Finding Storm: A Reflection on God’s Love

Exactly three weeks ago was the night we (or I, rather) lost Storm. She crawled out the window I accidentally left open overnight—a window without a screen. Way to go, Victoria, I thought. The next few days were filled with nothing but searching. I didn’t go to bed on time. I neglected all chores and healthy eating habits. My mind was filled with one thing and one thing only: finding Storm.

Simultaneously, these past three Sundays were titled “The One Worth Finding” at our church. Stories of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son were told, analyzed and reflected on. Maybe I was just searching for some kind of meaning throughout all this, but I couldn’t help but think God was trying to teach me a lesson through these parables and the searching for Storm. Turns out, there were multiple lessons to be learned.

The week before Storm ran away, I mentioned to Austin how she brings me joy in loneliness. When I am by myself in the house, I love when she cuddles up, gives a sweet meow, and licks my face. It isn’t a bad thing to enjoy such a sweet animal, however, when I felt alone, rather than running to the Father, I embraced Storm. Rather than spending time with Him, I picked up the kitten, sat her next to me and turned on Netflix to remedy my feelings. Interestingly enough, I later found out my sister said a similar thing about Storm. Maybe God took her away so that we no longer had any one or any thing to run to in our loneliness. We needed to learn to run to Him.

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and look for the one who wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14

This verse resonated with me throughout our treks in the woods, through neighbor’s backyards, and walking around the streets at midnight. I had lost sleep, skipped meals, and counted over 40 mosquito bites on my legs and arms from the ceaseless searching. I was afraid she was going to be found wounded, starving, or the most horrific, dead. I hoped to see her sitting at our back sliding-glass door so that we could celebrate her return, but it did not happen. Is this a small sample of what God feels like when one of His children wanders from Him? Does he pull out all the stops, constantly pursing until the lost child is found?

Recently, I’ve also been feeling a bit convicted about my relationship with my sister. She doesn’t know this (well, now she does), but I believe I haven’t been the best sister to her. This belief wasn’t attributed to any negative behaviors toward her, but it’s what I’ve lacked—a listening ear, someone to spend time with, and seeking ways to show love and serve her. We live under the same roof, yet have been miles apart. The most incredible part of all is that losing Storm was 100% my doing. My fault. Not for a second did my sister make me feel guilty or point blame. In fact, when she told people about Storm missing, she would say just that. She was missing. She got out. But nothing about it being her big sister’s carelessness. Losing Storm united us. We had a common goal. Our times spent creeping in the woods, laying trails of food back to the house, or coming up with the next “great plan” to catch Storm, brought us closer. Maybe God took Storm away so that in her absence, Jacqueline and I could learn to enjoy each other’s presence again.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Surrender. Surrender has always been hard for me. Is it really easy for anyone though? How do you hold onto hope, but yet still surrender? Storm is a cat for goodness sake. Some people don’t even like cats! In fact, if you’re not an animal person and are reading this, you probably think I’m a tad nutty for coming up with all this just because of a cat. Well, my challenge to you is to think of whatever it is that you hold so dear. What if God took it away? After all, all things are His and we are just stewards of it. Would you be able to come to a place of surrender? That’s what we had to do. By the end of the first week, we knew it was time to close our garage door. We spent countless hours searching for Storm that we started to neglect responsibilities and priorities. This may have been the hardest part of the experience—laying down a life we treasure so much in God’s hands. If He wanted to bring her back, He would. If He didn’t, He had His reasons and we can treasure our memories with her, but we had to come to a place of peace and trust in our Father. Maybe God took Storm away so that we could learn to trust Him in all circumstances. Maybe we needed to reevaluate the things we treasure most. Maybe I haven’t been treasuring my relationship with Him the way I most definitely should.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

During the second and third week of Storm’s absence, we kept our blinds open. We carefully scanned the streets as we came and went from our home. We left a little can of food out just in case. While we surrendered the situation, we still kept hope as we went about our lives. We even caught a few sightings of her and so had our neighbors. What a relief to hear she was alive! Then it got me thinking again. In the parable of the lost son, the father awaits his son’s arrival. While the father still went about his life, he kept hope for his lost son. He even saw him “while he was still a long way off”. Did he keep his curtains drawn open? Did he glance out the window often, or look to the horizon whenever he was outside just in case? Is this a bit of what God feels towards us when we choose to stray? He actively waits for our return, not so that He may scold us for leaving, but so that He can wrap us in His everlasting love and rejoice over us. Maybe God took away Storm so that I may understand no matter how far I wander for Him, He will always, always be right there, awaiting my return with His unfailing love.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Around 9pm last night I saw Storm sitting in our driveway. In my eagerness, I opened the door a bit too violently and she ran off, scared from the noise. Stupid cat, I thought. We’re trying to bring you home! My sister had bought a crate earlier that day and we left food inside it hoping we could catch her. Then, 3am strolled around and I woke up. I sprung from my bed to check the crate—nothing. Frustrated, I made my way back to my bedroom. Before I fell asleep my sister came running into my bedroom “STORM IS BACK!! STORM IS HERE! I HAVE HER!” Impossible, I just checked the crate 3 minutes ago. Sure enough, battered, skinny, and with a scratch across her little nose, Storm was in our living room. 3 minutes. Storm was only caught in the crate for three minutes. She could have been in there all night until we awoke the next morning, but instead God chose to only allow her to be trapped for no longer than three minutes. How incredible is that? I asked my sister this morning. How incredible is it that we have a God that cares about little kittens who have strayed from their home? And as Matthew states, “Are you not much more valuable then they?” Think about how vast His love for us is.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10

Jacqueline immediately gave Storm a bath, combed lifeless fleas from her fur, and cut off the burrs entangled in her freshly cleaned coat. She finished Storm’s primping with a blow dry. Good as new. When we all awoke again this morning, we checked on her. She hasn’t stopped purring since. She gives little kisses on your nose. She shoves her face against yours to cuddle. My roommates, sister and I have already posted several pictures of her online and told our friends and family who were praying for this silly, little kitten. We are rejoicing her arrival home! So maybe, just maybe, God took Storm away so that He could bring her back. Maybe He wants you and I to know that whether we are coming to Him for the first time at the realization of our need for Him, or for the umpteenth time due to our human nature causing us to stray and falter, He always rejoices over us. He always celebrates the return of His dear children. His mercy and grace is overflowing. His love never fails.

Little Storm

The Morning Battle

You may have realized this, but incase you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of things in this life that fight for our time and our attention. How you choose to spend your time and with who can have a great impact on your character, mood, and perspective on life as a whole.

What will you do with your hours?
What will you do with your hours?

I experienced this exact thing this morning. Here’s what happened:

8:28AM – I woke up, sent a text to check up on Austin, then immediately opened up my Instagram.

8:49AM – Finished up gazing at my iPhone screen and pouring over all my friends’ incredible pictures.

First off, the fact that I spent that much time scrolling through pictures first thing in the morning immediately makes me question my priorities, but besides that, I clicked off my phone and felt jealousybitterness, and low self-esteemWhy? I asked myself.

I saw some wonderful things:
Friends over in another country spreading the Gospel.
A couple who just got married.
A beautiful friend of mine with her bright smile.
Yet another friend literally hanging off the side of a mountain.
My sister laughing while spending an evening at Disney.

So what was wrong? Why wasn’t I celebrating these amazing life-experiences with the people who shared them. People who I care about. People who I should be JOYFUL for. I began to look back on my past week: I realized I did this every single morning.

Instead of waking up and spending time with my Savior, singing praises, reading Scripture, and whispering prayers, I was growing envious of my friends’ life-journeys with every swipe of my thumb.

My mornings have not been starting off properly. I have become ungrateful and jealous that I am not doing those things or having those experiences. I have lost sight of what God has been doing in my own life and that He should be the One I long for. So, I decided to make a change:

9:02AM – I turned on some worship music and spent time listening as I made breakfast, then joined in singing the beautiful truths about our Lord. Oh, Your Cross it changes everything. There my world begins and ends with You. I began to feel renewed and refreshed as I turned my focus back on the One who is everything.The Word of God

9:23AM – I sat down with the Word and read from 2 Corinthians 4 while my Egg Cups continued to bake in the oven. My eyes fell upon a verse I had underlined sometime ago, but after a good re-read, I thought it deserved an extra highlight as it related to where I was at this morning.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:18

2 Cor 4:189:37AM – I enjoyed my Egg Cups and continued to re-read over 2 Corinthians 4. God changed my heart’s perspective and showed me that my ultimate treasure is Him and the Gospel. I am refocused and at peace. I am ready to take on the day, or rather the gift that God has blessed me with. Egg CupsEgg Cups


So where does this leave me? Do I need to delete my Instagram account and ignore all the things others are doing? No, but I do need to remain fixed on Christ and long for Him more than the things of this life. I need to change my priorities and for me, this starts at the very moment I wake up. This is a daily battle. It won’t end today. In fact, I may experience this again later on this evening. I need to surrender those feelings and anxieties to God. I want to celebrate with my family and friends and the amazing blessings they receive. I want to be joyful and grateful for my life I have been given and give all the glory to my Creator.

This may not have been a post about food or exercise.
But I hope it gives you some food for thought and a way to exercise your spirit.

Ultimately, the Paleo-diet may physically change your life, but I care more that the Almighty God of the Universe changes your heart, mind, and soul.

For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.
🙂

 

What I Ate Wednesday #1

I’ve read a few “What I Ate Wednesday” posts (or WIAW for you trendy folk) on other health food sites and I couldn’t decide if they were silly or helpful. Once I realized how many meals plans I acquired, recipe ideas I’ve conjured up, and motivation I’ve received, I decided these simple little posts are actually quite positive!

Breakfast was two scrambled eggs with two strips of Maverick Ranch bacon and a portion of my newest recipe: Roasted “Sweet” Apples. Of course, it wouldn’t be breakfast without a Coconut Milk Latte to wash it all down.

Sept 17 BreakfastThe morning could not get started without some play time with the kitten. Storm loves playing hide and seek. Or maybe she is just scared of me… which is totally possible.

Little StormToday I caught up on a bunch of random chores: dishes, laundry, sweeping, you know… the good stuff. I got to spend some time in the Word and have been praying over this lovely piece of Scripture:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
— 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I hope that gives you a bit of encouragement about the incredible importance of love. I’m so thankful for God’s great love. I pray that I may demonstrate and share it with others as best I can. 🙂

Meanwhile, over in the kitchen, my sister was juicing…
Can you juice this?Or attempting to juice, rather. She told me today that she is going to start her Whole30 journey. Now that I’ve shared this with the public, she has to do it. HA. Committed. Really, I am cheering for you Jacqueline and I hope you stick with it! Proud of this decision!

For lunch, I sat down to take my online course and paired it with this lovely meal. Just a bunch of things I could throw together. Simple! A big helping of Mediterranean Salad (and I went back for more) with some Whole30-approved Turkey Breast slices. I was looking for something sweet and crunchy (I love a good “crunch factor”) and got out some roasted almonds mixed together with bareSnacks’ Organic Crunchy Cinnamon Apple Chips. Dang, those are addictive.

Sept 17 LunchAfter more online coursework, I then headed over to Austin’s place for a tabata-style upper body workout. Which, not to worry, I will be posting later. T’was a pretty good one. I imagine I’ll be sore tomorrow, so I’ll wait and see. This now brings us to dinner…

Sept 17 DinnerRosemary-roasted white mushrooms and sautéed green bell pepper + onions were scarfed down along with two Applegate Farms Uncured Turkey Dogs. I know, I know, turkey dogs are not super fancy. I’m out of sausages, okay?! Nonetheless, I am grateful for another delicious Paleo/Whole30 Meal.

Also, today is Day 14. YES.

Whole30 Day 14
He UNDERSTANDS me.

Now I am off to band rehearsal for our church’s worship team. And to stay committed to this whole WIAW post, I will have you know I will have a snack later. I’m not sure what, but it will happen– Looks like this is ending as a mystery. Have a great evening! I will be singing the night away… Happy Wednesday! 🙂

Summer Camp Commentaries

Backstreet’s back; Alright!

Maybe not Backstreet, but I’m back! Close enough, right? Back from all the fun summer camp festivities, the walk down memory lane with friends and family in New Jersey, and the amazing experiences that were shared during those two weeks away. I love some fresh perspective, don’t you? It’s funny how returning to an old, familiar place can inspire you with new, life-changing thoughts. I believe that’s God working. Here are some (and great emphasis on “some” or else we’d be here all day) of my take-aways from my days spent in New Jersey and Pine Bush Bible Camp.

My Sisters

1. Your family is seriously importantNot just your blood-relatives, even though they’re awesome, but your eternal family through Christ. The world should look at our relationships, as Christians, and see something dramatically different:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you much love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

My prayer is that this is not something I take lightly. That those words of Scripture will not just fade into a memory, but rather I act on them and commit my life to loving others, especially my brothers and sisters, in the way Christ loves us.

Why are they so old?

2. Time flies. And I think it is just going to get faster. I have missed the past four years of camp, only to come back to meet teenagers who are much taller, smarter, and wiser than their 10-year old selves. Peers of mine are experiencing new life adventures of mission trips, marriage, and careers. The word “lifetime” had new meaning to me. Our lives are short.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 14:4b

Now, that can either be a depressing statement, or a driving one, but the choice is yours. I know God has a plan for our lives and with the little time I have here, I want to be all in for Christ and going wherever He leads.

I know that ice cream is not Paleo, but it's TRADITION! And delicious...
I know that ice cream is not Paleo, but it’s TRADITION! And delicious…

3. YOU ARE SO VALUABLENo matter what any single person on this entire planet says… You are loved greater and deeper than you can possibly imagine by a Creator who values you more than you can fathom. “The Son of God gives you the upmost value— that is something man cannot touch!” (Nate Bramsen) We are a people who long to be loved. We often let the world define us or sometimes, we even let our own self define us (both of which, I am guilty). We need to look at ourselves the way God sees us: beautifully unique and created in His image.


 I am so thankful for the time I spent up North. I am beyond thankful for the work God did in my heart– the way it has been transformed. I am blessed to have the brothers and sisters I was surrounded by for those two weeks (if you’re reading this, know how much I deeply love and appreciate you guys). I am also grateful for returning back to my brothers and sisters in Florida and their eager ears to hear what God has taught me and challenging me to act on it (if you’re reading this, also know how much I deeply love and appreciate you too). Thank you to everyone who follows The Thrive Life and I can’t wait to dive back into some delicious Paleo meals & treats. 

Finishing out with a special shout out to the five (one not pictured) lovely ladies who were baptized this summer! Thankful for your testimonies and your boldness to declare the name of Christ with your lives!
Finishing out with a special shout out to the five (one not pictured) lovely ladies who were baptized this summer! Thankful for your testimonies and your boldness to declare the name of Christ with your lives!

 


Iced Coffee & Perfect Timing

This morning started off great. Special shout out to my Iced Coconut Coffee for helping out with that! I love these things hot or iced; they never cease to get me going in the morning.

Liquid Gold

Here’s my concoction because I know you’re all wondering:
And to give credit where credit is due, I took this recipe and just manipulated it a bit to suit my tastes. 

Iced Coconut Coffee (serves 1)

Ingredients:
8oz cold coffee (Mine is usually a generous 8oz)
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
4 ice cubes (I usually make coffee ice cubes and use those)
Cinnamon

Directions:
1. Place coffee, coconut milk, and ice in blender
2. Blend together until smooth
3. Pour into glass and top with cinnamon!

*Today I was a bit adventurous and added a banana. It was delicious. I highly recommend it for added sweetness, nutrition, and a way to get rid of that banana on your counter that’s on its way out. 😉


So this afternoon was supposed to go like this:

11:30am – leave house

1:50pm – arrive in Tampa for audition

2:15pm – finish audition and enjoy the evening with Austin at Busch Gardens

That is not what happened.

Instead, my car broke down in the middle of the highway, then started up again, but broke down a second time on the off ramp. The tow truck wasn’t going to arrive for 2 hours, so I had to call the agency to tell them I would miss the audition, but they said they would send someone to pick me up. The tow truck came and a man named Brad picked up Austin and I. I was 2 hours late for my audition and after much resistance, they decided to let me audition. Then we were dropped off at the mall where my roommate Sarah drove out to pick us up. And then we ended up at Universal for dinner. Whoa. [Insert deep breath here]

Random Universal Trip
Did I mention how much I love these people?

Now let me say this… please, do not mistake that long monologue for complaining. I’m sharing because, as a believer in God, I love to find ways He is working. For a situation that could be perceived as bad, I look for His perfect plan. I always end up smiling when I realize how a situation like this turned out the best possible way it could have. Here’s how:

1. The obvious: My car turned off in the middle of the highway and we had to drift over some lanes to get to a safe(ish) place and we weren’t hit.

2. The location: the tow driver is free under 100 miles from your home. The location we were headed to was over 100 miles, but where we broke down was just under 100.

3. The help: my agency could have easily said “Sorry, I hope it all works out for you”, but they went above and beyond and found someone to come pick us up. That man, Brad, was late for his own audition to go out of his way for me and he was gracious and kind about the whole process. Also, my roommate, Sarah, just so happened to not have any work scheduled for the afternoon, so she was able to leave and make the trek to us at a moment’s notice. (THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!)

4. The timing: We weren’t sure what we were going to do if the tow truck arrived before Brad (then we were stranded) or if Brad arrived before the tow truck (then Austin would have stayed with the car and been stranded for a bit). But of course, the tow truck arrived and just as he was finishing loading up the car, Brad called. He was parked on the other side of the street waving at us. 🙂

5. The company: Austin never comes with me to auditions, it just so happened to be in Tampa, and we thought it would be fun to make a day of it. He was patient and kind to me throughout the whole process. And if he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have had the option of leaving my car if Brad arrived before the tow truck. (THANK YOU!)

All in all, whether I get the part or not, I am just so floored at God’s hand. He truly does take care of us. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing your perspective and seeing it.

Too many times we choose to look at the negative. I invite you to do the opposite.