Gift of Grace

The words, “Are you ready to order or do you need a minute?” have become a common phrase on my lips. In other words, I am a waitress. Last month I began my training, which lasted four days before I was assigned a section of my own. Intimidating? Yes. New and weird? Definitely. There always seems to be an hour where things get hectic. It’s then when, in the midst of the craziness I think, “What on earth am I doing here?!” But then things slow down, and I realize that despite the craziness…I like it.

Last week I had a table with two older women who had a boatload of questions about our menu and our food. Because of their numerous questions, I was under the impression that this was their first time dining at our restaurant. I did my best to answer their questions, but if I didn’t know, I found someone who did. Nevertheless, the whole process was very confusing. It didn’t help that the older of the two ladies was hard of hearing.

In addition to this, my other four tables were full of customers as well, keeping me busy with coffee refills, desserts, and check backs–“Can I get you anything else tonight?” I had just finished delivering another table’s order, onion rings and sandwiches, when the women, whose orders it had taken me several minutes to sort out, flagged me down.

“They’re getting their food already when they were seated after us?” she questioned, confusion and frustration on her face.

I froze. Oh no. I remembered using the computer to check prices for them, but never sending their order to the cooks. “I–I am so sorry,” I stumbled. “I forgot to punch your order in, but–but I’ll do that right now.”

Of course they were upset. I told my manager what had happened and he ended up comping the whole meal for them. “Apologize profusely,” he told me. “They’re not happy at all.” I felt horrible. If this was their first time eating there, I had ruined the experience.

I brought out their pie and no sooner had I set the plates down when the older of the two women pushed a folded $5 bill into my hand. I shook my head as I tried to give it back and tell them no,  I didn’t deserve it–but they wouldn’t listen. She held her hand up as if to say, “the matter is closed and I don’t want to hear any more about it.” All I could do was mumble a thank you and move on. As I cleared my other tables, the word grace echoed in my heart, along with its definition:

An undeserved gift.

It got me to thinking. If I didn’t deserve the $5 tip because of my mistake, how much more do I not deserve the salvation Jesus bought for me at Calvary because of my sin? I’m the sinner, yet instead of giving me what I deserve, Jesus came to earth to atone for what I’ve done. He paid the death penalty for my sin even though He is holy and perfect. Yet that’s not the end. Christ defeated death when He rose from the grave three days later. He’s alive! And having paid the penalty for our sins, God gave us all a gift. Redemption. Salvation. New life.

Grace.

He was delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

It humbled me, to be sure. Not only as a waitress, but as a child of God. The truth was renewed in my heart: He has freely given me what I don’t deserve. That’s just how good and loving God is! Because of this, I am brand new and whole, and I have a renewed relationship with Christ.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God made an exchange: our sin for His righteousness. It’s not fair–it’s love. Pure, unconditional, full-of-grace love that never, ever fails.

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I could try my best to fix the problem in order to be “good enough” for God, but even my best efforts are like “filthy rags”.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf and our sin blows us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Not only do I not have to try to be “good enough”, God gives salvation as a gift. It’s not something we earn, it is something we are given out of God’s great love for me, for you, for everyone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we could earn our salvation and our way into heaven, we would be the ones receiving the glory. “Hey, guess what guys! I was good enough for God! I did it!” That’s what Paul means when he says “not by works, so that no one can boast.” If we boast, we should boast in the Lord! “God saved me! God is so good!” The focus shifts from us in all our imperfection, whose best efforts are like “filthy rags” to the One Who is worthy to be praised.  To the God Who spoke the universe into existence and used mud to heal a blind man’s eyes. To the God Whose love and faithfulness lasts forever and ever.

The thing about a gift is that, though it’s there for the taking, it’s not really yours until you accept it. You can stare at the person holding the present out to you all you want, but until you take hold of it and grasp it for yourself, it’s not doing you any good.

God is holding out a gift of grace to you. It’s a gift wrapped in new life, and once you accept it and open up the package, you will see everything that’s inside. There’s forgiveness, redemption, peace, love, freedom, joy…God’s Holy Spirit that comes to dwell within our hearts.

But that’s not even the best part. The best part of God’s free gift is that we will get to spend eternity with Him in the most beautiful place. Heaven. Where the streets are the purest form of gold, and a gate is made of a single pearl. Where we will be able to walk, hand in hand, side by side, with the most beautiful, loving, wonderful Man in the whole universe.

God won’t make you accept His gift, but He hopes with all His heart that you will. He loves you, wants to be with you, and is holding His arms open wide for you.  No matter what you have done or do, God won’t withhold His forgiveness if you ask Him for it.

I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. (Mark 3:28)

All it takes is surrendering. Admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior; lay it all down at Jesus’ feet. Believe in what Jesus did for you on the cross. Invite Him into your heart, and into every aspect of your life.

If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

That’s all it takes. To believe, and to act on that belief. And when you do, God sends the Holy Spirit to live in your heart where He changes you from the inside out. From there, you are adopted into God’s family. A precious and most definitely loved child of the King. 

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)

God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5)

But to all who believed in Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

God is willing to make each and every one of us new. He yearns to. And God, well, God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He loves us more than that.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

God wants us all to know how wide and long and high and deep His love is. So wide, so long, so high, so deep, that Christ died for each and every once of us so He could give us a life on earth, forgiven and in renewed relationship with the Father.

So He could give us a life forever, with Him in Heaven.

A gift of grace.

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An Unexpected Adventure – A Guest Post

Hey all! Emma here. I am here with a GUEST on the blog today! My brother Ethan, whom I so frequently refer to as The Bro in my posts, has agreed to share his latest adventure with you all today. This is something I have been hoping to do for a long time, so I am very excited. So without further ado, may I present…


An Unexpected Adventure – by Ethan


Once upon a time, I was bored. And by bored, I mean pretty much every day I have off. Since my hobbies consist of metal detecting, an adventure, or fishing of some sort, there’s not many times I can fulfill my desires because I cannot yet drive and I must rely on someone else to take me.

So with the help of Google Maps I found a pond and it’s the only body of water within feasible bike riding distance. So without hesitation I packed my equipment and fishing pole into my backpack. Luckily the fishing pole broke down into two pieces so it could be transferred safely. I rode like the wind with high hopes that I may have just found a fishing hole.

Once I arrived I realized what I had found. It was, in fact, a hole. What Google Maps did not tell me was that it was a retention pond from the gobs of parking lots surrounding me. My enthusiasm shrank as I was preparing my tackle and readying my pole. This wasn’t quite the paradise I was hoping for.

Though there were fish that I saw, I was targeting bass and as I gazed across the two acre retention pond I realized that the depth was slightly lacking. (Depth is usually a good thing with bass fishing.)

I strapped on a fake minnow and cast it out. It is my go-to bait. Within minutes a bass had started following my lure up to the shore, where I was standing. And then I knew. I had found my heaven on earth.

A few months later…

Once again here I am, bored, on my day off. I had already begged my parents and sister to take me fishing. With no surprise, they said no. Even though my paradise was an answer to prayers, it felt as though the challenge had left because the pond was so small. But as it was my only choice, I packed my tackle into my backpack. I returned to the pond in hopes of catching a bass worthy of mentioning.

I had walked around and fished half the pond with no success, when finally, I was able to outsmart one of the bass and haul it in. It was no trophy, being sixteen inches and two and a half pounds, and it only partially fulfilled my craving for fishing. I released the bass when another fish came up out of nowhere.

I quickly changed my lure for another presentation when I heard rustling in the leaves. I had seen a bird earlier so I glanced over my shoulder, but the foliage was too thick to see anything. I was having difficulty changing lures and again I heard rustling in the leaves next to me. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

It was a skunk.

Among the many expeditions I have undertaken, never once have I encountered a skunk so close. It was five feet away, under a bush. I was startled by the white-striped mammal and immediately I dropped my pole and, faster than a bolt of lightning, ran along the trail. I thought it inevitable that I would be taking a bath in tomato juice but to my surprise he didn’t spray. I stopped about thirty feet later, to make sure I was out of range. I had never felt so hunted in my life as I realized it was following me. I yelled and threw a branch near it to try and scare it away, but my attempts were futile. It kept walking along the same path as I, with its own signature waddle.

This saying has never been more true to me: Between a rock and a hard place. On one side there was the retention pond I hoped never to enter. On the other, an eight foot chain link fence, lined with barbed wire. I was truly trapped. With one way to go and the path not wide enough to go around the skunk, I had to simply retreat farther down the trail. It seemed that nothing would stop this juggernaut. (And the definition of juggernaut would be, a massive force, not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped.)

Having retreated all the way, I finally got to the point where it was wide enough to hide in the bushes, hoping it would pass. As I stood in the bushes, not only had the skunk lost sight of me, but I lost sight of it. Thinking I had outsmarted it and it would walk by, I stood there for a while. I couldn’t help but entertain thoughts of the furry ninja sneaking up and ferociously attacking me. With every passing moment I expected to get a closer look at this animal, but it didn’t happen.

Once I realized it wasn’t coming I stepped back out onto the trail. I crept up to where I last saw it and it had vanished. With my experience in the woods I had not forgotten to look up. Yes, up–into the trees. It was no surprise that it hadn’t ventured upward, but I wanted to check, just to make sure. Better safe than sorry.

With further investigation I stumbled upon a hole in the ground. It was in fact the only hiding place that the skunk could be. I deemed it wise to end my investigation there, as provoking the skunk any more, might have resulted in a foul stench on the ride home. I placed a stick over the hole so that I’d know if it crept out again. I hustled to where I’d ended my fishing expedition and packed up. The stick had not been moved, and I made it safely back to the bike, and headed home.

The moral of the story would be: There’s always the chance of adventure in anything that you do, even if you’ve done it over and over again for months.


Thank you Ethan for being a guest on my blog! I hope y’all enjoyed the post. We had a lot of fun putting it together! If anyone has any questions or comments, comment below and Ethan will answer for you. 😉 Ciao! ❤

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Faith Over Fear

I am in a new season of life, and it’s scary. I am not a person who is overly fond of change. I’ve grown quite comfortable in my little bubble. The past week and a half, and especially the past three or four days, have been hard. God is leading me on a path that I hadn’t planned on taking. I’ve prayed–my parents have prayed–my friends have prayed–that God would lead me and make His way clear. And He has.

It still hasn’t been easy for me. Too often I have been swimming in fear. Everything has happened so quickly, much faster than I had ever expected. I was letting myself get worked up over all the unknowns, the things that could happen. Allowing myself to dwell on “I don’t want to do this. I am not going to be good at it. I can’t do it.” Was I putting on my belt of truth? No, I wasn’t. I was believing a lie instead of God’s truth, and it was keeping me in a place of discouragement and overwhelming fear. Where was my hope? My joy? It was gone, because I was too busy focusing on fear. But what has God said, over and over again?

Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be dismayed, I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged, for I am the Lord your God. (Josh. 1:9)

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. (Is. 43:2)

I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20) 

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Duet. 31:6)

Let me fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Me, so you may overflow with hope in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)

I am always with you. I hold you by your right hand. (Ps. 73:23)

My joy is your strength. (Ne. 8:10)

Take captive all your thoughts and make them obedient to Me. (2 Cor. 10:5)

YES!!!!!!!!!!

THOSE are God’s promises to ME! To you! 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that for no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

We don’t HAVE to be afraid. God is WITH us.

Do I believe it?

Yes. I do. Because I will CHOOSE to have faith over my fear. I will CHOOSE to believe that God is working out HIS purpose for my life. He is holding me, He is with me, He is so very near to me, even when I felt like He was far away. God is not limited by time, as we are. He is working ahead of us, preparing the way for us. He is not apart from this, where I am at right now. He is very much involved.

My God is an AWESOME God. I was losing sight of what truly mattered–Jesus. I was neglecting to keep my eyes focused on my King and Savior, my wonderful, beautiful, all-powerful Jesus. When I lost sight of Who God is, I began to stumble, just like Peter, when he was walking on water, began to sink when he looked away from the Lord. I became focused on my circumstances, and not the Author of my story.

I was neglecting to remember the TRUTH that has been hidden away in my heart. The truths that I do not have to be afraid. If my God is for me, who can be against me? My Jesus LOVES me! He wants what is best for me!

My Jesus. My Jesus loves me so much. He died on the cross to SAVE me. He turned the cross–a symbol of death–into a symbol of HOPE. What crazy, in-depth kind of love is that?!

And the most wonderful thing is, guys…He didn’t just do this for me…He did it for you.

Because everything that I have mentioned here, God’s great love for me, how He will never leave me, will always hold my hand…

Guys, this is all for you too. This is for everyone.

God loves YOU. He wants YOU to live in FAITH and not FEAR. He doesn’t want you to be crippled by fear, scared to move and afraid of what is going to happen next. True, we don’t know what is going to happen in life, but God does. God does. And if God knows, do we really have to? Isn’t it enough to trust? Because when I look back at my life, at those times where I thought There is no way this is going to work out, I see where God has done powerful and wonderful things.

There are verses in the Bible about Jesus refining us as silver is tried. (Ps. 66:10) What does that mean? I found this video on Facebook, which I will share at the bottom of the post for those interested. But the short version in words is, when silver is being refined, the refiner has to sit, keep an eye on it, and make sure that the fire is not too hot. And he knows the silver is done when he can see his reflection in it.

Wow.

What a beautiful word picture. When God says He is refining us like silver, He is saying that He is using the fires we walk through to make us more like Him. He’s using those scary, painful experiences for good. The hard times I went through made me more like Jesus. They brought me closer to Him, and I trust Jesus that He will continue doing that, if I continue to keep my eyes focused on Him and Who He is, and allow Him to do the work in my heart.

It’s easy to let fear have free reign. I know, because that’s what I’ve lived with for the past three days. It’s not fun. But when fear is bigger than your faith, go to God. Go to His Word. Cling to His promises. Look back on all that God has done, because He has done so much.

When I think back, I remember all the times God has healed.

I remember when God has provided.

I remember when God has redeemed friendships that I thought were gone.

I remember when God has closed one door, and me being so upset…because at the time, I had no idea what God was working on in the background. And now, I am so thankful, and have been so blessed…because He knew what was best.

I look back and see what God has done…

and I have faith.

That the God Who did all of that in my past, is doing the same thing in my present, and in my future.

I will choose to have

Faith

over

Fear.


 

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A Flamingo Flocking Adventure

Before I can share on my most recent adventure, I should make sure everyone knows what I’m talking about so we’re all on the same page. Flamingo Flocking. Have you heard of it? People place a bunch of plastic yard flamingos in a someone’s yard with a sign that says “You’ve Been Flocked!” The recipient of these birds must then give money to a fundraiser or a charity before the birds will be removed from their yard.

PC: Amazon

For the month of July a group of us has taken to flocking our friends. Our flock is rather puny. Twenty birds. Three of them don’t have stakes. One of them doesn’t have a head. But that’s the best we could do.

And what would you know–we got flocked! You’d think that maybe we’d get a free pass, but no. All in good stead because after all, the money we’re raising is going for a good cause. Since the Bro and I are a part of the group responsible for the flocking, we get the pleasure of moving the birds to a house of our choice. Oooh, the possibilities…we pondered over this for a while, and then picked our victim.

Late Wednesday night the Bro and I drove out to our victim’s house, pink birds in tow. Upon arrival we saw that they were still up, watching TV. We’d have to make sure that they didn’t see us. We parked the car on the side of the road, and just as I was about to close my door, I hear from the Bro,

Don’t lock the car! Do you have the key?”

The reason for the Bro’s inquiry would be this: I have a history of using the button inside the door to lock the car, not the actual key. The members of my family live in a constant state of worry, wondering if I’ll ever accidentally lock the key in the car this way. Of course we all know that I would never do a thing like that. I, of course, had the key safely in my front pocket.

We gathered the birds and crept into our victim’s yard. This was our first time flocking a house, but we knew enough to wear all black. Still, we were careful to move slowly and hunched over so we didn’t give ourselves away. Totally ninja. We decided that we would only take a few birds at a time, sneak up to the house, plant them, and return for more. By doing this we could be sure we wouldn’t make a bunch of racket trying to untangle the birds’ necks from each other.

It was good fun, sneaking back and forth. Also a little disconcerting when I thought about the fact that we were this close to their house and they didn’t know we were there. We staked our flock in their front yard, and I even put one of the stake-less ones on the front porch. Our mission accomplished, Ethan and I decided to run back to our car and git outta there.

On the run back I checked my pocket to make sure I had the key. The pockets in my jeans are so shallow, it’s ridiculous. But yup, the key was still there. Good to go.

I slowed to a walk, panting from the exertion, as we crossed the road to our car. I reached into my pocket for the key…and it wasn’t there. I checked my other pocket, and my back pockets as well. I had just had it, but now it was gone!

I ran my hand through my hair. “I don’t have the key,” I told my brother. I shook my head in disbelief.

“Yeah you do,” he replied. Pretending I don’t have the key had been a prank I’d pulled on him several times, albeit, unsuccessfully. Except this time I wasn’t joking.

No,” I said, “I’m not joking. I don’t have the key.”

Not only was it dark outside, but their yard was also huge. Huge-huge. Hard-to-find-a-key-in-the-daytime-let-alone-at-night-huge. Was this really happening?!

“I did have it,” I said. “I checked before we started running. It must have fallen out while we were running.”

Well, we had to find it, but we couldn’t do it without a light of some sort. I was the only one who had a phone so I turned on the flashlight. It was bright! I tried to shade it with my hand so that our victims wouldn’t see the light out their window. We’d been successful up to this point and we couldn’t get caught now, not while we were looking for the car key lost somewhere in their yard!

“Where did you lose it? Where were you running?” We tried to backtrack as best as we could. The flashlight on my phone was too bright and I worried that they would see the light so I turned it off and used the light that came from the screen instead.

“I think…I think I was over here.” I moved to the right a bit and continued walking forward, towards their house, in search of the little black and silver key.

Then miracle upon miracles–less than five minutes into our search I bent over and picked up the key lying in the grass. “I got it!”

“Oh my gosh. Good. Let’s go!”

Gripping the key tightly in my hand, we booked it back to the car and hopped in. We heaved big sighs in relief. “I can’t believe that just happened,” I said.

“How could you lose it?”

I told him how it fell out of my pocket, then I added, “Wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d locked the phone in the car too?”

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Encouragement for the Discouraged Writer

I should be writing on my novel right now, but frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. I am smack dab in the middle of editing 60,000 words for the third time, page 65/114 to be exact, and I just realized that I have a bunch of scenes that I need to rearrange. I’ve been fine-tuning my timeline this time around and now need to make it all fit together, something I thought I’d been doing pretty well with…until now, that is.

It’s a little overwhelming.

This is not to say that I don’t love my story, because that isn’t the case at all! This is the story of my heart, the story that God has called me to write, and I love it so much. In fact, I know that when I’m finished, 100% done with it, I’m going to miss working on it. It’s just that, like everything, it’s difficult sometimes. To the point where letting it sit seems like a pretty good option, even if it does get me no where.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

I look forward to the day where I finish editing the last line and click Save. I look forward to using up a load of ink and copy paper to print off my masterpiece. I look forward to measuring that stack of paper with a ruler to see how thick it is, and sharing my excitement with my family and friends who have encouraged me as I’ve written it. I look forward to holding a physical copy of it in my hands and paging through it, seeing all the words that I have written.

The thing is, I’ll never be able to experience that sense of satisfaction, joy, exhilaration, and excitement if I don’t climb the mountain first. The mountain can be anything that makes writing difficult for you right now. Plotting and outlining that’s not going well, description and/or characters that seem flat, not quite sure how to get your thoughts on paper. Realizing that, after having completed the first draft, you have a lot of work ahead of you to make anything decently readable. For me, it’s knowing that I need to rearrange and major-edit some scenes to make them work with what I’ve got going on now.

And yeah, it can be really discouraging sometimes, but like I said, if you don’t work through the hard stuff, climb up the mountain, you’ll never get to savor the result at the end, or enjoy the beauty of the view at the top.

Sometimes I think that it won’t be any good when I get done, hard work or not. Sometimes I think, “I do things differently than this-famous-author-person, so maybe it’s not as good.” So let me remind you (and myself) that what you have to say? It matters. Why? Because you matter. Everyone has a unique voice with something unique to say. On the subject of writing, one guy said, “I could tell 100 different students to write a story about pirates on ship and get 100 different stories.” And this is not a bad thing! Everyone tells stories differently because they have their own voice, perspective, and imagination. So just because you have a different approach or style to writing, doesn’t mean that it’s bad or you’re not a “good enough” writer. Strive towards improvement and honing your skill and create something that is uniquely you!

The story that I’m writing, I’m writing for me, and I’m writing for God. Having other people read it (eventually-maybe-probably) is just a plus! I don’t know what God wants me to do with it when it’s done. Maybe nothing, maybe something. Who knows! The struggle is still real though, because I still want to create something that’s of good quality, you know? Even if I’m the only one who ever reads but especially if other people read it!!

So when those hard days of writing hit, remember: It will be worth it. If it’s the story of your heart, the story that you want to get on paper, the story that you feel called to write…don’t give up. Keep on keepin’ on, and don’t give up. Hard work can be a reminder of what will be produced: a masterpiece. Haha, I know, I know! So easy for me to say, right? Yeah, but it’s also true…so…easy or not, don’t give up! The hard work is worth it!

You got this, writer! *fistbump*

PS…if you want, check out Go Teen Writers. It’s my favorite writing site. Pretty good stuff!

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Today Was A Good Day

Today was a good day. I didn’t do anything exceptional; I went to church, read some Trixie Belden with my mom, and went for a drive with my both my parents. We got ice cream, my parents went down Memory Lane as we drove, and I enjoyed wearing my big floppy sunhat. (I love hats.)

Today was a day to rest and enjoy the beauty around me. See, I struggle with the whole productivity thing. I have to be so productive in a day in order for that day to be worth something. For my time not to be wasted. But, as others have been telling me and God has slowly been teaching me, that’s not a good way to think. My worth doesn’t come from how many things I check off my to-do list. It comes from my Savior Jesus. He says I am His child and He loves me with an everlasting love. I am God’s treasured possession. (Exodus 19:5) Nothing changes that. I can rest in the fact that God’s love for me isn’t based on how many things I do. It’s okay for me to set aside the list, take a breather, and do nothing for a while.

Today was a day to let go of the busyness and chill. Believe me–I know how good it feels to have all those neat little check marks on your list, whether that list is on paper or in your head. But as I’m discovering here…it also feels good to sit and be. To notice the warmth of the sunshine and the bright green of new leaves–and not as I’m zipping around the house doing thisorthat. To sit, to relax, to close my eyes and thank Jesus for what He’s given me. While to-do lists help to be organized, they can also be stress factors if they’re not kept in their place.

Enjoy the day. For those of you who have a similar mindset of productivity=time well spent, don’t be afraid to take a deep breath, set aside the list for a day, and refresh. Rejuvenate. Sing a song, read a book, take a walk. You have time to get those things checked off. Your worth is from Jesus, not the number of check marks on your list. And whatever you do, whether it’s being productive or enjoying the day, love the Lord while doing it. That’s the most important thing, as I was reminded not too long ago. No matter what I do, love the Lord…

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’       Matthew 22:36-39

 

…and enjoy the day.

Lots of love,

Emma xo

Shall We Go Zip Lining?

Shall We Go Ziplining? | Majestic Adventures

So let’s be real here guys…heights? Not my thing.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go zip lining. This was not my first activity choice. My first choice was a 3 v. 3 basketball game, which I didn’t want to miss. Lucky for me, basketball wasn’t until that evening. Translation: I had plenty of time to go zip lining.

Yeah…lucky me.

Zip lining in and of itself sounds like a bucket and barrel full of fun. (And I’m not being sarcastic here.) It’s not the zip-lining that’s the problem…it’s that whole height factor. I mean…yeah. There’s not really much more that needs to be said about that.

I got my harness on and stood in line, waiting for my turn. I was feeling pretty good about it, too. This is going to be no big deal, I thought. I mean, how hard is it to walk up the steps to the platform and slide down? This will be easy.

That’s how everyone was making it look anyways.

Everything was going fine until I started walking up the steps with my friend. I thought, is it too late to turn back? Probably…I’m up here…I can’t back out now…Fear can’t win…can’t be that hard, right…I guess I’m going zip lining, folks…

My hands were gripping both sides of the rail and I was not going to look down.

At the top, the zip liner dude in charge of the whole shebang checked my friend’s harness. After, he checked mine. Adjusted it. Checked mine again. And again. It was making me nervous.

As he admitted my friend and I onto the platform, our harnesses having passed the safety inspection, I had to ask the question that was running through my mind. Because there was no way I was going down without asking it.

“Um…is there some sort of weight limit on this thing or something?”

Zip Line Dude looked up at me and said, “Yeah, only 1,400 pounds.”

I laughed, trying to brush off my nervousness. “Oh, right, so, I should be safe then, hahaha…I’m not going to fall…”

So now I stood up there, on that platform twenty-five or so feet in the air, with railing on three of the four sides. (I never stopped gripping said railing.) It was daunting. Totally not a fan. I searched the people below for my brother, who had just finished his own zip lining expedition, and was now safely on the ground. He waved.

I took a few deep breaths as I watched my friend go down the zip line. It looked like fun, and I did want to do it. I was just a little…uncomfortable, up there where only birds, airplanes, trees, and mountaintops are supposed to be.

I didn’t want fear to keep me from trying something new, but this was…eergghhh. I’ve been listening to this great new song that was released two days ago, and I thought of it as I was up there. It’s called Fearless by Jasmine Murray. (I’ll share it at the bottom. It’s awesome!) Fearless. Well, shall we go zip lining?

“You can sit down and go off that way,” Zip Liner Dude said when I didn’t really make a move towards actually, you know, zip lining.

“Okay…yes…that sounds like a good plan…” Somehow that option sounded safer than just hurling myself off the edge. I don’t know.

I sat down, and I could hear my friends cheering me on from below. I closed my eyes. I’m going to do this. I’m not going to think about it. I’m just going to…GO!

With a scream (terror or thrill, not too sure) I was off, speeding down the zip line…it was soooooo fun guys! I went a lot faster than I thought I would, even as I scooted off the edge. Some people before me tilted upside down, but I was just excited about doing it upright, I didn’t even think about going upside down. Not that I would want to if I had happened to think about it.

I was mega excited as I regrouped with my friends. I DID IT! That was a feeling of great accomplishment.

And hey, if you have 3 minutes and 3 seconds, I really like this song. I think you might too! Happy Music Monday (on a Sunday, because I don’t feel like waiting, haha.)

Much love, Emma xoxo

Behind the song for anyone interested…

 

Kozmo the Explorer

kozmo-the-explorer

I have a black lab mutt named Kozmo. That’s him, pictured above, bathing in the summer sunlight, one of his favorite pastimes. And of course I’m bias, as every pet owner should be, but I think he’s the most adorable puppy-wuppy on the planet.

This puppy-wuppy also happens to be eleven years old…so he’s not much of a puppy anymore. But like any mother and her child, I shall always refer to my dog as my baby, no matter how old and gray he gets. We’re best buddies, my mutt and I.

The one thing about Kozmo is that he likes to explore. What dog doesn’t? I can only imagine how monotonous it must be, trapped in the same fenced backyard, day after day, year after year. Like Rapunzel in Tangled, they must wonder what’s out there, beyond their tower.

Kozmo likes to explore beyond his tower when he can, ever since he was a little bitty puppy. Even in his grandpaw-old age,  don’t let him fool you. He still gets excited and can run fast when he wants to.

It wasn’t too long after we got the Koz, a sleek little puppy only a couple months old, that we lost him. He was so tiny (smart?) that he decided to look for the one fence picket that’s spaced a little farther apart than the rest and squeeze right through to freedom. Finally we found him curled up underneath the steps in the garage. I guess as a puppy, the world seemed too big and intimidating for him to go far. Another time he did the same thing, and the neighbor lady caught him. Eventually he grew too large for such shenanigans, thank goodness.

When that happened, Kozy decided that the back gate was a good way to escape. If we happened to forget to close it while working in the yard, he would take advantage of the perfect opportunity. Kozmo would make sure we’re not looking then bam! He’s gone. Off to explore the neighborhood. What’s really fun is trying to catch him. The Koz has a tendency to wait until you’re five feet away before running off again. It’s lovely, truly ‘tis.

Too big to fit through the fence and with the back gate securely locked, Kozmo had to figure out something else. His new plan of escape? When the screen door was open to let in some fresh air, he would push it open with his nose and walk down the stairs, to freedom, the door slamming shut behind him.

This got really annoying, because it would happen all. the. time. Whenever the screen door would slam shut, someone would shout, “Was that the dog?” One time Dad, The Bro and I were working in the yard. Kozmo needed a drink of water so we put him inside. Later, I couldn’t find the dog anywhere, but I finally figured out he’d escaped through the screen door.

To solve this problem we bought a baby gate to put up whenever we wanted the screen door open. It works great!

Oh, and here’s a question for you! Have you ever had your dog run away while hosting a costume party? Kozmo thinks that all our friends come to see him. He’s a very extroverted dog (around most humans; we never did really get around to socializing him with other animals). Using the push-on-the-screen-door-and-escape trick he was able to waltz out into the front yard as we were greeting our guests for the costume party. And off he went, exploring the neighborhood again, before any of us could stop him.

The Bro chased after him first, his black cape flying behind him, as he was dressed like a phantom. Soon he returned, unsuccessful, and Dad went in his place. Kozmo went through a few people’s backyards, but Dad finally got him back. But what’s really funny you guys, is that my parents even dressed up for our costume party. And guess what Dad was? A bum. He ran through people’s backyards, chasing our dog, dressed as a bum. I thought it was hilarious. Dad…not so much.

Another good one is when we got a phone call from some lady, her saying, “I have your dog here. He’s such a good dog. He hasn’t even tried to get the chicken off my grill!”

Yes, he’s such a good dog. Although he’s not a chicken thief, so #score! No, in all honesty, I would say that my puppy is a very good puppy. Once in a while he’s a little naughty, but for the majority of his eleven and a half years, he has been the best (also only) puppy I’ve ever had. He has to put up with me running into him in the night (it’s dark and he’s black) so I can deal with him running away. It’s a “crazy little thing called love”. (Hey Mom…you know what that is? It’s a song. Hahaha…)

Perhaps in a later post I’ll compile some of Kozmo’s silly little quirks, but for now, let me ask you: Can anyone relate? 😀

Much love, Emma xo

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3 Tips for an Improved Sledding Experience

3 Tips for an Improved Sledding Experience | Majestic Adventures

Sledding.

It’s a wonderful winter pastime; a true classic for kids and adults alike. I love sledding. It’s so fun. Of course, in order to sled, you need three things, all of which are essential.

  1. A hill to sled down,
  2. A sled to sled with,
  3. Snow to sled on

All three together, you have an afternoon of fun waiting to happen. For years I have enjoyed whizzing down the hill, running back up, and sliding down again. My brother and I have made ramps and bumps to hit and invented a couple games to play.

Through it all we have accumulated quite a few sledding stories. From those sledding stories, tidbits of knowledge. And those tidbits of knowledge? Well folks, that’s what I am going to share with you today. If anything, my trial and error won’t become your own–that is, you’ll learn something from my past (and failed) experiences.

Sledding Tip #1: Don’t Walk on the Track

There is always a section for walking and a section for sledding. These are always two distinct areas; never one in the same. That way as you’re walking up, other people can sled down. As you’re sledding down, you won’t hit people walking up. Nice, right? Another plus to this is that when the snow freezes hard, your track won’t be a frozen strait of footprints. A frozen track of footprints makes for a bumpy ride. Don’t walk on the track.

Sledding Tip #2: Be Wary of Ice 

Ice is the best thing to sled on because of the speed factor. To feel the wind against your face as you speed down the hill…ahhhhh!!! It’s so fun. One year we arrived to the sledding hill only to discover that everything was covered in a layer of ice. Of course we had to stay and try it out. We slipped and shuffled our way up the hill and soared down. It was a blast! Except we couldn’t make the return trip up. The result of trying was falling flat on your back. Ice is fun, but only in limited quantities!!

Another potential hazard of ice-sliding is not being able to stop your sled when you reach the bottom and possibly hurting yourself. (My mom will be nodding and saying to herself, Mm-hmm, when she reads this.) But as long as you avoid the big ice boulders where snowplows have dumped their snow, then you’re perfectly fine!

Sledding Tip #3: Know How to Steer

I have been sledding for years. I know how to steer a sled. But if you saw me last week, sledding down the hill, trying to hit a snow ramp? You would’ve said to your buddy, “Wow, that chick needs to learn how to steer.” As you watched me circle and circle and circle and circle my way down.48-in-wham-o-snowboogie-alpine-rocket-foam-sled-15498

Last year I broke my sled while sledding. I really love these foam ones because they are nice to land on after hitting a ramp. They are pretty sturdy. Assuming you don’t land on the handle a bunch of times and break it off, like I did. When I found two new foam sleds at Salvation Army, I was stoked! Last week my brother and I got to try them out for the first time. But for the life of me, I just. can’t. stop. spinning. And I have no idea why! I’ve tried shifting my weight, sitting on the back of the sled, the front of the sled, lying on my stomach (I can go mostly straight when I do that). I usually sit on my knees, you see. Anyways, before I had it 100% figured out, I thought I would hit the ramp we made.

Bad choice. Just as I was about to hit the ramp, I turned sideways and demolished it. After rebuilding, I tried again. Only this time, I hit it backwards, flew in to the air, and landed on my side. My brother encouraged me to try it again, so I did…and I hit it straight on!! The landing was less than graceful though.

Oh, here’s another one I just remembered. Instead of ramps, my brother and I decided to make these speed bumps down the track. We dug small trenches and built bumps and hit them. The Bro went and then it was my turn. But as I went down, my sled turned sideways.

“Don’t hit it sideways!” he yelled, but I didn’t hear. As he later described to me, I looked like Superman slamming through a skyscraper and skidding to a stop, leaving a dirt trail behind me.

Practice makes perfect and once I figure out this doggone sled, I should be able to steer just fine. (It’s not me!)


Okay y’all…I think that’s it! All I can think of at the moment, anyways. 😉 All the information in this post has been gleaned from past and personal experiences, though I do not claim to be an expert. 😉  I’d love to hear about your sledding experiences in the comments below. If there’s one thing I love about winter, it’s the sledding…it’s so fun!

Until the next time, folks! Happy Almost New Year!

Emma xo

When You’re Wondering What’s Next…

When You're Wondering What's Next | Majestic Adventures

Couple nights ago as I was talking to God, I asked Him the all-important question in my life right now. “Hey God…what’s next?” I’ve reached a point where I’m about to step into a new adventure of life, and I’m trying to figure out what direction God wants me to take.

It was nearly midnight, but I decided to try and flip through my Bible and find some reassuring verses on the future or God’s leading, but nothing was really speaking to me. Feeling only a tad discouraged, I just kind of thought, “Let’s check out Matthew 10.” So I did. Near the end of the chapter, I found these verses I’d underlined earlier, and knew that this was God’s answer to me.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

Reading those verses reminded me. God will take care of me and all the fine-details of my life. He takes care of the sparrows, and I am worth more than many sparrows. God knows everything about me, all down to the very number of hairs that are on my head. And if He takes the time to know that detail about me (one that I don’t even bother to know myself, because why on earth take the time?) then He will most definitely take care of me and my future and everything else.

I don’t need to know what the ten-year-plan is, or the five-year-plan, or even the one year plan. I’m learning to take each step as it comes and to follow God’s guiding and to trust Him, because He knows best. After all,

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them. ~Proverbs 16:9 (AMP)

Sometimes its not easy. There have been days where I just want to know what on earth am I going to be doing a year from now? Because I don’t know. Only God knows, and I wish He would fill me in a little bit.

When that happens, I remember that God hasn’t forgotten about me. He’s not up there scratching His head, thinking “Oh…yeah, her. Um…now what?” I remember that God has brought me here, where I am now. And when I look back on everything that God has done in my life up until this point, I know that the verse in Deuteronomy is true.

 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. ~Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) 

There have been times in the past where I think, “Wow, this is huge. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Um, God?”At the time it was hard to see what God was doing, but looking back I can see that God did just what He said He would do. Through the unknowns He lead me, He never left me, and I grew closer to Him in the process. (He also never leaves you even when you know what you’re doing, just to throw that out there!)

Those experiences, those hard times, grew me to be more like Christ. I’m closer to Him now than I was five years ago. I trust Him more now than I did five years ago. I’ve seen how God can take a situation that seems horrible at the time, and grow it into something amazing.

I know the same is true now, as I try to figure out what’s next in my life. When I get that question, “Hey, Emma, what’s the plan?” my response is, “I don’t really have a plan. God’s taking me one step at a time.” (In a world where having “a plan” is the thing, this is sometimes a shocker–but that’s okay! We’re called to be different, right?) God has proven to me in the past how He’s truly got everything in His hand. He won’t lead me wrong. One step at a time is good enough for me.

Someday I will look back on this season in life and think, “Yup, I can see God there where I didn’t see Him in the moment. He was totally working that out, just like He said He would.” Maybe it doesn’t make sense why we went through some rough patches in life. Just trust God, and know that He doesn’t waste anything.

 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and snow come down from the heavens, and return not there again, but water the earth and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:8-11 (AMPC)

It’s hard. It really is sometimes. I may not have it all together, but that’s the thing. God doesn’t give up on me. He loves me where I’m at, even on my bad days, but He loves me too much to let me stay that way. He wants to bring me to a place where I am trusting, relying, loving, serving Him 100% of the time. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. God’s got your best interest at heart. He loves you.

When you’re not sure where you’re headed next,

When you can’t see how this could possibly turn into good,

When you’re not even sure if God remembers that you’re still struggling to hold it all together,

Let go and let God do His thing. He knows where you’re going.

Sometimes life might feel as hopeless as completing a 1000 piece puzzle without any picture on the box to compare it to. Impossible, right?

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~Matthew 19:26

Not impossible. Because y’all, we got a God that’s bigger than everything. He’s bigger than any mountain that we can or cannot see, bigger than the boogie man, and bigger than the impossibilities of this world.

God takes care and loves the little birdies. You’re worth more than many sparrows.

He loves you.

He’ll never leave you.

Just trust.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid… ~Psalm 56:3-4a