Great Friday


Today at work we had a chocolate fountain to enjoy, complete with lots of goodies to dip-strawberries, bananas, graham crackers, pound cake, and of course, plenty of fingers. One of my coworkers jokingly made the comment that it seemed a bit morbid to celebrate Good Friday with a chocolate party. I laughed and agreed, then made the comment “well it all turned out okay in the end, right?”

Isn’t that the truth? By all means, Good Friday should be kind of a terrible day. Jesus suffered and died. That doesn’t seem very good, does it?

But of course, He was resurrected, and three days later we get to celebrate this goodness on Easter Sunday. So, it seems as though the good ending (Jesus rising) makes the beginning good as well.

But what if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected? I still think Good Friday would be good.

I know that seems like a bold statement. But can we remember why He died? He died for you. For me. For our parents. For our grandparents. For our future children. For our terrible, broken, sinning world. Jesus chose to die for us.

I always get chicken skin when I think of this. Imagine being dragged through town, beaten and flogged, nailed on some boards, and slowly dying. Who would you do this for? Probably a few people come to mind. Maybe your kiddos, or your spouse. Maybe a niece or nephew, or a little sibling. Those are all people you love deeply and without conditions.

But Jesus died for strangers. He died for people he had never really met before, for people who had sinned again and again and again. He died without knowing when he would rise. He sacrificed himself and submitted to the will of God.

I find this hard to wrap my head around because half of the time I struggle to sacrifice 30 minutes of extra sleep to do my Bible study in the morning. Doesn’t that seem crazy when it’s compared with Jesus’ sacrifice? He willingly gave up His life and I don’t even want to roll out of bed a little early so I can do my devos. Ugh, Cote.

I am grateful for God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice every single day. Because of it I am loved and joyful, forgiven and blessed, and headed to eternal life with our Father. But every year on Good Friday I am grateful just a little bit more, when I think of the extreme sacrifice that was made for me and my unworthy self. To me, that makes Good Friday good on its own, even without the promise of the upcoming Sunday.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
[Philippians 2:5-11]

Read, Breathe, Pray, Like


Social media is everywhere in our world. We have it book marked on our computers and its apps are installed on our phones. I read somewhere that the average person checks Facebook twenty times a day. Twenty! That’s like ten times more than we brush our teeth (if you have good dental hygiene, that is)! However, dental hygiene is not the real issue here (I trust you regularly brush and floss yo’ teeth). The issue is that we are spending increasing amounts of time on social media, and as a consequence are spending less and less time doing other things. The other issue-which I have realized more and more the past few months or so-is that we let what happens on social media have a huge effect on us.

We all have that annoying second cousin that won’t stop posting intense political articles, that old coworker who shares every cat meme ever, or that acquaintance from high school that feels like they must update you on every aspect of their life during every single minute (“I’m brushing my hair! Now I’m driving to work! Sad face, I just saw a dead raccoon on my way to work! Ugh, it’s 10 am and I already need a nap!” …you get the picture). Social media can serve as a source of annoyance for things like that.

It can also serve as a source of anger when people share things that you strongly disagree with, post opinions that drastically differ from your own, or say things that you believe are just wrong. It can also serve as a source of hurt, as people can be downright mean. I’m talking about those people that take advantage of their anonymity or use their keyboard as a shield, typing extraordinarily cruel things about people they have never met in real life or really know anything about. “Trolls” I am told they’re called (although I still think of trolls as those cute pink haired dolls with the gemstone bellybuttons I had as a little kid).

This morning as I was having my coffee and scrolling through my Facebook feed I was struck by a conversation that was going on between some people I vaguely know about someone else I also vaguely know. I would have kept scrolling without a second thought except I recognized the screenshot that was posted as something I had just seen somewhere else on my newsfeed. Upon further investigation, because I am a nosy curious person, I read the series of comments about someone who was selling something that they had won. The comments proceeded to express opinions about how wrong this was, about the awful choice this person was making by for doing this, about how bad their true colors were…

I immediately was upset, but brushed it off and continued on with my morning routine. However, throughout breakfast, more coffee, getting dressed, more coffee, starting my car, and more coffee-I just couldn’t get the conversation out of my head. Because I know the person that they were talking about I obviously have a biased opinion on the subject. However, I haven’t seen that person in years-at least six or seven. But from what I know about the person, they are one of the sweetest and nicest souls around. Yes, they could have changed drastically in the past few years. Sure, maybe they did wrongfully accept the gift with the intent to sell it later. Maybe their true colors are not so great. Or…maybe they are a great person. I don’t know. The point is, the people making all of these comments don’t really know either. They publicly were ‘talking trash’ about another living, breathing person (regardless of whether that person’s intent was bad or good) who likely would be very hurt to see their comments.

Jesus constantly calls us to be examples to others. In fact, Sunday’s sermon at church was how to handle conflicts in a Godly manor (seriously, one of the best sermons I have heard in a long time!). How we as Christians handle situations (whatever those situations may be) reflects on our religion, our beliefs, our Bible, and our God.

I am not claiming to be good at this-at all. In fact, I just ordered the book our pastor referenced in his sermon about conflict, because I am so dang bad at it. We are all human. We are imperfect, drawn to gossip, quick to jump to conclusions, and slow to listen-exactly the opposite of what we are told to do (James 1:19 says “Understand this: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”).

I was upset by this conversation I saw, upset at people’s quickness to judge, upset that as adults we still haven’t grown out of gossiping and tattling on people. This upset-ness (that’s not really a word but we can pretend) faded as I got to work and was immersed in Monday morning tasks.

Then, as usual, God intervened.

I was checking my junk email to make sure I didn’t miss any important ones (no one important really ever emails me, but you can’t be too sure ;)) when I came across one of Stewardship’s 40 Acts. It was Act 23: Share, Pray, Like. And what it said was this: dedicate some time to pray for the things you see in your newsfeed. Small or large, personal or global-whatever it is, just take a second to pray about it.

I felt like I had been slapped in the face. Here I was, thinking about how upset I was at something, being a Judgy McJudgster about their Christian-ness, remembering Sunday’s sermon…and I didn’t even think to pray about it! Facepalm, Cote.

What a great reminder Act 23 serves for us. Before being quick to judge and point our finger, or get angered, or saddened, or whatever it is-why don’t we take a moment to pray about it? We all make mistakes. We all have opinions. We all have Facebook (or so it seems this day). And thus, this month I am making it my priority to pray for the world of social media and for the souls sitting behind their monitors and smartphones and iPads. Will you join me?

Act 23

Find Stewardship’s 40 Acts here: www.40acts.org.uk

…-ing In Love


I feel like I need to start off this post by acknowledging the fact that I don’t feel qualified to write it. I haven’t been married for 50 years, or 25 years-or any years, for that matter. I haven’t been with my significant other (I hate that term, but it seems to fit here) for longer than I’ve been without him. I haven’t raised children with him, I haven’t moved multiple homes with him, and I haven’t celebrated anniversaries with him.

But I still love him. Deeply, passionately, and steadily, I love him. Some days it’s through rolled eyes while doing the dishes and some days it’s whispered gently while cuddling on the couch. Some days it’s said as a reflex and some days it’s felt through my deepest core. But every day, I love him.

I turned 22 in the end of September (see, this is the part where you start to believe me where I say I’m unqualified to write a post like this). I graduated from college last June and I’ll be going back to college (grad school) in August. I don’t have kids, I don’t own a house, and I don’t find myself in the middle of a promising career. Neither does he.

But somehow, here I am, writing a post about staying in love. Yes, me, a 22 year old who isn’t even legally married yet. Hear me out, would you?

I fell in love with J when I was 15. He was driving me home from our first ‘date’ (which was really just watching a movie at a friend’s house) and it was late. It was around midnight, it was dark, and we were driving down a curvy back road in his ‘89 Ford Bronco. My heart was beating extraordinarily fast and I was clammy and nervous. I glanced over at his big man hands on the steering wheel (well, as manly as hands can be for a 16 year old) and thought, I wouldn’t mind those hands holding mine for the next while. When we reached my parents’ house I sprinted out of his truck (to this day J jokes that he hadn’t even put it in park yet) mumbled “thanks for the ride!” and ran inside, slamming the front door behind me.

We wouldn’t have our first kiss until several months later. We wouldn’t have our first real date until February (we went to Red Robbin and I didn’t order anything). We would never ‘officially’ start dating (rare for highschoolers needing the affirmation of being ‘asked out’). But yet here we are, seven years later, still sharing life together.

Like most couples, we went through a lot of phases of love. The crazy, head-over-heels, I’m so in love with you love. The let me tell you all of my secrets and open up to you love. The I’m finally going to fart in front of you love. We even went through the I don’t know if we will make it through this long-distance love.

And yet, here we are.

I’ve read a lot of posts about “staying in love”, full of tricks and tips of “how to keep your marriage alive”. This isn’t something like that.

This is simply something saying that staying in love is a choice. It is an active choice. Maybe you can’t choose who you fall in love with, but I firmly believe you can choose to stay in love with someone. There have definitely been times in the past seven years that I didn’t feel warm and fuzzies while looking at J. There were times I doubted that we could even make it (yep, I said it).

But through all those different seasons of our lives and through the pure grace of God, we actively chose (and keep choosing) to love each other. When we were in high school we chose to ignore the voices telling us it was just puppy love. When we graduated and I moved 3,000 miles away for college we ignored the people telling us we would never make it (even though for a moment it seemed as though they were right). Now, years after that puppy love has worn off, we’re choosing to keep loving each other-deeply, passionately, and steadily.

I spent more time than I care to admit trying to come up with a title for this blog, a title for this thing I’m describing. “Staying” in love sounds boring, “walking” in love seems like more of a daily life act, and “choosing” in love just doesn’t have the right ring to it. Maybe what makes this kind of love so special is that you can’t think up a name for it-it just is. And it’s amazing.

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“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day. But I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.”
[Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook]

Lord, Let Me Be Soft


Lately I’ve been a crier.

I know that sounds super weird. A crier? Like, a baby? Like, a pansy? Like, one of those super emotional girls who cries at all those puppy commercials while Sarah McLaughlin sings in the background?

Yes and no. I’ve never really been the emotional type of the outside. I don’t care to outwardly share my feelings with people; I’d rather keep them to myself. That’s not to say I’m some weird robot that trudges around through life cold and heartless and going “beep boop beep boop” (c’mon, we all know that’s the universal robot sound). But lately, everything has made me tear up. Those homecoming videos on Facebook of soldiers coming home-queue the waterworks. An emotional blog post about how good God is-grab me a Kleenex. A really good love song coming onto my Pandora-oh man. A relevant Bible verse popping up at me-good grief, grab this blubbery mess some more tissues.

I seriously have turned into a weenie! But really. No, really. Okay, yes. BUT good news: there’s a reasoning behind it, or so I like to think.

Lately my daily prayer has been for God to keep my heart soft. This might seem kind of weird-it seemed weird to me at first, too. I work somewhere that sees a lot of people in crisis. They’re broke, they’ve lost their job, they’ve made bad decisions, their car broke down, their life just hasn’t gone as planned; the list goes on and on. Some of these people deserve the sticky situation they are in and some do not. Some are single and just affecting their own life and some have little kiddos looking to them for help. Because this happens every single day it’s easy to become hardened to their situations. We can’t help everyone; that’s just life.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be praying for them.

It’s easier to push people’s problems aside, to push our own problems aside, and to put on a happy face and pretend like everything is fine. But I think that when we do this we miss a huge opportunity to be more like Jesus. He is the best person to have lived-and he cared. He could have easily told people that he was above them-but instead he washed their feet. He could have easily made an excuse of being too busy (you know, just on a mission to save the world, no big deal) but instead he talked with people, walked with people, prayed with people, and healed people.

Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Can we just marinate on that a second? We are common people with common powers and common bodies, who had common hearts-until God gave us His heart. Every time something bad happens in our world it is easier to brush it off, to not care, to assume it as a ‘normal’ part of life. This is what the devil wants of us-to accept these bad things as normal and thus unworthy of our emotions.

But what if, instead of taking the happenings of our broken world in stride, we hurt? I’m not saying to wallow and sob and to stop living life. I’m saying maybe we should acknowledge the brokenness and the sadness it brings and say a quick prayer about it. Having a heart hurt from the broken things means our hearts are still as they should be-like Jesus’s.

I am making an active effort to keep my heart soft. I know that our world is broken but I also know that our God is good. Maybe all that one person who is having a bad day needs is one softhearted person to say a simple prayer for them. Will you let that person be you?

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

Washed in His Love


Something awesome happened four years ago. Awesome things have happened before then and awesome things have happened after, but on December 5th, 2010, one of the awesomest things of all took place-I got baptized. Awesome, right?

All awesomeness aside, December 5th will always remain one of the most important days in my life because it is a reminder that my life is changed. It is a reminder that Jesus died for me. A reminder that my life is one surrounded by love, by grace, and by favor. It is a reminder that there are incredible, selfless people in my life who have poured into me so that I might know Jesus better.

Matthew 28:18 says to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I am not always the best disciple. I stumble, I make mistakes, and sometimes I let other worldly things distract me from Jesus’ love. But whenever I trip, or the going is tough, or I start to question my journey of faith, I remember the glorious day that I said no to me and yes to Him.

I remember the way the sun was shining that day-like Jesus himself had opened up the Heavens to pour down on us. I remember the giddy feeling inside of me and the way my heart was racing. I remember the smile I couldn’t seem to keep off of my face, one I couldn’t contain even if I tried. I remember hugging my best friend, as we were about to take this awe-filled journey together, and thinking: does life get any better than this?

And so, on December 5th, in the crystal clear ocean in Hawaii, with my sister, friends, and pastors, a community of amazing Godly people, with praise music playing and the sun shining down on us all, I was washed clean, and my life has forever been changed.

“I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
[Mark 1:8]

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Be Still.


Do you ever have those days where you have to do a double take at the clock, because you can’t believe it’s 5 already? Or where one second it’s Monday and the next it’s Thursday, or one moment the leaves on the trees are just starting to change color and the next it’s already almost November? Too often I find myself rushing through life, from one task to the next, from one day to another, from my car to work to home to the store.

Why do I find myself always in a hurry? I am rarely late anywhere-I leave myself plenty of time to get ready in the morning, I have an hour long lunch break, and I have a very short commute to work (or to the store, or coffee, or anywhere, for that matter). My typical lunch routine is to rush home, start making lunch, turn on the TV, check my Instagram and email, respond to texts, feed the cat, and stuff food in my face-but after rushing through all this I have plenty of time to spare.

I think that our world has taught us that it’s good to be in a hurry and that we shouldn’t waste any of our precious time, that it’s necessary-no, expected-to book ourselves for every hour of every day. We’re told that we must capitalize on our time and there is always something to do, that there is someone who is beating us by doing more, and that someone is getting ahead of us because they’re not resting and we are. We think of ourselves as ‘lazy’ when we take time to ourselves, or at least I do.

This is what the world is telling us-but that’s not at all what God is telling us. He tells us that it’s good for us to rest (that’s what Sunday was originally for, right?) and that we should take time to be still.

This week I have started to drive to and from work with the stereo off. I love blasting music in my car and singing at the top of my lungs, I enjoy listening to the radio in the morning, and I feel like I always need to catch up on the news. But this week, with the 20 minutes or so each day I have spent in silence in my car, I have found tons of peace. It feels good to have some time to breathe and relax and not have any background noise.

This isn’t to say that I am now a boring lazy butt and that I don’t take time to blast some T-Swift and dance around in my car (let’s be honest, we all do it). But I have made a conscious effort to tell myself to just breathe every once in a while, to take a few moments each day for myself, to sit in the silence every once and awhile, and to remind myself of God’s…ness. His goodness, His faithfulness, His kindness, His gentleness. When the world may be crazy or unfair or simply rushed, God will be my peace (Micah 5:5).

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
[Psalm 46:10]

Books Books Books


I have a confession. I’m one of those nerdy people that love to read. Growing up I had shelves and shelves full of books in my room-picture books, novels, nonfiction, fiction, magazines, series, and texts. I didn’t watch a lot of TV when I was young (we got approximately three Canadian channels) and being an only child I often had to find ways to entertain myself. My parents read to me daily since before I can remember, and once I could read myself they passed the torch and I read to them. I can still remember laying in my bunk bed, in my old house, listening to my Dad read various Dr. Seuss books. I can picture him stretched out on the floor, propped up against my bed, with the pile of books I had chosen for him to read that night. I can hear his voice as he made the words and characters come alive, whether that be the Sneetches, the Whos, or the Oncelers.

I’m now a lot older than that little girl who devoured Nancy Drew and the Baby Sitters Club (anyone? Anyone?) However, my passion for reading has stayed the same. A majority of my reading time now is spent pouring over textbooks and studying theories instead of reading for pleasure. The bookshelves in my room are still full of books-except now they’re filled with C.S. Lewis, Durkheim, and Marx. And okay, there’s still an entire shelf of Nicholas Sparks in there. Regardless, my love of books and words and the magical worlds you gain access to when you start a new novel is still as strong as ever. Books have a special power about them. They can lead you to new places, teach you new things, uncover fresh perspectives, and re-light your imagination. Every time you crack open a new book you gain something with every page you finish.

I look forward to next month when I’m finished with school for a bit; to catch up on my reading list that has been shoved to the back of my book bag since I started college. I can’t wait to grab some sunglasses and a mason jar of lemonade and park myself in the sunshine with a new novel (seriously, I’m drooling right now just thinking about it). When I was about 8 I spoke at the International Reading Association’s annual conference in Florida. My uncle was the president of the association at the time (yeah, reading really does run in the family) and he asked me to share a little bit about myself. Of course, being 8 years old, I was terrified-right down to my freshly painted hot pink nails and my too-tightly braided hair. But, I did end up sharing my favorite quote at the time-and one that I still love:

 

“The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice, when speaking your mind or making a choice.”
[Dr. Seuss]

Timing


Does anyone watch How I Met Your Mother? It’s my absolute favorite show in the whole entire world. My roommates and I have it playing on our Netflix 90% of the time, and I’ve probably seen each episode at least four or five times (and that’s lowballing it). It’s hard to say what exactly about the show is so great-the characters are loveable and relatable, the camerawork and scenery is creative, and each episode has me dying with laughter.

However, if I had to choose, I think my favorite thing about the show is that it conveys how important timing is. In case you’re unfamiliar with the TV series, it’s a sitcom based in New York that follows a group of close friends from their mid-twenties onward and their attempts to navigate through life. It’s narrated by the main character Ted, who is telling his two children the story of how he met their mother (hence the title of the show). It is a very long and winding story-the show started in 2005 and is now in its final season-and is filled with antidotes from Ted and his friends and his many, many dating conquests, essentially ending with how he and his wife got together.

Even better than finally finding out who the mystery woman is (finally!) is all of the twists of fate, or ‘the universe’ as the characters call it. Ted says many times throughout the years that if he had done one little thing differently-turned left instead of right, taken an alternative cab to work, went down another street, or eaten at a new bagel place-life would have turned out very differently for him and he may have never met his wife.

To me this underlying theme is the best part about the whole show. I firmly believe that God has a plan for everyone, but I also know that sometimes it’s hard to wait for it to unfold. I’m not saying that we should just sit back and watch life pass us by-not at all-but I do think that sometimes we get caught up in what we think our life should be like and the timing that society presses upon us.

So many times people feel pressured into getting married just because they’ve been together a few years, getting a ‘grown up job’ because they’re now in their mid-twenties, going through the grieving process at a certain rate, or having a child because they’ve passed the age of 30 and their ‘clock is ticking’. We even put time constraints on things like schooling-if you don’t graduate from college in four years exactly, we wonder what went wrong or assume that you must have messed up somewhere along the line. We allow society to dictate these timelines for us and when it’s ‘appropriate’ for us to partake in certain life events. I know that I’m not exactly the same as anyone else, so why should I expect to perform exactly the same way as someone else at exactly the same time?

I usually don’t do ‘rants’ like this but I do feel like it’s important to recognize that everyone moves at slightly different paces. Some people walk, some sprint, some limp, some skip, and some need a little nudging along. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with this, but I do know it can be frustrating or simply confusing when people move at paces much different than our own. My newest resolution is to try and remember this on a daily basis and bestow a little grace and understanding on people instead of impatience-after all, I hope they would do the same for me.

 

 

“When the stars line up
And you catch a break
People think you’re lucky
But you know its grace
It can happen so fast
Or a little bit late
Timing is everything”
[“Timing Is Everything” by Garrett Hedlund]

 

Those Little Things


The other night I was leaving the library, exhausted from all of the writing and facts and checking of Facebook and email every five minutes-you know, anything to distract me from the copious amount of work I had to do. My hands were full of the textbooks I couldn’t quite cram into my bulging backpack and I really had to pee (those cups of coffee were finally getting to me). My only focus was to get to my car as fast as possible, so I could arrive home and get some sleep before work the next morning. It was snowing and I was shivering, silently cursing the cold weather and winter in general. But then a snowflake hit me right on the nose. And instead of wiping it off in disgust, I had the urge to tilt my head back and stick out my tongue.

I only spent about thirty seconds standing there, in the middle of campus, at night, in the cold, with a full bladder and too many ‘better’ things to do. But for those thirty seconds those other things didn’t matter. I was a kid again, catching snowflakes in my mouth and feeling the excitement of winter instead of thinking about all the impractical things that season brings, like icy roads, wet boots, and needing to remember to wear gloves.

As I continued walking to my car, I realized that all too often I get caught up in the routine of life, of its responsibilities, and forget to just be. I use my calendar and planner religiously; I find peace in writing everything down and being able to check it off when it’s complete. But that night I found way more peace in pausing for thirty seconds and acting like a kid again. Catching snowflakes on my tongue wasn’t something that I had planned or that was written down on my to-do list. However, it brought me a little bit of joy when I was tired and stressed out and helped fill my tank back up.

While I drove home I spotted a girl crossing the street, clearly on her way home from school as well. She wasn’t talking to anyone or listening to music, but there was a small smile on her face and she looked content and pleased with life at that moment. I smiled as I watched her, wondering what she was thinking about and if she too had just taken a moment to catch some snowflakes on her tongue.

Since that night it hasn’t snowed again. But I did see an awesome sunset, and an even more majestic sunrise. I went on a late night drive with J, cranked the music up, and sang at the top of my lungs (I apologize for whoever had to hear that). We bundled up and went on a Saturday morning stroll to soak up the sunshine, even though it was freezing cold and I had a runny nose the rest of the day. I spent an hour playing Kinnect with my roommate instead of wallowing in agony over all of the studying that I had to do. And whenever I find myself reaching that frustrated edge of tension and stress I remind myself to take a deep breath, thank God for this incredible life He has given me, and savor the moment that I’m in and the little pleasures that it holds.

 

“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.”
[Gordon B. Hinckley]