Every child dreams of having a pet. You dear daughters, were no different. From the time you could form words, each of you in your own way asked us to get a pet of some kind. Aunnica’s requests for a pet pig were much larger in scope than the pet fish, hamster, dog and cat requests the rest of you made ON THE REGULAR.
I was pretty good at dismissing these relentless inquiries from each of you dear daughters. It’s an art form, really. Masterfully and skillfully turning down the endless requests you each made to have a pet.
During the early stages of the pandemic, however, this “ban” on pets in our house had to be re-evaluated. One of our old baristas explained
she had a snafu in her travel plans with her new kitten. Less than 5 months old; she needed someone to watch her pet for five days. Nate, without hesitation, offered. Our friend had a need that we could tangibly fill. Your dad was smart enough to add the caveat— “let me double check with Sharon but it shouldn’t be a problem.”
So that evening, Nate shared the need, and his desire to serve our friend by providing care to her pet for the week. I was less than thrilled at the idea. I didn’t grow up with pets. I didn’t quite understand the connection with the furry feline population, and the thought of having hair EVERYWHERE– I mean, we’ve already got four girls so WHY have ONE more thing to care for… my doubts went on.
BUT I knew your dad was right. This is a simple act of service that would mean the world to our friend. PLUS, I thought, it might “scratch” that itch for having a pet at home; and then those relentless requests might subside.
So for one week in early November, we cared for a little kitten. And I was AMAZED at what I saw that week….. How each of you would step up to help, and especially how Addie would carry the kitten around like a baby; and he would just lovingly go along with it.
What I didn’t expect to transpire that week…. That “snafu” of care became a long term issue. Living arrangements changed for our friend, and her kitten could no longer stay with her. Now, her beloved pet needed to be rehomed. He had all his shots, plus, she’d just purchased a 12 month subscription for food and litter— so literally, the kitten came with everything it needed. (Mind you a stipulation I often put on having pets in our home.)
So, that December, we opened our home to that kitten–we named Oreo– and he is a part of our family. BUT none of this would have been possible if we first hadn’t chosen to SERVE our friend. There’s a unique beauty that comes from serving.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”- Anne Frank
It doesn’t have to be a grandiose act. You can always find a way to serve. Open the door for a stranger, throw out the trash you find, offer to take a meal to a neighbor having a hard time, go out of your way to welcome that new kid at school, invite them to sit at your table. THE KEY dear daughters, is to serve WITHOUT expectation for something in return. See, once you start expecting “things” the paradigm shifts. We follow Jesus’ example here: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45. We certainly can’t give our life as a ransom – but we can SERVE others like Jesus.
Here’s another truth:
WHEN YOU SERVE, it always comes back to bless you. Maybe not that day… but one day– always. It always blesses you back. (Sometimes right away, just like with Oreo!) There is so much joy and fulfillment that comes from serving. Author Jennifer Lee put it perfectly, “We each want to live a life full of meaning– a noble pursuit put inside each of us by God himself.” SERVING PROVIDES MEANING. “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
AND don’t go and overcomplicate it. That can paralyze you— Just start where you are…. Open your eyes to what isaround you. “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa Another truth bomb to drop here by Lysa Terkeurst: “We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.” 1 John 3:18 “Dear Children, let’s not merely say that we love each other, let us show the truth by our actions.”
We share these quotes to show you that it’s SO MUCH MORE than just your crazy parent’s radical thoughts. Serving changes you. It Matters. For us, we lean on the Holy Spirit to help us choose when and how to respond to the cries of those in need. Because we can’t do it all– but we can DO something. Paul says in Colossians 3 that whatever we do in word or deed, do it for the Lord as giving thanks to God. We believe what we have is from the Lord and is to be used for His glory and kingdom. It isn’t about WHAT you can get in return, no— it’s about WHO life is truly all for. It’s why we live with open hands– to use what we have to help and serve those around us. WITH NO CATCH or expectation in return. Here’s a promise tho, from Proverbs 11:25 “Those who live to bless others will have blessings heaped upon them, and the one who pours out his life to pour out blessings will be saturated with favor.” So serve and love others- without expecting anything– because you can TRUST that in the end- Jesus has got you.
SO– this lesson on serving, lends itself perfectly to a lesson on decision making. BECAUSE you’ll be surrounded by plenty of opportunities to serve and THOUSANDS of decisions to make in life. And sometimes, it feels like a thousand decisions a day!
There’s a framework for decisions your dad crafted that has helped us over the years. You don’t have to OVERTHINK or OVER SPIRITUALIZE decisions.
What does this mean? Sometimes you can find yourself in a rut– stuck in thinking through ALL the elements– and that isn’t gonna help either. Or you’ll hear “just pray” about it… but it can be overwhelming to understand the “how” behind this. Our mentors in College, Dick and Darlene Gruber gave us instrumental advice – Pray for three days. Ask the Lord to either increase your excitement about the option ahead or to decrease the joy. If it increases; then you know you’re supposed to move forward. BUT give it the full three days. Then you can be confident the Lord has spoken.
This has been our motto. We take time. We pray. We seek counsel. Then we act. It’s easy to understand this with major decisions…. But sometimes we “over complicate” it by taking time to pray for three days about all the things…. Sometimes God gives you choices that are neither good nor bad. You may not ruin your life if you do this or that. Your dad jokes this way: Do not pray if you should drink water or not—do it! Do not pray if you should eat healthy or not…do it! Do not pray to see if the Lord wants you to clean your car or not…clean your car. In life, the Lord gives us wisdom to do things and when not to do things. So stop over spiritualizing it. The best way to make sure of this approach is to ask this question: Does this decision equal good to me or someone else’s life? This is a deeply Biblical foundational stone when it comes to not know what the best decision is.
SO…… Apply it in your life this way:
- Know you are so Loved by God. Before you make any choice, remember this truth. The Bible is FULL of this truth over and over. From Psalms to Isaish and the Gospels…. YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD- regardless. Our decisions do not handcuff God’s will for our lives. While it may be painful at the time, He will still be WITH YOU in the decision. You may want to remove yourself from it and it is uncomfortable, knowing Jesus is with you the whole time. Your dad read the book Suffering by Paul Tripp– and it’s a great read if you need a practical application of tough choices. It’s one of the best books he’s read.
- LEARN FROM THE CHOICE. Every decision becomes a learning experience. SO REMEMBER the past when looking ahead. So you learn you made the wrong choice. Don’t do it again. BUT don’t hurt yourself or build a defense— NO! Learn from the mistake and look at your situation with people around you to help you with Godly advice and wisdom. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when God asks Soloman to ask Him for anything and He will give it to him. Solomon asks for Wisdom to lead the people. God gives him that and much more. We pray for wisdom OFTEN– and God will answer, if you listen.
- Share your thoughts. Be transparent. Your dad and I model this– it’s okay to struggle. To be real about the hardships or choices you face. Seek counsel– from trusted friends and family. BE OPEN. One of the biggest issues with today’s culture is that we only want to share extreme stories. It has to be totally amazing or it has to be totally terrible. Rarely are stories told of just simple growth stories. BUT THIS IS WHERE LIFE IS LIVED. And you’ll discover as you share, not only will you gain clarity but you can help so many others in the process. Do not be arrogant or proud of it, but humble and take the approach that you are still learning and growing. BECAUSE YOU ARE. We are. We are always growing, learning and seeking Jesus for clarity.
- CELEBRATE! Whether a learning experience or the decision went incredibly, celebrate. When you get your prayer answered or it is answered in a way you were not expecting, celebrate! Thank the Lord for the blessing and for hearing your prayer. The Bible is full of stories of people celebrating the Lord moving on their behalf to provide or guide. Write these down so your faith can grow. Share it so others can praise God as well. Of course, do not do this arrogantly. The story needs to be framed in a way that brings God the glory and not yourself…. Because remember you will always find the most meaning and purpose in life when you follow Jesus.
With any choice— I can’t stress enough: simply DECIDE TO MOVE– don’t let FOMO paralyze you from DOING. Sometimes, as we are currently learning, the “doing” is waiting. AND THAT IS STILL A CHOICE. Be actively patient. But wherever you find yourselves, dear daughters, never forget your dad and I are here to help you make decisions. Don’t let fear or shame write the script and hold you back. Talk about it to us, no matter how bad or embarrassed you feel. I will guarantee you that we will hold you tightly and cry with you. Whatever is in store ahead, know this: we desire God’s best for you!
Whatever you do, wherever you go, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Girls, But above all, Never forget: You are deeply loved by God.