Posted in Reflection

Something I’m glad I learned at an early age.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in a new stage of life now. I’m newly married. I’m turning older this week. Etc. But, when I was confronted with this topic idea for a blog post, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. What I mean is this, now that Hub and I have our own home, our own life, and our own plans and dreams for future children, we find ourselves (rather often) talking about things our parents taught us, things we appreciate about them, things our parents represent, and things from our childhoods we don’t want to take for granted.

So, here goes.

The prompt: Something you are glad you learned at an early age.

(There’s so many things I could talk about, I know. This, however, came to my mind first.)

 

I’m glad I learned at an early age that going to church isn’t optional.

 

Now, don’t sign me off right away. I’m not judging. I’m not trying to come across as “holier than thou,” either. And, I’m certainly not preaching.

Yes, I was a preacher’s daughter. I didn’t really have a choice. We attended church every time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Three times a week. Case closed. No questions asked.

But, it was much more than that. My parents taught me that it wasn’t all about what the church or the Sunday School lessons or the services could give to you; it was also what you were going to give back. How you were going to tap in. It was (and still is) a lifestyle.

This goes beyond being a preacher’s family, though. I firmly believe that if my Dad wouldn’t have been the pastor, we still would have been attending. Every service. Sunday and Wednesday. In fact, my parents both had parents who were laymen of the church – and they believed that same way.

I know what you’re thinking. “My church doesn’t even have Sunday night service.” “I work until 6 p.m. on Wednesday; there’s no way I can make prayer meeting or even stay awake during it.” “Sometimes I just need a Sunday night to regroup before the coming week.”

I get it. I really do. I’ve even skipped a service or two myself. And, I’ve gone a stretch or two not attending Sunday school. But, that’s not my point.

My point is this: I’m glad I had parents that didn’t. I’m glad I had parents that set the bar high. I’m glad I had parents who chose to attend church, even on vacation. I’m glad my parents made it exciting to go to church and encouraged me to use my talent of singing in a church setting. I’m glad my parents loved me enough to make me do what I didn’t always want to do.

We all have our reasons. We sometimes even have excuses.  Yes, the trend now is to NOT have Sunday evening or Wednesday evening services. Have break-out and discipleship groups, instead. That’s AWESOME! I even love the idea. And, sometimes we just don’t feel good. We’re sick. We’re stretched emotionally. We need a break.

I get it. I really do.

Here’s what I’m saying, though. In a world where people are looking for an excuse to miss church, be one of the faithful few. Teach that Sunday School class, be a mentor, choose a pew to sit in and be there. Faithfully. If you have to miss, miss. Just don’t make a habit of it. Support your pastor and his family. Your pastor prays and works tirelessly to get the mind of God for the message on Sunday. And, guess what… He does the SAME for the Sunday night and Wednesday night services, too! When did we start placing Sunday morning service as “THE” service that matters and the other two services as the “ones that don’t really count.”

And… Furthermore… If you are there, be ALL there. Put your phone away. Stop paying more attention to those around you than the One you’re supposed to be at church for. Focus on God. Focus on worship.

Focus on being there.

Focus on making church THE option, not optional.

 

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Posted in Introspection

The J O U R N E Y. Part One.

Let’s face it. Life is a messy thing. There is no manual titled The One Way to Do Life Right. Oh, how I wish there was! I am at a different spot in life than many of my friends, relatives, and coworkers. I’m at a completely different spot in life than I was just six months ago. Sometimes I feel frustrated. Sometimes I feel joy. Sometimes I feel like a conqueror. Other times I feel as if life is kicking me in the backside.

Have you been there, too?

It was in a discussion I was having just this past weekend that it dawned on me. . .

Life is a J O U R N E Y. 

Part One. Reflection of the Journey.

Life is a J O U R N E Y. Each life represents a unique journey. There are no duplicate journeys, but there are similar ones. There are certain stops along the journey, but there are no required or marked pathways from one stop to the next.

Sometimes our journey feels like a road-trip or vacation. It’s “smooth sailing” for a day, a week, and – if we are a lucky – a year! Other times, though, our journey seems like a never-ending expedition past places we did not intend or ever wish to go.

You see, where I started my journey is simply not the same as the start of your journey. We were each born into a different home, a different family. Our journeys have been shaped by different people and past experiences.

We have each observed and felt happiness, acceptance, and freedom. We, too, have experienced loss, rejection, and heartache. But, the memories I tie to each of these emotions are completely different than the ones you tie them to.

As I take a little time to glance back on the different spots I have visited on my journey, my heart is full of a bittersweet emotions. There were some painful, dark valleys I trekked through. Some caves, even. Losing my best friend to an early death, being confronted with the rough edges of my personality, losing friendships — those legs of the journey were tough. I never want to go back, of course. But, I must realize the stronger person that I am because of those hard days on the journey.

I then remember those magnificent mountaintops that were waiting on the other side of the valleys of grief, fear, and pain. Those spots were filled with wonder and awe. Learning to love, finding my passion of teaching, and experiencing self-confidence and beauty — just to name a few.

Along the journey we are confronted with so many voices, telling us what college to attend, what career path to choose, who to date, who to stay away from, how we look, how we need to improve, etc. We have been bombarded with the desire to measure up to all these voices but the frustration of never seeming able to.

No one can tell you how you feel, no one can tell you what career fits you best, and no one can decide for you if you if you really like the person you’re dating.

YOU, my friend, have to experience YOUR journey for YOURSELF. No, you don’t have to go at life solo. That’s not what I am saying. But, I do firmly believe that life sometimes consists of trial and error.

You’ve got to be yourself. You’ve got to make your own decisions. You’ve got to fail every once in awhile. You’ve got to feel frustration and have determination in order to feel celebration.

There is no “one” path you can choose in life. The J O U R N E Y of life is a combination of pathways that wind and combine together to make a journey uniquely yours. Sometimes life throws storms and challenges your way. These make you divert down a pathway different from what you would have originally chosen.

Sometimes life throws surprises and situations your way that warrant you to make a decision that will alter your journey in life. This alteration is unexpected. But, on the other end of that decision that changed your pathway in life, you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you made the right choice. Your life is different – but better!

I can’t explain it, really. When I was a teenager, looking forward college and “adult” life, you better believe I had life all planned out. My life looks a thousand times different than those “plans” I had made. Nothing has quite turned out like I thought it would or even wanted it to back then. Am I ever thankful for that! You know why? My life is a thousand times better than I could have imagined it would be! A  J O U R N E Y. That’s what life is.

In the famous words of Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Don’t be afraid to make a decision between two paths. Don’t be afraid to get five years down the road and realize that life didn’t pan out quite like you thought it would. Don’t burden yourself by expectations that weren’t met.

Embrace your J O U R N E Y. Yours is special. Yours is unique. Yours is controlled by you – no one else.

I encourage each of us to take some time to reflect on our journey. Let’s relive the memories. Let’s deal with the emotions. Let’s laugh at the good times, grow from the bad times, and let go of the bitter times. Let’s make the decisions we’ve been holding out on. Let’s release the fear of the “what ifs.” Let’s believe that things happen for a reason. Let’s look forward to what is yet to come. And – most importantly – let’s not forget to hold onto the hand of the Almighty Father who says, “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I…forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5 ASV)

(Watch for: The J O U R N E Y. Part two. >> Hitting the blog soon!)

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash