Be kind and have courage.

So the Spring Game here in LNK a few Saturdays ago was an absolute blast. Beth and I went over to Kirby’s house to hang with her Anna, Liz, and Craig before heading downtown. Per the usual, it was just so great to get to catch up with people. And tailgating is still a treat that I’ve experienced few and far in-between; I had never gone to a Husker game before going to the University, and even in my four years as a Husker student, I barely ever tailgated (mind you I worked in the skyboxes my latter two years). Kirby ended up driving us down to Barry’s in the HayMarket. It couldn’t have been a prettier day, weather-wise. Couldn’t tell ya which side won but speaking on behalf of Beth and myself, ’twas a wonderful day!

Life here carried on as normal as my current state of affairs can allow. Both my mom and best friend, Beth, celebrate their birthdays on April 18th. Given my flexibility right now, I was elated that I got to surprise them both at their respective places of work the day before their actual birthday, aka Friday the 17th. Plus, it was the first time I got to see Beth’s classroom and meet some of her co-workers at Adam’s – so fun! Even though Beth teaches third grade, I was totally reminded of Ms. Honey’s classroom from Matilde. Of course, several of Beth’s students (and parents) and already given her birthday presents by mid-day; those kids are so lucky to have her!  Red velvet cupcakes and Trader Joe’s flowers for the win. Also, loved getting to see Cass and Mag at SF.

So for my mom’s actual birthday, I helped her celebrate by accompanying her to the Women’s Spring Retreat speaker at our church, Southwood Lutheran in the AM.  It was an awesome program called “Noticed by Jesus” by Amy Johnson, founder and owner of The Noticed Network.  Just as we were hoping, this turned out to be a lovely way to start the day and got us thinking about what we do to get noticed these days. In the end, it was comforting to be reminded that God loves us JUST AS WE ARE. To quote the newest song I put up on the Jammin’ page and here: “You see the struggle, you see the shame. I see the reason I came.” – Mac Powell (When Love Sees You). To take a step back from our perfection obsessed society and be reminded that God loves, adores our scars, imperfections, quirks, and ‘problem areas’ was so good. Also, The Noticed Network is a really great cause and you should check it out more!

Later on her birthday we eventually popped open a bottle of Freixenet cava (Spanish sparkling wine), which is delicious and festive, and grilled out – since Scott was home for the weekend! My cousin Wade and his best friend, Joel ended up joining us for dinner and it was perfect! Grilled chicken with Stubbs Moppin’ Sauce from MS, Mom’s homemade potato salad, grilled veggies, and fruit. It was awesome just to get to leisurely enjoy birthdays and being present for family time. Trying to soak it all up! At the end of the day we ended up watching The Imitation Game, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it yet!

 

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Hogar Dulce Hogar

Time at home… has been awesome! Sorry for the delayed post but better late than never right? I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to see family, friends, and meet a pretty sweet new baby (looking at you, Michael). Highlights have included going out in Omaha with my Phi’s, getting to dine at the Green Gateau with quality company multiple times, and going out with my oldest friends here in Lincoln. On my first weekend home, I got to meet cute baby Michael, my cousin Evan and his wife, Kristin’s first-born. He is such a sweet, happy lil guy! I have also loved getting to see new spots in Lincoln (at least new for me) like Hacienda Real, The Doughnut HoleThe FlatwaterPaper KiteSelect StyleDempsey’s, and Honest Abe’s. So much good stuff with my favorite people.

It’s definitely been great to come back to favorite spots in LNK… I have also loved getting to try Lotus yoga classes with Hayley, seeing Jank’s new gallery, tailgating on Barry’s roof for the Spring game, and relaxing at home with my mom and Lucy! I have kept busy with driving my mom around, trying to help her as much as possible around the house, visiting friends, and continuing my work with Family Box.  The photos below were taken from our trip to visit Aunt Charlotte down in Summit, MS over the Easter weekend.

My mom and I flew into Jackson, MS on the first day of April and then drove south to Summit. God bless Enterprise – we definitely were digging our upgraded ride. We had been planning this trip for a while, as we were going to help my (great) Aunt C recover from her first cataract surgery. Aunt C is nearly 90 years old and lives alone in the country (her late husband passed last year). It was both of our first time seeing her since we had been there for Uncle Bill’s funeral; suffice it to say that losing your spouse of 60 years is not easy and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. That being said, Aunt C had been holding up on her own, still cooks a mean chicken n’ dumpling, and is a fiercely loyal member of her nearby Baptist church. Pictured above our just a few snapshots from our time down south — the ever-tasty Krystal burgers on the road, our favorite spot out for southern cooking: the Dinner Bell in McComb, and my personal love affair with the Topisaw General Store on McComb’s Main Street.

I feel the need to go ahead and spell this out for those of you unfamiliar with southern cooking: While in MS we had fried chicken, fried eggplant, rice and gravy, biscuits and tomato gravy, spicy sausage, seafood gumbo, cheese grits, bread pudding, Blue Bell ice cream, sweet potatoes, chicken n’ dumplings, fried catfish, peas, beans, squash, and strawberries with coconut cake. Holy deliciousness. It was awesome because my mom’s good friend, Jean, came over from Baton Rouge to meet us at the famed Dinner Bell. It was nice to get to spend the Easter holiday with my mom and Aunt Charlotte there. Since we have been back in NE, Aunt C has broken her hip. She already had surgery and is recovering well, but we would greatly appreciate any prayers!

Now back in LNK I am just loving the spring weather and getting to walk Lucy daily. The Spring game this last weekend was too much fun. I am definitely looking forward to Saturday – it’s my mom’s, Beth’s and my Uncle Al’s birthdays. Scott is coming home from MN tomorrow night and then let the weekend begin! I am really missing Damian, friends, and Barcelona in general at this point.. But when I have further life updates I will share them! Until then…

A Perfect Love Story

So this is the first time I’ve written a blog post from up in the air in an airplane… But this post has been a long-time coming. For a week now I’ve been meaning to start writing this post, but as life would have it, things have delayed its creation until now. I have been wanting to write about this topic since several weeks ago when my church in Barcelona, ICB, started the series: “Redeemed – A Journey Through the Book of Ruth.” While I had always known there was a book in the Bible called Ruth, I wasn’t familiar with the story at all really. I’m happy to say I now feel well-versed in the small, yet mighty book of Ruth and wanted to share some awesome stuff with yall.

So the book of Ruth starts with Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, and their family as they move from Bethlehem to Moab. For those of you who are also lacking in extensive Bible knowledge like myself, here’s the Spark-notes version: Naomi followed her husband and two sons from their home in Bethlehem, where there was famine, to Moab in hopes of a new start and more prosperous life. This is significant because they were leaving behind God’s land and trying to go it on their own essentially. Also noteworthy, the people of Bethlehem generally held Moab and Moabites in a negative light due to the history of their lineage.

After some time in Moab, all we know is that Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women, and both of her sons and her husband end up dying there. So Naomi is left with her two daughters-in-law and that’s about it. Especially back in this time, this would have been a pretty destitute situation. Hence, Naomi urges the two women to go back to their families in Moab and there they can attempt to re-marry and have a good life still. One of the daughters obliges Naomi’s request and bids them farewell before leaving to return to her family in Moab. Ruth, on the other hand, says no. Despite all of Naomi’s prodding, Ruth is resolute in her loyalty and commitment to sticking with her mother-in-law. It is here that Ruth uttered the well-known verse of “where you go, I will go; where you live, I will live.” As Naomi explains to her that she is planning on returning to Bethlehem, Ruth goes even further by saying “your land will be my land, your God my God.”

And so as the two women make the journey from Moab to Bethlehem, we learn about how Naomi wants to change her name to something that means, literally, bitter. As our Lead Pastor, John Carrano, said during service, “This was big. That’s like going through a rough patch in your life and deciding to change your name to Failure.” Moreover, both women were dealing with their own unearned disgrace. Naomi came back to Bethlehem basically like a dog with her tail between her legs. She felt ashamed of what had become of her life, though what happened was not her fault in the least. Hello unearned disgrace. Then we have Ruth, who has to deal with the unearned disgrace of being a Moabite, a foreigner.

I bet a lot of people can relate to these women who were working through shouldering this unearned disgrace, right? With all of the labels and quick-judgments of today’s world, most of us have experienced some unearned disgrace by this point. For example, the fact that I didn’t end up going to an Ivy-League university caused unearned disgrace to fester within myself for a good amount of time. That disgrace was certainly unearned, but man it was heavy. But let’s get back to the good stuff…

Ruth and Naomi are settling into a new life in Bethlehem. Ruth goes to the fields to try and gather the leftover scraps of barley. She soon finds herself in the field of a distant relative of Naomi’s, Boaz. Boaz had heard of Ruth before he met her in person, for the story of her unfailing loyalty to Naomi was hot news. Upon their meeting, Boaz shows favor on Ruth for these reasons, and invites her to continue finding food in his fields and to work with the other women there. Suffice it to say, Ruth was shocked at his favor and kindness.

So as the time passes and barley harvest goes to wheat harvest, Naomi eventually prompts Ruth to approach Boaz… (The women were hoping to be redeemed by a male relative of Naomi’s husband. This was the only way they would possibly have a prosperous future, restore the legacy of Naomi’s family, and ensure land for future generations). In Chapter 3, Ruth presents herself to Boaz with the utmost humility, and in response Boaz promises her their redemption.

Then in Chapter 4, Boaz follows through with his promises and goes through the ritual of asking the man who was first in line to redeem them (technically). This man declines on hearing that Ruth is part of the deal, and so Boaz and him finalize the arrangement with Boaz promising to redeem Ruth and Naomi (aka he’ll marry Ruth, restore their family’s land to their late husband’s last name, have a family, etc.). Towards the end of Chapter 4, we learn that Ruth and Boaz have a son, and in the end their family’s lineage leads to King David, the greatest King Israel ever knew.

My favorite thing I learned from the Book of Ruth is what ICB’s other Lead Pastor, Brandi Carrano, introduced as “HESED” – this Hebrew word does not have an exact English translation, but means compassionate love, loving-kindness, and love in action. Hesed is also said to be a vertical action, as in God shows Hesed to people, and then from one person to another person – as Hesed is also a reciprocal action. Hesed is mentioned 248 times in the Old Testament; it is through Hesed that people are redeemed and legacies are rebuilt.

I like the idea of Hesed because it goes in stark contrast with lots of modern ideals, such as self-interest, self-pity, greed, and so much more. I can’t recall now if it was Brandi or John who said this, but this really spoke to me: “If we can’t take our eyes off of ourselves, than we cannot be agents of redemption.” Showing love, compassion, and interest in others isn’t always easy, but it’s what we were created to do. God redeeming us is the most beautiful love story of all time. And even better, it’s a love story that has no end. Today, tomorrow, or the next day if you posture yourself towards God and humble yourself at his feet, God will show you Hesed. I guess overall, being familiar with the Book of Ruth has made me feel quite lucky and reaffirmed by belief that our God is for us.

In other news, I miss Barcelona and all of my friends there! But I am very happy to get to spend some time at home with my family and friends here. This last weekend was a whirlwind of activity but I loved it! Although I am currently suffering from serious allergy problems here, it has been so great to spend time with the people I care about most. More on my time in Lincoln to come…