30 Days of Celebration: The Unappreciated Gift

30 Days of Celebration: The Unappreciated Gift

Sometimes it hits me how very little I deserve all that I have.

My very life is a gift, for starters. It was given to me. I am not my own, I was bought with a price, in every way.

But even more than that, I have been very overwhelmed these days by how undeserving I am of my day-to-day. The house I’m living in, the job I have, the friends I’m surrounded with. They are all gifts, none of them earned. I think, in the past, I have convinced myself that I “deserve” the things in my life. But I don’t.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do with all of these gifts. How can I receive them, if I have nothing to pay in return? Why do I have them all in the first place? And I will spend all of my time questioning all that I have and not celebrating it.

God has lately been urging me to think of it all as Christmas morning. It is as if He is giving me gifts, wrapped in beautiful bows, and instead of tearing apart the paper and delighting in what’s inside, I stare at the box. And I ask Him why He gave it to me. I question His motives. And I tell Him I don’t deserve it.

And so the present sits there, untouched, unopened, unappreciated.

And God, the Giver, the one who put intricate detail into it, the one who thought it all out especially for me, is sad. I can imagine, at least. I can imagine the feeling of giving such an incredible gift and to watch it go unappreciated.

And that’s what my life is: an incredible gift. I want to appreciate it. I don’t want to stare at it, I don’t want to question it, I don’t want to neglect it. I want to tear the paper open, rip into the box, behold the wonder of it all, and jump around the living room with a smile across my face because I have been given something amazing.

Something worth celebrating.

 

30 Days of Celebration: When It’s Too Much

30 Days of Celebration: When It’s Too Much

I am well aware that I have been spending my days on an unlikely adventure.

I haven’t been updating my blog much lately because it has been so crazy, but I think it’s time to CELEBRATE the story I’m in.

I graduated college in May, and you can see the latest post for my feelings on that. It was hard. Unlike some people, I didn’t really know where I was going or what I was doing. I had interviewed one place, and so my eggs were kind of all sitting in that one basket. I was heartbroken from leaving all that I knew and loved. I like to think of myself as this adventurer, but in reality I’m still just a kid who gets scared and wants to crawl into her parents’ bed when things are too hard.

So, of course, God decided to take me on a whirlwind.

I didn’t get that one gig I had hoped for. Square one. I thought of a few options here and there, walked through my summer unsure. I have never been one to crave career, per se. Remember, I like to think of myself as an adventurer?

So I decided to actually pray about it. And do this weird thing called walking by faith. (To be clear, I stink at it. Really bad. But God is faithful anyways.)

Just when I felt at the end of myself, I got a text from my brother who lives in South Carolina. He invited me to come and stay with him for a week or two and try to find work down there. And when I say I felt at the end of myself, I’m not kidding. It wasn’t very triumphant. I cried and called him and said “I’m in”. And that was that.

I visited South Carolina just 2 months ago, aaaand… nothing. No jobs. I had applied a lot of places, and nothing came through. At least, nothing that would pay the bills. And so I waited, and waited,

and waited.

And two days before my trip was over, I decided to try one last time at the places I had looked into. I was mainly applying at churches, so I drove around with my resume as a last attempt. And at the last minute I decided to go ahead and visit a church someone had mentioned the week before, one I had never heard of and never would have looked into.

I figured, worth a shot? I was desperate, remember.

I walked in, they swiftly told me they weren’t hiring, but then just as I was about to walk out, they stopped me and told me that they do have an internship of sorts that might interest me. They said it was called a Fellowship, which is basically fancy speak for a church taking recent college graduates under their wing and teaching them how to be Christians in the workplace.

I had never heard of it. I decided to take the contact information for the director, just in case.

But let me remind you, this was mid-August. Surely a program like that was starting real soon, and the chances of me getting in would be slim to none.

But desperate, remember?

So the next day I decided to just contact the woman who ran it. Why not, right? I was still staring down no job, no housing situation, and a swift plane flight back to my parent’s place. I sent an email out – “Hi I’m Maddie! Let me be in your program??”

And 10 minutes later, got one back.

“Hi Maddie! You are actually way too late to apply for this program. It starts next week.”

Cool.

But… we actually had someone drop out just days ago. We have a spot open. Give me a call?”

And so I did. And I applied, interviewed, got accepted, and moved within a week.

 

I write this, 2 months later, still baffled that this is my story at all. And do you know what’s craziest about the whole thing? I am tempted, every single day, to not celebrate the story I’m living. Because let me tell you, packing up and moving and changing everything about your life in a week is not easy. It’s just not. The Lord lead me here, surely. I can’t begin to tell you how any of this is possible without the hand of a loving God. There’s just no way.

But just because God leads us somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it will most definitely be hard. But I celebrate today because hard doesn’t mean bad. Hard is something worth celebrating, because it grows us. It teaches us a lot.

I could go into so much detail about what I’ve learned in these 2 months already, but that will have to be for another post. For now, just know that God really is faithful. The things you think will tear you apart, won’t. The times that death will surely win, it won’t. Maybe physically, yes, for none of us can stop that. But spiritually, death has no say. The Bible talks about being upheld by the hand of God, by walking through fire and not being burned, by not being overwhelmed by the rivers.

And I’m here to tell you, it’s true. For every ounce of earthly disappointment and trial, spiritual growth is ten-fold.

And today, I celebrate that. I celebrate the headache I’ve had for 2 months because I can’t keep up with all the change. I celebrate the tears of leaving what I love. I celebrate the mornings I can hardly get out of bed because it’s just too much for me.

Because, yeah, it is too much for me. And yet I’m not crushed. It’s the hand of God.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

30 Days of Celebration: Time is a Thief?

30 Days of Celebration: Time is a Thief?

I wasn’t ready to graduate college.

I know that some of my classmates that day were practically tearing the doors down to get out of there. They couldn’t wait to graduate. They highly anticipated whatever was next, so excited to be done with dorm bathrooms and cafeteria food.

And I’m happy for them, I really am. But I wasn’t ready to leave.

My friends describe me as a wholehearted person. Whatever I do, I do with all of me. The “one foot in, one out” concept is pretty foreign, because if I’m doing something I’m going to have both feet in, getting mud on my hands, scraping moments out of minutes. I’m going to invest in the people there and the places there. I’m going to scrapbook my adventures. I’m going to fall in love. It’s what I do, it’s the way I was made.

So leaving college, after 4 wonderful years of tears, laughter, adventures, late nights, relationships… it felt to me like being left at the alter. “Really, college? After all this time we spent together? Nothing?”

Left, high and dry. May 5th came and went, and there was nothing I could do about it. I celebrated a little, and I cried a lot, because college was never about the degree for me. I wasn’t there to get it over with. I was there to be there, and I wasn’t ready to stop being there.

But Time had its own say.

Graduation day came whether I wanted it to or not. It came and went. And it’s taken me some time to realize how much I began to resent Time because of it. It’s like the final slap in my lack of control. I can’t stop Time.

I can’t slow it down, can’t control it. It will pass, and with it is change, whether good or bad.

I’m beginning to realize that it is exactly the things we can’t change that we need to celebrate the most, because they were not made in our design. The older I get the more I realize that I didn’t make this world, and I don’t rule it. But I was made to live in it, and loving the Creator means loving the Creation.

And today that means loving Time.

 

Time is a gift. In the beginning, God made 7 days to be in a week. He gave us rhythm, and rest. He designed our bodies to thrive within the constraints of Time.

Time brings long, wonderful nights of sleep.

Time brings the change of seasons, both in nature and in my life. It makes the leaves change and the snow to come and the spring to reign.

Time has a front row seat as people meet and fall in love, as broken pasts are healed, and I see God viewing time as an adventure. It’s like the turning of a book page in a really great novel. Why would you stay on the same page forever? To turn the page is to usher in what’s next, the adventure waiting for the character.

And why would God not turn that page in my life? I want Time to stop because I fear change, but God doesn’t. My favorite verse in the Bible lately is Psalm 139:16 –

all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

What a shame it would be to not see those pages lived out! Thank you, Time!

 

Today I choose to live my life like I really am seen and known by a God who loves me. I choose to believe that He really does have good plans for me, that He really does see me. And I know it to be true, because He made me. He who made my life will see it through.

And Time will pass, but that’s ok. It’s good, because with it brings growth and love and change, all things hard but beautiful.

30 Days of Celebration: Wait, Don’t I Deserve This?

30 Days of Celebration: Wait, Don’t I Deserve This?

Ok, honesty hour: I haven’t given very much thought into this endeavor. 30 days of celebration.

Every day of November will bring thoughts on the topic, but I haven’t thought out each post or planned an order. Instead, my fingers type these words as my clouded mind tries to keep up. I write today for me, and although I hope you read my words this next month, most of them will be written for completely selfish reasons.

I need celebration. I need gratitude. I need it all so badly. And so I write.

I don’t sit down today out of any sort of abundance. My cupeth does not overflow. Instead, my head hurts. It’s hard to keep up with the life around me. Anxiety and doubt have been my response to pretty much everything for months. I feel like a sojourner through a harsh desert, desperate for water.

Celebration is that water.

It’s crazy how a critical heart seeps its way into my life. I am often described as a “happy” person, always positive and cheerful. My whole life people have used those words to describe me, but there are so many days that those very words eat me alive. “What if they really knew what was in my mind?” Because I’m tellin you, folks, it is often not a pretty place.

And so today I take my very first sip of water, in what I pray will be a refreshing month.

I think I’ve always viewed celebration as optional in the life of a Christian. Some Christians celebrate things, some don’t. But I am learning that lack of celebration and gratitude is actually a deep form of hideous pride. Who am I? Who am I to tell God that He created a single thing wrong? Who am I to critique the world I was given, the life I was given?

I used to have this idea that I deserved what I had. I think we all do, growing up. Entitlement: the thief of gratitude. This last summer, my sense of entitlement became a beast that began to eat me alive. I distinctly remember the moment I pleaded with God to be free from it. After graduating college, I faced some rejection, had some setbacks, and I got mad at God. How dare He? Isn’t this my life?

And I let it just sit there for months, waiting for God to give me what I surely deserved. Until one day I woke up and realized that I was miserable as all get-out. Nothing would be good enough for me. Nothing would satisfy me. Nothing. I walked around like ticking time bomb, and it took very little to set me off, to make me mad at God for the life I had.

But there came a moment what it hit me like a sack of flour, doubled me over. On my knees. “Jesus, what is wrong with me? Why is everything a disappointment? People expect me to be this optimistic person, but if they could only see my heart for one moment. I don’t know what to say but change me. Change my mind. Take away my entitlement.” 

I thought I could keep criticism as a pet. I thought I could keep it under control. I mean, surely I am entitled to my own opinions, aren’t I? Everyone seems to say so. Everywhere you look, that’s all you see: people and their opinions. And I had a few of my own: I should have gotten that job. He should like me back. I should have been made different. I deserve a more clean-cut world to live in.

And I know I don’t have to tell you this, but that kind of thinking eats a person alive. Bob Goff, in his book “Love Does”, describes lack of gratitude as “seeing something really beautiful as just normal”. What a delightfully plain statement for such a deep reality.

I don’t want to pass over beauty as though I deserve it, as though the intricacies of this gorgeous world should be regarded as nothing. Or not enough. I am learning that celebration springs forth from an earthy, solid realization that nothing we have is earned. What single thing did you or I do to deserve our gift of life? Anyone who doesn’t see life as a gift doesn’t look very closely at its humble beginnings. Every breath, every blink of the eye, every headache, every heartbreak, every trauma. None of it deserved, all of it given.

The world tells us daily that we own our lives, and that way of thinking has held me captive for so many seasons. What a change it is when we realize that our lives are not our own, that we don’t have to flounder around trying to make something of them! When I realize that I deserve the worst of deaths, that I did nothing to give myself life, suddenly celebration is the only logical response. I would be nothing without the God who gave it all to me.

And that’s what this month is about, reminding myself of these things. The Bible says to think about what is lovely and admirable and worthy of praise. I use to read those words as nice advice, but now I know that they are a slap in the face of my pride. A reality check. Who am I to spend a single moment critiquing the God who made it all?

So let’s lay down our pride for a change, yeah? I’m ready for some refreshment, for some healing to my bones. Settle down with me this month. Let’s see it all differently.

I know I need to.

 

It’s Time To See The Good

It’s Time To See The Good

I have a confession. This isn’t what I was going to post. I already had something else written, spell checked, tagged and ready to go, but I woke up this morning and realized I couldn’t post it.

Because it was 1,000 words about what was wrong with my life, what was wrong with the church, what is wrong about what is happening around me right now. And I’m tired of focusing on everything that doesn’t fit where I want it to.

You see, I’m the problem. I have blamed a million things for my negative attitude, but nothing is to blame but the brain between my ears and the crooked heart in my chest. And it’s oddly liberating to know this, because for so long I couldn’t understand how the world we live in could be so paradoxical. It had my head spinning, for it would seem so dark to me, as I awoke on an aimless Saturday morning, or wrote another paper, or gazed at the unknown days ahead. The world seemed menacing and dark to me, and yet I would go for an evening run to Walmart, and as I drove past an open lot the ground would glitter with lightening bugs and the sky would be seven shades of red and I couldn’t understand how a world so beautiful could seem so dark to me.

And now I know: the lightning bugs have it right. They are beautiful because they can’t help it – they were programmed and designed to spread glitter across green landscape. They were simply created beautifully and so was I, and any day I refuse to believe that is a sad waste of precious time.

I’m only 22, but I have lost entire seasons of my life worrying myself to panic or, worse, sleep. I couldn’t figure out how I could be so tired by 11 am until I realized that I had created an exhausting world in my own head. I was torturing myself with my negative thoughts, and it wore me out. I was literally making myself sick with worry. And it was all my fault, in the best of ways.

I’m glad it was my fault, because I don’t want to blame the world or God or anyone else.

Sometimes, when I am sick and in my mind, I just step outside and allow this world to be all that it is to me. And the sun’s heat, the mismatched clouds, the sounds of lawns being mowed, they heal me. I recently spent two weeks beneath Italian mountains, and the way they rose from the forest blanket, staring at the sky and daring to be grander than anything else around them… I was small in the best way. I really am allowed to let go and give my worries to the mountains and the God who fashioned them perfectly.

I can lean into friendships. The people who make me laugh without trying. The eyes I can stare straight into without fearing what they see. The people who validate my fears, cry through memories of boys I shouldn’t have liked, and still view me as a whole, capable woman through it all. The people who instill confidence in me, who build me up, who let me dare to be more than who I am today. Who told me I could be more in the first place.

And Jesus. Jesus. My shepherd who died to give me life I don’t appreciate, days I worry out of existence. Why do I think so small when I have a Father who made everything?

So today I choose. As one who chooses to lose weight from their body, I choose to lose weight from my mind and soul. It doesn’t happen all at once, but change begins with a choice. For me, it’s a pledge to gratitude. It’s a decision to fight the stress headaches and negative perception by Truth and new foundations. It’s a promise to have fun. To think of nothing sometimes. To dream again. A new way of living that I used to be good at, until I thought I had to play God in my life.

And that’s why I couldn’t publish that other post. It can’t be me anymore. I don’t need to tell you what’s wrong in this world, and I surely don’t have to tell myself.

But I do need a reminder of what is beautiful and worth my musings. I need to remember who God is in this world and who God is in mine.

And maybe you need that reminder, too.