“Nah, I don’t really like the broken ones.”

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Sunset Beach, California has some stellar sea shells. So that’s where we went hunting. We all woke up ready to hit the beach for a morning walk and search for shells. Dad, Mom, Brian, and I trekked across the parking lot, through the sand, onto the beach to begin our pursuit of unique shells worthy of placing into our shell bags to take home.

We found white shells and grey shells. Shells with striped patterns. Tiny shells and big shells. Oyster shells and clam shells. Twisty shells and flat shells. Each one had endured the journey from the ocean floor, being tossed and turned beneath the waves, until they reached the shore and were scooped up into our hands, rinsed one last time in the salty seas, and gently stored away for safe keeping.

As I was walking along the beach, listening to the crashing waves, hearing the caws of the seagulls above, watching the sand pipers’ quick legs propel them away from the crashing water, and darting my eyes up, down, and side to side searching for shells, Brian ran up to me. He had a big clam shell in his palm and I noticed it had a big chunk missing; it hadn’t reached the surface unharmed. “Look at this one, Megan!” Brian exclaimed. “Oh wow, that’s cool,” I replied. “Why don’t you keep it for your bag?” he said. “Nah, I don’t really like the broken ones,” I replied.

He tossed it aside and continued his search. As I looked back down at the sandy beach, scoping out various shells, I couldn’t shake a thought. I kept hearing myself over and over saying, “Nah, I don’t really like the broken ones.” I mean just because a shell is broken, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. There is beauty in brokenness. But I still didn’t want it.

Then I had another thought. What if God spoke those words? What if every time we lifted our aching hearts to Him, he said, “Nah, I don’t really like the broken ones.” Then we were tossed aside, abandoned, forgotten.

In that moment on the beach, feeling the sand between my toes, my heart was filled with thankfulness and praise. I became so grateful for the reminder that He does not treat us as our sins deserve. That in our brokenness, He doesn’t toss us aside. No, instead He holds us in His mighty hands and says “My child, bring me your brokenness, for I will make you whole.”

I Don’t Want to Live for Me

My devotional last night hit me like a ton of bricks. God knew I needed to read it. Here’s what it said:

“My pastor, Jamie George, recently said something in a sermon that caused my eye to twitch a little bit (my usual physical reaction in a moment of confusion, shock or epiphany). “I exist not just to bring Him glory but also to inspire someone else.” Wait. So, you’re saying that my ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ is meant to involve other people? I thought this whole thing was between God and me, a two-way street, one on one. Apparently not.

There is a reason why we’re born into families and communities, no matter how messed up they may be. Our life is not our own – and this is not just in the “Jesus, my life is yours” sense. This means that our life is a weapon, an instrument, a force for good or evil in the daily existence of those around us.

In the past, I bought into the thinking that I could become more like Christ every day by simply reading my Bible in the mornings and praying before bed. Yet during the day, I would speak hurtful words to my sister, we would fight, I would judge her, I would complain to God that she was the only person in my life that caused any trouble. I wish I could go back and shake the younger version of myself by the shoulders and say, “You’re missing the point! God is using this relationship to refine you.” But for some reason, I thought that growth only happens when we’re alone with God. As I’ve learned to lean into the difficult relationships in my life, I’m finding that our moments of adoration and stillness before God are what prepares us for growth.

If Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” then may we get to the point where we can say, “This person who gets under my skin is a glorious opportunity for me to find my strength in God and be an example of Christ’s long- suffering and grace.”

 

I pray that our days won’t be filled with the “ups” of praying to God or reading his word and the “downs” of displaying frustration and anger to those who wrong us. Instead, let us “take this vow,” that we will live a life of steadfastness and commitment, receiving God’s grace and love and then giving it away to every life we come into contact with.”

-Moriah Peters, Brave

 

A Question of Surrender

“God, what is it that you have for my life?”

That right there is a question of surrender. A question that tells God we are coming to Him with open hearts ready for Him to do His will. It’s a scary question to ask because many times we don’t like the answer. But take comfort in this: God loves us so much more than we can ever comprehend or imagine so why in the world would His plan for our lives not be something so much better than we could ever create? Honestly, while asking that does make me a little nervous, it mostly makes me excited because thinking about doing God’s will makes my heart flutter with joy. The Author, Creator, and Lord of the Universe cares about me and has a plan for my life. I mean, how cool is that?! C.S. Lewis said it best:

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought, and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.”

It’s time for me to ask my question of surrender. God, what is it that you have for my life? Because I don’t want to do anything less than that.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?” And I answered, “Here am I. Send me!”

Into the Unknown

As I enter into my senior year of college, (that’s right, I’m going to be a senior in college…umm, how did that happen?) I find myself super excited but also incredibly terrified. Senior year holds a lot of lasts, countless goodbyes, and many thoughts buzzing in my mind regarding what the future holds. What is it exactly that I want to do? Am I ready to take on the “real” world? Will I make a difference?

I mean, I have a plan. I will graduate from College of the Ozarks in May with a degree in Speech Communication. From there, I will go to graduate school at Arizona State, get a Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology, and become a licensed Speech Therapist. I am going to work at S.E.E.K. (Specializing in the Education of Exceptional Kids) Arizona as a Speech Therapist. S.E.E.K Arizona provides behavioral health services, professional therapies, and direct care supports to both children and adults with developmental and behavioral disabilities, specializing in those on the autism spectrum. I would be working one on one with kids who have developmental disabilities (basically my dream come true) to help them become confident in their abilities. This job combines my love for speech, knowledge of sign language, fascination with words and the English language, preference of one on one interaction, passion for helping others, and experience with (and adoration for) people who have developmental disabilities all into one career.

Sure, I have a plan, and it’s a pretty great one if you ask me. It brings me so much joy and excitement imagining this plan playing out; and it makes me sad to think of this not being my future, so it makes sense to pursue it. But… if I know one thing about my life, it’s always unexpected. Rachel Wolchin put it best when she said, “My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned and that’s okay.”

I can dream a million dreams and make a million plans but at the end of the day, the Lord will direct my steps where He sees fit. While sometimes (well, most of the time) I don’t understand His ways or leading, I constantly remind myself to trust Him. So far, although my life hasn’t turned out as I expected, God has remained faithful and His leading has always made sense eventually. In every move my family has made, through every moment of wondering if we’d have enough money to make it through the month, during every unexpected and scary medical issue with various family members, God has been there, in control, with a plan, never once neglecting or forgetting about little me.

So, when I think about my future, about all the twists and turns ahead, all the bumps in the journey before me, and all the unknowns I have yet to face, I find myself looking back. Looking back at the road of life I have traveled so far and noticing that I have never walked alone. God has been there every step of the way and He has always proven faithful. He has never given me a reason to doubt His plans, no matter how bizarre they may appear.

In the end, looking into a future full of uncertainty, I can be sure of one thing – although I may not know what all my future holds, my God knows.

And that’s all I have to know.

My Journey in Jerusalem

Have you ever heard of those “Walk Through Bethlehem” events at church during Christmas time, where you walk through the scenes during the time of the birth of Jesus and experience what it might have been like? (Obviously, the stable was much dirtier than the church sanctuary, but you get the idea) Well this Easter my church put on a “Walk Through Jerusalem” event called, “Walk with Jesus.” It was a walk through Jerusalem during the time of the crucifixion. There were five stations.

The first station was a reenactment of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. Prior to beginning this, each participant colored cardboard cut outs of palm branches to place under Jesus’ feet. Our youth pastor, James, played “Jesus.” We decided to nix the donkey since this “Hosanna” moment was inside the nice clean church and upstairs. You can imagine the complications had there been a live donkey. The hallway “Jesus” would walk down was lined with the participants who had palm branches and articles of clothing in hand. I was the photographer, so it was my job to seize every opportunity to capture a great photo, and make it look as realistic as possible. As “Jesus” started walking down the hallway, everyone began yelling “Hosanna, Hosanna” and laying down their palm branches and garments so His feet did not touch the dusty Jerusalem roads.

Then, I let my imagination run wild.

I saw Him, the Jesus of Jerusalem, riding toward me. Covered in dust, dirty from His travels, worn from the journey, but smiling. His eyes were kind, His smile full of love. He had arrived. The Messiah had come. I heard myself exclaim, “Hosanna, Hosanna!”

I snapped back into reality, clicked some pictures and went onto the next station.

Station number two brought us to the Last Supper. “Jesus” was breaking bread, passing a cup of wine, and washing the feet of Peter. As He informed a surprised Peter that he would deny Him, “Jesus” went back to His seat and revealed that Judas would betray Him.

Then, I let my imagination run wild.

The Messiah, the Savior had come to take the sins of the world, yet His own men, the ones He had so faithfully discipled and loved would deny Him, betray Him, ignore Him. I felt the hurt that must have engulfed Him. Yet He still did what he had to do.

I snapped back into reality, clicked some pictures and went onto the next station.

Station number three was the Garden of Gethsemane – the place of betrayal. “Judas” entered the scene armed with Roman guards and sealed the betrayal of “Jesus” with a kiss. Such a sincere and gentle gesture that would signal the biggest mistake Judas would ever make – betraying the Savior of the world.

Then, I let my imagination run wild.

They took Him away. Judas kissed the Lord after Jesus had healed the ear of a servant with multiple witnesses, and had done nothing wrong. They took Him away. And He let them. Why would He let them? Jesus could have stopped it all. He had the power. But He didn’t do it. He didn’t stop them. Because it’s what the Father had sent Him to do. He had to die. It was part of the plan. So they took Him away.

I snapped back into reality, clicked some pictures and went onto the next station.

In between station three and four, the Roman guards dragged “Jesus” through a crowd who yelled, “Crucify Him!” I was one of the people who had to yell these words. I didn’t want to, but it was part of the act. I had to help people see what it was like during that time.

Then, I let my imagination run wild.

“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to say it. He is innocent. He shouldn’t have to die. Why is everyone yelling these words? Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched the Messiah get dragged to the cross to be crucified. Crucified for MY sins. Dying a death I should be dying.

I snapped back into reality, clicked some pictures and went onto the next station as the words to an old hymn played in my mind.

“Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished”

Station four was the station for which my mom had prepared a script. She was playing Mary, the mother of Jesus. The group walked in and “Mary” had her hands over her ears blocking out the yells of the people wanting her son to be crucified. She began to recite the script I had heard her practice countless times earlier that day in our living room.

Then, I let my imagination run wild.

Mary’s heart was breaking. From carrying Jesus in her womb, to all the years of raising Him as a baby, toddler, and young boy into the man He is today. The man who is about to be crucified. How is this the plan? This isn’t how the story is supposed to go. This is not how a king is supposed to die. Or is it? She watched the soldiers nail Him to a cross. She saw Him suffer. Her son; God’s son – carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders. Suffering and dying. Yet, after Jesus had passed countless scoffers who spit on Him, soldiers who beat Him, hurt Him, and mockingly made a crown of thorns that they dug into his scalp, and friends who betrayed Him, Mary looked into His eyes, and found they were not eyes full of anger, hate, or disgust, they were eyes full of love. Love. That’s why He was doing this. Love. After six hours on a cross, He proclaimed, “It is finished!” The ground shook, rocks began to crumble, and the temple curtain – four inches thick that separated everyone from entering into the Holy of Holies – ripped down the middle and flew open. Everyone now had complete access to the Creator of the Universe.

I snapped back into reality, clicked some pictures and went onto the next station.

At station five, the final station, was the empty tomb. Just when things seemed hopeless because the Messiah had died, we come upon the empty tomb. Death could not keep Him. The grave could not hold him from rising again.

Then, I let my imagination run wild.

I could see it. Three days. Jesus had been dead three days. Oh the amazement when the angel proclaimed that Jesus had risen, just as He said he would. What awe. What joy. Praise God! He is alive! He is alive! His love kept Him on the cross, but the power of His promise could not keep Him in the grave. He is risen!

I snapped back into reality, clicked some pictures and it was over.

It was over, but my mind continued to race. Jesus died for me. ME. A sinner, an undeserving sinner, far from perfect and unworthy of love. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. The only one who could fulfill the wrath of God through death on a cross. Can you imagine a love like that? It exists. It does. In the form of our Savior. He is ours. When we accept His gift of salvation, He lives inside of us.

If that doesn’t give you hope I don’t know what will. Imagine it – that kind of love, that kind of hope. Just do it – let your imagination run wild.

The MOST Wonderful Time of the Year!

Matthew West is one of my favorite singers. He mostly sings Christian contemporary, and I love the lyrics of his songs.  I love music, but honestly, if the lyrics mean diddly squat, I don’t like listening to it, hence why I love Matthew West so much.  What does the title of this post have to do with Matthew West you ask? Well, he wrote two songs about Christmas and they are SO different, yet I love them both for two different reasons.  The first, “Come on, Christmas,” is a fun upbeat song with words that don’t necessarily hold much meaning.

“Steal a kiss under the mistletoe
While old Bing sings, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow”
The only thing that’s left on my Christmas list is
I’m hopin’ to catch a peek of old’ St. Nick

Come on, Christmas
I don’t know why you’re taking so long, Christmas
Well, I’ve been waiting all year for you to get here
And I can’t take another second, can’t you hear me beggin’
Hurry up, Santa Claus
Here’s my number just in case your reindeer get lost
I sure wouldn’t mind, if you’re early this time
So, come on, come on, come on, Christmas”

“Come on, Christmas,” is a super fun upbeat song for the Christmas season that I would totally recommend playing in the background of your annual ugly sweater parties!  

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A World Full of Distrac – SQUIRREL

We live in a world full of distractions.  Phones, television, computers, internet, social media… everything is constantly grabbing for us. If you pause and get off the phone, you’ll discover a world full of zombies. People who are walking around brainlessly staring at a lighted screen full of false realities.   Cell phones have become a big problem for people in the world today. I don’t know what it is that makes phones so addicting; I don’t understand why people have the urge to share their life via every social media outlet.  I too have that issue.  I envy those who don’t. My generation has grown up in a world comprised of social media; we’ve grown up with a life where everything is at the tip of our fingers.  But I refuse to be taken captive by this temptation. I will not become a zombie. I encourage you to try something and I will too. This week, limit your use of cell phones and social media. Look around and enjoy the little things in life. Encourage others to do the same.  Spend a meal talking with each other rather than scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. The change in our society can happen and it starts with you.  Maybe, eventually, when you look up, everyone else will be looking too.