The Summer of Deer

2015 – The summer of no car

2016 – The summer of Daniela and Chelsea (our first two summer interns and two women I hope I am always connected with)

2017 – The summer of ‘Merica and Disneyworld

2018 – The summer of Deer

I named our summer months ago, pretty much right after our friend, Emily Deer, booked her ticket to Salerno.

We met Deer….wait, it could be weird that I refer to her by her last name if you don’t know why. First, Deer is dear to us (that’s corny, but it’s true). Second, that’s how she was introduced to me. I didn’t even know her first name for months after meeting her. In fact, someone once referenced Emily, and I think my response was, “Emily who?”.

We met Deer at REVO church in Winston-Salem. She was part of our framily (and still is). She was a member of the Sunday lunch bunch, a group of our friends who came to Sunday lunch every day for I am pretty sure over 2 years. She played with our kids, laughed with us, introduced us to VHS Clue, ate with us, cried with us, and was there at the end holding hands with some of the other members of our Winston family as we prayed one last time all together before they sent us off on our current adventure.

Deer has been here 3 glorious weeks and has another 2 to go. She “gave up” her summer to come help the kids with English, American history (of which they know zip), and math.

While I know she came to help the kids, she has also been a help to me. For a myriad of reasons, her presence was much needed for me. Yes, she’s helped with the kids and washed more than her fair share of dishes, but her presence – having a dear (no pun intended) friend, who understands every look and nuance of who you are – has been life giving and refreshing.

Relationship is one the great gifts of God to us. We aren’t meant to live alone, isolated from others. We also weren’t created to live lives without God in them. The great tragedy of sin is that it separated mankind from its Creator, severing the relationship we were created to have with Him. Since the Fall we have looked to other things and people to complete us when only God can do it.

Friendships are great and God-given but they cannot replace the relationship that we were meant to have with God. As great as having Deer here is, she will leave soon. Even if she never left, she (nor anyone else) can fill the God-sized hole that exists in my soul. Only He can do that. The thing is, I can am so quick to forget that fact and I search for it elsewhere, always coming up empty.

But He is faithful even when I am not and He has a way of reminding me of that faithfulness and that He created me for relationship with Him first and foremost. And this time the reminder came in the form of a dear friend (pun intended).

 

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Surrogates

Sunday night Gingernut and one of our teammates daughters had their first dance recital. It was spectacularly wonderful. Gingernut radiantly beamed as she performed the moves she had spent months rehearsing. I was filled with emotion and pride as I watched her every move across the brightly lit stage.

It is things like dance recitals and soccer games that make you miss having family around. I saw grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins…all for the other dancers. As we stood in line outside the auditorium, waiting to run like we were in Pamplona about to be trampled by bulls all in efforts to get good seats, I saw one-by-one different people from our community arrive to see two little girls dance.

And I was overwhelmed. These weren’t just teammates and friends but my community – my extended family.

I just read an article on The Gospel Coalition that addressed the number one why missionaries leave the field. In a nutshell, it’s the people they work with – their team.

I’ve seen how not having a team is not beneficial – we weren’t meant to work in silos. After all, no man is an island. Our biblical example is that we work with others. From the beginning God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.

However, being on a team does not automatically mean that you have community and will work together to achieve the same goals. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen a sports team NOT work together? I spent an entire year watching Lil’ Paul play soccer on a team in which every kid played individualistically. They all wanted to win but they all wanted to be the one who scored, going so far as to steal the ball from their own players during games. Yes, it was sometimes quite painful to watch.

I’ve also seen and been a part of teams that not only work well together but have community, and it is a wonderfully, beautiful thing. There is the sharing of burdens and cares, laughter and fun, tears and hugs, conflict and resolution. What emerges from it all is a surrogate family.

I saw this play itself out Sunday night, as surrogate aunts and uncles gave up an evening of rest after a long day to cheer on two little ballerinas as they danced across the brightly lit stage.

Truth and Love

Truth.

Love.

Two very good things, that are very often separated.

A while back – like well over a year ago – my good friends/mentors/truth-tellers/pointers-back-to-the-Gospel, etc. Vince and Sharon clued me in on the fact that I am a glass half empty kinda gal. I was shocked and appalled. Nope. No way. I have always seen myself the other way – with the glass being half full. What they meant was that I am more of a realist than my glass-half-full-hopeful husband. I finally accepted the truth about it, acknowledging that once again Vince and Sharon were 100% correct.

What does any of this have to do with truth and love? Wait for it…I’m getting there.

Fast forward to a few months ago….After a somewhat painful conversation, I realized and truly understood for the first time that I am blunt. Shocker, I know. I am quite straightforward. But in my defense, so are all my close family members so I come by it quite honestly. To-the-pointedness, bluntness, straightforwardness – whatever you want to call it – is all fine and good unless it is done so with no kindness or love or understanding or any combination thereof.

One guess as to whether I was communicating things lovingly….

Keep fast forwarding to a few weeks ago….As I worked my way through Abide: A Study of 1, 2, & 3 John by Jen Wilkin, I was once again hit with the truth and love thing. There it was…glaring at me from the page…daring me to skip over it without reflection and prayer.

And this is what the reflection and prayer has awoken me to: because I live in a half-glass-empty realist world I can tend to communicate things in manner that does not consider the person sitting across from me. Depending on who that is, my communication can be seen as unloving and uncaring…even if it isn’t meant that way.

It’s all fine and good for me (or you) to be a truth-teller and to be to the point in that truth-telling. HOWEVER….it MUST be accompanied with LOVE. We must not only know ourselves and how we communicate but how the person across from us receives communication so that truth can be communicated clearly and LOVINGLY.

Does that mean holding my tongue sometimes? YES! Does that mean I have to think before I open my mouth all the time? YES! Does it mean that I have to have a filter? A resounding YES! Does it mean that I must actually think about the other person above myself? YES! YES! and YES!

It is in these moments that I sit in wonder and awe and gratitude for the Gospel and the grace and forgiveness I find there. I rest in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit reveals my sin in order to lead me to acknowledgement and repentance of that sin. His work does not stop there but continues to draw me closer to Him so that I look more like my Creator, in whose image I was created in and am to reflect…and I’m pretty sure He speaks in truth and love.

2 John 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

 

Home

Home…

That word has become relative to me in some ways.

As a child, my home was with my parents and sisters and brother in McAdams, MS. It was a picturesque home from my point of view. The house was and still is surrounded by green fields that once housed cows and horses and the occasional goat that thought it was a cow. The house itself was filled with everything most houses with four children are filled with…laughs, yelling, games…and probably lots of clutter to my mother’s chagrin.

Even when I left home to go to college and then graduate school, the red brick house on a hill remained home. And to a degree is always will be.

After I married, home also became Ruston, Louisiana. My in-laws welcomed me into their family with open arms, as did the rest of Paul’s family. Their easy ways, huge and lingering hugs, and incredibly sweet dachshund, Abbey, endeared Paul’s parents to me from the time I first stepped into their house.

We spent the early years of our marriage bouncing around. We lived in so many different places (TX, VA, Italy), sometimes for a few weeks and sometimes for a few years. But it wasn’t until we settled in Winston-Salem, NC that I felt like we had found a place that we could make a home together and not worry about moving for a long time. We bought a three bedroom house with green siding and black shutters. There was large yard for the kids to play in and blueberry bushes lining the driveway. We opened our home and really learned what it means to live life with people. We shared meals, sipped coffee, cried and laughed with people who transitioned from people I barely knew to friends to family. And though we had put down roots and were settled in Winston, God had other plans. We were to move yet again. It almost goes without saying that leaving this home was one of the most difficult goodbyes we have made thus far in our lives.

We now live in Salerno, Italy. We have returned to the place that has held our hearts for so many years.  Over the last two years our two bedroom apartment, with its covered terrace and broken tile in the dining room and kitchen, has become home. We find ourselves living life much the same way we did in Winston – with many people coming in and out of our house, sharing meals, coffee or tea, and their lives with us.

We have spent the summer traveling to all our different homes, enjoying every single minute of it. But it isn’t the houses or towns/cities that we have been in that have made it home. It’s people. The relationships that we have with people from Texas to North Carolina will make each of those places home as long as we know them.

However, my heart longs for my home in Salerno. It longs for those people that I share my life with there. And when I am there, though I am “at home”, I will long for the people I once shared my life with on this side of the world.

He’s Still Working on Me

I spoke, when I should have been silent. It was a situation in which I had the opportunity to extend grace and understanding but instead allowed my pride and hurt to win and thus overshadow the gospel being lived out in the situation. I did not heed the Holy Spirit’s leading. I followed my own path and in doing so caused hurt to others. I paid no attention to the verses I had recently memorized…

Psalm 141:3-4 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil…”

Proverbs 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

After reflected on the words I had spoken, guilt set in. I realized I had spoken words that should not have been uttered. I showed no grace, no forgiveness. And worse of all, I had memorized words but had not allowed them to penetrate my heart and transform me.

I had to examine my heart, which can be an incredibly painful process when we are honest with what we find there. What I found was ugly and dark.

One of two things could have happened at this point: 1) I could have wallowed in the guilt allowing it to eat away at my soul OR 2) I could ask God to forgive me, ask those offended and hurt to forgive me, and walk in the freedom that forgiveness and grace bring.

Honestly, I sat in the guilt for a few minutes before I cried out for forgiveness from God. And an extraordinary thing happened when I did…peace began to enter my heart and take the place of the ugliness and darkness of sin. Once I had asked forgiveness from those I hurt, peace reigned fully and relationships were restored but not to the previous status. I believe to an even higher one…one that is more grace-filled, understanding, and mindful of each other.

A childhood song came to mind during these two days and I kept singing it over and over to myself…

“He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me”

Praise God that He didn’t create us and leave us alone. Instead, “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:4-6)

 If my sanctification is a result of my efforts I will come up short every.single.time. I will fail. I will never look more like Jesus. But God, in his loving kindness sent Jesus to die for me and the Holy Spirit to renew me. Not only that, but we have the hope that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

That’s good news.

Like a Tree Planted By Water

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It was movie night. The kids were engrossed in the action on the TV, while devouring a huge bowl popcorn. Paul went to the bathroom, soon afterwards calling for me to come help him. Sitting down, he said he was having extreme pain in his side and felt like he was going to pass out.

I helped him to the couch, where he laid, curled in a ball of pain. The kids sat…still engrossed in the movie, devouring a now half-eaten bowl of popcorn.

I somehow knew immediately it was either an appendicitis or a kidney stone, which his father has and which I, honestly, have been waiting 10 years for him to develop. Either way, it was clear after less than five minutes he was going to need to go to the hospital.

I called Justin, our teammate. After apologizing for calling so late on a Friday night, I explained the situation. We decided it would be better for Justin to take him to the hospital and for me to stay at home with the kids, who are still glued to the TV but done with the popcorn.

I packed a bag just in case he had to stay overnight. Justin and Santei (an intern) came as quickly as they could, and after helping Paul down the stairs, I put him in the van and sent him to the hospital…without me.

I promptly returned upstairs to put the kids to bed. The movie had ended and they finally noticed Daddy wasn’t there. I calmly explained Justin was taking him to the hospital because Daddy was in a lot of pain and we weren’t sure why.

I crocheted and watched a movie and prayed. I waited to hear something.

Because that was all I could do.

And while I wanted to be at the hospital, I knew that even there, I would be doing the same thing and not even in the same room with my husband.

During this whole process, I remained calm. I did not once panic or cry or freak out. I don’t know that my reaction would have been the same a few years ago. I’m prone to dramatics, so needless to say, remaining calm during high stress situations is not my forte. My dad has always said there is something to be said about being steady, even during difficult times. He is the epitome of steadiness though. I’ve seen him break bad news several times, and the words that would always comes to my mind as I watched him were calmness and steadiness.

I have been reflecting on how it is I was able to stay calm. The one thing that keep coming back to my  mind is something I read several days before the kidney stone attack, which we learned it was about an hour after he got to the hospital. It was Jeremiah 17:8,”He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The preceding verse tells us whom “He” is referring. “He” is “the man who trusts in the the Lord.” Who is speaking? God. God is telling Jeremiah the man who trusts in the Lord will be blessed, though trials come, he will remain steadfast, strong, and bear fruit because he is rooted in the Lord. Back up a few verses and he tells us what happens when we put our trust in “man and makes flesh his strength.” Basically, nothing good.

It is not by my strength that I am able to do anything. My weaknesses are made clear to me on a daily basis. Like Paul, I want to be content with “weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” because “when I am weak, that I am strong.” I want to be steady and calm when the hard things come not out of vanity but because I believe it points to the power of Christ in me.

My strength would have failed me that Friday night. I would have been crying, worried, anxious in my own strength. I believe the Holy Spirit began doing something in me long before that night: showing me my weaknesses and finding strength in Him, giving me a thirst for Him so that I spend time with Him not just in the morning but throughout the day, and learning to allow Him to be the roots that hold me fast, steady, calm, bearing fruit. Because of these things that He was doing in me (and that I was allowing Him to do) I was steady and calm in a moment when I normally would have been anything but.

The Bad Thing About Living in Community

So, I don’t really think that belonging to a community of believers is bad. However, the title got you to click the link so let’s keep going and I’ll explain my meaning behind the title. 

When true Christian community happens, there are bonds that form between people that last long after job transfers, moves, and life changes. They are bonds that grow deeper than friendship. They are the bonds of Christian love. 

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From about the middle of August until around the middle of November I go through a period of something that I am going to name “Not Greatness.” The Not Greatness doesn’t affect me everyday…I’ve been there, done that, and learned a lot along the way. However, every year since leaving Winston-Salem, I go through the Not Greatness. It usually sneaks up on me out of nowhere. There I’ll be, minding my own business, going about my day, and BAM! Suddenly I’m crying, longing for something I left behind.

What is it the I am longing for?  What is it that the Not Greatness has me bawling my eyes out over?

It is community. Specifically, the community I left behind in Winston Salem.

Why this time of year? I have some guesses but I don’t know exactly. The Fall made me fall in love with Winston Salem, and Winston Salem made me fall in love with the Fall. I had never seen leaves turn the colors they do until I moved there. The golds, reds, and oranges surrounded me as I walked my neighborhood. I learned to appreciate the full cycle of life and God’s creation in a different way. It is a time of the Dixie Classic Fair, walks on brisk days, fire pits and smores, festivals, trick or treating, and hot chocolate. 

But if it was just these things and events I don’t think I would have such a longing. I don’t think the Not Greatness would even rear it’s head. And I don’t think that two years ago I would have walked through deep depression. No, it’s not the things and events.  It’s the people that were with me when I was doing these things and going to these events that made them so special. The people  are what I long for and miss. They are the reason behind the Not Greatness. 

Please don’t hear me say I don’t love where I am or that I want to be somewhere else.  I love where I am. There is no where else I’d rather be. I’m trying to make new traditions and find new events and things to invite others into that will make them just as special as the things and events I left behind. I am loving the community that is developing around me. It’s beautiful and lovely and brings great joy. But there are times when I long, desperately so, for those friendships I left behind that go deeper than friendships. They are relationships rooted in Christian love and community. 

So why is it that I still miss this community so much? What is it that made it (and continues to do so) special? It’s the love that exists between us. It’s the love that most of us hear preached about at weddings, but really was intended for the Church. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes to the church in Corinth that “[l]ove is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

When the Church remembers that is to be like Christ, who IS LOVE (which means he is all the things in the list Paul gives us) then what a better Church we would be. How amazing it would be to have a body of believers who didn’t insist on their own way or hold grudges or let sin slide under the rug. How incredible to have that body be patient and kind to one another, never letting arrogance or conceit or envy put them at odds with one another.

And this is how my community in Winston-Salem functioned. It did not accomplish this perfectly, but this description of love was its foundation. Everything was based on this. It was how we were able to forgive one another for offenses, celebrate each others successes, mourn losses, serve selflessly, give freely, and take correction. It was a community that pushed me, tried me, made me uncomfortable with my sin…and drew me closer to Christ.

So what’s the “bad thing” about true Christian community ? It is having to walk away from it. I guess the Not Greatness isn’t so bad either. It reminds me of people I love. It reminds me to pray for them, call them, text them.  The great thing about this community is that no matter where I am in the world, it will always be there. A phone call, a text message, a FaceTime call away. They are forever a part of our lives, no matter how many miles separate us. This is what true community should be, right? Our lives should be so interwoven that when one of the threads breaks away, it 1) hurts like crazy and 2) is not severed completely from the others.

As I think about where I am now, I look forward to the new relationships and community that are developing that will be closer than friendship because of in Whom it is rooted. I am excited for the 1 Corinthians kind of love to permeate who we are as a church and how we interact with one another.

So I give myself permission each Fall to feel the deepness of the Not Greatness, but I don’t give my permission to stay there. Instead, I mourn what was and I look forward to what will be.

The Door That Never Stops Revolving

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Our doors revolve. And sometimes quickly. The door can be revolving so fast at times it makes your head spin. People come and go faster than the golden snitch trying to evade a Seeker during a Quidditch match (that one’s for you Vince Rice). Before they are over jet lag good it is time for them to return to their lives wherever that may be. It can be hard at times to keep up with everyone stepping out of the revolving door and into your life and then stepping back out again.

People coming is good. That is not the difficult part. Just the opposite. It’s the easy part. It’s the looked forward to part. The anticipated, over-the-top excited part.

One would naturally assume that the leaving would be the difficult part. While it is difficult it is not the most difficult part, at least for me. Why? Because they always leave. They have lives to get back to after all. No one expects them to extend their trip indeterminately. They did, after all, buy a return ticket.

No, the difficulty is not in the coming or the leaving. The difficulty is how to let them into your heart and lives on more than a superficial level knowing they are only here for a few short days or maybe months. The difficultly is not becoming numb to the emotion that comes with the revolving of the door with all the different people stepping off either into my house or out of it.

It would be so easy to not even try to get know people or not be “real” with them. It would be easy to not let them in, to put up a guarded fence that maybe one can peep through between the slats but cannot penetrate.

This is one of my fears. Not one that has been realized too much at the moment but one that I am fearful will develop if I don’t watch out for it and make sure that I don’t pick up the hammer and some nails to begin building that fence without even knowing it. I don’t want to become numb to the revolving door.  That’s not to say you don’t get used to it. You do. How could you not? But there has to be a healthy balance between letting people in and letting them go well, without either shutting down and not letting people in and becoming an emotional wreck every time the door starts to revolve when someone walks away back to their life. I don’t want to be an emotional basket case when folks leave but I also don’t want to shut down emotionally.

Almost more importantly, I don’t want my children to become numb to people coming and going. It is the way of their lives-people constantly coming into their lives and then leaving. Honestly it is one part of their lives that I don’t care for too much.  It is ugly and hard and not fun. But it gives us the opportunity to teach our children how to love people and how to let them go well, which they will need all their lives as people come and go for various reasons.

While constantly putting people back on the revolving door is an ugly, not-so-nice part of this life, the beautiful part is the people who step off that door as it circles round and round, the new friendships that are formed, the old friends whose faces you get to see, the family you cling to for minutes on end.

My prayer is that we as a family never become immune to the revolving door but instead embrace all who walk through it into our lives for however long they are here before they circle back around and head home.

Holding Hands Because I Want To

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She’s never been a really super cuddly one, that title belongs to her brother. As a toddler she would sometimes push me away when I would try hug her or kiss her little dimpled check. This has changed little as Gingernut has gotten older.

Me? I like touch. I like cuddles and hugs. I like to hold hands with the kids. Lil’ Paul will almost always hold my hand. Gingernut…not so much.

Several months ago, Gingernut and I had to have a “talkin’ to.” For those vague with this phrase, it is simply when one person needs to be talked to about something of importance by another person.  Our “talkin’to” was about hand holding. When I would take Gingernut’s little porcelain white, freckled hand in mine, she would kinda pull/snatch/wrench it away, which almost always upset me. Finally, one day, instead of getting upset, I explained to her that when she pulls her hand out of mine it hurts my feelings. If she doesn’t want to hold my hand she only has to tell me so. Now, she does just that. But I’ve found that since the “talkin’ to” she will come up beside me and slip that dear little hand into mine more and more and without any coaxing from me. She takes my hand because she wants to, not because I forced her to do it.

Our heavenly Father desires for us to come to Him not out of a forced will or out of a sense of duty but because we want to, because we know in Him is found our fullest satisfaction.

The psalmists wrote:

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

“Delight yourself in the LORD; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

Jesus  said that “‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.'” Matthew 13:44

In God, and only God, can we be fully satisfied. The psalmists knew this. Jesus knew that we could never been satisfied without him. And when we are satisfied in him then we come to him with joy, thanksgiving and praise. How could we do otherwise?

I was told many moons ago that sometimes we come to God solely out of obedience. We won’t always “feel” like reading the Bible or praying, but we do it anyway. I know that the not always “feeling” like it feeling is true because I have experienced it, but does that make it ok? Is God most glorified and honored when I come to Him solely out of obedience or a sense of obligation or an “I have to” attitude? I don’t think so. Based on what I read in Scripture I think that just like I want Gingernut to want to hold my hand, God wants us to want to be with Him. Not because He made us but because it makes us happy and fulfilled and complete to do so.

In the 100th psalm, the psalmist writes,

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

We are to come to Him with joy, gladness, singing, and thanksgiving. That doesn’t sound like someone who feels an obligation or duty. It sounds like someone who has learned that in God is found their fullest satisfaction. If I know that, as John Piper says, in him is satisfaction to the fullest and forever, then how could I ever come to Him solely out of obedience or obligation? Abiding in Him is obedient, but it is done out of love. I want to always pursue Him with a humble spirit, full of praise and adoration, knowing that in Him only can I ever be truly joyful, content, filled, satisfied, loved. He wants to be my greatest desire. Do I want Him to be mine? If I know the truths found in Scripture how could I not?

And yet, so many times I fail. I fail to delight in Him, choosing to find my delight in the world and always coming up empty. I fail to be fully satisfied in Him, instead looking around me for satisfaction. I fail to love Him and end up not loving those around me well. I fail to praise Him and by the end of the day I have all but cursed the life I live.

I have learned that in those moments, the moments when I don’t “feel” like it, the first thing I need to do is confess and ask God to forgive me. Then ask Him to give me the desire to want to be with Him, to remind me of His greatness, His goodness, His love, His grace, His mercy.

I want so much to crave Him every single moment of every single day for the rest of my life. I want to love Him so much that the love I have for others looks like hate in comparison. I don’t want to have “spiritual highs” because they will inevitably be followed by  “spiritual lows”. Even in the valleys that life will inevitably bring my way, I want to be found faithful, not just in my having a relationship with God but with how I have attended to that relationship. I want to purse Him on the mountaintops and the valleys. I never, ever want to think of my relationship with Him as mundane or ordinary. And I never, ever want to come to Him out of obligation or because I think I “have to.”

I always want to want to slip my hand lovingly, quietly into His, allowing Him to gently hold me, leading me where He wants me to go. And in doing so, bring Him glory and honor.

How I Came to be a Lover of the Written Word

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My sixth grade English teacher passed away recently due to complications from lupus. Mrs. LeVert has remained one of my favorite teachers over the years. I can still remember where I sat in her classroom – second desk on the front row on the far side of the room, by the window. I remember how she used transparency sheets on an overhead projector and was constantly erasing her multi-colored writings. I remember how she wore her reading glasses on a chain  and when she put them on her nose they sat close to the nip of her nose. She would look over those glasses at you with kindness – or sometimes sternness- in her eyes.

Perhaps the greatest memory I have of Mrs. LeVert though is her reading, “The Bridge to Terabithia” aloud to us. I remember walking to her room anxious for everyone to sit down, pay attention, and get their work done so there would be time left over for her to read to us. How angry I would become at the other students when, heaven forbid, they asked a question. “I mean, for the love of Pete, just be quiet so we can get to the good stuff,” or something like it probably went through my mind. I’m sure there was a eye roll or two to accompany the thought.

On the blessed days when everyone cooperated with my need to hear another chapter read and got their work done (my work was probably done to half-par standards just so I could get it done quickly), Mrs. LeVert would pull out the book, sit down in her chair that she placed in front of the projector, adjust her glasses, and begin to read, magically taking us to another time and place.

As she read, “She stole my Twinkies!” Jess sighed. “May Belle, didn’t I tell you?” “You gotta kill Janice Avery. Kill her! Kill her! Kill her!”, Mrs. LeVert screamed and cried just like a small girl would do if some great tragedy has befallen her.

And when Mrs. LeVert read when Jess discovers what has happened to Leslie, anguish and tears in her voice, I sat at my desk sad, crying, and distraught. How dare Katherine Paterson do such a terrible thing. It’s the first time I can remember being so moved by the written word. It opened up an entirely new world for me. I enjoyed reading before this, but this moment, this reading of a now most beloved book, catapulted me into a love of reading that I hope to pass on to my children.

Mrs. LeVert accomplished many things in her life. But for me, she accomplished something that has continued beyond her classroom….She gave me a deep, saturating, never-ending love…a love for traveling to new places, meeting people, and having adventures that can only be found in the written word.