Remembering

It comes without a notice. One moment it wasn’t there, and the next, it has barged in and planted itself firmly in my head.

It was a simple moment – tipping my head back as I stretched from my reading. The corner of a table looms in my vision as I stare at ceiling. I could have hit my head on that, I think.

Then a specific memory hits me instead:

My aunt and uncle’s house.

A college graduation.

A nightstand next to a bed with a sharp corner.

 

But it’s technically not my memory. It’s a memory of a story.

My mom told me the story after the fact. How my grandpa was sleeping in the room across from my parents at my aunt and uncle’s house while visiting Beaver Falls for one of my siblings’ college graduations. He rolled over in the night and hit his head on the corner of the nightstand. He didn’t want to bother anyone, so he took care of the situation himself in the middle of the night, while everyone else slept on, unknowing until the morning. He was always like that: not wanting to be in anyone’s way, even at the expense of his own pain or embarrassment. I think I get a little bit of that from him.

But there’s never just one memory. One memory has a string attached with all the rest tumbling behind. Then it’s a flood of memories that I can’t – and don’t want to – stay on top of. One memory always leads to another:

Watching my grandpa’s profile as we rode in his blue truck through his fields as he threw bubble gum to the prairie dogs.

Getting off the bus after school and seeing my grandpa’s car in the driveway on my birthday.

Grandpa flying 1400 miles to see all my siblings graduate from college despite being in his late 80s.

Grandpa surprising everyone by driving 800 miles by himself to see my oldest nephew baptized.

Hearing my grandpa promise me that he’d be at my college graduation as I talked to him for the last time on his 90th birthday.

Though he was always a short and frail man, he was the strongest man I’ve ever known. He had a strong voice and a twinkle in his eye, and a love for his God and his family. He lived 13 years after the death of wife, which he did because he knew he had too, not because he wanted to live without his dear wife. But he made it a life worth living. As the only grandparent for all of his grandchildren, he visited them as frequently as he could, despite living hundreds of miles from all of them. He gave generously, without thought of himself. He loved horses, and continued riding them far past the point when his children thought he should have been.

He simply loved.

So many people nowadays are so focused on the future, but I feel we’ve forgotten about the importance of remembering the past. We shouldn’t dwell there, but it’s good to take a moment to think about those who have gone before us and how they lived their lives faithfully. Sometimes we have to look backwards before we can see clearly enough to look ahead. I know I am the person I am today because of the way Philip Kennedy loved me. So for right now I’m going to let myself swim in the memories.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

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Bring Us to Our Knees

There’s a lot of scary stuff going on in our world today. After each new terror, people always wonder how something terrible could happen to us, and discuss the latest bill that should be passed that will supposedly keep us safer.

I offer one reason why I think these things are happening: we are nation that is turning away from God, and as we know from Exodus 20:5, our God is a jealous God who wants nothing less than our full attention. In the wake of all the terrible things that are happening, we look for someone else to blame and something else to save us. God uses terrible circumstances in our lives to bring us back to Him. He sometimes uses dreadful atrocities to get our attention, so our attention will turn back to Him. I know this, because I’ve seen it happen in my own life.

Last year I was happiest I have ever been. But I was not following God the way I should have been. I was relying on people for my happiness, and not on the strength and grace of God. However, God did not let me continue in this pattern of living. He got my attention, and brought me to my knees. He took away a lot of important people in my life to show me that HE could be the only center. My last year of college was the hardest one of my life, on a spiritual and social level. It was, and still is, a painful process, but I wouldn’t trade the experience I had because it shaped me into the person I am today, and ultimately brought me closer to God.

In a sermon I heard recently, the pastor focused on 2 Corinthians 1, which talks about God of all comfort. One verse that particularly stood out to me was verse 9: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” God is the only One who can save me. Not a relationship, not my friends, not my family, but God and God alone. If everything I loved in my life was taken away from me, I should be content to live the rest of my days with only the grace of God, because it is enough.

In the same light, God is the only one who can save this country. Not the next president, not revitalized gun control, and not ourselves. God is going to continue to bring us to our knees until we as a country, as a world, look to Him as our only hope.

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and HE rules over the nations.” Psalms 22:27-28 ESV

Scary Things

I’ve been challenged by my writing professor in one of my classes to publish a blog and put myself out there with my writing. If anyone out there knows me, you know that “putting myself out there” is not one of my strong suits. Putting yourself out there includes risk, and I’ve always been afraid of falling. So since this is my first post, I decided I might as well go all out and tell you about scary things I’ve done, and hopefully kill two birds with one stone.

I guess we should probably start with some introductions, so you can get to know me a little bit better. I’m a small-town farm girl from Southwest Iowa who decided to go to a small Christian college near Pittsburgh. I am a great sinner, but I have an even greater Savior, thanks be to God. My life is a constant struggle of me trying to figure things out and make plans for myself, and God quietly redirecting me back to Himself after I screw up. It’s through Him alone I can do scary things at all.

The more I progress in my college career, the more I’ve tried to push myself to do scary things. For instance, last semester for the Broadway Revue I sang the song “Good Morning Baltimore” from the musical Hairspray. Now for the average Jane, this may not seem like a big deal. However, as I’m quite terrified of singing/talking in front of large crowds (or even small ones for that matter), this was a huge undertaking for me, especially since it was highly encouraged for me to shake my hips. On stage. In front of real live people. Oh, the horror. But, God gives grace to the weak, and somehow I managed to go out on that stage and sing my heart out. It didn’t hurt that my performance was met by great applause. Because of this performance a lot of other things seem less scary since I took a risk and put myself out there.

Another scary (but quite wonderful) thing that has happened to me this year involves a boy. I’m one of those hopeless romantics who has been dreaming about “Him” since I was 10, filling my head with movies and books about how exactly my future relationship would play out. I’ve realized that while I dreamed of my perfect relationship, I didn’t really think it would ever happen to me until it actually did. God took every expectation I had and blew them away to help me realize that He is the one in the one in control, not me. Which I am so very thankful for. Adam is better than anything I could have come up with on my own. He is always surprising me with his sweetness and his character, and I still can’t believe he chose me. My daydreams are turning into a reality, and while quite exciting, it’s also quite terrifying. But I have faith that God will lead us in the right direction.

There are so many other scary things that I’ve been trying to do but aren’t quite as extravagant as those, like doing devotions in choir practice, or singing a solo when I would much rather just sing in the choir. And there are still a lot of opportunities I’ve missed to do things as well, like that time I should have reached out to someone but didn’t because I was afraid of what people might think. That’s usually what stops me from doing things: the fear of what people might think. I pray that God will give me the courage to trust in Him and Him alone, so that He might use me for His glory. I want to serve God so badly, but I am so weak. Thankfully, I don’t have to be strong. God is strong for me. I just have to listen to His still, small voice. He has helped me to do scary things in the past, and I know He’ll help me do more scary things in the future.

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”             ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10