Love the Gift

First things first: the blog got a makeover! I’m so pleased with this clean new interface. There are three new pages at the top (there’s an expandable menu if you’re on mobile): About Me, Contact Me, and Writing Portfolio. That last one is pretty empty at the moment, but I have several things in the works, including a story I sold that will be published next week. Make sure to check those pages out!

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The past few weeks have been up and down. Lots of stress, but lots of good times. A few weeks ago I was at an old friend’s house for a bonfire with some other old friends, and I was thinking how cool it is to grow up (well–sometimes). Here are these people that I remember hanging out with in middle school doing dumb things, teasing each other, goofing off in class. And now–we’ve grown up. We’re going into the Marine Corps, or we’re getting ready for college, or we’re bypassing college to jumpstart our careers, and we’re going to change the world–all of us. I know it.

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God has been teaching me a lot lately–big things and little things. I’m finding that I want a raw faith; something bare. Something stripped down of everything unnecessary… I want to pare away all the excess. Just Jesus. I’m seeing that I take the littlest things and obsess over them, and I can’t make myself stop, as much as I want to. I’m realizing that I love Jesus more than life itself.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having some troubles with joy and contentment. I really prayed about it; one day, the power randomly went out right when I got up, and I had my Bible time by flashlight. It was fun. It started out as a typical morning, a good day–working on my marine biology study guide and listening to Ben Rector while I cleaned the kitchen. The power eventually came back on, and I was making cookies for someone’s birthday at church. Long story short, I pulled a big bowl of hot butter out of the microwave too quickly and spilled it all over myself and the kitchen. As I tried to mop up the slippery floor, the words kept repeating themselves in my head–this is it. This is it. How are you going to handle this? Here’s your golden opportunity to have the joy you’ve been praying for. There was one other phrase, too: what a typical Wednesday! Yep, it was a Wednesday. Hump day. I was able to laugh about the butter and not let it ruin my day (PSA to everyone who ate the cookies in choir: I started over with new butter) but it made me think. Why do we personify the days the way we do? We complain about every day of the week except Friday or Saturday. Well, we complain about those, too–we say they’re over too quickly.

To give another example, my family had a mini-vacation last weekend. We were all off work on Friday, so we took the day and went for a hike. We drove through the mountains for hours, stopped at cute farmer’s markets and general stores, and hiked 4.6 miles to a beautiful summit. Then we came home for gluten-free pizza and our new favorite TV show, Expedition Unknown. I don’t remember the last time I had a day without a to-do list; I definitely didn’t want to go back to “real life,” even after just one day off. But here’s my challenge to all of us: let’s be grateful for each and every day of the week. Let’s throw out the endless memes complaining that it’s Monday and we have to go back to work or school. Instead, let’s be excited about the prospect of a fresh start and the fact that we get to go back to the place God has put us. Let’s stop assuming that because it’s Hump Day, everything will go badly. Instead, let’s have a cheerful mindset and make it be a great day.

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I recently read two beautiful quotes that I’m in love with:

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that He gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

–Shauna Niequist

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth ‘home.’ Before you know it, I am calling luxuries ‘needs’ and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mindset that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mindset.”

–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

The big question in my mind for a week or two has been this: can these quotes co-exist? Can they merge? They present two completely different pictures to me. Today I’m in America; at this very moment, actually, I’m sitting in Panera Bread drinking a green smoothie and working on scholarship essays. I just got done with a voiceover session, where I was able to figure out my microphone problems and get some artistic direction. Later I have work and practice. They’re all good things; I’m enjoying my day, and I hope I’m glorifying God through it. But like John Piper said–I forget. I can go a whole day–longer, probably–and not even think about the unreached people groups, especially the one specific one I love so much. I can get so caught up in my luxury and in serving Jesus from cushy coffee shop chairs, that I forget that sometimes I’m called to spread the Kingdom in tougher ways. Are cold tangerines and pink shoes the luxuries that John Piper is talking about? Nothing is wrong with tangerines and shoes; but what if I put them above everything? What if I’d rather sit in America and eat tangerines when people in third-world countries have never heard the name of Jesus?

I don’t really know how to explain this; I’ve just been thinking about these two quotes a lot lately. Either way I am glorifying God with my life, but many days the Shauna Niequist quote sounds more appealing than the John Piper one. Sometimes, frankly, I just don’t want to have a war-time mindset–I just want to enjoy my good books and clean white sheets.

Here’s my proposition. I want to “love the gift” of eternal life that God has given me by sharing it with others. I want to make Him belly laugh with the joy, grace, and gentle humor I have in serving everywhere I can. I don’t want to forget the war; I don’t want missions and unreached people to drop out of my mind. I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud, yes, but I want it to be centered around loving others with everything in me. Then, and only then, I think I will have the best of both worlds.

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