Monday, December 29, 2014

Old Year, New Year - Seeing His Blessings!

     My family likes to hike on Christmas day each year. It's a sort of unspoken family tradition; we seem to have a lot of those. :) But to be honest, this one has never been one of my favorites.

     Hiking is great in the spring and summer, but I've never been super excited about walking out into the cold when I could be curled up on the couch, in my pajamas, with a cup of home-made spiced tea. (Kudos to my talented Mama. :) So this year, the call came for us kids to get our shoes and coats on, and with a fair share of subtle foot dragging and mumbling, we complied. Although, I must confess, at least 60% of the silent complaining came from me. The kids didn't mind so much, 'cause they got to ride their bikes. Mine doesn't work super well. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

     After we got started, I realized that I hadn't brought anything to cover my ears against the biting wind either. Bother it all. And I didn't want to put on my hood, because these random buttons on it like to get tangled in my hair. It was a beautiful, beautiful day, but I kept staring down at the tips of my shoes, trudging on in a bubble of grouchiness, while my siblings sped off ahead, and my parents talked and laughed behind me.

     ....Let me tell you something. I am almost convinced that there is a special little angel in heaven that God sends to talk to me when I'm like this. We are very well acquainted. He comes down with a flutter of friendly featheriness, sits on my shoulder, leans close to my ear and whispers.....

"Talia.....c'mon, that's stupid."

      And it snaps me strait out of my melodramatic brooding act, and into a sheepish apology. There's nothing quite so humbling as remembering that God is with you all the time, and you just spent the last fifteen minutes complaining that you aren't the center of the world. :)

      A friend had recently reminded me of the importance of praise and thanks, and how it changes everything around you so beautifully, so I gave it a shot, starting with thanks. My question was this: what things, that are absolutely necessary for me to have in order to be on this hike with my family, am I thankful for?

Well for starters, I have to have a family to hike with.....which I do. And I love them.

I also have to have a home to come back to, otherwise this would not be a cute little hike.

And in that home, I have a couch, pajamas, and spiced tea to come back to!

     At first, it felt like a difficult exercise, but the more I added to the list, the easier it got, until I couldn't spit the words out fast enough to keep up with all the things I thought of. And it just kept building up and up, until the words turned from thanks to praise. You can't help it. When you know who it is who has blessed you with all these wonderful things, and you have His joy, it's almost impossible not to stop and just shout His praise at the top of your lungs. And surrounded by His beautiful creation,... with the sun on Pikes Peak, and a crystal clear sky, with only a few clouds rolling in over the mountains, and the rustle of the breeze filtering through the empty trees.... memories of all that He has done for me this year came pouring into my soul.

     He has taught me so much. So, so much. I have begun to understand the true depth of His love for the first time I can remember, and I have learned what it means to find my value in Him and not the world. He has shown me that He truly is faithful, and he truly is trustworthy, and I really can come to Him and call Him Father,...Daddy. He has shown me that He is just, but that His mercy is also mine to take if I will accept it. I have learned that I am very human and imperfect, but that that doesn't make me any less dear to Him, and He will always come with me through my struggles. All this I knew before, but this year I experienced it. There is freedom in Christ, and he taught me what that means.

That hike was delightful.

     So, yeah. It's been a rough year in a couple ways; both with real struggles, and basic, human irritations. :D And I'm sure you all have had your rough spots too. But take a moment, look back, and search deeply for what God has blessed you with. It might very well be overwhelming! :) And as we step into the New Year, 2015, know that He has much good in store for you as well. Start the year with the knowledge that you are loved, you are valuable, every day is a new start, and above all, remember that God is good. No matter what, He is in control, and He delights to bring good to His people.

All that to say, God BLESS you in the coming year! I hope that you will come to know Him even more than you ever knew possible, and that you are filled to the fullest with His joy!

And thank you all for being my friends. I am deeply thankful, beyond measure, for all of you. :)

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Living Like Christians

     So, I'm sitting here at Starbucks,.....studying. Actually, I really am studying; be proud of me. Just not right this second. I'll write this, and then I'll be studying. :)

    Anyway, I bought a breve latte, (it's really good), and I am currently sitting here at a table, drinking it, (the coffee, not the table), studying, and trying to see whether the music playing through the speaker directly above me, or the music I actually want to listen to (that is coming through my earphones at level 100), will win the battle of dominance. So far they are pretty even. :-/

    Well, a minute or so ago, I reached over for my coffee, and it wasn't there. I looked, and it still wasn't there. When I had last put it down, my pen had been there alongside my coffee, and even more tempting to a thief, my math notes had been there next to my coffee. But were those stolen? Noooo. As a matter of fact, they were actually still there. But not the coffee. Somebody stole my coffee.

    That's roughly what my thought process sounded like anyway. Turns out I had actually just put down my coffee on the other side of my computer, and forgotten it there. But it was an enjoyable moment of confusion regardless.

I didn't get on here to tell you this..........

  Yeah. No. Ok. Hi. Now to business. I actually got on here to tell you about another coffee shop experience I had this morning! And the intent of this story is not so much to be goofy. :)

    Any of you been to Mission Coffee? They are the nicest people ever, and they make a smashing breve, if you're ever interested. And they have student discounts! Anyway, I was meeting there with a friend this morning, and when I walked in, it was PACKED. It was busy like, there's no room to see your hand if you put it in front of your face kind of busy. Which was a problem, because I was there for my friend to teach me sign language. But what's cool is this: based off of my experience, when a shop or something is busy like that, people aren't super excited about you being there. I work in the food industry, so I know this. Trust me, I don't want you in my restaurant if there are a thousand other people in it already. And as a customer, if I happen to be one of those thousand people already there, I'm happy to have my spot and let you find a seat by yourself.

    But today, when I walked into that coffee shop with my books, wondering what to do, not only the manager of the place, but two other customers I had never met before made it their personal responsibility to make sure I didn't have to trudge back to the car and find someplace else to go. One guy was working, and he said he could wrap up if I needed his seat. Another guy, who had just squeezed into a seat in a very tight corner, said he could move his stuff in closer if that was helpful, and also offered to ask other customers if they were planning on heading out soon. And when I hesitated because I wasn't sure about studying in all the noise, the manger* came out and offered to let me use the room upstairs that is usually used by reservation only. He saw my Bible on top of the signing scripts, and told me he really wanted to support my desire to learn by making sure I could have the breathing space needed.

"Why do you think this place is called Missions?" he asked, grinning.

   Please note: I did not say anything throughout this entire thing; other than "Oh!.... Thank you!....Yeah,...........Oh,....I don't know....I can..uh... oh thank you!....good morning.......It's ok,....thank you so much!, that's great,.....thank you!...thanks!,....."

    I didn't ask for help. I didn't state the confusion I had about what to do as I was waiting for my friend. None of that. I simply walked in as my timid self, (yes, I can be timid), and everything was handed to me. We even got a room all to ourselves.

   People. This is how we should be living all the time. It's part of being a Christian! Our focus needs to be first and foremost on glorifying God; and our second focus needs to be on pouring ourselves out for others, regardless of if it's convenient or not, and even regardless of if someone makes known their needs or not.

     Notice. Love. Act. Live out the love of Christ in such a way that everyone around you can feel it! The love of Christ is welcoming, warm, and always conscious of others before yourself. Let me tell you, as the recipient, it made my day! It doesn't have to be a huge thing. But so often we are content to just stay in our own little bubble and focus on our own lives, and really we also suffer for it, because we miss out on so much joy!

    I realize this may sound like I'm drawing too much application out of this simple story. Ok, so, throw out the story. Think of this. When was the last time you went out of your way for somebody just to say that God loves them? Hm? Isn't that what being a Christian is all about? I know that I can't even remember the last time I did that.

   So anyway. I felt the love of Christ today powerful strongly. :) And it reminded me of the JOY I have because of Him, and that I should be sharing it. And now I'm telling ya.

I hope that made sense. I've been desperately trying to think over the blaring lyrics of I Want an Alien For Christmas, Deck the Halls, Feliz Navidad, and 12 Days of Christmas With the Muppets. Which is hard to do. Turns out the shop music won over mine. Oh well. I may come back later and try to polish up the thought a little bit. We'll see.

Anyway, I'm off to study! Happy Tuesday!


*Found this while re-reading. It's manager, not manger. A manger did not come help me find a seat. There's the Christmas music filtering through my thoughts for you.