Category Archives: Worthwhile Information

Drive-by Memories

On our way to Asheville, we passed through Knoxville, the home of my alma mater. From the highway, I caught quick, blurred glimpses of some of the city’s sights, and it triggered a flood of memories. In this particular situation, my recollections were relegated to some of the taller locales, as those were the only buildings that stood out at 75 miles per hour. I saw the hospital that hosted my mom and I for eight days after my emergency appendectomy, the on-campus college apartments I lived in for two years, the Sun Sphere where I attended many an outdoor concert, and Neyland Stadium, where I spent countless fall Saturdays watching football.

Our brief drive-by also made me wonder why I had never before made the short two-hour trip to Asheville when I lived four years in a neighboring town. Which then made me question why I didn’t do a lot of the things I could have done.

I could have spent more time in the surrounding mountains and taken advantage of the proximity to North Carolina. I could have joined the Canoe and Hiking club, which I dabbled in but never committed to, because I didn’t want to “give up” my weekends. I could have studied abroad in a multitude of countries. I could have taken my major in a totally different direction. I could have learned French more fluently. I could have started running sooner. Bottom line – I could have done a lot of things differently.

If I was the me I am now, I would have. But I wasn’t, and that’s really all there is to say about that.

Sure, I had my fair share of random excitement. I took ballet, racquetball, and weightlifting classes. Visited New Orleans, Washington DC, Virginia, Ohio, South Carolina, and Chicago collectively more times than I can count. Captained an intramural sand volleyball team. Took a road trip to meet my pen pal of ten years. And so on and so forth (I mean really, how do you adequately list four years worth of activities?!). But looking back, I can’t help but think that there’s so much more I could have done.

But isn’t that just how life goes?

It’s called growth, and it’s all part of the journey. We get to know ourselves better, we change, we develop new priorities and interests. We acquire fresh knowledge and passion, and we begin to see the world differently than we did before. It’s quite beautiful, really. We (ideally) grow upwards and forwards, becoming a constantly revised version of who we once were.

There’s no need to look back at what wasn’t, because it can’t be changed. And it’s all part of your story. The only thing to do now is move forward, be thankful for the past that shaped you into who you are, and collect new experiences that appeal to the you of today.

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50 Half Marathons in 50 States

Today is the day I go public with my latest endeavor, and that is to run a half marathon in every state. Fifty half marathons in fifty states before I’m fifty years old. It’s lofty, sure, but not insurmountable.

I have heard of the concept before, but never had I thought to consider it as an option for myself. Until recently, that is. My interest came about by accident, really. I was searching the internet for some non-running-related information about a particular locale and landed on an alphabetical listing of all the U.S. states. Coincidentally, my half marathon training spreadsheet also happened to be open on my desktop. I saw the two side by side, and it just clicked. I love running and I love traveling; merge the two together, and you have the birth of a new goal.

I’m not attacking this venture with a vengeance and trying to accomplish it in a speedy rampage. Instead, I plan on knocking off the states at my leisure and when opportunities present themselves. The feat will surely take several years, and I am 100% comfortable with that.

I’ve outlined a handful of guidelines, just to give myself some parameters to work within:

  1. Each race must be 13.1 miles at minimum; however, races above this mileage are accepted and encouraged. So long as you have completed at least a 13.1 mile race in a particular state, you have satisfied your requirement for said state.
  2. The race must be an official event, meaning that it was publicly announced in some form of media, such as a newspaper, website, magazine, running publication, or race brochure and of which official verifiable results are maintained and/or published to the general public. Translation: a solo long run isn’t going to cut it.
  3. The race must be completed without interruption. As challenging as they are, relay races that break your running stints into smaller increments do not count.
  4. You must officially complete the race. Gotta make it across the finish line. Note that you must be officially signed up for a race in order to officially complete it. No banditting, please.
  5. Running a race that crosses borders of more than one state will count as satisfying only one state requirement.  It’s flexible though; you pick whether it’s the location where the event started or finished.

There, I believe I’ve covered all the main points.

Anybody who would like to play along with me, by all means, join in on the action. I would love for my running buddies to accompany me on races across the country both near and far. You can adopt my very official regulations, or create your own more suitable to your taste. It’s your goal, after all.

Let’s do this.

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Restless

The frustration of falling in love with a song at first listen and needing to hear it again, but coming up empty-handed after hours of fruitless searching online. Obsessively tuning in to the radio hoping you’ll get lucky and come across those powerful lyrics once more. That was me this past week. I have literally been praying for another listen. And this morning, exactly one week after my initial exposure, I got my song.

And the girl was happy. And then she got to the office and listened to the song another 45 times.

It’s gorgeous and passionate and soulful and true.  The lyrics are poetic and honest and a large part of what makes this song so beautiful, so take a moment to read them below.

 Happy listening, and Happy Friday!

 

“Restless”

I am the sea on a moonless night,
Calling, falling, slipping tides
I am the leaky, dripping pipes
The endless aching drops of light
I am the raindrop falling down,
Always longing for the deeper ground
I am the broken, breaking seas
Even my blood finds ways to bleed

Even the rivers ways to run
Even the rain to reach the sun
Even my thirsty streams,
Even in my dreams

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you

I am the thorn stuck in your side
I am the one that you left behind,
I am the dried-up doubting eyes
Looking for the well that won’t run dry

Running hard for the other side
The world that I’ve always been denied
Running hard for the infinite
With the tears of saints and hypocrites

Oh blood of black and white and gray
Death and life and night and day
One by one by one
We let our rivers run

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you

I can’t feel you breathing
I can’t hear you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can’t feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
Until the final healing
Looking for you

Until the sea of glass we meet
At last completed and complete
The tide of tear and pain subside
Laughter drinks them dry

I’ll be waiting
Anticipating
All that I aim for
What I was made for
With every heartbeat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for you

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
I’m looking for you

~ Switchfoot

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A Beachside Run

Is there anything more serene than a sunrise run beside the ocean?
 
I ask this rhetorically, because I already know the answer. This past Friday morning, despite arriving in Gulf Shores at 2 a.m.,  I purposefully awoke before all of my condo-mates so that I could steal some solo time on the beach. It was wonderfully peaceful, and happened to be exactly what I needed. As I fell into a steady cadence, appreciating the sand against my bare feet and the rhythmic sound of the waves, I found myself lost in thought. I marveled at the expanse of ocean beside me – its size, its design, its mystery. Despite the fact that I’ve vacationed at the beach every summer of my life, it still amazes me. It’s hard to fully digest the ocean’s vastness, and I can’t help but reflect on what an awesome Creator we have. He sprinkled these incredible gifts across the globe for our enjoyment, giving us just a small glimpse of Heaven’s beauty. It is so easy to take for granted, but oh so rewarding when you take a moment to cherish the loveliness of it all. 
 
My morning run wasn’t particularly far or impressive by man’s standards, but it fed my soul in a much more meaningful way.
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Filling Sandbags at the Pyramid

As the Mississippi River continues to rise and the threat of flooding becomes more imminent, volunteers are being recruited to help fill sandbags at the Memphis Pyramid. Since I’ve been working from home this past week, my flexible schedule allowed me to get down there Friday afternoon to lend a helping hand.

Immediately upon arrival, my buddy Philip and I were told to find a spot and make ourselves useful. We joined forces with another volunteer and formed an assembly line of sorts. Philip held open the bags, the helper scooped two shovel fulls of sand into each…

…and I tied them off and tossed them into the ever growing pile. The key is to tie the bag near the top so that it will lie flat when put into place. Overfilled bags and bags tied too low leave gaps in the sandbag levee allowing water to seep through, and we can’t have that. This is very methodical stuff, you see.

We developed a steady rhythm and continued filling bags until the pile of sand disappeared, was replenished, and dwindled away again. Henry Ford would have been proud.

The effort was a success, and it felt good to get our hands dirty for the sake of the city.

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Playoff Bound

My Memphis Grizzlies are heading to the playoffs, and I am ecstatic!

I can remember SEVEN YEARS AGO watching the Grizzlies playoff games in my college apartment, screaming for victory like a crazy woman. We were playing the San Antonio Spurs, and we didn’t win a game that series. Not a single one.

The Grizzlies had a couple more lackluster playoff appearances, but nothing in the past five years. And now, being a faithful fan through these rollercoaster years has finally paid off. The Grizz are back, and they are up against the Spurs again. I no longer abhor the San Antonio team, as time heals all wounds, but I reeeeeally hope they don’t advance this time around. I am a Grizzlies fan through and through, and I cannot WAIT to watch them win their first playoff game in franchise history. I can just feel it.

*fingers crossed*

The rudimentary playoff schedule has been announced, and I share it with you here. Mark your calendars and plan accordingly.

San Antonio vs. Memphis
Game 1 – Sunday April 17, Memphis at San Antonio, 12:00 p.m, TNT
Game 2 – Wednesday April 20, Memphis at San Antonio, 7:30 p.m, NBA TV
Game 3 – Saturday April 23, San Antonio at Memphis, 6:30 p.m, ESPN
Game 4 – Monday April 25, San Antonio at Memphis, TBD, TBD
Game 5 * Wednesday April 27, Memphis at San Antonio, TBD, TBD
Game 6 * Friday April 29, San Antonio at Memphis, TBD, TBD
Game 7 * Sunday May 1, Memphis at San Antonio, TBD, TBD
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Born to Run

I just read the most phenomenal book.  287 pages, and I finished it in 3 days. I absolutely could not put it down.

Sunday morning, I opened the book, and immediately I was engulfed. It took two pages, and I was hooked. What started as an innocent reading session turned into an all day binge. I shirked all other responsibility – laundry, working out, even eating, and that’s saying something. I did manage to get a quick nap in (reading for seven hours straight will do that to you) and tore myself away long enough to bathe the mountain bike, but otherwise, I was glued to the pages of Born to Run. This nonfiction account of one runner’s search for a true understanding of distance running was gripping. It introduced me to the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their fascinating running culture, the biomechanics and evolution of running, and the ultra-athletes that push it to a whole new level.

It was informative, inspiring, factual, thrilling, and captivating. Author Chris McDougall broke running down into its purest art form.  He removed the iPods and Garmins and fancy running shoes, the self images and the drudgery, and spoke of running as a beautiful, natural expression of the body, and I loved every word of it. His words dissected the motivations behind running, how our bodies were built for it, and our inherent need to engage in it.

I managed to watch the Grizzlies take on the Spurs, but at every commercial break my nose was buried in the book. I somehow forced myself to go to sleep before midnight, but Monday morning I was up reading before heading to the office and again on my lunch break. After work, I toted my book to the gym, hopped on a treadmill, and ran with no shoes, just like the Tarahumara tribe. Minus the exercise machine, and insert canyons and mountains. I dreamed of running 50 miles, just as the super athletes in my book did so effortlessly, but I only got in two before it was time to wipe away the sweat and go to Bible study.

When I got home, I convinced myself to entertain a load of laundry before settling down with my book. I stayed up late reading, woke up early for bootcamp, went to work, and then stole moments throughout the day to satsify my reading craving. I forgot to take a lunch break, let alone eat, so I didn’t read the final pages until after my family and all significant others dined at the Rendezvous and witnessed the Grizzlies OWN the Spurs at the Forum (sweet, sweet revenge). Then, after an exciting basketball victory, I finished the book. Borderline obsessive, but it was that good.

Every sentence resonated with me. It made me want to run. Not just to go on a run, but to run for the sake of running. To set out with no agenda or predetermined distance, but just for the passion and pleasure of it all.

Just read it. My account doesn’t do it justice. If you love running, or wish you loved running, this book is for you. I cannot recommend it enough.

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2011 Stock Market Holidays

And now, without further ado, I give you this year’s U.S. stock market holidays. These coveted days sprinkled across the calendar give us a legitimate reason to stay out of the office, something to celebrate, and are great for planning extended weekend vacations around. May you make the most of yours!

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New Year’s Day – Nonexistent*

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – January 17, 2011

President’s Day – February 21, 2011**

Good Friday – April 22, 2011

Memorial Day – May 30, 2011

Independence Day – July 4, 2011

Labor Day – September 5, 2011

Thanksgiving – November 24, 2011

Christmas Day – December 26, 2011 (observed for December 25)

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* We got jipped this year!

**Despite technically having the day off, I opted to work in exchange for a free day later in the year. The way I see it, I’d much rather spend a precious day off work traveling the globe than hanging around Memphis on a dreary Monday in February. But that’s just me.

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Why I Love My Kindle

For Christmas, I received a Kindle, and I am smitten.

At first I was unsure how well the Kindle and I would get along, as I am a lover of books. Tangible books made of paper and ink, with that distinct book smell and pages that turn and invite you to highlight and make notes on them. A Kindle doesn’t allow you to dog ear your page to mark your spot, and you can’t scribble notes in the margin. These things worry me.

But now that I’ve had a chance to get acquainted with my dear Kindle, I’ve discovered some great features that hold a lot of merit. The benefits outweigh the negatives, and although my Kindle will never fully replace my affinity for books, it is certainly a welcome addition to my reading world.

Exercise. The Kindle is extra handy when it comes to treadmill and cycling activity. I’m one of those freaks of nature that is capable of reading and running at the same time, and the Kindle makes this easier than ever. In the past, I’ve had to contend with pages refusing to stay down, and even with those little plastic book holders, they still get ornery and insist on flipping at will. Not with a Kindle. With the Kindle, you just push a button, and voilà, the page turns at your command.

Accessibility. I am craaaaazy about bookstores. I adore spending carefree hours browsing the shelves of a bookstore, looking for nothing in particular, just being surrounded by books. But the problem with this is that you have to actually be at a bookstore to enjoy one, and that requires time. And extra time is something that I do not have in abundance. The Kindle lets me browse through thousands of e-books at my leisure, even when I don’t have time to carve out a bookstore visit. I can purchase a book and have access to it within seconds.

Consolidation. I am typically reading four or more books at one time, which makes for quite a lot of luggage to carry around on a typical day. Now, thanks to my Kindle, the majority of my reading material is stored in one place, and I can easily switch from book to book at the click of a button. Not only that, but the Kindle saves my place in each book. A virtual bookmark! This means I can easily read verses in the Bible, the next page of my 365-day devotional, a few chapters of Pride and Prejudice, work literature, and dozens of other books with the utmost convenience.

Inexpensive. Furthermore, all of the books I mentioned, plus many more, are free. There are ever-changing lists of free books for download on the Kindle. Good ones, too! Ones you would actually spend money to read. Except now you don’t have to! In the span of 8 minutes, and I promise this is true, I selected 17 free e-books to download. How cool is that?! And the books that aren’t free are almost always discounted.

And that’s only the beginning. The Kindle also has Internet access, the ability to read to you, and a screen that is easy on the eyes.

Yes, my Kindle and I have become good friends, indeed.

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Love is a Mixed Tape

For Valentine’s Day this year, I decided to try my hand at compiling a mixed tape (er…CD) for my sweetheart. After much deliberation and downloading (legally, thankyouverymuch), I produced what some would consider the greatest love mix ever created. And by some, I mean the recipient, and that’s exactly what I was going for. And that, my friends, is the story of how “The Greatest Love Mix That Ever Was” was born. It’s not cheesy, it’s relevant, and it’s perfect for my mister.

The playlist goes something like this:

  1. Jesus, Etc. – Wilco
  2. Crazy Love – Van Morrison
  3. These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding
  4. Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
  5. Detlef Schrempf – Band of Horses
  6. This Year’s Love – David Gray
  7. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
  8. Swept Away – The Avett Brothers
  9. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
  10. In My Life – The Beatles
  11. We Have All the Time in the World – Louis Armstrong
  12. Anyone Else But You – Michael Cera & Ellen Page
  13. Angel – Dave Matthews Band
  14. Stand By Me – Ben E. King
  15. Hold You in My Arms – Ray LaMontagne
  16. If Love Was a Train – Amy LaVere

For those of you with equally good taste in music, copies available upon request.

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2010 Reminiscence

2010 was good to me.

I learned how to surf, played in the snow, went white water rafting, threw my first baby shower, ziplined in the jungle, sat beneath an active volcano, and hiked in the tropical rainforest.  I purchased my first Snuggie, dressed as a mermaid for Halloween, finished 15 books, took my first trail run, and got multiple promotions at work. I won an item in a silent auction, danced at galas, hugged Tarik Black, adopted a Christmas Angel, went whale watching, played in the mud, and contributed to my IRA.  I swam in a guitar-shaped pool, carved a pumpkin, co-hosted a garage sale, and shopped at the farmer’s market.

I also started running again, which resulted in my participation in 12 races of various lengths. I began with some easy 5ks and 10ks, then found myself running a half marathon in dreamy Costa Rica. Figuring that I was already halfway there, I signed up for and ran my first full marathon, a feat that was not even a thought in my head at the beginning of the year. I accomplished personal goals, fed my running addiction, and made a lot of new friends in the process.

I traveled near and far, by car and by plane, and it gave my year such depth. I visited friends in Oxford and Nashville, took a train to New Orleans, watched my Tigers dominate the court in Tupelo, ate pancakes in Ooltewah, boated in Pickwick, hiked in Georgia, lounged on the beach in Destin, enjoyed every minute of Costa Rica, and ran a 200-mile relay from Chattanooga to Nashville. I attended some pretty phenomenal music festivals, marked some big names off my Music Bucket List, and was introduced to some new favorites. And then I discovered the joy of occasionally not being on the road and spending time at home, embracing my family and friends, the rare rest break, and this city I love.

But much more importantly than any one of these items, or all of them combined, I saw God move in some mighty ways, and I was overwhelmed by His goodness. I witnessed my grandmother go to Heaven, the bondage of addiction broken, a valiant fight against cancer, the miracle of a desperate pregnancy, and comfort in the aftermath of tragic deaths. God did this. My faith and relationship with the Lord continue to grow as I learn how awesome my Savior is, and how desperately I need Him, and how precious I am in His sight. My prayer is to be more like Jesus in the upcoming year – to know Him and experience Him in a whole new way, to see things through His eyes, with His compassion and love for others, and to abide in Him with all things.

My life is full, and I am excited to see what 2011 has in store!

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Recycling Your Holiday Cards

I just came across a grand idea that we can probably all benefit from.

Every year, between work and my personal life, I receive dozens of Christmas cards, and I’ve always wondered what to do with them at the end of the season. Some of them you’ll want to keep – the sentimental one with heartfelt note attached, the family picture of your little cousins playing on the beach, and the photo card of your friend’s precious little baby on Santa’s lap. But there are others, such as the Christmas card “signed” by a vendor in printed ink, that really aren’t necessary to cherish for the rest of time. I hate to be wasteful and toss the thoughtful gestures, and now I don’t have to, for I have discovered the perfect solution:

Donate them to the St. Jude’s Ranch Recycled Card Program!

They want your used cards! Not just the Christmas variety either, they take cards for all occasions. The children take part in making new cards by removing the front of the donated cards, doctoring them up a bit, and attaching a new back. Then they sell them, $10 for a pack of 10.  They learn the benefits of recycling, receive payment for their work, and have beautiful “green” holiday cards to show for their efforts!  And you can feel good about not sending your cards to the dumpster, all the while supporting a program at St. Jude.

This is genius! Mail your donations to:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

It’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy inside!

 

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St. Jude Memphis Marathon

I awoke at 5:30am, taped up my foot, donned my running gear and Heroes singlet, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and headed out the door to corral 8. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised and bombarded with friends and family, and it made my heart happy. We took the obligatory we-are-about-to-run-a-marathon pictures, and then Allie and I settled into line and said a prayer. We were nervous, excited, anxious, pumped, and had absolutely no idea what the next 26.2 miles held for us. 

 

Allie and I ran pretty steadily the first several miles. Once we got past the crowds on Beale and the precious children at the St. Jude campus, we turned on our headphones and buckled down, probably a bit too fast. At mile 8, Allie was having an uncharacteristically hard time and encouraged (well, more like forced) me to forge ahead on my own. I unwillingly continued on solo. And on and on and on. I watched wistfully as the half marathoners broke away, but still I trekked on.

I ran roughly 8 miles by my lonesome, determined to finish this race if it was the last thing I did. By some stroke of sheer luck, I caught up to my boys around mile 15, which turned out to be my saving grace. Gaining a running buddy at this point was crucial. Wade continued ahead with me, which made the rest of the run so much more pleasant. And I use the word pleasant loosely here, as running nonstop for 18 miles isn’t the most comfortable thing one can do. Up until mile 18, I ran solidly, but from there, we started walking through the water stops. Not that I’m complaining, as things (such as putting one foot in front of the other) were getting pretty tough at this point.

They say that running a marathon really comprises two separate races: the first 20 miles, and then the last 6. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but now that I have endured it, I understand. Oooh, do I understand. With that being said…check back tomorrow for my rundown on the final 6 miles!

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Marathon Training

We are 6 short weeks away from the St. Jude Marathon, so I thought I’d give you a little update as to where I am training-wise. It’s hard to believe race day is right around the corner — seriously, where does the time go??! I’ve been reasonably diligent with my training, occasional lapsing (hey, rest days are good for you!), but otherwise I’ve been generally on top of things. Well, running, anyways. Can’t say the same about the pile of clothes I’ve yet to hang up, or the Pumpkin Cake with Whiskey Whipped Cream I intend to make, or the bed end bench I plan on reupholstering, but you can’t do everything at one time now, can ya? I’m saving those items for a rainy day.

Just this past weekend, Allie and I ran a solid 16 miles without walking a step. At a 9:30 pace. The whole way. If you told me that story several weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. It really is amazing how much progress the human body can make when exposed to consistent training. I remember the days when I was maxing out at 7 miles, and now I consider that to be an easy day. Now that I’m running 13+ miles at least once a week, I’m afraid half marathons just aren’t going to satisfy me anymore. At the same time, though, I’ve promised my body that I’m only going to put it through full marathon training once. I can already feel myself getting addicted to these longer distances, but I know how burdensome they are on your body, and I do want to have functioning knees when I’m 50. So if ever I start talking about running another full marathon, give me a good shake and remind me of all the reasons why I shouldn’t. Please and thank you.

At some point during my productive hours of web surfing, I came across this blog post detailing the St. Jude Marathon route mile for mile.  The guide gives you a taste of what to expect as you progress throughout the course, and it really made the fact that I’m actually running a marathon tangible. It is an excellent source, and I highly recommend everyone running the race check it out, not only for the informative aspect, but for pure inspiration. I literally teared up as I envisioned running the 26.2 miles on that cold December morning, and more importantly, my reason for doing so, which you can read more about at www.mystjudeheroes.org/melissam.

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Your Story

I want my life to matter. I want to fill it with meaningful things, things that further God’s kingdom, make a difference in people’s lives, and share hope and joy with the broken. And I am learning more and more that the only way to truly find myself in this place is to let God write my story. And not just merely to let Him, but to embrace it. We are all living a story, you see, and we can either be an active character in this narrative, or we can let the story happen to us. We can choose the story that leads to transformation and fulfillment in Christ, or we can take the path built to increase our personal comfort, the one that is empty and meaningless at its core.

There is no story without change. Change is constant. The point of our life story is not in the search, but in the transformation the search creates. We were built for change. The human body essentially recreates itself every six months, our minds were built with the capacity to continually learn new things, our feelings vacillate, our preferences alter, our physical appearances change. People get stuck thinking they are a certain type of person, but that’s just not true. We are in a perpetual state of growth as we move through our story, and that’s a good thing. When someone suggests that you’ve changed, you hope they are right, because the opposite would imply stagnation.

At times, the journey is painful. Oftentimes, you can’t see where the story is going next, and since we are creatures who crave control, this makes us uncomfortable. We live in an age of instant gratification, and we want the answers to our questions immediately. But God doesn’t work that way. He sees how all of the stories fit together and how each scene is significant and purposeful in a way that we cannot.  So enjoy your place in His story. This very moment matters, it is a page in your book. Live today with a grateful heart, or else you are missing out on the beauty of your story.

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