Saturday, March 25, 2017

Magnolia

When I was in the first grade, my class went outside one sunny day with shovels and seeds and we created a legacy. I think back then we were just happy to be outside instead of doing work in the classroom, but looking back I can see we were doing work in a different way. A work that lasts a lot longer than math problems and spelling words. That day at Verner Elementary I learned about investing as we each got to plant a flower of our own. Even now I can remember the excitement I had of being a part of something that was bigger than me. It felt so special to leave a piece of me in a place that was shaping me every day. I didn't understand its significance then, but it impacted me more than I could have imagined.
That day at school taught me the art of planting or the process of adding something fruitful to something else. Planting, in a sense, is making a difference. It is cultivating hope and then watching it blossom into something beautiful. There's one thing I've learned however about living in bloom; there are seasons to it. It doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't last forever but if properly cultivated, it will come around again. When I think about my purpose and my life – it always goes back to that principle of planting I learned so long ago. I want to leverage my days to count. I want to make every single one matter. I want to live in bloom. And I want the same for you.
I've always loved flowers and gardens in general, but I've recently become completely fascinated by the Magnolia. And it's mostly due to reading Chip and Joanna Gaines bestseller, The Magnolia Story. Joanna describes the magnolia as a "tight little pod that stays closed up for a long time...until one day it finally bursts open into this gigantic, gorgeous, fragrant flower that's ten times bigger than the bud itself." She goes on to say, "It's impossible to imagine that such a big beautiful thing could pop out of that tiny little bud. But it does" (Gaines, xvi).
I love that description because it gives me hope. No matter what the situation looks like now, tomorrow holds a chance for different circumstances. The magnolia shows us that despite its appearance, it is full of possibility and potential. There is more within it than meets the eye. Magnolias have such an incredible nature because while the seed doesn't bloom right away, when it does, it is big and beautiful and strong.  It takes a long time...in many cases years before they will flower but then out of nowhere they seem to transform into something extraordinary.
I think maybe we find ourselves in the magnolia season of life sometimes – hoping, dreaming and waiting only to continue to find empty hands and wasted dirt. I know what that feels like, but I also know that isn't the end of the story. The seed may not have blossomed yet, but it doesn't mean it never will. I look back at many of the moments of my life and I can see how God was at work. Always planting. Always digging. Always watering. The deeper I walk with Christ the more I see that His timing is always best, even if it is not what I want at the time. It's the trusting Him in all things that produces the strongest faith and the deepest roots. It's the believing that the Magnolia will flower.
After sharing much about their journey Joanna commented, "Looking back on it now, all these big, life-changing things were right around the corner for us at that moment. And if we've given up, if we walked away when we were at our lowest, we would never have made it around the corner to see all the blessings that we are about to come due" (Gaines, 141).
 Galatians 6:9 says it this way, "Do not grow weary of doing what is good, for at the proper time you'll reap a harvest if you do not give up."
There's no question that sometimes life is difficult. It's hard to keep going, keep believing and keep holding onto a dormant seed. When all you see day after day is a closed up bud, it's difficult to imagine anything could take its place. And it's hard to keep watering dry ground. But think of all you might miss if you give up now; if you walk away before your magnolia blooms. Living the magnolia way means "to live by faith and not by sight" and to live in expectation no matter how long it takes (2 Corinthians 5:7). Living like the magnolia means choosing to look at the seed as a "bloom in progress". A delayed flower can make you miserable or it can use you to make a difference.
The image of the sower and the seed, the one instilled in me back in elementary school and many others places along the journey, inspires me to keep planting and keep looking for the harvest. It encourages me to cultivate my talents and watch God move. It reminds me of my purpose and of God's presence in all things. And it teaches me that in flowers and in life, the kind of seeds planted directly yields the crop that is harvested.
My hope is that you will take this principle to heart. That you will do the work in planting the seed, that you will trust even when nothing flowers, that you will not quit in the hard times and that you will believe that "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). I hope that like that day in the first grade, you will not look just at the seeds in your hands, but at the legacy they will leave if you stay the course and let your life bloom. Believe that the magnolia is coming!
-Only Hope
Gaines, Chip and Joanna. The Magnolia Story. Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 2016. Print.
      A Note From the Author
I planted a seed three years ago when I logged onto a website and built a place for my words to go. I hope they have done some good and inspired some blooms. I know I personally have loved sharing the things God has laid on my heart and how to learn to look for Him in all things. As I write these words, I find my hands full of new seeds and new writing adventures.
It has been a difficult decision to make, but I feel called to write some other things God has showed me. I am not ready yet to say goodbye but I do feel I am in a change of seasons. As I take time to cultivate some other projects in my life, I hope you will be inspired to do the same. I want to thank those of you who have been faithful and journeyed this path with me. You will hear from me again, but until then I hope you will live life with more than words, with your hope fully in Jesus and in  anticipation of a big, beautiful magnolia bloom.
-Holly

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Direction

My dad is like a human GPS. He knows road names and routes and directions like nobody else.
I remember one time my aunt asked me what I did if I didn't know how to get somewhere.
Without hesitation or another thought, I replied, "I just ask my dad."
And as simple as that might have been that day, I began thinking about it recently again and I realized it holds a greater significance. When life unfolds to a place that is unknown, when I am looking in different directions or when I must choose a path to walk, I wonder is it my Father that I look to for answers or do I get distracted by the backseat drivers of my life?
I'd love to simply say that anytime I face uncertainty, I seek God's answers immediately, but too often I look to myself or others instead. I have learned that seeking God's will is more than just checking that He agrees with what we desire. It's about surrendering the outcome, even if that's completely opposite of what we had in mind.
This idea of surrender and God's will has followed me lately. I've read a lot about paths as my morning devotionals seem to have me camped out with the Israelites. I've seen them delivered from the Egyptians, wandering the desert and finally crossing the threshold of the Promised Land. I've felt their weight of discouragement as deliverance got delayed, felt the sting of disappointment as idols were built and the relentless pursuit of God's love through it all. And I've found wisdom from Moses and Joshua and marveled over the way they led generations of God's people. There is so much to learn!
One thing that keeps standing out to me in all these stories though are the different roads and journeys the people keep walking. Some are towards God; some are away from God. Some seem to be headed towards possibilities while others seem to take them backwards but in all those paths, I see choices. Every place they go, every decision and every attitude is a choice that echoes into eternity. And I have to ask myself, when it comes to these choices in my life am I asking for help or forging my own steps ahead into the unknown? Am I declaring, "God whatever comes my way, I will trust You" (Sovereign, Chris Tomlin).
One passage found in Exodus 13:17-18 says,
"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them them on the road through the Philistine country though it was shorter. For God said, "if they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt...so God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea."
I can't help but pause right there. In those verses we find a huge truth. One that kind of floors me. Sometimes God leads us the long way to stop us from turning back.
I've definitely been there before; you know that feeling that you are between Egypt and a hard place. That feeling that you are in the desert and you know you can't go back but moving forwards seems almost impossible. Turning back is so alluring, but God desires more for us. He wants us to go the distance. He wants a greater life for us. And so should we, no matter the difficulties.
God doesn't need a map or a GPS, He knows where you are at and He knows how easy it is to go back to old ways and old habits when things get hard. God also knows how satan loves to stop us from making progress any way he can. The desert is more than just a wasteland; it is more about perseverance. The long way is about faithfulness, not convenience. And I think too often when we come to that place in life, we just stop. We set up camp and live half the life we were intended because we don't know which way to go. The desert seems better than nothing. And we are tired of walking. Of fighting. Of waiting. It's true, sometimes the route God takes us is long, but oh how the lesson is lasting.
I came across a Tim Tebow quote from his book, Shaken that says it like this:
"Certainly there is a time to wait on God, but rarely is there a time to do absolutely nothing. You know what happens when we do nothing? Nothing! You have to start doing something that can make a difference. Don't let life get in the way of choosing to impact others. There's always something to do. Pay attention. Look around. Listen. God just might be speaking" (Tebow, 167).
I love that challenge because sometimes I look around and wonder where in the world God is taking me and I am tempted to put up a tent like the Israelites and wait it out until the path clears. I want to be able to see what I am getting myself into, but with that mentality I run the risk of never going any further.
I don't know where your paths and steps and roads are leading right now. Maybe they are certain. Maybe they are not. Maybe you find yourself on the long way around. Or maybe you've gotten comfortable in the desert. Wherever it is, I want to encourage you to keep taking steps. Keep looking towards that promise. Keep walking even when you stumble. And when you come to a place that is uncertain, just ask your Father. He knows. He holds every detail, every hope and every fear. He sees the place you are at and walks it with you. If you need to find your way out of the desert, look to the promise. For it is in the truth of God's Word that you will find guidance. Directions are easy when you ask the right person. They will get you where you are going every time.
Take to heart the very words that Moses gave to the Israelites, "Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you will never, ever see again. The Lord will fight for you and you can be still" (Exodus 14:13-14). Look your Egypt in the eye, shake the desert off your feet and watch what the Lord can do. He is waiting and ready to help lead you in new directions.
-Only Hope

Adorned

This Christmas season has been a little unusual for me. I got to see it from somewhat of a different perspective as I was traveling  and for that I am grateful. It has not been completely traditional but it has been significant. The one image that keeps coming back to me this year, no matter where I have traveled, is that of the Christmas Tree.
It is said that a 16th century German preacher named Martin Luther was the first person to have brought a Christmas tree into his house. As the legend goes, he was walking through the forest one night when he looked up and saw the stars shining through the branches. The sight memorized him. He went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of Heaven to come to earth that first Christmas.
And this December as Christmas trees all over have caught my eye; I couldn't help but see exactly what he meant. The sight itself wasn’t new at all, but the revelation was something unique. I have seen a number of Christmas trees throughout the years, making memories at the tree farm with my family and decorating with my mom but there was something this time that was different.
Alluring.
There was just something that made me literally stop and take the tree in—from the sparkly star on top to the adorned branches below.
I dare say it was a Holy moment.
Because as I gazed at the glittery decorations against a backdrop of evergreen, I couldn't help but see us through God's eyes. Like the tradition we so fondly love, God adorns our simple branches in the most beautiful way. From the way the tree is covered in lights to the way it points to something much greater than it, completely captivated my heart.
A Christmas tree is such a common thing on its own. It is simply composed of branches and wood. But what a difference it makes when it starts to shine. When one by one ornaments are added in just the right spot. It is transformed into a sight of splendor and beauty and it begins to carry memories. It carries wonder.  And it carries purpose.
And oh how we are so much the same when God starts to adorn our lives with His presence.
With His promise and with His purpose.
We begin bare and blank, but we hold opportunity. We hold the ability to carry beauty. And we become marked by glitter and hooks and shiny balls and unique pieces of our story. Like the wood the branches stand upon, we are carved into many different things. We become masterpieces, each one different and wonderful in its own way.
I hope you take a minute to really ponder that imagery and I hope you shine  for Christ as brightly as the bulbs nestled in the branches, but I think it is more than that. I think perhaps the greatest lesson a Christmas tree can teach us, is faithfulness. The trees we decorate with each year, also called evergreens are one of the most unique plants in nature because they are the only ones that keep foliage all year round. Other plants lose their leaves and buds, but the evergreen weathers everything. In fact they are named for that the trait of always being green—ever green! I think there's something so extraordinary in that. It's as if God is saying if this plant can make it through all the seasons and still bloom, so can you.
This has also sort of become a personal motivation for me because my name is a type of Evergreen—one that has spiny leaves and bright red berries and that is used all around Christmas time. I think about the Holly Bush and I'm reminded that God made it to withstand. He made it incredibly unique. He made it to last.
The irony continues beyond my name though. I was also brought home from the hospital as a newborn baby to a little place called Evergreen, Alabama. It seems God had a divine message from since before I was born. But I don't think the message was just for me; I think it is for me to share. I believe we are all called to be like the Christmas tree. I think we are created to point to Him. To adorn our lives with Him. To shine brightly in a dark world and to withstand life's many seasons. To continue to bloom. And to always have hope for tomorrow.
The Christmas tree is a simple concept, but its richness is as deep as its many branches. Take a look at one this year and remember where it points. Remember we are called to do the same. Happy Birthday to the King of Kings and Merry Christmas everyone!
– Only Hope
or in the spirit of this blog:
Holly

Whatever is Lovely

I was sitting at church one recent Sunday sulking. Not even worship, which always gave me reasons to smile, could pull me to a happy place. It had been a rotten week and it seemed like all my emotions decided to accumulate in that moment. I felt blue.
Nothing terribly horrible had happened. It wasn't anything like that, but the people that had crossed my path had done everything in their power, it seemed, to trip me up. Words were like poison. Attitudes like flaming arrows. Actions... completely self centered. One hit after the other. My heart had taken a bit of a beating and I just couldn't take any more of it.
The problem with my pity party however, was that I was having it while seated on Holy ground, in the presence of My Holy God, too caught up in my problems to remember He is the one who holds it all together.
And then He dropped a word in my heart.
Do not let the circumstances that are surrounding you distract you from the truth of My promises.
The words rolled around in my heart and I knew He was right but how was I supposed to just tuck away all the bad, the mean and the awful?
The words "truth" and "circumstance" rang with importance. The thing I seemed to forget was that they are different things separated by a little thing called vision. Circumstance is here and now but truth is unchanging. Circumstance is often what we see right in front of us while truth is the bigger picture.
My biggest problem...I couldn't get to the truth because I wasn't bypassing Circumstance Boulevard.
A Hillsong Worship song lyric floated into my mind.
"I cast my mind to Calvary. Where Jesus bled and died for me (O Praise the Name)."
I had always taken the whole few lines into context but this time I stopped near the beginning.
I cast my mind.
Suddenly it dawned on me; I have a choice where to cast my mind. Where to cast my thoughts. My attitude.
I can cast them in places they shouldn't be or I can cast them in Someone much greater than me! But bottom line is that it is a choice.
I recently heard a speaker at a conference say that God told her, "Andi you can do this day in your own strength or in My grace (Andi Andrews)."
I think that's true of everything our day encounters. The problems, the people, the unmet promises...we can cast anger or trust. Fear or peace. Curses or blessings. We can walk it all out on our own or we can lean on God's abundant grace.
Lysa Terkeurst's new book also shares a similar phrase over and over. Her message is to "live loved". It sounds so simple yet requires much strength. If only we lived as if we were filled with love. If only I would take a "loved" heart into the storms and trials of my life. To that person who always says something that gets to me. To a crowded room of people I don't know. To those situations the enemy sneaks into my life that sends me into despair. How much would a place of love make a difference when these moments come?
It would make a huge difference I think. And not just in my life, but in the life of the person receiving me.  A world that lived loved would be something. It may never happen across the entire earth, but it could become a reality in our individual world. We could touch the corners and streets and people that intersect out lives with a force of love like never before.
Needless to say, as I squirmed in defeat that Sunday morning and countless times since then, my focus needed a little help. And I think maybe I'm not the only one that has been wading in the wrong river of thoughts. How about we cast a little differently tomorrow. How about we see through different eyes and a different heart and a different mindset. Don't let "it" or "them" or "that circumstance" be the reason you don't make a difference for the Kingdom. Let "it" and "them" and "that" be a reason to make a difference.
Choose friends; choose life. Choose to cast yourself into "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is admirable. Think about things that are excellent and praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8).
It could make all the difference. Think Lovely!
-Only Hope
 

The Whole Package

He knows exactly where we are along the way. He tracks every stop, every location change, and every set of hands we pass through...the waiting chapter is not the end of the story.
I really love to get mail. There's something thrilling about reaching into the unknown and uncovering something just for you. I admittedly also like things to come quickly. In a perfect world, everything and everybody would be in step with my time line. It would be great.
However when that doesn't happen, it becomes the perfect opportunity to remind myself that there is a special anointing in the "process". God refines us through perseverance. And waiting for God to put all the pieces together is above and beyond rushing ahead of Him. It was this time last year that waiting on a package taught me more than just practiced patience, but to trust in God's own delivery process and to see it through despite what we may encounter during the journey.
I checked the mail every day for weeks wondering when my package would arrive. There had been delay after delay and I was starting to wonder if it was even going to arrive at all. Maybe I had been taken advantage of by the company. Maybe it had gotten lost somewhere in the mail; deserted and alone in someplace no one would think to look. Maybe if I waited just a little bit longer it would come wrapped in fancy packaging and completely worth the wait.
My maybes turned into a blur of months with no answers and I finally decided to contact the company. Twice I was assured it was on the way and to just hold out a little longer. I was beginning to forget what I even ordered in the first place and wondering if it would be worth all the hassle. It was like the package and I were in a stalemate – each trying to wait the other out.
Then, finally, one crisp day we had a breakthrough. I checked the tracking number and it stated to my relief that the package had been delivered to the Birmingham Post Office. I smiled victoriously. It wouldn't be long now. In fact, it would probably come the very next day and all of this would be over.
It didn't.
A whole week passed and the mailbox remained package-less. I tapped on the tracking number again trying to solve the great package mystery of 2015 and waited for the page to load. Below the Birmingham Post Office delivery was another, but instead of it being at my local post office, the package had somehow gone to Alexander City.
I studied the information in disbelief. I couldn't believe it had been so close and yet had gone somewhere completely wrong. I navigated over to Google Maps and discovered Alexander City was 83 miles away. That was approximately an hour and 32 minutes off course. Once again it had been delayed.
As I stared at the words "Alexander City" I thought a lot about my life and God's deliverance. In the midst of all my frustrations and delays, I saw that package as a metaphor. It dawned on me how many other deliveries (ones that could not be sent through the mail) in my life I was waiting on and even more humbling, how many I had stopped expecting to come. My heart inwardly moaned as I recognized the pattern.
Packages don't come.
Dreams get delayed.
Promises get rerouted and we start to wonder if they are ever going to arrive.
We contact management hoping to find an answer and only seem to get strung along further.
We end up in our Alexander Cities questioning why we haven't been delivered to our place of intention and yet never stop to see that we might absolutely be in the wrong place.
Perhaps surrender yields to deliverance and not the other way around. Maybe it isn't getting God to change His destination, but for us to change our perspectives. Could it be that He is waiting for us to aline ourselves and our desires with His timing rather than to keep asking Him to be in step with our timelines. After all, He is sovereign in all things and is the ultimate post master. He is in every single detail. And He knows exactly where we are along the way. He tracks every stop, every location change, and every set of hands we pass through. And no matter how long it takes, He continues to check the mailbox.
I know what you're thinking.
You know all of this in your head, but sometimes when the waiting gets long, you stop believing it. You know God's timing is good and His plans are sure, but you don't know how to stay in the fight. You give up. You lose hope. You move on to another dream, but as I write this I can't help but think some of us need to revisit those things we've given up on. We need clarity and vision on the packages we held in our hearts but never saw come into fruition. We need to remember that the waiting chapter is not the end of the story.
I noticed something about my package a few days after it went to Alexander City; it was sent back to the Birmingham Post Office and finally after many months was delivered to my house. It was interesting how it had to go back to the place it started in order to get to where it was going. Sometimes we also have to go back in order to move forward. Sometimes we have to believe in that dream again. Sometimes we have to return to the course God started for us in pursuit of the promise land that is waiting on us.
This week I read Deuteronomy 2:2-3 which says, "Then the Lord said to me, You have made your way around this hill country long enough, now turn North."
That action to "turn" resinated deep within. It's like God was saying, Quit circling those things that don't matter and turn to the purpose I have for you. Stop focusing on destinations and lean on My promises and dreams for your life. Get out of your "Alexander City" and back on course to where you are meant to be.
That package turned out to be a reminder for me to re-discover dreams. To live expectantly. To unearth what God buried in my heart and bring it back to life. It was about "fixing my eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen (2 Cor 4:18). And it was about learning to wait for the right season to reap a harvest. I'm not sure what it will do for you, but if you find yourself in a season of waiting or in the middle of a delivery process, perhaps your own, don't give up. When delays find you don't lose sight of what is promised. Course correct if you end up somewhere else. Keep an expectant eye and continue checking the mailbox. Your package may be just one day away from delivery.
As former Alabama player Greg McElroy stated about waiting to start at quarterback, "Some things are worth the wait."
-Only Hope
P.S. To the good people of Alexander City, I hope you feel honored to be a part of the story. I have the highest regard for you and do not blame you for the great package mix up.

Worth More Than Gold

We may not all compete for Olympic medals, but we all have something God intended us to make a difference in. We can all be game changers and history makers if we step into the purpose which we are called.
I've always been really into the Summer Olympics; in my lifetime: Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, Rio... but when my boss said, "Here comes the Olympic addict" three days into the Brazil games, I started to wonder if maybe I was a little too into the age-old competition.
I think about what the Olympics does. What the human spirit is capable of. To me, it inspires. It brings the best of the best together. It takes stories and it propels them to greatness. It makes your jaw drop in awe, your heart leap with excitement and your own spirit want to stand up and contribute something special to the world you live in. And only coming around every four years (two if you count winter), only adds to the degree of uniqueness it carries.
My friend and I were watching the opening ceremony this year and she told me she had read an article stating that the Olympics was actually mentioned in the Bible. Naturally I had to know where and asked her what verse it was found in. We looked it up and stumbled across 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 which says,
"Do you not know that in a race everyone runs, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
The Message says it this way,
"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold-medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got."
I was intrigued and thrilled that something I love today was used way back in the Church at Corinth as a metaphor to live life to the fullest. But God wasn't going to leave it at just a neat thought. He kept stirring and prompting me to go further – to see more.
And I did. He showed me a generation of "athletes" standing in the wings and waiting to have their moment. He showed me how Christ followers could capture the spirit of the Olympics and do amazing things in His name. He revealed that their is a unique champion inside all of us and we have the ability to do things we never dreamed of when we surrender ourselves to Him.
We may not all compete for Olympic medals, but we all have something God intended us to make a difference in. We can all be game changers and history makers if we step into the purpose which we are called. What a stark comparison of greatness. The Olympic cities are filled with people known for talent. And I hope God's people are known by what we can do too. God fills us with the ability to inspire. To keep going. To give our best. To bring hope to a dark world. If we all chased our purpose like Olympians we would put more in the world then just a dent in the medal count.
It's not just up to God though. We must train. We must believe in impossibilities. We must listen and draw from our coach. We must "run the race to win." The road to the podium stand is always filled with many moments of wanting to give up, of pushing ahead anyway and of not seeing God at work but knowing fully that He is. Our victory doesn't come in what we can do but rather in that moment when we can look to a lost and hurting world and say, "Look what God has done in me."
I love this quote my pastor shared by D.L. Moody that says, "Our greatest fear should not be failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter."
I don't know how you've been running your race lately or what obstacles may be standing in your way, but I want to encourage you to re-evaluate your goals and your time and your focus. I want to help you become the greatest all around in your field. I want you to experience all God has for you. And I want you to hit the finish line in gold medal fashion, giving it everything you've got.
I love the Olympics and I'm so proud to have such talented athletes representing our country but even more I love people who are running the race of faith, of a life after God. Of a life that truly matters. Let it be said of each one of us that we are being effective and giving our event all we've got. Let us move forward as if we were training for the Olympics. No matter where God has you or what you do...there is something more. Something for you to conquer, somebody for you to touch and something for you to do beyond your wildest dreams. And when you live like that, it's worth far more than gold.
See you at the finish line everybody. Run with all you've got. I believe in you.
-Only Hope

Twenty-Seven

"Our lives are not accidental, but are carefully purposed by God to bring glory to His Name." -Larry Stockstill, One Year Bible (June 14).
Jeremiah 1:5-"I knew you before I formed you in your mothers womb. Before you were born. I set you a part as my spokesman to the world."

Today marks 27 years of life for me. 27 candles. 27 June 19th's. 27 mile markers of where I've been and who I've become.
I'm not really sure why I'm writing about it. In fact I wasn't going to but something kept drawing me to the idea. Something wouldn't let it go.
I think it was after a conversation with my cousin who happens to also be my birthday twin that my perspective began to change. If I'm being honest, this birthday was the first one in maybe awhile that I wasn't quite as excited to see come. There are a number of different things that could have contributed to this feeling but at maybe the heart was the fact that it didn't seem like it was going to be special. It seemed like for the first time in all my life, it would be just a birthday.
And that probably sounds crazy to most people, but the fact is: I love my birthday. I don't just celebrate it the 19th but all of June leading up to it. I celebrate my half birthday. I start planning my for it months out. Needless to say, I am a little birthday crazed.
So after both confessing we had lost some of our birthday enthusiasm this year, my cousin and I made a pact to look for something wonderfully out of the ordinary about on our birthday this year. We were going to choose to find the special.
And you know what? I did find it.
God used a handful of people to show me that birthdays aren't special because of what you do but who you spend them with. My birthday this year has been full of wonderful surprises because of the people in my life. The friendships and people and places I've invested in the other 364 days of this year came back abundantly more than I could have imagined.
And I think that's what God wanted me to see. To share. Life is not about numbers or dollar signs or status or big events. Its about people. It's about investments in the right places. It's about living each day to the fullest potential. What you put into life is what you get and I haven't always deposited in the right accounts. It is when I dare to give a little bit of myself that I get much more in return. My hands can never be empty when I count my blessings. There quite simply aren't enough fingers to count them on.
When you look at life that way, it starts to change things. Because you don't just see today as one day but as a bridge to many others. You start to see that the things you do today stretch into the future beyond what you could know. May we see people for what they are-special and life changing and what makes all the difference!
This birthday taught me how to look beyond what's in front of me and into a much bigger picture. How to be thankful for all things and how to live life in a way that matters.
I thought I'd end this birthday blog with 27 thoughts that life has taught me thus far. May they inspire and may I keep on learning:
  1. Above all else love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind. Love Him in everything with everything.
  2. Be confident in who you are and whose you are. Trust in anything else is fleeting.
  3. The first step is often the hardest, but take it because it can lead to great places.
  4. Failure is not making a wrong turn, but rather never having tried at all.
  5. Surround yourself with people that encourage and challenge Your walk with Christ- "Show me your friends, I'll show you your future"
  6. Standing up for what is right in God's eyes isn't always easy or popular but it is always right!
  7. Invest in your family. Thank them. Forgive them. Be there. Love them and call them while you have the chance.
  8. Don't rush ahead of God; wait on His timing. It is always perfect and always better.
  9. Don't always look ahead to what is next. And don't be stuck looking at the past. Plan for tomorrow. Learn from yesterday but Live in today.
  10. Life is absolutely all about the choices you make. Choose wisely.
  11. Everybody has a story-take the time to read them.
  12. Guard your heart carefully, from it flows everything.
  13. Find at least one thing to be thankful for everyday. A heart of gratitude can change your whole perspective.
  14. Find joy and share it with others. Encourage like they've never heard a kind word.
  15. We are called to be the light-let's illuminate the world by our words and our actions and by everything about us.
  16. Invest in others-your legacy will last longer than anything else in this world.
  17. Remember life without laughter is no life at all. A cheerful heart does good like medicine.
  18. Travel whenever you can-open the world to yourself. But don't forget there is no place quite like home.
  19. Believe in possibilities, for with God all things are possible.
  20. Dream big and aim so high that you have to look to God to make it happen and then trust He will.
  21. Hope is an anchor for our souls. Always hold onto it. Always cultivate it. Never lose it.
  22. Know God has a plan for you. Walk through each day knowing it is a good plan full of hope and a future.
  23. God created you in His likeness and He has something only you can do. Embrace who He made you to be!
  24. Work hard at whatever comes your way. It will take you far in life when you do a job well done over just a job.
  25. Measure others not by what they can do for you or what they are worth in the worlds eyes but by their heart.
  26. Do not let fear stop you from becoming all that God has for you. Fear is only as powerful as you let it be. Do not be afraid; you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!
  27. Let love in. Choose love. Be love. Show love. Love others. Love who you are. And love as God first loved you. Wholly. Unconditionally. Always. Love makes life worth it.
Thank you to everybody who made 27 quite wonderful! Between staff cinnamon rolls, a collection of Star Wars inspired presents, flowers and a hand-drawn card, a frappe filled Saturday morning, red lobster biscuits and homemade chicken nuggets, heartfelt cards, a Father's Day Sunday service, a butterfinger crumble cake, phone calls and texts and special birthday wishes, cotton candy blizzards and so much more, I think I'm gonna really like this number. You guys made it extra special. Thank you!!
-H
-Only Hope