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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A Day Off

Happy Labor Day! Sorry it’s been over a month since my last blog post. I’ve realized how hard it is to do things when you are working a full time job. For all of my life up to this point I had been working part time, and I could do a lot of extra things with my time because I wasn’t working. And now, even though I’d still like to do some of those things, they just are harder to do with less time to work with. So since it’s a Holiday and I am not working today, I thought I’d write a blog post.

It’s easy to get into the grass is always greener on the other side syndrome. When you work part time, you wish you had a full time job, when you aren’t married, you wish you were, when you’re bored and have nothing to do, you wish something would happen, when you’re running around like crazy, you wish you had a day off and some time to relax.

But it’s important to be thankful. To stop and appreciate what you do have. You may be very busy with lots of work and responsibilities, but it also means you have a job and that what you do matters to a lot of people, and that’s a blessing.

Or maybe you don’t have a job and you really want one, but in that place of not having a job, you have a lot of free time that you can use to invest in people, to volunteer, to help others.

You can always find something to be thankful for, even if life is hard. You just have to look for it. So here are some of the things I am thankful for today.

-Rest. God intended us to have a day of rest once a week and I am so thankful for my days off. They allow me to refocus, refresh and allow me to spend time with the people I love.

-Friends. I am so blessed to have so many close friends, whether they live in other cities, states, or in my own neighborhood, I have so many people that love me, care about me, encourage me and will be with me through all the ups and downs of life.

-A Job. Even though it can be hard sometimes, I am so thankful that my job allows me to bless so many people, to be a part of what God is doing in this city and state and that I can join in His work. I know most people don’t dream of a job of answering phones and emails and organizing supplies and placing orders, but I love it, because it’s needed and a big part of a ministry that changes people’s lives and reveals God’s glory.

-A place to live. It may not be perfect, some things could be fixed up or upgraded, but I have water, food, a bed, and people I live with that I love and care about.

There are so many more things I could write about that I am thankful for, but with the fall upon us, I may want to spread them out for some posts leading up to Thanksgiving. In any case, I hope this post reminds you to be thankful, to enjoy the little things God has blessed you with, like a day off, or a cold drink, or a beautiful sunset.

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Companion

I’ve been struggling with what to write this week. So I decided to look through some old work from college and I found a poem I wrote my senior year about companionship. The picture of my two cats seemed to go along well with it. So, Enjoy!

Companion

No one wants to be alone in this world
Everyone wants a friend or companion
Someone to talk to or sit beside
It doesn’t even have to be human

A cat will curl up and keep you company
A dog will stand watch and keep you safe
A bird will bring music to the silence
Even a fish will not leave you alone

But there is nothing like a real person
To laugh with, talk to, and even listen to
We were not made to live in silence
Or sit by ourselves at the table

We are social animals and we need
Others of our kind around

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Gifted and Relationships

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Last night I rented the movie Gifted from Redbox and oh my gosh it is such a good movie! Ever since Chris Evans started playing Captain America, I’ve liked him as an actor and I was very interested to see him play a character in a father-like role. I was not disappointed. He did a great job playing a man caring for his niece and trying to help her enjoy life and learn to connect with people, not just pursue her interest in math. This movie did a great job of showing how life is more than just success, fame, and accomplishing a goal. Being smart is not everything and having a gift doesn’t mean you’re different from everyone else. We all need family, connection and relationships.

Our society puts a lot of worth in what you can do, if you’re really good at math, or sports, or some other niche we’re told to pursue that. But this movie reinforced that human interaction and relationships are just as important. The girl, Mary, learned how to defend others, have compassion, forgive, and take a break to enjoy a sunset with a loved one, not just solve math problems. Life is so much more than work, success, and getting ahead. And I loved that this movie reinforced that.

God made us to live in community, to have relationships with people and with Him. And without that, our lives are empty, even with all the success. Just as Solomon wrote “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Though this is not a Christian movie and this message is not clearly expressed, there is a very interesting conversation between Frank (Chris Evans) and Mary (Mckenna Grace) about the bigger questions in life, like God and faith. I may not agree with everything said, but it was all very sincere and showed the importance of something beyond success.

I also loved seeing Frank dealing with the conflict with his mother in a mature way. Many dramas tend to overdo the tension between family members in this sort of story, but while there was tension, you could still see that they were family and loved each other. Also, Frank expressed well the normal fears that all parents have, wondering if they’re doing the right thing and wanting to do what’s best for their child. In the end he realizes that he really can take care of Mary and is the best person for the job. One of my favorite scenes is when he realizes her cat Fred was taken to the pound and he races over to save it from getting put down. It was such a heartwarming conclusion and then he goes even further and takes the two other cats that were going to be put down that same day.

There are a few inappropriate scenes, hence the PG 13 rating. But I’m willing to look past them for the heart of the story, and now that it is released on DVD, those scenes are easy enough to fast forward through if you find that it’s an issue.

I don’t want to give away the whole plot, I’ve probably already given away too much, but I just loved this movie so much. It’s sweet, heartwarming, funny, and well it made me shed a few tears as well. I hope it gets nominated for an Oscar because it’s honestly one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.

Plus Chris is friends with Mckenna in real life. Here’s a video of them answering some questions together so you can get a taste of what you’ll get if you watch the movie.

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Expectations

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Our church team praying before we left for Mozambique

Hello blogging world, sorry I haven’t posted in so long but if you hadn’t seen, I was out of the country for 2 weeks and didn’t have access to my laptop or even the internet. I had the opportunity to join my church on a mission trip to Mozambique. I had never been to Africa before and it was a wonderful experience. It may be hard for me to process all that’s happened and what all I learned from the experience but I’m hoping this blog will help me sort out my thoughts. So for the next few days or weeks, I will be posting a lot about Mozambique. I hope you enjoy and maybe even learn something.

So for my first post, I wanted to write about expectations. I think whenever you go on a trip, there are expectations that you have for yourself and that the people around you have for you as well. Especially for a mission trip, I feel like there’s this unspoken expectation that you are going to do something significant, make a difference, and achieve something. Often times we measure this with “projects.” It might be building a well, or a new church building, or providing food or clothes to poor people but we like having a specific mission and then achieving it.

Well going into this trip, I was very unsure what that “mission” was. I heard hints of showing the Jesus film and spending time with the Grannies (or caretakers of orphans) but I wasn’t really sure what we were supposed to do or what our mission was. Then right before we left, our trip leader told us that our main goal of the trip was to be a blessing, an encouragement, and a refreshment to the local missionaries in Mozambique that our church supports.

This goal might not have seemed very monumental but during the trip, I discovered how significant it really was. So often in America we focus on the physical world, like the “projects” to build buildings and provide food and clothing and solve problems. But on the trip I realized that all of those things are temporary. There are hundreds of buildings in Mozambique that are abandoned and crumbling. They aren’t allowed to tear them down, so they just sit there, useless and wasting away. Who’s to say that any project we work on won’t end up being the same way in a few years, eventually losing it’s usefulness and crumbling. Even the food we give out won’t fill empty tummies for long, and clothing will eventually wear out as well.

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An abandoned hotel on the coast

I realized that the only thing that really lasts, like for eternity, is relationships. People are eternal beings and when we engage with each other, encourage each other, build each other up and point each other to Jesus, that has an impact that lasts into eternity. So even though we did do a few of those earthly “projects” on this mission trip, what I’m most excited about is the time I spent with people, developing relationships. Because of this trip I now know our missionaries Mark and Les, and their local camp director Dilon, on a deep level. I now know how to pray for them and encourage them and I even if I never make it to Africa again, I will always be their sister in Christ.

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Some of the girls I built relationships with on the trip

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What I’m Thankful For #2

Gourds, Fall, Autumn, Orange, Decoration, Halloween

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/gourds-fall-autumn-orange-949112/

As you might have seen in a previous post, I am trying to remind myself to be thankful this month. It probably helps that in church yesterday we talked about being grateful and how important it is.

So today I am grateful for my family and friends. I don’t want to sound corny when I say this, I think most people are thankful for the close relationships they enjoy with other people, it’s part of being human. But I really am grateful for the people I’ve gotten to know.

You see, I’ve grown up in the same city, and the only times I moved was when I was 2 years old, and briefly for college. But I came home to visit so often, it was like I never left. So I really feel a deep connection for the people around me because a lot of them I really have known for over a decade.

These lasting relationships are a real blessing to me, it reminds me that just because some people move on, and our friendship only lasts for a couple of months or years, there will always be people that don’t move away, and even the people that do leave can be visited and reconnected with.

I guess the whole reason I’m thinking of this is because my brother just had a couples shower for his wedding in December and seeing all the old and new family friends at the shower brought on a wave of gratitude. There are so many people that love me and my family, and it encourages me to know they’ll be there for us in the happy moments of life, and the hard ones.

And I’m thankful for my family, because man we’ve been through a lot together and we’re still close. We can even fit 11 people in one house (8 of which are sharing 1 bathroom) and we still love each other. That’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it.

So in honor of my family and friends, I will share a short story I wrote about my childhood. Some of the details may be fabricated, but in essence the story is true.

Enjoy!

Barton Creek

“Are y’all ready to go?” Dad called from the front door.

“I’m ready!” I said happily. I had just changed into blue jeans, a red t-shirt with the logo of some obscure camp stitched across it.

Dad looked back into the house, not seeing anyone else yet.

“I think Mom’s in the bathroom.”

Dad nodded and headed inside to see if he could help make the preparation process go faster for anyone.

I sat on the front porch step and watched bees buzzing around our rosebush. It was an early summer afternoon, with large cumulus clouds spread across the vast Texas sky. A blue jay hopped from one branch on our massive ash tree to the next.

My Dad never liked the ash trees in our front yard. He said the neighborhood only planted them so there would be big nice looking trees in a short amount of time, but they didn’t live long, and their roots grew close to the surface, so unless you had covered them while they were young, it looked like an anaconda was living in your lawn.

I stared up at the tree, it might not be the best kind of tree, but I loved the shade it gave in the summertime, its branches spread perfectly, drooping slightly to bring the maximum amount of sun blockage. The only downside in my opinion was the fall, when thousands of pointy seeds fell from its branches along with the leaves. Those pokey seeds got stuck on everything and occasionally would break the skin, if you stepped on them barefoot.

The door opened behind me and I turned to see the rest of the family ready for our outing. Everyone had tennis shoes and long pants for the journey into the woods.

“Alright, let’s go!” Dad said enthusiastically. He had this tendency to get extremely enthusiastic about something in a funny way, like he was trying to entertain us with his zeal.

We all started marching down the sidewalk, till we reached the small street. We turned left and headed towards the dead end, with large reflective signs that stated “Private Property,” and “No Admittance,” and other such statements of discouragement. We ignored the signs as always, I think they had been left up from a time when the land actually belonged to someone. Now it was like a private trail for our neighborhood’s residents.

“Remember when we filmed Fat Man here?” Jonny said excitedly. He was referring to a home movie we had made parodying Batman. Instead we had made the hero Fat Man and had stuffed pillows into our neighbor’s shirt to make him chubbier. One of the scenes in the movie had Fat Man battling a ‘robot’ played by another neighbor, in the woods.

I laughed, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Remember that Drew wasn’t wearing his shoes.”

“Yeah, that was funny,” Jonny said.

We continued on, passing fields of cactus and tall amber grasses. A few yellow flowers poked out of the undergrowth. Then we ventured into shaded areas where the cedar trees grew close together and formed a canopy over the trail. A few side trails appeared, but we continued down the main one headed for the creek, as we had so many times before.

Jonny came across a large stick a few feet off the trail and decided right away that he needed a walking stick. He marched along for several minutes like a he was Louis or Clark on a grand expedition, but he soon got bored with the stick and decided he’d much rather have the use of his hands for climbing. He left it on the side of the trail, for yet another adventurer to find and use.

We stopped for a couple of minutes at a short tree that was perfect for climbing. The two boys scurried up into the branches and Mom took pictures. I picked a few yellow flowers instead and put them in my hair.

“Y’all ready to keep going?” Dad asked a little impatiently. He was ready to see the river, and maybe stick his feet in the cool water.

The boys leapt out of the branches, landing with a thud into the soft earth.

We turned and continued deeper into the woods, finally after several minutes we came to a stop at a crossroads. One trail wove down a gentler slope to the creek bed, the other rose to the crest of a hill and gave a nice view of the sloping landscape before plummeting down a steep drop to the bottom. Both ended in the same place, so either could be taken.

“So which trail do we want to take?” Dad asked.

“Mountain Goat Trail!” Jonny and I shouted together.

As you might have guessed, this was the steeper trail. We swerved to the right and walked up an incline to the lookout point at the top of the hill. The tops of cedar trees could be seen in any direction. The rolling slopes of the Hill Country looked like a giant green ocean that had been frozen in time, in the middle of a heavy storm.

After staring out at the countryside, we continued down the steep drop. It wasn’t so much like a cliff, more like a giant staircase with some steep places where you needed to be a little more careful. The trail disappeared as well, the large rocky “steps” were the only way down, and no matter how far to the right or left you went, as long as you went down, you would eventually end up hitting the other trail.

I hopped down the rocks, pretending I was actually a mountain goat. My shoes gripped the rocks easily and I felt like I belonged here.

Jonny and Alicia joined me in jumping around as we headed down the steep trail.

Mom and Dad took things a little slower, making sure not to fall.

As we gathered on the intersecting trail, we stopped to stare down the steep drop. This drop was more like a cliff and ended in a little gully where water from further up the hill would rush down towards the creek. No one would go down there unless they were crazy.

While I stared down at the deep drop, my ears picked up a faint sound. “Shh, listen,” I commanded.

The family stopped talking and we all stood still. Faintly, through the trees, we heard the soft roar of the creek.

I smiled eagerly, “I can hear it!”

Our steps quickened as we neared the bottom of the hillside. It had rained a week before and the water was going to be high. As we neared the end of the trail, the sound grew to a loud swooshing sound.

Finally I caught a glimpse of the water. It looked grey and murky, clothed with a bubbly white shawl. “There it is! There it is!” I said excitedly.

“Whoa it’s huge!” Jonny said.

We all scampered down for a closer look, dodging the wreckage the waters had left in its rush to the creek: branches, leaves, even an old shoe. All of a sudden we were no longer on a soft dirt trail, but on white rocks, rubbed smooth by the water’s touch. We came to a stop at the water’s edge and stood in awe of the powerful rapids before us.

Water careened over the stones, and bubbled as it collided with trapped logs. The roar wasn’t deafening but if forced us to increase the volume of our voice to be heard.

Alicia grabbed my hand and stared amazedly at the mighty river before her.

Brian picked up a small stone and tried skipping it across the water; it bounced once then disappeared into the current.

Jonny took up the game right away, though his rocks didn’t bounce and instead he began to see how big of a splash he could make.

After several minutes, we decided to follow the creek downstream and do some exploring. There was another pathway along the water’s edge, so we got in a single file line and began hiking once more on a worn dirt path. As we journeyed the creek widened and slowed to a gentler pace. The roar of the rapids died down and was replaced by the sounds of calling birds and insects. We passed a rope swing that could be used to jump into the river and an odd tree with a cactus growing on top of its mossy bark.

Twenty minutes passed before we decided to take a break. We’d never hiked this far before and we were all tired. Fifty feet off the trail we found what looked like a natural Bathtub; the creek emptied into a little inlet that was separated from the rest of the water by a few large rocks.

We took off our shoes and got our feet wet, walking from stone to stone and then splashing into the cold clear water.

Mom took out some snacks and drinks for the family. She was always prepared for hungry kids. I guess with having four kids she learned pretty quick that having food on hand was a necessity.

We sat back with our crackers and Capri Suns and talked about our adventure. It wasn’t long before we decided to head home, it had been a long walk, especially for Alicia who wanted to be carried now, and the sun was getting closer to setting. But it had been a good day, and even though I’ve been on many journeys to Barton Creek since then, I’ll still always remember that special day.

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