You Don’t Need A Federal Holiday to Change Lives

I checked my notifications on different social media platforms this morning, and at the top of my Facebook, there was a reminder to wish one of my friends a happy birthday.

He went to paradise last September.

I stared at the cheerful reminder to reach out and let someone know that you’re glad they’re here, and I flinched. I had only met this man once but he was wonderful in the week I spent around him, and I imagined the pain so many others would feel when they saw this notification as well.

I know it’s Martin Luther King Jr. day. He was someone who did a lot of great things and so much good in this world, I’m glad we remember to recognize his accomplishments and efforts, and I’m not downplaying them, but today I want to talk about another great man, for all the great men and women that don’t have a national day.

As I said before, I was only around Mr. Spencer for a week on a mission trip for an organization that he was the beating heart and soul of.

I could tell you a lot about him just from that one week.

I could tell you about how he would sit across from you at lunch with a shine in his eyes as he started to tell you amazing stories from former mission trips he went on, some funny, some sweet, and some heartbreaking.

I could tell you about the way he would be wide awake with so much enthusiasm for the day at five in the morning, waiting for the rest of us to get up and get going on the buses to go out into the villages.

I could tell you about how sweet he was to the children and to everyone else around him.

I could tell you about how he taught us to sing hymns in spanish.

I could tell you about how he tied everything back to God.

But… I think I’ll tell you more about his impact.

I wasn’t able to go to his funeral, but I tuned into the live.

“Spencer was my best friend,” I heard true heartbreak and pain in that man’s voice.

I heard stories. I heard about the ways he helped people get their life on track. I heard about his encouragement to others, his friendship, his good influence. People thanked him with tears in their eyes and hope in their hearts because none of us truly said “goodbye” to Spencer. It was just a “see you later,” a “see you when I get home.” 

One of my favorite things to do in my downtime on my mission trip in Panama two years ago was to talk to people and hear their stories.

They told me about their pasts full of darkness and hopelessness. They told me about overcoming abuse, drugs, alcohol, and the rest of the traps and immoralities of the world. They told me about the light, and then, they told me about Spencer.

They spoke of how he had helped them find a purpose despite their past and current pain, how he had helped enable them to serve the Lord and His church even more.

The way some people looked at Mr. Spencer would bring a tear to anyone’s eye. The respect we all had for him was more powerful than the earthquake that we woke up to one night that week.

The lives he helped change are countless, some of those stories will go unspoken, and in a few years, the spoken ones may start to be forgotten, but he had an impact, and I know more people are going to heaven because of him.

The world was a better place with him in it, even if a lot of the world never even knew who he was. God knew and knows him, and he helped many other people to know who God was. That’s what matters.

“We don’t matter much,” a friend told me once, “at least, I don’t.”

“That’s not true, you know it’s not. Think of Job, he had everything taken away from him and yet he still praise God and God still loved him.” I said.

“I am not Job. I am not Elijah. I am not Moses. We are not significant like that, we don’t get Bible stories written about us. Nothing matters much.”

At that moment, I thought of so many people, so many ordinary yet extraordinary believers. Spencer was one of them. “Do you think he and so many others didn’t make a difference?” I asked my friend, “We might not know the names of the Christians that have been persecuted to death for the faith, does that mean they don’t matter? Does that mean their lives, their devotion, and their sacrifices mean nothing?” 

We sat in silence for a while, and I thought about all of the amazing people I have met in my two years of being in the church.

I am tired of the world and all of the fame and glory of it convincing us that we need a noble peace prize in order to do good and make a difference.

I’m not saying that noble peace prizes and other honors like that haven’t been well earned in the past, but listen, reader, you don’t need to have one to matter.

My friend was right in some ways.

Your story is not going to be one people go to for application in the Bible. Maybe you won’t have a national holiday after you pass. Maybe there won’t be any books written about you or inspiring movies filmed. Maybe your name will cease to be spoken after the rest of your loved ones pass. Maybe your gravestone will resemble the faded ones of veterans at old cemeteries, the words in the stone no longer legible, just a faint reminder of a life lived.

Maybe all you’ll be is a Facebook notification, an Instagram account that was never deleted, someone’s great, great, great, great grandmother/grandfather on an ancestry DNA website one day.

Maybe.

Maybe if we reduce life down to just that.

Or maybe, maybe, just maybe, there’s more to life than recognition.

People film themselves feeding the homeless and post it on social media all the time. I have so much respect for the people that don’t. Maybe no one will ever know about your kindness to a stranger, but that stranger knows, it mattered to them.

Maybe no one will ever know about the time you talked someone out of suicide at three a.m., but that person knows. You made a difference to them, their loved ones, and all the people that person will bless throughout the years they would have stolen from themselves.

Maybe no one, including yourself, will ever know that the reason someone ended up going to worship and finding salvation was because of a track you handed out without even a second thought.

Maybe no one will ever know that your smile made someone’s day a little brighter.

Maybe no one will ever know that your kind words made someone feel human again and helped give someone the strength to fight on.

Life is made up of little things and small moments.

Sometimes when I’m driving, I like to take a second to realize that all the people in the cars around me are, well, people.

They have lives, they have hopes, they have dreams, and they mean the absolute world to someone if not multiple other people.

Sometimes when I’m babysitting, it wows me so much to look down at the baby in my arms and realize that one day they might save lives, be someone dependable, someone kind, someone who loves others, and someone that has so much potential to do so much good in this dark world.

I’ll never know even half of the names or stories of the people I drive by daily, and I probably won’t remember half of the names of the children I have watched, but they still matter.

Everyone means something to someone.

And everyone has the chance to be more than just someone to God, He has called us children. He has called us loved. He has created us with purpose. He has never made a mistake.

To sum it all up, yes, Martin Luther King Jr. made a huge impact.

No, you do not have to be recognized or famous like him to make one as well. You are not helpless, you have no excuse not to try because your actions and words do mean something, and they always will. You are capable of changing lives, one often unpraised and unacclaimed action at a time.

So, thank you. Thank you to Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mr. Spencer and all of the other people that did their best, that made a difference and touched so many lives for the best.

Thank you to the people who remind us that you don’t have to be great to help make a great change in other’s lives.

I Know You Just Want to Be Somebody This Holiday Season and I’m Here to Tell You That You Are

My sister and I were singing along to Someone to You by the Banners the other day, and if you have siblings you know that hearing lyrics come out of your eleven-year-old sister’s mouth can have a way of making you hear them, which sometimes results in a song being quickly skipped.

However, these lyrics weren’t questionable, they were honest.

If you haven’t heard the song, here are my highlights of the lyrics:

I don’t wanna die or fade away
I just wanna be someone…

Dive and disappear without a trace
I just wanna be someone
Well, doesn’t everyone?

I just wanna be somebody to someone…

And if the sun’s upset and the sky goes cold
Then if the clouds get heavy and start to fall
I really need somebody to call my own…

I am the type of person who struggles with the constant need to feel needed, and that is something I have been working on: not trying to find my identity and worth simply in the opinions that others have of me.

I told a friend once that I’m really working on being genuine because sometimes I fear that I am only helpful or friendly to people for myself.

I’ve gotten better, but now a new struggle arises… where does that end? At the same time that I yearn to be a need in other’s lives, I also push people away because I don’t want to need myself.

“Grace, you need to realize that it’s ok to need others,” my therapist said to me in one of our last sessions, “you are human, you need connection, you are a social creature, and that’s ok. It’s ok to be lonely. It’s ok to need help from others sometimes. Shutting yourself off from feeling isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

She was right.

I’m learning that it’s ok to need others, isn’t that why we have the church? God knew we would need people in our lives to help encourage and build us up.

One of God’s first observations of man other than very good was that it wasn’t good for man to be alone.

Yet, this ramble isn’t the point of this post, because while I am learning that it’s ok to need other people, I am still trying to remind myself of Who I need the most.

It’s hard to remember that during the holidays, so that’s why I wanted to write to you this morning.

You mean something to someone.

You mean something to someone even if this holiday season is making you question that.

This time can be hard. I wrote a post about it in the past, and afterward, I received several emails from people telling me how horrible this time of the year is for them. They tell me that they’re alone, their children don’t talk to them or bring the grandkids over, this is the time of the year that they see people spending time with family they don’t have.

Maybe it’s hard because you’re single and while you know that your completion doesn’t rest in another and that no one by holding your hand can hold the whole of you as God can, it’s so easy to let those songs sink into your head and to feel desperately alone while watching other couples this time of year.

Maybe you’re grieving the death of a loved one or a relationship and everything right now just feels like a stab to the heart.

Maybe it’s just as simple and as complicated as seasonal depression.

No matter your circumstance, I’ve written this on my old blog, but I’ll rewrite it here:

It’s ok if Christmas lights are reflected in your tears this week.

I pray they aren’t or I pray that those are tears of joy and not sadness, but it’s ok.

However, it’s not ok to start believing those lies you tell yourself.

“But Grace, you don’t understand how terribly isolated I feel right now, maybe those things I think about myself late at night are true… maybe I am unwanted and alone.”

Listen, I’ve been there and I won’t lie and say that there aren’t some days where I look up and I am there once again, but to that I want us to remember the actual Truth.

“When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
 When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.
-Psalm 27:8-10

You are someone to not just someone, but to the One who made the world and everything in it. You are so wanted and so loved that God looked at you and saw all your shortcomings, saw every mistake you would make, every heart you would break, and every ugly thing that would become about yourself before you even breathed air. He saw you and continues to do so, dirty laundry and all, and yet, He still looked at you and looked at the price that He would have to pay to save you from your future sins and shortcomings and He decided that you were worth it.

You still are.

You are not a poetic tragedy. You are not a victim. You are not forgotten or left behind. You are not unwanted or unloved.

You are loved. You are needed. You have value and more worth than you or I can ever understand.

Why can’t you just accept that?
Why can’t you just accept that you are someone to Someone?

You are here and you matter.

It’s hard to understand at first, because the walls we have built that cage us isn’t as easy to tear down like wrapping paper is when you peel it off of a box.

It’s hard to let it sink in, because insecurities don’t just unravel with a simple tug like a lace ribbon.

I know.

But listen, listen, listen:

You matter.

You are able to make a difference.

Yet, that difference will never be made if you let yourself stay where you are right now.

You could stay where you are with tears in your eyes and discouragement in your heart forever, that should scare you, I know it scares me.

You are more than just the ache in your heart right now, my friend.

You are not only capable of being more, you were made to be more.

Nothing is going to change in your life or mine, if we don’t start working on making progress despite our emotions.

At the end of this week, we’ll pick the bits of wrapping paper off the floor and take down our lights, and life will go on.

The world will keep on spinning and we will be ok, because thankfully we were and still are somebody to the One who matters most.

You Might Not Get Married, And That’s OK

Lately, I’ve been stumbling onto many homemaking niche instagram accounts.

You know the ones.

The pretty pastels, happy kids, spotless white kitchens, moms with full faces of makeup on rambling about their beautiful family in the posts.

I’m not dissing these pages, they’re cute. I’m sure they’re helpful to plenty of expecting and new moms and are sources for encouragement. I’ve even considered following one, but my finger stopped above the follow button…

I looked at those perfectly lit aesthetic pictures, and I felt a bitterness wash over me, and I knew then that it wasn’t healthy for me to see that on my feed. I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to want what wasn’t mine, and that was what I was doing in that moment.

I felt discouraged, not at the thought of not currently having a family, but at the thought of never having one.

Fast-foward a bit, I came across another one, but this one was different.

It was a homemaking page run by a young teen girl and a self-described “future-homemaker”.

I wasn’t sure what to think about it.

On one hand, homemaking is beautiful. I wish the stay-at-home mom life was still looked at as important in today’s culture. I’m glad this young girl sees the beauty, and I’m glad that she wants that for her future.

On one hand, it is important to learn how to keep a home running.

On the other, I didn’t like it because a future that might never be, was shown as her whole identity and purpose, when it’s not.

Marriage is not a right; it’s not promised.

Neither are kids.

Yet, we act like our life is on pause until we get married and have kids.

Why does it seem that there is this unrealistic, “Oh, I just want to skip this stuff and get married and have kids.” As if that’s when the credits roll as you ride off into the sunset, into a happy ending? Forget the part where life goes on and continues to be stressful and hard work in different ways.

My dad tells me this story about how he and his roommate had a calendar in college, and they would celebrate the end of each day by crossing another day off with a red pen.

“You’re counting your life away,” someone remarked to my dad once.

My dad said he never understood that remark until years later when he looked up and realized that he had done that.

We all are guilty of doing that, especially in this area.

It’s always when I meet someone, then I’ll-

When I get engaged, then I’ll-

When I get married, then I’ll-

When I have children, then I’ll-

What about the “now’s“?

Now, I’ll-

There are so many opportunities to serve God and others now.

There are so many things you can do now that you won’t be able to do if (or when) you get married and have kids.

You have a life and a purpose now.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”-Ecclesiastes 12:13

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”-Thessalonians 5:11

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”-Matthew 5:16

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”-Matthew 28:19-20

Your purpose will never be found in a significant other, marriage, kids, grandchildren, etc. Your purpose is found in Christ and you can live your life for Him now.

I’m not writing this to be a feminist or take away from the beauty and importance of marriage and the home, I’m simply here to tell you to stop wasting your time pining for a season you’re not in yet.

Enjoy the spring when it’s spring.

Enjoy the summer when it’s summer.

Enjoy the autumn when it’s autumn.

Enjoy the winter when it’s winter.

Enjoy being single while you’re single.

Enjoy the now.

Every season has its pros and cons.

I pray that we both find good, godly people to marry one day, but if not and if this season decides to stick around, we’ll be ok.

I’m not sure if I’m talking to you or myself in this post. I guess it’s a bit of both, but we have got to stop waiting for and idolizing the next thing–whether it be graduating high school, a major, a career, a relationship, marriage, a job promotion etc.–and we have to start focusing on what we can do now for God and for others, and what we can learn now.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”’-James 4:13-15

I might not get married.

You might not get married.

I’m not writing this to be discouraging or pessimistic, but simply to tell you and myself that it’s ok.

Your value as a person and as a child of God is not depended on a relationship status.

Your identity will never be found in a significant other; it is found in Christ.

Marriage is not going to solve your problems. You will be disappointed if you put that much expectation on another human.

God has not promised us marriage, and that’s ok.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be guilty of seeking after a relationship more than God.

Dear reader, you might not get married, and that’s ok.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
 And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in God in this time of uncertainty, acknowledge Him and His purpose for you even when you cannot see the big picture and can’t understand all of the “why’s” in life.

No one said that this life would be easy and that all our dreams would come true. All we can do is pick up our cross and follow Him, no matter the season we are in.

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”-Matthew 10:38-39