Birthday Gifts

Usually on my birthday, I just write in my journal. I usually stay up late until the clock hits midnight and I turn another year older. Then I put the pen to the paper and start writing. I’ll write a reflection on the year, the highs and the lows and the lessons from God woven into my story. As I tried to do that today, I was overwhelmed.

It hasn’t been a year that can be summarized on a couple pages of my journal. It hasn’t been a year that could even be wrapped up by the eighty some blogs I’ve posted. I can’t look back on the year and come up with three main points, type them down, and put on bow on it. 365 dollars can’t even buy your textbooks for a semester. 365 text messages barely gets you through week. But give God 365 days and He’ll turn your whole world upside down in the best way possible.

All I can really think about when I look back on the year is that God has been  really really good to me. He’s been good to me circumstantially. I’ve got an awesome family and wonderful friends, old and new. I went from an incredible learning environment in Ames, Iowa to another phenomenal learning environment in Waco, Texas. All of my physical needs were met with abundance.

But if my list ended there, I wouldn’t be content. I probably wouldn’t even be happy. Because my contentment doesn’t come from the list of things above. My contentment comes from the God above. And today at nineteen, looking back, the good news, that this all-powerful and all-good God loves not just me but this whole world enough to die for the darkness and crap and sin this world and myself contain, and that through the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and the fruit of the Spirit we are changed and transformed and renewed, has never been more real.

He gave me so many opportunities to proclaim that this year. He gave me such an awesome storyline to live. My prayer is for more opportunities to shout about His love and grace and justice in the next year as I begrudgingly leave my teens and have to start acting like more of a grown-up.

If you’re a Christian, the greatest gift you could give me for my birthday is to share the good news of Jesus with your friends. Send them an e-mail to set up a coffee date. Text them a verse that’s been on your heart. Invite them to church next Sunday. Maybe repost this blog for a start.

If you think that the Gospel sounds about as real as the tooth fairy, I’d love to have a dialogue about faith and I’d love to hear what you believe. E-mail or facebook or text message me. Share what you believe and then maybe ask why I think Jesus is worth writing about and living for. Tell about the god that you believe in. Or maybe tell me about the God you don’t believe in; I probably don’t believe in that god either. Open your mind to the possibility that this could be true. Because if it is, it’ll change everything. He will change everything.

Boxes

All my stuff is in boxes in the SUV. I’m not sure what’s going on in my heart right now. The goodbyes are wearing on me. You smile and say “it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later,” but you can never know that. No see you later is ever guaranteed. I’m parting ways with so many people I’ve been blessed by with hopes that they’ll remain a big part of my life, but I can’t know that. As bad as I hope and as hard as I’ll try to keep in touch with the friends I love, eighteen years is a long enough time for someone to learn that people change.

Last night my friends and I had one last little get-together. It started with a formal dinner, which featured copious amounts of delicious food and suit jackets and sweater vests purchased at local thrift stores. After dinner, all eleven of us piled into a conversion van and hit up Orange Leaf for the sole purpose of being seen in our ridiculous outfits. We followed this adventure with a dance party. The dance party was a blast, but I think it started hitting everyone then. You could see it on faces. We realized that this was it. It was almost over. We might all be back together, but it’d be as changed people, people separated by time.

Time is a weird thing. There are periods in my life when everything is moving slow. It’s the week after spring break when you realize how much time there is left until school gets out, or it’s the dog days of summer when you have what seems like an eternity to lay around at the pool with your friends. And then there’s right now. Where it’s all moving way too fast. Where I’m saying goodbyes I don’t feel ready for. Where I’m putting stuff in boxes and taking stuff off the walls that I don’t want to be moving. When time is moving fast, you start looking at seconds and minutes and hours differently.

So what do I do with these feelings? These feelings of grief and excitement and anxiousness that I have in my gut going into move-in day of my freshman year of college. The answer is joy. I’ve been called to Baylor, away from Ames, away from parents and siblings and friends, away from my Church, the park I used to go swing in, and the school I used to go to, away from the field I used to play on and the dog I used to play with and the bed I used to sleep in. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. But joy is more powerful.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy     Psalms 63:5-7 

One of my friends tonight brought out the “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” and everyone rolled their eyes. After a second though, another friend said there’s actually a lot of good stuff in that quote. There is. The truth is that I’ve been so blessed, blessed to be living in this beautiful city in one of the most privileged places on the most privileged planet in the entire cosmos, blessed to have an incredibly loving family to miss, blessed to have close friends to miss, blessed to have parents and siblings and friends and teachers and mentors much wiser than me to talk to when I need guidance, blessed to be going off to a college that will challenge and strengthen me and form me into the man God wants me to be while having a whole lot of fun, and blessed to serve a big, loving God.

I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings, I will sing for joy.

P.S. Sorry about the run-on sentences.

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