Traditions and Change

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I don’t like traditions, but I have a hard time with change. It seems oxymoronic really. Like ordering jumbo shrimp. Or standing alone in a crowd. Or watching an awfully good television show. But like all oxymorons, though this idea seems contradictory, it actually does make sense.

Traditions can present problems for a number of reasons. First, they can become obligatory duties rather than pleasurable activities. Maybe you’ve eaten at the same restaurant on the same day of the week with the same people for the past few years, and while you still enjoy the company, what was once an enjoyable weekly pastime now seems like a chore. Why? Because you’re expected to be there. Sure, that’s what you’ve always done, but now it seems more like this is an expectation that infringes upon your freedom rather than one that fosters a sense of pure enjoyment.

This brings me to my second point. Doing something because that’s the way it’s always been done is no reason at all. It’s an excuse. Reasons have merit. Excuses lack value. Some traditions continue on because they are indeed enjoyed, but tradition for the sake of tradition is unnecessary.

And lastly, I don’t care for traditions because change is inevitable. For example, sometimes people can’t keep participating – or choose not to participate – in a tradition, and regardless of whether their reason for not participating is good or bad, their absence changes things. Perhaps a baby is born to a couple, and they can no longer attend the annual New Year’s Eve celebration anymore for obvious reasons. This would certainly be understandable, but it’s still change. Maybe a husband must attend a work swaray every New Year’s Eve because it is required by a boss who claims it’s a tradition. But then the boss leaves, and so the tradition dies. Some people may be relieved while others are disappointed. In this life, change is coming whether we like it or not.

Change isn’t something I’m necessarily used to though. (Then again, I guess you can’t really get used to change.) Honestly, my natural tendency is to resist change even when I know the change is going to be a good one, one for the better. However, constancy doesn’t always equal happiness. In fact, achieving happiness often requires change. The world around us is going to change whether we do or not, so I’d say it’s better to stay ahead of the curve rather than wait to be curved.

Change can allow for innovation, for advancements, and for refinement. I am teaching in a different county than where I originally thought I wanted to be, basically because it was a county other than the one where I grew up. But the county where I teach now has literally blown my mind with how wonderful it is, and my school has given me opportunity to grow and thrive as a teacher. This was a wonderful change for me! In fact, most all the changes I have made have been good changes. They’re often hard to hurdle, some more so than others. But once I’m on the other side, I’m always thankful.

My parents are moving from the house I grew up in. I am hopeful that my parents find a beautiful home that is worthy of them. If they had chosen to remain where they are, they would not be able to live in the location they want to now – and where I would love for them to be as well. This change is another good change. Besides, most importantly is that where they are is where my home is anyway.

You can try to refuse change, but it will happen anyway. And life will pass you by. It seems better then to be proactive. Perhaps rather than waiting for change to happen to you, as it inevitably will, make change happen for you. Embrace the good, and mix things up for the better.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”
Isaiah 43:18

Share Love

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Photography, Hand-lettering, and Artwork // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

When we feel love, we want to express it. It’s why we have friends over to our house for a meal. It’s why we give hugs. It’s why we feel warm and fuzzy at Christmas time. Love is more than words or gifts. It’s compassion and empathy. It’s sacrifice and a willingness to do for someone else. True love is putting someone else’s wants above your own.

First and foremost, love comes from God. 1 John provides much information about love, as it is one of the main themes in this book. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7a). God gives us His love, and He wants us to then reciprocate this gift. Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). In return, God desires a response from us, one of true love. God doesn’t want us to love Him halfheartedly or to engage only when it’s convenient for us. God calls us to love Him with everything and to do it all the time. So how do we love God? He tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Well, no one ever said love was easy.

God wants us to open our hearts to receive His word – every bit of it. If we love God, we will accept His word and keep His commandments, one of which is to love others. The point I intend to make about love involves two things: (1) status and (2) compassion. (Nothing more, and nothing less.)

No matter our status (social, career, or worldly), we should never consider ourselves better than anyone else. Mary sets the example for us in this regard. After the angel visited Mary to tell her she’d soon be a mom because she’d found favor with God (Luke 1:30), Mary didn’t react by saying she felt that such an honor was fitting nor did she comment on how deserving and worthy she felt. Instead, she responded meekly, saying God “has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:48). Mary was going to be the mother of the world’s Savior! Yet she did not boast; instead, she named herself a servant.

Like Mary, we are to be humble in receiving God’s love – and also compassionate in sharing it with others. 1 John chapter 4, verse 12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but, if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” We are called to love others who can do nothing for us. As soon as we feel as though we’re above someone else and too good to be compassionate, let us remember the words of 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 5. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Sometimes we mess this up. These verses convict me as much as anyone else. I’m so thankful for Jesus. God gave us His Son, and God can love others through us; we need only to let Him. As believers in Christ, love brings us together, and we can be identified with God by the way we love. We are told that “all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Love is a verb, and actions speak so much louder than words. “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). If I tell you I turn into a unicorn at night, but when we have dinner at 8 p.m. and I’m still, well, not a unicorn, my actions speak for themselves. I may say I’m a unicorn, but my actions – or lack thereof – speak truth. Love should be acted in truth.

I got the idea for this blog post from a sermon I heard a few weeks ago. In it, Jeff Simmons (our minister), said, “You can give without loving – people do it all the time, but you cannot love without giving.” Read that again. These words are truth. They are sheer and utter truth. Love must be genuine, and it must be sincere. Are you giving people the love they deserve? Are you receiving this kind of love?

 

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7b

Why You Should Cherish the Places You Love Most With the People You Love More

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Photography, Hand-lettering, and Artwork // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

I grew up vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains. My parents owned an R.V., and we would take off for sometimes weeks at a time to stay in the same campground each visit. I first went to this campground at the ripe age of two; my brother was an infant his first vacation. Over time, my family became friends with the people who own (and live) at the campground, and because of our frequent vacations to East Tennessee, these sweet friends watched my brother and I grow up. They, along with the rest of Gatlinburg, were evacuated during the wildfires which tore through the Smokies in late November. We were brokenhearted to see the people of a place so near and dear to our hearts experience such a catastrophic disaster.

I am still amazed at how fast life can change. In the literal blink of an eye, devastation can be upon us. Our friends and much of East Tennessee did not know if they would return to homes or to ash. This was another reminder of how crucial it is that we take every opportunity to recognize what we are thankful for.

I am so thankful for the mountains. I love that place. The scenery is breathtaking, and like my mom often mentions, the air is different; it’s like it’s fresher there. But I love the mountains most for the retreat it’s been for my family and me. People have always asked us what we do while there. See that’s just the thing. We don’t do anything when we get there! No schedule, no timeline, no planned events. We love to take a leisurely stroll around the campground, sit outside under the camper awning, or catch up on some pleasure reading material. But beyond that, nada. We’ve done all the touristy things, but we primarily go for the relaxation – and the food.

In paying tribute to the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, I want to encourage you that you need vacations. And I mean vacations, not trips. There’s a significant difference. The mountains are for me what another place may be for you. Wherever it is that you like to vacation, cherish that place! If you don’t have a place, find one. You need it. Here’s seven reasons why.

It’s something to look forward to.

The daily grind can be rather monotonous, and we all know it’s tiring. You get up fighting the sleep you so desperately desire, you go to work, you run 17 errands on the way home, perhaps you stop by the gym, you get home to 17 other tasks that need to be done before bed (including a shower if you made that stop by the gym), you go to bed later than you should, and then you get up and do it all again. And honestly, you’re doing all of these tasks if things are going well. (I try to remember to be thankful that I am able to do all of the above.) But how much easier is it to clean my apartment when I know I’m leaving to go somewhere fun next week? Or how much more exciting is it to fold laundry knowing that those clothes are going in my suitcase? Booking a vacation gives you a bit more motivation to slay the day. It puts some pep in your step and helps you keep your eyes on the prize.

Rest time is the best time.

God designed us to need rest. I often want to fight sleep, but I usually wind up sorry that I didn’t give myself an adequate amount of shut eye. Vacations allow us to rest for however long our vacation is, even if it’s just for the weekend! You can sleep in, and when you wake up, you can lay in bed if you’d like. You aren’t at home to be able to do any household chores. Even if you take a “vacation” day at home, it’s just not the same. You’ll likely still be tempted to toss in a load of laundry or clean the sink. Plus, not only do vacations provide you physical rest, they allow for mental rest as well. As the day unfolds, you don’t have a schedule to keep. You have no meetings to rush to, no deadlines to meet, and no calls to make.

Everyone is trapped together – which is great!

If you’re on vacation with your family, not only are you resting, your family is, too. When my brother and I were in high school, vacations were family-only time. We couldn’t grab our keys to run out the door and meet friends for dinner. Our mom couldn’t get up and down to laundry, and our dad couldn’t go outside to mow the grass. Instead, we were spending quality time together away from all the distractions at home. On vacations now days, this time is still especially sweet for these very reasons. What cherished time that was and still is!

You get to enjoy the scenery.

Vacationing somewhere scenic is super enjoyable. If you aren’t making any surefire plans, you can sit and enjoy the scenery. This is just an added bonus to already fun relaxation time. Staying somewhere scenic usually provides access to extra leisure activities like hiking, swimming, biking, or whatever you enjoy doing that’s outdoors. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, you can sit by a window and enjoy the view – and watch everyone else doing that stuff.

Clearing your mind is actually possible.

This comes in handy when you return from vacation. After having spent some time away, you’ll return to the real world refreshed and rejuvenated – physically and mentally. Though sometimes it’s hard to return to work after a vacation, it’s at least easier to do it with a fresh mindset.

Adventures are remembered.

Even though you may not have any plans on the agenda, you’ll probably end up doing something. And who knows where that something might take you. Several years ago, I got the notion that I wanted to bungee jump. So my family set out to find a nearby fire tower in the Smokies to let me test the height to see if it would bother me before I committed to doing the jump.  Long story short, we ended up on a gravel road going up the side of a mountain in the next state over. And the fire tower? We never even saw it. The sign at the entrance was rather telling, and we opted out of the six mile hike it was going to take to get there. But we ended the day with dinner at the absolute best hole-in-the-wall gas station restaurant that we still eat at every time we go to the mountains. We refer to this day as “The Adventure.” We sure didn’t plan it, but it was one of the most laughter-filled, memorable days!

You have freedom from reality.

You’ll get past the awkward we’re-not-doing-anything-on-our-vacation conversations. You’ll tell people, they’ll give some weird looks, you’ll give some weird looks, and everyone will go about their business. Beyond that, you don’t have to give any reason for anything. Reality will be there when you get back.