believe that a majority of it is... because we're about living our own great stories. Everyone else is just an accessory to our story.

In the season of life I'm in right now, the world tells me that in less than a year I'm going to graduate college and I should pursue a career and chase a dream, and maybe along the way find a husband and have some babies and raise them to lather, rinse and repeat. So as all my friends and I approach our senior year, with our whole adult lives ahead of us, we're taught to be selfish. We're taught that from here on out we're on our own and it's all about us.

Whoa... time out. "We're on our own and it's all about us." That's what the world says. But what the WORD says is the opposite. We're not on our own, and it's certainly not about us. Right? Jesus said that several different times in several different ways.

So I've been wrestling with that lately, because I feel God calling me to a story and a purpose that I may have a role in, but it's certainly not all about me. It's so much bigger than me. And I want to be obedient to that, and I know there is patience involved in waiting on God to show me the who, what, when, where, why and how.

I've been frustrated at times this summer. I've been a little bit fearful and selfish, but in that He's teaching me that seeking His face is so much more important than seeking His answers.

So last week, I had to surrender my whole story to Him. And it hurt a little bit. But our stories aren't about us... they're about glorifying Him. So I told him something like this...

"Lord, I want to tell you today that though I've been selfish lately, I'm still on board. I know you're good, and I know whatever you have for me is going to be good. I'm going to stop searching for answers to all of my unknowns and just start searching for you. I know you'll provide all that I need. I know that you're a good father. I know that you love me. I know that you want to make my story great... and I know that the only way it will truly be great is if I step out of the spotlight and allow you to step in."

... and nothing spectacular has happened yet. But it will. Oh, friends... it will. And I can't wait to share it with you.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The stories we live

I've spent the last week at home in Houston with my family. It's been great — we went to the beach for a couple of days, came home and spent two days with some of our oldest family friends, went to the lake in Crockett to celebrate my grandparents' 50th anniversary, and spent our Sunday together, just the 5 of us... we went to church, then lunch, then the country club pool, then we ate dinner in the car as we literally took a trip down memory lane, driving past every house we ever lived in, the old soccer fields we spent more Saturdays at than anyone could ever count, and of course our elementary school, where dad was the PTA president the one year that we were all in school together, Stephanie in 5th grade, me in 2nd, and Sydney in kindergarten ... and then we came home, ate ice cream and watched a movie. It was a great last day at home with my family.

My best friend Ashlee came over tonight to spend some time with me before I leave. Ashlee and I grew up together... we're kind of like cousins that aren't actually blood related. She's just always been around. Ash moved home this week because she just got a job teaching theater at a middle school here in Houston. For the last hour or so we sat here talking, reminiscing and asking each other, "when did we get so old?" Life certainly seems to be going by fast. But you know, there's something really sweet and comforting about having a friend who's always been there. There's not a single season of my life that I can remember that Ashlee wasn't a part of in some way... even if from far away and over the phone. (Or in more recent years, Skype. Thank you, technology.) We've just literally walked through life together. Bike rides, birthday parties, swim meets, New Years Eve's, 4th of July's, family trips to the beach, AstroWorld, packing...moving...packing...moving...packing...moving, first loves, first cars, breakups, tragedy, coffee dates — more often than not via skype, planning crazy roadtrips we'll never actually take... the list could go on, but the point here is that Ashlee and I have been through a lot together. And the funny thing is, most of it has not actually been together. We've just had a friendship that's lasted years and distance.

I'm leaving in the morning, and for some reason it already feels harder than it ever has been to leave. I think part of that is because my sister Stephanie just moved home, and I'm now going to be the only one far away. And Ashlee is here now too, and our families are really close, and it's hard to not think at times that I'll be missing out on something that's happening here. But at the same time, I'm excited to get back to Jonesboro, because that's where God has me right now and He is doing great things there that I'm so excited to be a part of.

I'm reading a book right now about stories. I know that sounds silly, a story about stories... kind of like looking at a picture of a picture... but it's actually really good. And challenging. It's a Don Miller book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and he talks about what makes a good story, and asks a lot of questions about the stories we live... and whether we're living good stories or not, according to these "elements of good stories." You can see how as a writer this book has been particularly interesting to me.

This past week, as I've been spending time with my family and my oldest friends, I've been thinking a lot about the stories I've lived. I've been touring the "set" of many of them here in the place that I was born and spent half of my childhood. And I've even been living a few funny stories that I'll tell some of my friends when I get back to Arkansas tomorrow.

So often when we think of stories we tend to just picture the "Happily Ever After" without the series of events leading up to it. But Donald Miller challenges us to embrace the journey up to that point... because who would ever pick up a book that said, "Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after" and then say, "man, that was a great book! What a story!" Of course they wouldn't... because there's no emotion in that. There's no following a character through ups and downs, getting to know them and identifying with them and falling in love with them. That's the stuff that makes a good story.

I talked to a friend of mine today who's just been struggling with some stuff lately. She's realizing she has some things in her past that she needs to deal with so they'll stop affecting her future, and she's struggling with feelings of fear and loneliness. We talked for like an hour, and the whole time as I just tried to listen and comfort her I couldn't help smiling and thinking, "what a story she's living... what a beautiful ending it will have when she beats all of this."

Because in our stories, in our conflict, we've already won. God has already won. He always wins. And when our hearts are his heart, we win. So we get to just go on, living the story, persevering with joy because we know how it ends. There's a whole chapter of this book I'm reading about Miller hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. They start off on this 4 or 5 day trek, and as they climb thousands of feet, looking down at the river, their guide tells them that if you just followed the river, it would only take 6 hours to reach Machu Picchu... but the emperor (however many years ago) made the Incas take the long way through the mountains. Miller reflects on how he believed the emperor knew that the people would have such a greater appreciation for the beautiful city if they had suffered along the way to reach that place. And he says he experienced that same appreciation. "The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way."

Our stories are full of uncertainty. But aren't the unpredictable books and movies always the best ones? My sister's story has brought her to Texas, and she has no idea what will happen next. Ashlee's story has brought her home... and besides having a job, her life is one big question mark right now. Part of me isn't ready to leave tomorrow because I know there are new stories to be written here with people who are such central characters of my story. But the story God has me living in right now is in Arkansas, and I've got to say that I'm so excited to get back and continue living the adventure He's got me on.

I'm a senior. I have no idea what the future holds. There's uncertainty. There's so much change ahead. There's a little bit of fear... but mostly just anticipation of what's to become of all the unknown. But I'm confident that there will be a good story at the end.

It was a refreshing week at home. Sweet to revisit some of the stories I've lived. Sweeter to write a few new ones. It's safe to say there will be tears in my eyes as I board a plane in the morning.

Cheers to the stories you're living... to the conflicts you overcome and get to tell about later... and to the relationships that seem to appear in all of them.

And don't be afraid to get a little creative in your story... I plan on going on some new adventures this year. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pick up your spoon.

Wow... it's been a while since I've written. To be completely honest, I haven't felt super inspired to write much this summer. Don't get me wrong, it's been a wonderful summer. Full of blessings — overflowing with them, even — but it's just been so routine. Work. Summer school. Jonesboro. (No offense, Jonesboro... I do love you) It's my first summer in Jonesboro... the first time I haven't gone off and done something adventurous. But God's been in it, and He's showed up in some of the sweetest ways. I think He's teaching me to grow up a little... I've learned some tough lessons this summer.

He's disciplining me, because that's what good dads do.

One thing I've learned this summer is that there will be seasons of my life when people are pouring into me and I won't have to do much in order to be fed... and those seasons are wonderful! But there will also be seasons when I have to work harder to feed myself, and I've been in one of those seasons this summer. I was talking to God one day recently, telling Him I was kind of frustrated with the way this summer has gone for me spiritually. It just hasn't been as rich and abounding with growth and purpose as summers past... and then I realized I was kind of complaining as if it were His fault or something. So I stopped and began to tell Him I'm sorry that I've not been spending as much quality time with Him lately as I'd like to. And then I remembered a conversation I had with my "yoda" Eve Sarrett probably two years ago...

"Sara, how old were you when your mom stopped feeding you?"

"Umm... like actually feeding me with a spoon? Without my help?"

"Yeah, do you remember it?"

"No... I don't. I assume it was when I was much too little to remember stuff like that."

"Why do we think we need to be spiritually spoon fed then?"

"Hmm... I don't know. Good point."

"Sometimes I just want to tell kids to pick up their damn spoon."

... Pick up your spoon. It was like God told me that the other day. And that's not to say that we don't need people pouring into us, and challenging us and helping us grow. Community is HUGE. But I think it's so easy in Bible Belt America to just go to church, attend a Bible study, let somebody else do all the work and not have to really put much effort into our relationship with Jesus.

Why do we do that? There was a period of probably 2 weeks this summer that I was so frustrated, knowing that what was missing was a closeness to the Lord, something I have complete capability of changing, and I just kind of let it happen... being in a bad mood, being mentally and emotionally exhausted, probably slowly becoming less enjoyable to be around... and I was just coasting along in that state of being. Gross! Who wants to hang out with that!?

And then I picked up my spoon. And the best part about a God who's a God of grace and unconditional love is that He never withholds anything from us. The sweetest thing about Jesus is that even when I'm stagnant in my pursuit of Him, He is always pursuing me. And when we come back and we say, "Dad, I'm sorry I haven't checked in with you in a few days/weeks/months, etc..." He just says, "I've been waiting for you... just so I can tell you I love you too."

What constantly blows my mind is that even though I go through these selfish seasons of, "God, why don't I have ______? Don't you know that I need it?" ... He still wants to pour out blessings as soon as I realize that He's bigger than all my worries, frustrations and wants.

He's a good dad. That's why He disciplines. That's why He teaches us to pick up our spoons. And when our hearts are aligned with His, He also blesses us... because He's a good dad.