Check out this post by my sister Maya. Very inspiring words!
“No Eulogy Needed”
Last week, my family and I made the trek from Memphis to Cincinnati to attend my Grandma Kizzie’s memorial service. The week leading up to the service was difficult on many accounts, and I was not looking forward to the service. I didn’t think I could handle all the tears and sadness. As we approached the church and awaited the service to begin, I silently prayed for peace and comfort.
The service ended up being a huge blessing in my life. There was sadness, but the pervading feeling was one of celebration for a life lived to the fullest. All of God’s grace and goodness on display for all to see and behold. With every remark from her family and friends, it was clear that Kizzie lived a life that honored God and served others well. It was the final remarks from the pastor that moved me the most. In his words, “Kizzie did not need a eulogy because she lived her eulogy.”
Her life was an epitaph to God’s marvelous works. I am so inspired by these words. How can I live my life in such a way that my living speaks all the volumes needed?
With the frailty of life and the certainty of death, we can all be assured that one day we will die. But when that day comes, we don’t have to fret over our legacy or our fate because in Christ we are assured an eternal resting place. Maybe then the most important part of living is the actual living. And living in such a way, that brings glory to God, but also inspires those around you. My grandmother modeled this for me in the most beautiful of ways, and it was apparent that she touched many lives.
I strive to carry on her legacy, and I trust God with my future, and I know he can help me lead a “no eulogy needed” life.
It’s October, Here’s my Pink Story
I was 24 years old when I found it; at first I wasn’t sure, so I felt again and again. Then I felt the other one to be sure, which confirmed my fears: I had discovered a lump in my breast. I laid still and quiet in my bed for a long time, just thinking about the foreign mass that was residing in my breast. “A cyst, that’s what it is.” I told myself. I was 24, there was no way I had cancer, I couldn’t even allow that to enter my brain. “I have a cyst, no big deal, a lot of young women get them. I’ll be just fine”
A year later I was on the phone with one of my friends when she asked if I’d seen a doctor about my “cyst”. I hadn’t, but I assured her I would since her mother was battling breast cancer. A few weeks later I was sitting at the Vanderbilt Breast Center, and hearing the words from the radiologist, “you have a tumor, and we need to biopsy it.”
“Wait, what are saying, this isn’t a cyst, we just can’t stick a needle in it and it’ll burst.” I was shocked, at 25 I had a tumor in my breast, but could it really be cancer?
When I came in for my biopsy, I was terrified. I sat in the waiting room watching all the women around me. There were women from all walks of life, all ethnicities, and to my surprise all ages. There were women wearing scarves to cover their hair loss from chemotherapy, there were women being comforted by husbands, mothers, sisters, and friends. There were women who looked weak and frail. Yet, among all these women, you could feel one tangible thing and that was Hope.
Hope for a cure, hope for good test results, hope for shrinkage, hope for remission, hope for another day to keep fighting, keep living, keep breathing, keep hoping. I had to wipe the tears from my eyes as I gathered strength from this phenomenal group of women. Could I be this strong? Could I have hope in the face of this monster? Could my resolve be to live to see another day?
After the biopsy, I had to wait a few days before getting the results. When the phone rang, I immediately recognized the Vanderbilt prefix. I answered and held my breath. “Benign..” Began the voice on the other end of the phone. I exhaled a sigh of relief, but my heart was forever changed by the scene in that waiting room. The hope I felt. The strength that was prevalent. Those women were in a fight for their lives but they had hope, and that was the force that kept them in the ring.
Hope in the sand
Last week, I was vacationing with my family in the Caribbean, and my sister and I were frolicking on the beach, taking pictures, swimming, jumping in and out of the waves, and running along the sand. It was one of those moments of pure bliss. Then my sister began to write in the sand. She wrote “Life is beautiful.” Then took a cool picture and posted it on Instagram. Following suit, I wrote “Love” in the sand and quickly captured the picture.
Then, without much thought I began to write “Hope” in the sand next to our other words. As I was writing, a man walked by and made a comment as I was writing the word. I didn’t actually hear what he said; I just smiled and kept writing “Hope” in the sand. A few minutes later, as I was just about to snap a few pictures of my word, the same man came by again.
This time he stopped and said, “Oh, so that’s what you were writing, ‘Hope’. Can you tell me about that?”
I stood there dazed for a minute, was this man seriously asking me to explain hope? After processing his question, I began to explain hope to him, “Really, it’s simple; hope is everything. Without hope, we don’t have a reason to get up in the morning.”
He looked at me puzzled for a second, and then responded, “Where do you get your hope from?”
It was at that moment that I knew without a doubt the only answer to his question.
We talked for another 15 minutes about God, Jesus, salvation and eternity. He asked questions about my faith, and as I answered them, I felt more and more empowered, and I knew that it wasn’t me speaking but God through me. While we were talking his young daughter nearly stepped on my sand drawing, and he stopped her saying, “No sweetie, don’t step there that’s very important. In fact, it’s everything.”
A few seconds later, I looked down and noticed the little girl writing “hope” next to my drawing. Her father smiled with tears in his eyes.
When we finished our conversation, I walked back to my lounge chair. A few minutes later the man reappeared. He apologized for bothering me again, but the words he spoke were so sincere and real as if God himself were speaking them. “You know how everything happens for a reason. I know why I came on this vacation. Not to eat good food, swim in the beach, shop, or hang out. There was a reason I was on this beach feeding these fish at this moment. That reason was to come across the “hope” in the sand. You have changed my life. Now I have a reason to keep going and keep living.”
That encounter changed my life as much as his. A reminder that even something as simple as writing in the sand can change someone’s life, and really hope is all there is. Hope for eternity, hope for a better world, hope for peace, hope for love, hope for change, hope for people, hope in God, hope for tomorrow.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I look down at the ratty and worn out bookmark, the tassel frayed and unraveling. Then, I look at the words printed on the front of the bookmark, and tears begin to stream down my face. How appropriate those words. How real they would feel one year later. How convicted I would feel by the truth in the words. Printed on the leather purple bookmark, still tucked away in the Joyce Meyer book that was a graduation present from my mother: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Oh, how true indeed! The Lord has always known the plans for me and it brings me such joy to know that while I was worried about my future, jobs, relationships, etc., He already knew those plans. When I first got the bookmark last May, I remember looking at the words, and thinking, hmm that’s a nice little bible verse. However it didn’t change anything in my heart. I continued to worry and stress about jobs and where I would be living and what I would be doing. Looking back on it now, I see how minute my worries were. I see how small my stresses were to an almighty God, but at the time they were all-consuming. I defined my identity in worldly success. So, I looked at the bookmark with some merit, but gave it no merit in my life. A few weeks later, I was in Memphis for Memorial Day, which ended up being a life changing week, and I was at Cracker Barrel with my little sister, and as we walked through the country store, I glanced a plaque with the same words printed on it. I said to my sister, “Maya, look it’s that same bible verse.” She said it must be following me around for a reason. I told her if I got the job that I was interviewing for on the next day, that they must get the plaque for me to hang on my office wall.
I did get that job, and for the next two or three months, I would see this bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 printed everywhere. As if it truly were following me around. From looking for decorations for my new apartment, to buying a journal from the bookstore, I saw those words everywhere. Finally, I began to wonder what God could mean. In my mind his prophecy had been fulfilled. I was desperate for a job, and he blessed me with an awesome job around an amazing group of uplifting Christian people. Weren’t those his plans? Hadn’t he prospered me? It never really was about the job though.
Months later as I reflect on the past 12 months, tears stream down my face as I reread those words printed on the purple leather bookmark. When I think of the plans that I tried to create for myself, the jobs I applied for, the cities I attempted to live in, the relationships that I wanted to form; they are crumbs compared to the feast that the Lord has been preparing for me. One year later, I realize that all of the doors that had to close, all the sadness I had to endure, all of the confusion, all of the frustration, all of the things I had to turn away from, so I could turn to the one true and Holy God. The past 12 months have changed me. I trust God because I believe that his plans for me will always surpass any plans I could ever make for myself.
I can look at Jeremiah 29:11 and know that the Lord is good and sovereign and his promises always come true. I can substitute the word “plans” for job, husband, house, friends, city, tomorrow, etc. He knows my future, He holds my future, and his plan are to give me hope and a future Something I couldn’t foresee a year ago.
Letter to an Unforgettable Year
What can I say? You have truly been a memorable year. We started very rocky. You brought a great deal of sadness and despair at the onset, but you ended with healing and patching of old wounds. Oh year, you brought a master’s degree, a new job, new friends, a new city, a new apartment, and a new community of coworkers, family, friends, and church members. You taught me the meaning of team and family, and you forced me to face some difficult things and move past them. 2011, I am so grateful for you. Although you started with tens of job rejections, you always knew which job was really meant for me. Although you separated me from certain people, you always knew who my real friends should be. Although you made one living situation not work out, you knew where I should really be living.
I doubted your potential 2011. I feared your days and months. I tried to escape from the passing of your calendar. But day after day passed and you persisted. Your winter brought bitter disappointment, your spring utter despair, but by summer, you brought hope, and in autumn you gave me a new life. You have been a year to remember that’s for sure. At some points, I didn’t know if I’d see you end. But I have, I’m here at your end. Wow! What a journey we have endured together. I am so grateful for you 2011. The newness that you have brought, but also the ending of old habits and sins that you have stopped. For all the doors that you have opened this year, thank you. For all the joys that I have experienced, thank you. For all of the people who you’ve brought into my life, thank you. For revealing God to me, thank you. For helping me to seek God, thank you. For completely giving my life over to Christ, thank you.
2011, thank you. For the bad days, for the tears, for the trials, for the loneliness, for the rejection, for the suffering, thank you. Without those experiences, I would never know how great life can really be.
As your time is quickly coming to an end, I look with eager anticipation at what your successor 2012 will bring. As with any year, I also know there will be bad days too. But 2011, you taught me that bad days are not Godless days. For that lesson alone, I appreciate you 2011.
Farewell and thank you; you have been a metamorphic year,
A Dog’s Love
I was recently listening to a sermon about Mary Magdalene and how when she first encountered Jesus, she made the declaration that she “didn’t know how to love him.” However, Jesus said in return that there was nothing she could do because he already loved her. He loved her first, in return she was able to love him. When I think about this, I’m reminded of my puppy Jodie.
When I first brought her home, I wanted to love her so badly. I wanted to provide for her, and give her a nice healthy and happy home, but I couldn’t. I knew I should love her and shower her with admiration, but I couldn’t. I didn’t really know how to love her. Her first night at home, I lay on the floor and cried in frustration. I felt like I was failing my new puppy who needed to be loved. While I was lying there, she came up to me and cuddled under my arms. She loved me already. I didn’t need to do anything extraordinary to earn her love, she loved me just because. She loved me even when I couldn’t return the love to her. She would follow me around the apartment wherever I went. When I was sitting on the balcony reading, she was there. When I was cooking breakfast, she was there. When I was showering, she was right there. She never left me. Even in the times when all I wanted to do was hurl her from the balcony, she still loved me. Even in the moments when I locked her in her crate, she cried out for me and loved me then too.
I began to love that puppy immeasurably. She was comforting and supporting and dependable. I cannot even grasp how fond I was of her. Jodie taught me a valuable lesson about love, especially God’s love. I feel at times, we want to love God, but like Mary Magdalene, we just don’t know how. Like Moses, we are afraid to look at God, so we hide our faces. But he still loves us anyway. Like my little pup Jodie, God has loved me in my moments of utter despair, and he’s loved me in times of great joy. His love is unfailing, and he is always there. His love is there through the pain, through the confusion, through the chaos, through the heartache, through the panic, through all the sinfulness. Through it all, his love is always there. When we accept his love and allow him to love us completely and unconditionally, then we learn to love him in return. When we love God, we are then able to pour his love unto others.
Mary Magdalene would not have been the picture of a saint from the onset, but she allowed God’s love to enter her heart and in return, her life was transformed. Only the love of God has that transformative power. And even when all we can do is throw up our hands and say, “God, I don’t know how to love you,” His love is there for us to accept. I loved Jodie because she first loved me, and I love God because he first loved me.
edge of the precipice…
The hillside path which they were following became narrower all the time and the drop on their right hand became steeper. At last they were going in single file along the edge of the precipice and Shasta shuddered to think that he had done the same last night without knowing it. “But of course,” he thought, “I was quite safe. That is why the Lion kept on my left. He was between me and the edge all the time.”
In this scene from C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, Shasta, the main character and the others are walking along the edge of a cliff, when he looks down, he shudders at the thought that the night before he had done the same path in the dark, without realizing that there was a huge drop off to his side. He is comforted in the thought that the Lion kept to his left to protect him from falling. When I read this passage and visualize this scene, I am almost brought to tears. In my life, I have been on the edge of a precipice, trotting along, without realizing that I was never walking alone. I thank God that he knows when we are on the edge and decides to stay and walk with us.
This scene reminds me of God’s love in my life in two ways. The first being the obvious: that he never leaves nor forsakes us. That he is always with us, even when we are inches from the precipice, the edge, the drop-off of falling into complete despair, recklessness, or desperation. God is always there. Like the Lion in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, our God shows up right and when we need him. The second truth that I gather from this scene is that what is done in the dark will always come out in the light. Shasta had been on the same exact path the night before. He had taken the same steps, endured the same journey, but it is revealed that he had to cover his tracks again during the day and in the light.
My nights on the precipice are just now beginning to unfold in the light. The nights on the edge and the clinging to a little bit of rope and hanging on. God was there on those nights, and he shows me every day now in the light that he never left me, he still loves me, and I am safe with him next to me.
In difficult times, I know I want to I think I am alone and by myself, but when the day dawns, I realize, like Shasta, that He was always there between me and the precipice.
Thank you God for standing between me and the edge all the time.
God of shoe racks??
During my first year of teaching, I moved into a new apartment with a huge walk-in closet. I was excited about the vastness and space that was available in the closet. I absolutely love shoes and clothes, so the large closet made me extremely happy. I decided to buy a shoe rack to store some of my shoes as a way to best utilize the space. So, I headed to Target and picked up one of the types of shoe racks that you have to assemble yourself. When I got home, I was eager to put together the shoe rack and begin putting my shoes on it. However, assembling this particular shoe rack was one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life. There were poles that needed to fit in notches and plastic brackets to hold it all together, and for some reason all the pieces did not want to fit together properly. Every time I thought I was finished, I would watch the metal poles slip through the holes and the entire rack fall to ground. After hours of assembling this shelf, I just sat on the floor and cried in frustration. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working. I had all the right pieces, and I knew where they were supposed to go, but they just wouldn’t fit.
How many times in our own lives have we had the right pieces, but we just couldn’t make them fit? I think when we are the carpenters of our own lives, the pieces will never go together as they should.
Eventually, I did get the shoe rack assembled, with the help of a lot of duct tape and tons of sweat, frustration, and tears. The crazy thing about that shoe rack was it never actually stayed together. On countless occasions, I would go to pull a shoe, and the entire rack would come crumbling down. At first, I met this with more frustration and a lack of understanding. However, I got to the point that year that when the rack fell, I rebuilt. You can never give up on anything, even if it seems as trivial as a shoe rack. We are all God’s shoe racks, he puts us together, and we fall apart. Instead of waving his hands in frustration, he picks up all of the pieces and rebuilds us again and again and again.
Where do you go when the pieces fall? Do you attempt to rebuild your own shoe rack? Or do you let God put the pieces exactly as they should go?
For most of my life, I thought I was building my own rack, controlling my own life, and time and time again, my rack fell to the ground with a large bang. Now, as I see God as the owner of my whole life, I know he controls the pieces and will build the rack with a sturdy foundation, such that if it falls, I know he is ready to pick up the pieces and build again. I thank God that he never gives up on us, even when we think the shoe rack will never be operational.
Where is God sometimes?
It was an early May day, but the temperature in Nashville was already in the mid-90s. It was the sticky, sweltering type of heat that makes it not only difficult to breath, but every task is intensified by the mighty rays of the sun. I was sitting in my car at a local park in between errands for that day. Although I was parked in the shade, I could feel the sauna that was right outside my car. As I sat in the car, I began to feel tears swelling in my eyes. I didn’t want to cry in that moment, I wanted to feel the warmth of the sun and be reminded of God’s love and presence. However, in that moment, all I could do was cry. I don’t know how long I sat in that car with tears streaming down my face, and sweat dripping from my forehead, but after a short while, I was distracted from my tears by a buzz of my cell phone.
It’s weird that I would ask where God is sometimes, when I know he is everywhere at all times. But sometimes I think we just have to be reminded that he is with us and cares for us. When I picked up the phone and wiped the tears from my eyes that were blurring my vision, I noticed a text from a friend that simply said, “Are you okay today?” I don’t know how she knew to text me or that I was sitting in a hot car crying in isolation, but that text message reminded me of God’s love in my life, and how he sends people to us in our most desperate situations. Later that afternoon, as I was walking to class, I looked at the big, bright, beautiful sun, and I knew God was there. I felt him in the warmth of the spring air. I saw him in the blinding rays of the sun. I sensed him in the humidity that clinged to my skin. I met God that day and he told me that he is with me always. For me, that message came from the largest celestial body in the solar system. For others, it can come in all kinds of different forms and ways.
At hard times, I think it is easy to forget that God has a plan for our lives and to trust his plan, but when we surrender to his good and perfect will, that’s when his love and grace is illuminated in our lives like the beauty of the sun on a hot May day.
Be blessed and live in the name of christ…
Stop looking down during stressing times and look up and find the “sun”, the light, and the way.