NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Value of Relationships

This past Friday my Grandmother passed away. She was my Dad’s mom, and like many grandparents in America, she lived in Florida. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, but I have gotten to talk with her on the phone a few times and send her pictures of things I’ve been doing.

She was a very kind, Christ-honoring woman, who loved her family well and served Jesus throughout her life. One of the stories I heard about her in the memorial service was that she and my grandpa decided to go to their church’s new modern service with all of the young 20 and 30 year-olds and pass out the bulletins every Sunday. That just struck me as such a remarkable thing. They weren’t holding onto what was comfortable or what they grew up with. Both of them were so ready to follow Jesus in whatever He asked them to do. I remember after my grandpa died, my grandma still found ways to serve Jesus. She was really excited about a ministry that shipped Christian books to people overseas, and she would spend time collecting books from friends and people around her so she could send several big boxes every year.

One of my favorite things my grandma did was send me a series of Christian books that had impacted her. As I read them and got to see another glimpse of how amazing God is, I could see how valuable my grandmother’s faith was to her, and how she wanted all of her family to know Jesus the way she did.

I’ve been so blessed to grow up in a Christian family and that’s thanks to my parents and grandparents and the legacy and foundation they laid through their actions and decisions.

I no longer have any living grandparents on earth. I had already lost my previous grandparents, one as recently as this past May. But because of their faith that has continued into the next generations, my family is able to say things like, “She’s happy where she is now,” or “Let’s celebrate her life.”

Life and death take on a whole different meaning when they are viewed with eternity in mind. I can still be sad that she isn’t with me on earth anymore. I’ll miss hearing her voice and getting her sweet cards and phone calls. But I know this isn’t the end of our relationship. I will get to see her again and all of my grandparents again and that’s exciting.

All this thinking about eternity is reminding me of how important relationships are compared to everything else. Money, food, entertainment, all the little tasks and projects that seem to fill my time, won’t matter much in eternity, and most of them won’t last to eternity. But relationships do. People are eternal, and our relationships with them can continue past this life.

So while I’m living here on earth God has reminded me to see people the way He sees them. They are eternal beings that have deep value and are much more important than what I want to do or get done.

So anyway I hope you have a blessed day and remember to value the people in your life and remember to thank God for them.

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The Incredibles 2

I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I just re-watched the first movie and boy is it good. There are so many subtle references to our own culture and the little things families face everyday, and there are so many laugh-out-loud moments and amazing quotes that I still use today like Dash saying “I love our family” or Edna telling Elastigirl to “Pull yourself together!” or Frozen arguing with his wife about his Supersuit.

So boy was I excited to walk into the theater and finally watch the sequel. I love the little shorts they play before every Pixar movie and this one was good too, it made me cry and was so sweet. And then the Incredibles started, picking up right where we’d left off in the first movie with our super family fighting the Underminer. It was full of great action and comedy. I loved seeing the family having to work together and so eager to help each other.

I don’t want to give away the entire plot, but I can say that this movie was very enjoyable to watch. I especially liked seeing how the family had to adjust to Jack Jack’s new powers and Edna Mode’s reappearance. I also really appreciated the struggle the Parr family went through of trying to do what they know is right while still respecting the authorities that deemed their actions illegal. It’s been something that society and the church has had to deal with over and over. How to submit to authority but still influence culture for good? When to obey and when to stand up and say this is wrong? It’s something we’ve been discussing in my church recently and one of the things my pastor said was that Christians should be the best citizens and work with the government and help them with their God-given responsibility, so that if there’s ever a time when Christians have to go against what the government is doing, it’s seen as abnormal.

Anyway, back to the movie. One of the sweetest moments was seeing Bob Parr trying to connect with his daughter and apologize for his mistakes. It was a good reminder that no one is a perfect parent and admitting your faults can go a long way towards forgiveness and closeness in relationships.

It was a little easy to see the plot twist coming in this movie, but it was still a lot of fun to watch and I would gladly see it again.

I probably won’t get to write another blog for awhile. I’m heading to London with my church this week. I’m excited to get to share what God does when I get back but that won’t be till July. So until then, I hope y’all have a good summer and maybe get a chance to see The Incredibles 2.

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Granny

Today, as my grandma gets closer and closer to passing on, I’ve decided to write about her. Maybe I’ll be able to work out a poem or something in her honor eventually, but for now I’ll share this:

We share a middle name and have a similar height and facial structure. I found an old photo of her when she was young and we look so similar. She liked to garden, go polka dancing, and play Dominoes. In her later years she was quite fond of puzzles and made one with African animals probably a hundred times.

She also had a sweet tooth and would eagerly eat anything with chocolate and peanut butter. We’ve made her chocolate peanut butter shakes for the past few years, and she would almost always ask for more.

She was very supportive, always ready to help when we got in a pickle or needed some cash, or when my parents needed a babysitter or wanted to borrow her big van for family road trips. She loved to give us gifts, and support us on mission trips, or encourage us to travel.

She did a lot of traveling herself. I’m told she went to Alaska twice, Europe, New York City, and Colorado. I remember flying to Hawaii with her. She was so excited to go with us and see the beautiful scenery and wear a lei.

I don’t remember her watching TV very much, if she joined others to watch something, she would often fell asleep. But I do remember going to an actual movie theater with her to watch The Adventures of Tintin and she just loved seeing the little white dog barking and running around.

She owned doxins or dachshunds and cats and I’m pretty sure some other animals at different points in her life.

And she was always very welcoming of new family members. Whenever someone got married, she made the new in-law feel part of the family. I know my dad would call her mom, even though she was my mom’s mom. And I think it’s a trait she’s passed on to the rest of her family. When my younger brother married, his wife was welcomed in as part of the family, free to call my parents mom and dad.

More recently, my grandma told me that her grandma only spoke German, and she had to speak German to talk to her. She would often recite the first 10 numbers in German to herself and tell us ‘good morning’ or ‘tastes good’ in German. I’ve actually started trying to learn some German now, partially because of my Grandma’s heritage and influence.

Even though she wanted to be called Granny, she accepted other names from her grand kids, particularly Nana.

She also had a great sense of humor. When we’d ask her how she was feeling, she’d hold up her hands and say “With my fingers.”

I’m going to miss her when she leaves us. I know it’ll be sad and hard. But I’m also a bit excited for her. Soon she’ll get to be with Jesus, and see all the people who’ve gone before her and are waiting to welcome her to her home in heaven.

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The Greatest Showman

I just had the opportunity to see this new movie musical yesterday and I thought a movie review would be fun. First off, The Greatest Showman has awesome music. I happened to hear the soundtrack before seeing the movie and I was already hooked. These are very fun, catchy and beautiful songs and I loved getting to enjoy them within the movie plot. I did have a bit of trouble with the songs being integrated into the movie. I don’t know if the lip-sinking felt off, or it just didn’t seem natural to burst into song in some moments, but it just wasn’t as natural as I’ve seen in some other musical movies. So even though I loved the songs, something about watching them on screen, was just off. It may have been just me though. My sister didn’t notice anything odd about it. And I have to say the song with Zac Efron and Zendaya swinging through the air was just beautiful to watch.

Anyway, on to the plot. I didn’t really know what was going to happen in this film and I liked that, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But I can say that I was pleasantly surprised on the value of family this film gave off. Even though our main character gets distracted by all of the attention and fame he gets from his circus success, he ultimately values his family above all of that. In addition, the assortment of odd individuals that make up the circus also form a special bond and think of themselves as a family by the end of the movie.┬áThe love story between P T Barnum and his wife, and Philip and the acrobat was also quite touching.

In fact all of the characters in this movie were very realistic and the acting was fantastic. All in all the movie was a lot of fun to watch and very uplifting. And those catchy songs are still buzzing around my head too. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope you check it out before it goes out of theaters.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

You may think this post is going to be about the solar eclipse. I really did enjoy getting to see the moon blocking part of the sun (I didn’t see a full eclipse). But this post is about something else.

The past few days have been a crazy whirlwind of activity. I am not going to school this year, but enough of my life revolves around the school system, that it can’t help but get a little crazy at this time of year. One of my favorite things about the new school year is that the church I attend moves up the students to their new grade on the Sunday before school starts. So I got to have fun meeting, laughing, and playing games with our new group of 6th graders.

But what was even better was the surprise appearance of so many old friends on the same Sunday. One of my former students who is now in high school, came back to visit from New York. I haven’t seen her in a year and it was so good to just see her face and hear her laugh. I also got to see a family that has moved to a different church and just adopted 3 kids. We got to celebrate with them and give them hugs. And then my brother and sister-in-law came with their friends too. It was just so cool to see all of these relationships, old and new converging on our time of worshiping Jesus. It felt like I was getting a small taste of what it will be like in heaven when we get to see the generations who’ve gone before us and celebrate together.

And then the next day I got to hang out with my family and watch the solar eclipse, with the right equipment, of course. My aunt from our of town, even came to stay with us.

With so much togetherness, it really made me thankful for all the people God has put in my life and that even though we may live miles apart, or don’t see each other in years, we are still connected through Christ. And one day we will all worship Him together. So anyway, I hope this little post reminds you to be thankful for the relationships God has given you.

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Going to Church

Recently I’ve been thinking about why so many people don’t go to church anymore. There can be many reasons for it: getting scheduled to work on a Sunday, moving to a new town and not connecting with any of the churches there, being hurt by someone at a church, or having a baby and not having the energy to go. I don’t know everyone’s reasons for not going but I’ve noticed several of my friends and acquaintances struggling to make it to church on Sunday. It seems to be a widely spread phenomenon. So, I just wanted to share a few reasons why I think going to church is important for believers and if you’ve been struggling to go to church, or have a friend that is struggling, maybe this can help in some small way.

1. It’s important because God’s Word says it is important.

In one of the early letters written to the Hebrew church, the author writes “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Jesus also says “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) He doesn’t tell us to follow Him by ourselves, but with other people. In fact He even says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) People should be able to recognize us as followers of Jesus by how we love other believers. But that doesn’t work so well if you cut yourself off from gathering with fellow believers at church.

2. It’s important because the Church is a body that supports each member.

As Paul writes, “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5) We all need help. Even if life is going well for you now, eventually something will happen. It could be losing a job, a loved one, getting sick or depressed, or a number of other things. When you have a tight knit community around you, there are people to support you emotionally, financially, or in whatever way you need. And if it’s not you who needs help right now, it could be someone else in the church community who needs your help, encouragement, or expertise. But if you’re not there, the whole church loses out.

I’m sure there are many other reasons to go to church, many other passages in Scripture to support going but ultimately, each person has to make their own decision. I can’t force anyone to go to church. But in my own life, I can’t imagine trying to follow Jesus without the help, support, encouragement and guidance of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I really do feel like they are my family. They know me better than some of my relatives in my blood family. But feeling a part of the family means investing in relationships, it means going to church consistently and getting involved in groups outside of Sunday. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth it in the end.

So if you’re still looking for that community, keep looking. If you have a church, keep going. And if you have friends that don’t come, keep inviting. Don’t give up.

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Flash from the Past

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been feeling sentimental recently and I really just want to look at some old photos. So I thought I’d share from my findings. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into my life and history and if you think it’s a cool idea, feel free to do your own Flash from the Past on your blog or social media. Enjoy!

2008
I’m starting with this year because it’s when I first got my own digital camera, and digital photos are much easier for me to upload. This was the end of my senior year of high school and also my first semester of college.

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My high school Senior Picture… or one of them at least.

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My Senior Formal (Prom for homeschoolers)

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At my graduation party with one of my best friends Lindsey.

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My 18th Birthday with my family.

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Making new friends in college like Victoria.

2009

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A ski trip to New Mexico that I went on with my Dad.

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Having fun with friends Kari and Amanda at a dance in college.

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I helped paint our house that summer.

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I went on a road trip from Nashvilled, TN to Austin, TX with my brothers.

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My Sophomore dorm room and friend Heather.

2010

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At my cousin’s wedding in Indiana.

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Going to the Rodeo with my sister.

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My 20th Birthday.

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I went to Palmetto State Park with some college friends.

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I got into the Alpha Chi Honor Society that fall.

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We decorated our college apartment for Christmas.

2011

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We had a snow day in February!

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I finally saw the Austin bats with Tracey.

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I went to Germany with some college friends, including my roommate Victoria.

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I helped with my church’s Bible Clubs like I had for the past several summers.

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I went to a UT football game with my cousin Hannah.

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Senior Year Homecoming.

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On the TLU campus.

2012

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Ice skating with my family during winter break.

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One of my paintings for my Senior Art Show.

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Finishing my senior bucket list with my roommate by going up the chapel bell tower.

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College Graduation.

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I went to the Bahamas with my family and we swam with dolphins.

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I kept painting and made this for my friend Lindsey.

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Having Fun with my family for Thanksgiving.

2013

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I tried a Cleanse and ate a lot healthier in the Spring.

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I went to the Austin Kite Festival.

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I painted a cover for my first novel.

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I got the obligatory Bluebonnet picture.

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I donated my hair to Locks of Love with my sister.

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Haiti mission trip.

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I went to see my old roommate Victoria in Philly and we took a day trip to NYC!

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I decorated my first tree on the side of the road for Christmas.

2014

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I made a snowman, or iceman.

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My brother proposed to Ashley and we all went up to Abilene to celebrate.

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Another Bluebonnet pic with my sister.

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I was maid of honor in my friend Lindsey’s wedding.

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I got to be a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding and I got a new sister!

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I saw Victoria for Christmas in San Antonio.

2015

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Ski trip to New Mexico with our church’s youth group.

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In Florida for my Grandpa’s memorial service.

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We had heavy rains that spring and a lot of flooding.

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Spring Bluebonnets with all my sisters.

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My 25th Birthday.

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My first book fair with my novel.

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Mission trip to Mozambique.

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Going to the Trail of Lights in Austin.

2016

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I went to a Spurs Game with my cousin Hannah.

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My friend Lindsey had Bethany, her first baby.

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I got to meet Marissa Meyer, the Author of the Lunar Chronicles.

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I got to go on a backstage tour of the AT&T Center.

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I went to Kentucky to see the replica of Noah’s Ark.

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I got to see a beautiful sunset in San Diego.

 

Well I’m going to stop there. It was fun to look through old photos and see some of the cool things that have happened in my life. I want to take some time to stop and be grateful for all the places I’ve seen, people I’ve known and ways that God has shaped me and grown me over the past 9 years. I hope you take some time today to do the same.

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Rich in Christ

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I’ve heard the phrase “family in Christ” a lot and often think of my friends as being my “sisters in Christ.” But a few circumstances in the last 24 hours have broadened my view of what that really means.

It started with a few people’s random comments. The first one comes from one of my dear friend’s relatives who said she felt like I was one of ‘hers’ too. Like I belonged in her family. That felt really good. Then later, someone on Facebook commented that me and my friend look like sisters. We have no actual relation, but we are very close friends. And I was tempted to say, “Of course we look like sisters, we are sisters in Christ after all.”

Then this morning, I read this passage: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” Mark 10:29-30

And on top of all this, on Sunday my pastor really emphasized that God’s definition of riches is very different than what we usually think of. Instead of riches meaning money and wealth, God sees riches as relationships. That really comes across in this passage and from what I’ve experienced this weekend.

So today I am thankful for how rich God has made me. I have so many deep and lasting relationships in my life. I can really see that my family in Christ makes me rich.There are so many people in my church that I see as another grandma or grandpa, or sister or brother, or mom or dad. And now that I’m getting older, I can even see how the kids of my friends almost feel like my own. God really knows what’s best for us and what is truly means to be rich.

So I hope you stop today to think about all of the relationships you’ve been blessed with and how rich God has made you, and maybe even say a little prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that He’s given you.

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