Tag Archives: life

If You Give a Maddie a Cookie

I’m sure you know the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It tells the story of a sweet little mouse who is hopelessly trapped in a circular tale of desire. He gets the cookie and realizes he wants milk. The milk makes him need napkin. The napkin reminds him that he wants to color. Coloring reminds him that he’s hungry. And so it goes…

A couple of months ago, I re-read this book inside Minneapolis’ Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Children. As a chicken ran around my feet and a cat nuzzled my leg, I was struck by this bedtime story’s similarity to my twenty-something life. Then again, isn’t that often how it goes with things that were meant for little ones?

Because, for as far as I’d like to imagine that I’ve come, I’m really no better than the mouse. Except we’ve swapped cookies and coloring for larger circumstances, life-related answers, and more adult-sized longings:

If the Lord gives Maddie a cookie, she’ll probably wonder where she’s going to eat the cookie.

When the Lord tells her where she can eat the cookie, she’ll probably wonder who she can share the cookie with.

When the Lord tells her that the people she will share the cookie with aren’t here yet, she’ll probably wonder when they will show up.

In waiting for them to show up, she’ll probably realize she wants some milk to go along with the cookie. So she’ll start praying for milk.

When the Lord gives her a glass of milk, she’ll drink it (probably forgetting to say “thank you”) and then ask for a napkin to wipe her face with.

Waiting for the napkin will remind her that she was also waiting on people to share her cookie with, which was the point of the milk in the first place.

One answer leads to the next, except the answers always seems to perpetuate more questions, more desires, more expectations about what’s next. Questions about today lead into questions about my future which remind me that I have questions about timing and purpose and desire and expectations, and next thing I know I’m searching for more answers than I am enjoying the cookie in front of me.

As much as I want to believe that I don’t fall into patterns like the little mouse, if I’m honest, it’s easier than I’d like to fall into this “giving a mouse her cookie” spirituality. I tell the Lord that if He’ll be clear about this one thing that I’ll be able to fully rest in trusting Him. If only I knew what internship or job to take, where I’m going to live after graduation, what my future community will look like, if I’ll get the scholarship, if I’ll ever end up overseas, who He’s asking me to serve with, etc. then I wouldn’t be so crazy, obsessive, or confused. I say that I’m not looking for answers to everything, just this one thing. Except it’s never just this one thing. As soon as the Lord gives me clarity on step 2, I’ve already begun searching for steps 3 and 4. The next thing I know, my trust in the Lord has gone out the window and I’ve convinced myself that I’ll be satisfied after the next step, but the next step never comes. The hamster wheel never flattens out and so we just keep running and spinning…fretting about what’s next, searching for the next answered prayer, all while missing what’s in the moment and being grateful for what’s passed.

The first step is realizing when we’ve fallen into patterns of running on the wheel and the second step is jumping off. Smelling the flowers. Enjoying our cookie. Sharing with the people around us. Expecting the napkin to come, sure, because God is a God who delights in providing and calls us to depend. But not worrying about the crumbs that are falling while we wait.

cookie

 

You’re Gonna Miss This

Remember when I wrote about crying in a coffee shop? Well, the other day I was sitting in the basement of my campus library, misty-eyed and sensing Jesus. I was literally in the middle of writing a paper about the natural sciences, minding my own business and looking at pictures of rocks. I don’t know why Jesus chooses meet me in some of the most unexpected moments in my life, but He does.

I was just sitting on the hard wooden chair, shivering and typing my paper, trying to figure out how to cite an unpublished Theories of Origins textbook. While unashamedly listening to my Sam Hunt pandora station (my favorite homework motivation music), You’re Gonna Miss This by Trace Adkins started playing in my headphones. I wasn’t even listening to worship music, y’all. Jesus chose to meet me in a country song. Just sayin’.

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The thing is, I’ve heard this song before. It wasn’t one of those “oh-my-word-this-is-a-new-song-and-the-lyrics-are-just-speaking-to-exactly-where-I’m-at” kind of moments. I’m not even the biggest Trace Adkins fan. Yet as the southern drawl enunciated lyric after lyric, I found that my typing slowed and my spirit stirred. . .

She was staring out the window of that SUV
Complaining, saying “I can’t wait to turn eighteen”
She said “I’ll make my own money, and I’ll make my own rules”
Momma put the car in park out there in front of the school
She kissed her head and said “I was just like you”

Before she knows it she’s a brand new bride
In her one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her “It’s a nice place”
She says “It’ll do for now”
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says “Baby, just slow down”

Five years later there’s a plumber workin’ on the water heater
Dog’s barkin’, phone’s ringin’
One kid’s cryin’, one kid’s screamin’
She keeps apologizin’
He says “They don’t bother me
I’ve got two babies of my own
One’s 36, one’s 23
It’s hard to believe

The chorus goes like this:

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

They may not be the most profound lyrics in the world. Maybe you hate country music and don’t even think they are that good. Regardless, they met me in the library with a glorious weight of conviction.

I get that the world, our culture in particular, moves at a “get-to-the-next-thing” kind of pace. We spent highschool dreaming about the day we’ll be in college. College is spent stressing about how we’ll get a job when we graduate. When we get employed after graduation, we wonder when we’ll get married. And when will we have kids? When will we move to a bigger house? How soon until retirement? Grandkids? Great-grandkids? Vacation? We spend our lives looking towards whatever is next. The funny thing is, this futuristic way of thinking often lends itself to idealistic reminiscing. We look back on our lives and wish that we only knew how good we had it back then. We remember tidbits of the past with a fondness that we didn’t feel when we were living it. All while rushing full steam ahead to the next season.

I just wonder why, as Christians, are we okay with living our lives like this? Why do I live like this?We live at the same rushed pace as the rest of the world. Most of the time we do it in the name of “ministry” or for the glory of the Lord. And while Jesus traveled, healed, spoke, and lived out a vibrant, busy ministry, He never did so at a pace that would’ve caused him to miss the moment. Jesus was all about being present where He was at. He found stillness in the midst of pressing crowds. He found joy in the midst of questions. He found purpose, growth, and the Father during times it would’ve been easier to just look ahead to whatever was next.

My internship coordinator has been helping me walk through the process of looking for a summer internship. As I ramble on and on about where I’m going to intern and the frustrations of the application process, he continues to remind me that my internship doesn’t start my first day on the job. My internship started the day I realized I needed to get an internship. It includes every opportunity that has fallen through, every application that I’ve spent hours writing, all the prayers over the places I could go and things I could do. I’m quick to want to get past all of this – the discomfort, the questions, the busywork, the unknowns. I want the internship. Or better yet, I want the potential job after the internship ends. I want the summary paper that I’ll write at the end of the internship class that ties up and makes sense of the whole thing. But that just causes me to miss what’s happening right now. The process. The journey. The ways Jesus is moving, even before things seem to be happening.

It’s fun to dream about what’s next, whether that’s tomorrow or ten years from now. It’s often more fun than focusing on the heartbreak, confusion, schoolwork, diapers, tantrums, questions, drama, and dirty dishes of the moment. But I think Trace Adkins is onto something. Something that I need to be constantly reminded of. It’s not just about moments that we are going to miss someday. It’s about whether or not we are missing Jesus in the moment.

All we’ve been promised is today. This moment. And someday, I’m going to look back on that day in the library and writing this blog post when I should be writing a paper, as a growing, maturing, often overwhelmed Junior in college. It doesn’t always feel good or fun or exciting, but I know that I’m going to look back and miss this. These moments of laughter. Moments of clarity. Moments of tears. I just don’t want to miss them while I’m here. And I really don’t want to look back and say that I missed Jesus in them. Because He’s here, and so are we.

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Hanging with the Stars

One of my friends convinced me to go to this ministry she helps run. It’s called Hanging with a Star. You basically watch and love on adults with special needs, which gives their caregivers a little break. A couple weeks ago we took them to a Wheaton basketball game. Today, we went Christmas shopping at Target and then helped them wrap their gifts.

I love serving and caring for people, but if I’m honest, the reason I initially went was more to love my friend than it was for the Stars. I’ve never had experience working with anyone with special needs, much less adults. I think I just assumed I didn’t have a “heart” for people with disabilities because I haven’t ever really been around them.

I’m so grateful I was wrong. I’m so grateful I do have a heart for these people because Jesus has a heart for them. I’m grateful that in trying to care for the Stars, they turned around to love and encourage me in such meaningful ways. I’m grateful for the ways they make me laugh and smile. They bring out fearless, extraverted, childlike, confident, caring pieces of me that frankly I didn’t know I had. I’m grateful for who they each are and the ways they demonstrate love and community among one another. I’m grateful that they welcome us in every couple weeks. I was grateful that Ric remembered who I was from the basketball game. I’m grateful that I got to walk around Target with him today.

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Here’s a couple things you should know about Ric . . .

  • He’s a speed-walker when it comes to shopping. I’d glance for an extra second at something and when I looked back he would be halfway down the isle. I spent most of the time jogging around Target to keep up with him. For someone who’s got a lot of things trying to weigh him down and hold him back, Ric lives life at a vibrant pace. Kind of like how he threw off his jacket and took off with the cart, he strips off everything that holds him back. He’s not afraid to just go.
  • He can’t really talk. He understands a lot and can make sounds or motions, but it’s hard for him to form words. This makes Ric an amazing listener. Since we finished our shopping twice as fast as everyone else (see previous comment), we ended up having to wait in the Target café area. Besides giving quick answers to my questions and telling me that everyone else was taking too long, all Ric did was listen. He didn’t give his opinion or advice. He didn’t seem uninterested. He simply smiled and listened. To stories about my family and friends, to my recent boy interactions, to things I love about Christmas, to what Jesus has been teaching me.
  • He was very excited to buy Christmas socks for the girls on his list. He picked out ones with penguins and ones with a dog and I wasn’t about to argue with a choice he was so obviously pleased with. Ric found joy in the simplest things. He laughed when I tripped over myself trying to catch up to him. He laughed when I ran around a pole because the isles were crowded. He smiled when a Christmas song came on and he asked me to dance. Ric saw the joy in the seemingly insignificant things and wasn’t afraid to make them the big things that brought him life.
  • Ric was also not afraid to ask for help. I’d mention, mostly to myself, that I didn’t know where something was, and when I turned around, Ric was tapping on someone’s shoulder and motioning me over to ask them where it was. He seemed to understand, better than I do, that things are better when you reach out to others. Shopping for him wasn’t about going it alone but depending on others. Who knew that Target could be a place of such vulnerability? As it turned out, there was only one card matching game in the whole store and we wouldn’t have found it if this lady hadn’t shown us where it was.

Not only did I enjoy my time with my sweet friend Ric, I learned a lot from him today. And I kind of think that’s who we should surround ourselves with.

The Ordinary Life of Making Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool:

“One day, I’m going to sit in eternal fellowship in Heaven and I’m afraid I won’t have any glorious stories to tell.” February 23, 2013

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The truth that there won’t be any sin, crying, identity-issues, or comparison in Heaven (Revelation 22:3-6) didn’t stop my heart from questioning it’s worth before both the Lord and other believers. What was I doing and was it enough? Was I enough? Was I living in the fullness of the extraordinary life that everyone talks about having in Jesus? Because writing papers, meeting with middle schoolers at Starbucks once a week, and trying to keep up with a blog that no one really reads didn’t feel like enough. Depending on the Lord looked like my trusting him in small things and I just wasn’t convinced that a story of his faithfulness in having grace with my siblings or building new friendships was what someone was looking for on a testimony night.

But then I came across this article.

Have you ever heard of Bert Elliot? Me neither. He’s the brother of the missionary Jim Elliot. I was surprised that I’d never heard of Bert, given my admiration for Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Honestly, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be at Wheaton College if it hadn’t come up while I was reading The Journals of Jim Elliot the summer before my senior year. The Lord has used their stories and books to shape me in some pretty formative ways.

You can imagine I was pretty curious about this mysterious Elliot brother. Why had I never come across him? Because he was just an average guy who loved Jesus and his family and his neighbor. Nothing spectacular. Not the kind of thing they write books about or dramatize on the Big Screen. The article summed it up this way:

“In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that . . . There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.”

 

So, after reading this article, I spent the next few days wrestling. I looked back on the posture of my heart in 2013 and found myself digging up remnants of the same insecurity, while trying to rest in the truth of Scripture and testimonies of faithful, unknown people like Bert Elliot. And then, with the most unlikely of analogies, something clicked.

You probably didn’t know this about me, but I played powderpuff football this year for our Junior Class. I was drafted (aka they had to find a spot on the team for me) as an offensive line-woman for the 2015 powderpuff football game.

Trying to recall everything my dad had taught me about football before our coach walked over, I realized pretty quickly that I knew nothing about the line. I knew they hit people, but that was about it. I could name quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Maybe even a few kickers or safeties. But I was drawing a blank when it came to the line. Honestly, what did they even do?

Yet as we ran drill after drill, I began to see the importance behind the job I’d been given. When the coaches called a pass play, if I didn’t hold the defense back, the quarterback would be at best under pressure and at worst, sacked. We were responsible for giving our QB the most valuable thing in the game: time. People weren’t there to watch us. No one would remember our blocks. We weren’t making tackles, throwing winning plays, or scoring touchdowns. Memorable plays don’t have the names of the offensive line attached, but you better believe they wouldn’t have happened it we hadn’t made our blocks.

That was our job: make our block. Block the girl in front of you. Don’t let her get to the QB.

Make your block. It wasn’t an extraordinary job. But it’s what we were asked to do. We were asked to do it faithfully, play after play.

I think this is exactly what Jesus calls us to do too.

 

photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team
photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team

It reminds me of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

I’m reminded that the lot the Lord gives each of us looks different. Our stories will be different because the way Jesus is moving in each of our lives is different. We aren’t called to throw the football if we’ve been drafted for the line, just like Bert Elliot was not called to live the same life that his brother did. God’s faithfulness in my life may not look like thousands coming to Jesus or spectacular miracles, but that doesn’t make the stories any less about God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know where you are reading this.

Maybe you’re life looks a lot like playing quarterback or being a “Jim Elliot,” streaking meteor. Maybe God’s showing up in some pretty amazing ways and calling you to some radically transformative things. That’s amazing. We need your stories of dependance on the Lord and His provision in your life! Let the body of believers be encouraged by the stewardship of your talents.

But maybe that doesn’t describe your season, your calling, or your life. Maybe you are living a seemingly ordinary day-to-day faithfulness of dishes, homework, errands, laundry, phone calls, and deadlines. The life where taking the next step in obedience often goes unnoticed by those around you. But it doesn’t go unnoticed by the Lord. It isn’t insignificant to Him. Your life of dependance is amazing too. We need your stories. When His faithfulness looks like getting you out of bed in the morning with a smile or letting a dying car make it to the next appointment, it’s still His faithfulness. We can’t let our fear of not having “amazing stories” keep us from telling what are ultimately just the Lord’s stories.

He calls us to make the block that He’s put in front of us, that’s it. When we do, regardless of what it looks like or who saw it, the Lord smiles and whispers yet again to our hearts, “well done, good and faithful servant.”