Celebrations of Life: Birthdays

I’ve always thought that having a twin would be really neat. Sharing life experiences and seasons together has always sounded fun, and I probably would have tried swapping places if I’d had a girl twin. Don’t want to go to art class today? Let’s swap, and you can go to science for me.

So I don’t have a twin…exactly. My brother and I are a few years apart, but our birthdays are only separated by four days, so we always celebrate them together. I’m not always one for traditions, but this particular tradition is very special to me. I’m sure that some years we’ve had grander celebrations than others, but the most important thing is that when I think about all my birthdays, Ryan was right there celebrating alongside me.

Growing up, Ryan and I were never really in competition with one another, which is surprising because we share so many of the same interests. Part of this is probably because we are girl-boy siblings, so even when we were doing the same things, they were still different, too. We love music, but we play different instruments – that kind of thing.

We’ve always gotten along well, too, and sometimes when this subject comes up, people suggest that it’s because we’re somewhat far apart in age, but I know better. It’s how our parents raised us. I can’t explain it well, but somehow mom and dad helped make our relationship one of friendship. I’d say their relationship played a huge part in this. We never watched them argue or fight, so I guess Ryan and I just didn’t think that was an option either. There’s much more to how they made this possible, but you’d have to talk to them. To me, it’s magic.

For as similar as Ryan and I are, we are a whole heck of a lot different, too. For example, we share the same sense of humor. Like when we play Apples to Apples, we get aggravated at picking each other’s cards – haha. Ryan’s way funnier than I am, but I like to laugh, so that’s convenient. But Ryan sees the world in black and white while I get captivated by grays sometimes. Good or bad, he makes decisions quickly, and I take my sweet time. He procrastinates (he’ll tell you about that sometime…), but he’s much more laid back than I am. He’s a math wizard, and I read a lot of books. 🙂 Our similarities bring us together and our differences help us balance each other.

Having a brother, specifically my brother, wasn’t something I knew to ask for, but he was something God knew to give me. I admire the person he is and the choices he’s made. I’m thankful he has my back, and he’s always been my best friend. I’m also grateful he married my now sister-in-law who is my other best friend. I tell people that it’s like I have this best friend who happens to be married to my brother. It’s wonderful.

So what does any of this have to do with you? I hope this makes you think about the people in your life who you cherish, who are there for you, and who have been there for you. Don’t take this as siblings are the end-all-be-all. Sometimes relationships don’t turn out the way we’d hoped. And sometimes what we hope for isn’t what we end up wanting anyway. Maybe you desired a loyal best friend or a close sibling or a caring husband. But maybe instead you were gifted a husband, sibling, or best friend. Cherish the people who choose to be loyal, who choose to be close, and who choose to care.

Birthdays are a celebration of life, and they’re a reminder that we’ve been given another year. Who are you celebrating life with? Are you making the most of your time? Are you recognizing gifts God gave you, even when you didn’t ask for them?

And to close, here’s a few pictures for your enjoyment. Haha! 🙂 Happy birthday, Ryan Alan!

 

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What We Can All Learn From the Summer Months

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It seems like only yesterday I was rolling my windows down, listening to Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar,” and getting ready for the summer ahead. Now I’m bidding farewell to my fun, laidback, and relaxing summer months. I went to Kirklands last week and didn’t even make it in the door before being greeted by orange leaves. Fall wreaths hung on the entrance doors, and pumpkins had moved in and taken over the inside of the place. Then last Saturday I stepped outside to head out for a morning run – and bam! Fall weather had seemingly moved in overnight. Now I know there are likely plenty more scorching days ahead of us, but I was just surprised at the drastic drop in temperature (and humidity – thanks TN!) to say the least. I’m definitely ready for SEC football, but I can’t say I’m totally prepared for fall.

The summer months gave me a lot to be grateful for ☀, but I feel for Annie Downs in Looking for Lovely when she writes about having a hard time enjoying the present for knowing it’s going to come to an end. Part of that is because I know my vacation time is up, and around the fourth of July, it seems like I start a mental countdown knowing I’ll turn around twice and school will be starting back. Plus, stores don’t help with their “Back to School!” reminders either.

Clearly I can’t complain because two months off in the summer is about as good as it gets. I’m thankful for all the wonderful, fun, and exciting things I enjoyed this summer. I got some quality family time, and if you know me, you know that’s of the utmost importance. I love both spontaneous visits and planned togetherness with everyone. We went to the beach and the mountains, the two places my heart remains, and the vacations were perfect! And while my friends and I did plan several outings, we also got in the habit of texting each other in the mornings and asking if anyone wanted to go to the farmers’ market, the mall, or breakfast. I read seven books, none of which were school-related, and I just kicked back and enjoyed flipping the pages in the real world while entering into lands of a fictional world. Sitting on my front porch in the mornings became a lovely habit where I drank my coffee as slowly as I wished and read for as long as I decided. I also didn’t miss putting on makeup everyday. 

I say all this to say, how important is it that we enjoy our present? Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves what gives us happiness beyond money, work, and busy-ness. In fact, I’d argue that most of the time, those things can cause us to be our least happy selves. Even with work starting back up, I’d like to continue enjoying these fun things this fall as much as possible, especially leisurely time and togetherness. I’m so grateful for even the smallest of blessings. 

Are you taking time for fun? Hang out with your family. Leave room for unplanned fun time with friends. Sit on your front porch. Make yourself a dessert. Watch a good movie. Find a funny TV show. Leisurely read a beautifully crafted book. Go to the store without gobbing on makeup. And remember to enjoy the present. As my sweet Granny always said, there’s no time like the present.

 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
Ecclesiastes 3:12

Walking Back to the Right Road: Remembering the First Altar

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We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
C. S. Lewis

I grew up in my home church learning a lot about Abraham, singing “Father Abraham had many sons” just like all the other VBS-ers out there. (Ok, acknowledge that you just sang the tune in your head as you read those words.) My church just finished a sermon series on Abraham, and I’ve been reminded of so many truths in his story.

Let’s do a quick recap. God calls Abram (pre name change) at the beginning of Genesis chapter 12, telling Abram to leave his homeland in search of the land God will show him. So Abram takes his family and travels to Moreh at Shechem (v. 6) where God shows Abram the land He will give to his offspring (v. 7). Then Abram pitches “his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord” (v. 8).

Then there was a famine in the land, so Abram sets off to Egypt. When he and his family arrive in Egypt, Abram tells Pharaoh that Sarai (pre name change) is his sister (which is only half true because she was his half sister), so she is “taken into his palace” (v. 15). God sends diseases to Pharaoh and his household, Pharaoh figures out the problem, and he orders Abram to leave: “they sent him on his way” (v. 20).

After this, Abram goes “to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 13:3-4). Sound familiar? Low and behold, Abram ends up right back where he started.

God took the initiative with Abram, just as God takes in initiative with us. But then Abram went his own way, as we are all so often prone to do as well. As has been pointed out per this sermon series, there’s no record of Abram and Sarai praying about the decision to go to Egypt, and there’s no text of God’s speaking to them to tell them to go to Egypt.

This is where we may be able to position ourselves with Abram’s story. Are we headed to our own Egypt, a place where we have not been called? Are we taking matters into our own hands by trying to force a plan that is not of God? Are we putting what we want before God’s will? We are so often tempted because of our lack of patience and selfish desires.

This wouldn’t be the last time Abram would take things into his own hands. Later, there’s a similar situation with longer-lasting effects (ch. 16). God made a promise to Abram that He would make Abram into a great nation and would make his name great (12:2), but Abram and Sarai grew impatient and decided to enact their own plan, just as they did when they went to Egypt. At the urging of Sarai, Abram has a child by Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant. Abram chose to do things his own way, and in doing so, caused much hardship on himself in the days to come. Yet even still, God did not turn His back on Abram; He called Abram back, though telling him this was not of His plan.

Abram should give us hope in that though we may go our own way, God gives the opportunity to return. Abram’s story is not to be used an excuse to wander, but that though if you find you have, it serves as hope in your return. Remember that after Abram wandered to Egypt, he returned to the place it all started, where he built his first altar.

Just like Abram, sometimes we need to return to our first altar.

Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6