Less Is Best: Counterintuitive Lessons on Control
Last week I had lunch with a new friend at an adorable restaurant in Downtown Franklin called the Mercantile. (It’s the cutest soup, sandwich and salad shop you could imagine, and they always have fresh flowers in blue mason jars sitting on top of each table. Very Joanna Gaines!)
My friend and her family are adopting a baby boy from China, and I couldn’t wait to hear the latest details about their upcoming trip to bring their son home. Their adoption story is filled with such joy, love, prayer and patience. This brave calling also requires accepting a lot of unknowns about the future.
At one point, I asked her, “How do you do it? How do you manage all of these unknowns, especially when they involve people you care about so much?”
She paused, understanding the weight of my question.
“Not knowing just makes me rely on God all the more,” she replied, then added, “and that’s not a bad thing.”
What a message! My friend hit the nail on the head in describing a theme that God has been teaching me lately:
Not knowing can be good. Not understanding is okay. Not having control helps us yield our desires to Him, which is actually where they should be in the first place.
I don’t know about you, but the whole “less is more” concept when it comes to control is strongly counterintuitive to me. In my own little ideal world, I would make plans, lay out a strategy and ask God, “Does this sound good to You? Yes? Great!”
But guess what, guys? I am not God. This realization is a human-wide struggle goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had the right to know as much God.
God knew what was best for them. He loved them. They didn’t need to understand everything to trust that His plan was right and good.
Furthermore, they didn’t deserve to understand everything.
Yielding our rights, expectations and understandings to God is a difficult but beautiful process. It brings us back to where we’re meant to be. The more we let go of ourselves, the more we are able to embrace the Gospel of Christ and live the good life — the best life — that God has prepared for us.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, CSB).
Hello, friends! I’m back with more reflections from my Hawaii, a time when I learned things like…
- The Hawaiian alphabet only has 13 letters.
- A pineapple at the grocery store only costs $0.89, but a Fuji apple is $2–3. (Plot twist, Mainlanders! How ‘bout them apples?)
- How to surf and hula.
- There is such thing as a “banjolele,” aka a banjo-ukulele. (Santa, please take note.)
Aside from learning these fun factoids and newfound talents, I also discovered a lot about who God is and His relationship with creation. Like any good Baptist, I tried to condense my thoughts into 3 main points, but they truly fit into 4 steps. So stay with me to the end!
THOUGHT #1: I get to know God.
It doesn’t take a ton of these views to realize that the world we live in is so much bigger than ourselves. I remember standing on the shore of a black sand beach after a rainfall, watching waves crash into rocks and feeling the extremely powerful pull of the undertow as the water returned to the sea. Facing the forces of nature is incredibly humbling. From breathtaking views on a mountaintop to a colorful coral reef habitat under the sea, I was in awe of creation and the One who created it.
I get to know the God who made this?! I kept thinking. The One who raised this mountain 13,000 feet high and gave this gray fish neon fins? THIS is the same God who gives me strength and courage? Who calls me his friend?
THOUGHT #2: Other people don’t know God.
As I marvelled at THOUGHT #1, I was saddened when I thought about all of the people who do not know the one, true God who is so dear to me. One day we visited an ancient temple built by King Kamehameha in the early 1800s. I was surprised to read that the temple was still a place of worship where some native Hawaiians come to practice their religion. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see that people have placed necklaces and food on the ancient structure as an offering. Other locals, instead of worshiping ancient deities, revere nature itself in a spiritual, transcendental type of worship.
I thought of Acts 17 when Paul preached in the Greek Areopagus in Athens, a city filled with idolatry. He first acknowledged that the people were very religious, and he specifically recognized their altar “to the unknown god.” Then he said,
“So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…’” (23-24).
That’s what I wanted to tell people. I know the God who made this, and He’s incredible! This leads to THOUGHT #3…
THOUGHT #3: God wants a relationship with those who don’t know Him.
If you continue reading Acts 17, Paul says that God made people “that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (27).
He’s not far from us! Isn’t that wonderfully comforting?
1 Timothy 2:4-5 says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
We have one God and one Savior. God wants people to find Him through Christ. The Gospel is called the “good news” for a reason! And that’s not the end of the story.
THOUGHT #4: I get to tell people about the true God and His Son, Jesus!
Have you ever tried to convince someone to watch your favorite TV show or listen to your favorite band? (Next time you see me, ask me why I love Survivor or Lady Antebellum.) It’s not hard to get excited about something or someone you love!
In the same way, believers in Christ should be bursting with excitement to tell others about our amazing God. The Bible says we are ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). What does that mean? We get to help reconcile people to God by telling them the good news of Jesus.
So there’s my 4-step process of what God taught me in Hawaii. I hope that this week you will open your eyes and look for what the Lord is showing YOU in your life!
Does anyone want to come over and watch a 6-hour slideshow? No?
Well darn! That’s about how long it would take to show all of the pictures from my family’s recent trip to Hawaii. In short, it was everything I hoped for and more and fascinatingly different.
When I pictured Hawaii, I always imagined an aqua blue ocean, cloudless blue sky and billowy palm trees swaying in the breeze. And that’s true!
But Hawaii is so much more than perfect beaches. In fact, we stayed on the Big Island, where part of the terrain is volcanic rock. You’re driving through this landscape and thinking, Am I on another planet? We even got to visit Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world. (The Sinclairs are living on the edge, people!)
One of my favorite places was the Pololū Valley. We hiked down a steep trail of mud and finally reached the black sand beach at the bottom. It was gorgeous! The waves were incredibly powerful, crashing against the rocks like they wanted to knock down the island. On the other side of the shore was the ever-calm Pololū River, which wandered into a valley, surrounded by lush fields and grazing cattle. The two contrasting environments in such close proximity was fascinating to me.
Another impressive aspect of Hawaii’s natural beauty is its plants and animals. On the rainy side of the island, you can find wild avocado trees, mango trees, palm trees, coffee bean trees, and more. The flowers come in all shapes, gargantuan sizes, and colors so bright that look like they came out of a Sharpie highlighter. I felt like I was a character in a Dr. Seuss book or Carmen Cortez in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams.
As for the animals, forget watching out for deer! Hawaii has wild horses, donkeys, and cutest of all… goats. (Sidenote: check out the picture of my brother, Andrew, with the 17 cats of A Bay. Yes, he’s talking to the cat lady who takes them to the vet and feeds them. They have an official FB page here.)
In an effort to keep your attention, I’ve decided to list the events of rest of the trip in six words or less.
- Macadamia nuts good. SPAM flavor bad.
- “Rachel falls at the falls.”
- America’s steepest road. Sketchy van, oneway.
- View from above was worth it.
- Hawaiian royalty: Queen Anela, King Kona.
- Helicopter ride was incredible beyond words.
- We hula’ed at a luau.
- (Most) local Hawaiian food was delicious.
- Surfing was fun and surprisingly easy.
- Diamondhead hike was tough but rewarding.
Click through the slideshow below to view corresponding pictures. If you STILL want to hear more, let me know so I can pull out the projector and the popcorn machine!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!
October 28 is a WONDERFUL day, because I have an excuse to tell the whole world about my incredible Momma! (I’ll spare you the “there are no words to describe how wonderful she is” spiell, but just know that it’s true.) I’ve decided to share some of the lessons she’s taught me throughout my life. So get out your journal and start taking notes! She’s the real deal!
[DISCLAIMER: Mom is my #1 editor and proofreader, and she doesn’t know I’m writing this. Hopefully you won’t find any typos!]
Mom taught me…
- How to talk to God like He’s real.
Yes, I know, He is real. But sometimes we don’t pray like it. Whenever Mom prays, she talks to God like He’s sitting at the kitchen table next to us. Whether she’s asking for a specific need, thanking Him for a blessing or lifting up a difficult situation, Mom knows that the Lord is there and that He is in control. I’m thankful for her open example of how to draw near to God our Father.
- How to load a dishwasher.
Silverware pointed down, cups and bowls on the top, each row filled, dishes facing inward. If it’s in the sink, you can find a way to cram it into the dishwasher! (Poor Dad and Andrew try their best, but somehow the message just didn’t completely sink in…)
- How to make life a musical.
Sometimes singing is more fun than talking. Sometimes good news calls for dancing. Sometimes we take catchy commercial jingles and make them a regular part of our vocabulary. It’s just better that way!!
- How to put others first.
You don’t have to watch through hours of our old family home videos to realize that I was… what’s that phrase? All about me. While I was a child, Mom taught me to put others before myself. As an adult, I see how Mom lives this out in her everyday life. She is servant-hearted, compassionate, empathetic and caring. She talks the talk AND walks the walk. What a role model for me!
- How to “let it go.”
Guess what? I’m not perfect. Guess what? Mom’s not perfect either. But guess what? THAT’S OKAY! As a Type-A, goal-setting, gotta-get-it-right kind of girl, I need to be reminded that it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to have bad days and good days, to succeed and to fail. Listen to good ole’ Idina Menzel. (And of course sing along!)
- How to treasure God’s Word.
God’s Word is truth. No matter what happens, the Bible is our foundation. It never changes, and it never fails. I am so grateful for all the wonderful things Mom has taught me. However, her best “lesson” has always been teaching me to rely on God’s Word and to seek Christ in all that I do.
Happy birthday, Mom! We’re celebrating you today!
Like A Child
This summer I had the WONDERFUL blessing of living with my aunt, uncle and precious, rock-star cousins, Parker (8) and Caroline (6). I can’t tell you what a joy it was to come home from work to squeals of excitement, giant hugs and a million shouts of, “look what I did!”
I loved the everyday adventures of living with Parker and Caroline. Through laughter, tears and everything in between, they reminded me of what it means to be a child. God used this experience to give me a living picture of what it looks like be a child–His child!
My favorite question of the summer was when Parker asked me what college was like. I begin to explain that I’m in 16th grade, I live without my parents [WHAT?!] and I sort of get to choose my own classes. Caroline looked at me with a squinty-eyed faced, like she was thinking hard. “Why don’t you play games instead?”
Good question, Caroline. If I get to choose my classes, why wouldn’t I play games instead? I said that the classes were for my “major,” which would hopefully lead to a job. I told her that I was majoring in writing.
Again, she makes the squinty face. “Why not crafts?”
Hmm. Why not crafts? I’ll have to run that by Aunt Angie and Uncle Don.
Sometimes I felt like a juggler, subconsciously waiting for something to fall, break, spill or who knows what else! But as time went on, I realized that making mistakes is part of the process of growing. If I never let Caroline hold her own milkshake, she wouldn’t learn how to keep it from spilling. If I always insisted that I hold onto the dog’s leash, Parker wouldn’t have the chance to practice being a leader and taking responsibility.
While I was always there to support and guide them, I couldn’t do everything for them. I’d be there before, during and after, but they had to learn some skills on their own!
So many sweet moments. This is a picture of a letter Caroline wrote me on a weekend when they were out of town. It’s just one of the many precious memories that I treasure from my time this summer!
This insight was probably my most impactful lesson from the whole summer. Sometimes children ask questions that are simply too big, too complicated and too above-their-heads to answer. I knew that they either could not understand, or they didn’t need to understand.
Friends, please stop and think about this in light of our relationship with God the Father. How many times do we ask, beg, yearn to understand things that don’t make sense to our small, earthly brains. God wants us to ask Him questions (James 1:5), but sometimes we’re not supposed to know the answer (Deuteronomy 29:29).
It’s hard, but it’s also comforting that we don’t always have to know. We can trust Him to be good, greater, wiser and better than our earthly perspective. Take a deep breath and let that sink it. That’s encouraging!
There’s something unique about the pure, limitless love and adoration of a child. They aren’t afraid to wrap you in a hug, sit to by you during a movie or tell you that they wish you could stay forever.
As adults, we often think long and hard before expressing our feelings, especially to those we really care about. What if we weren’t afraid to say, “I love you” or “I need you”? What if we worshipped God with a pure joy that springs from the heart?
These are only a handful of the many lessons that God taught me this summer. Hopefully my experience will encourage you to examine your relationship with the Lord, the perfect Father!
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).
College is awesome. It’s fun, hard, exciting, complicated… pretty much all of the above! College is where you learn about yourself as a person and make decisions for your ever-looming “future.” Truthfully there is no blog post, book, or conversation that can fully prepare you for the journey ahead. But, I wanted to take the time to share with you a few tips from my experience. Sit back, hang on and enjoy the ride!
1. Go and do.
College is FREEDOM! Wahoo! You are going to meet a million people from a million different places and have a million opportunities to do things that are new to you! Whether that’s studying abroad in London or trying out the new restaurant downtown, this is your time to go and explore. Always be on the lookout for local festivals, outdoor activities, concerts and cool day trips. Grab a group of friends, split the gas money and have fun!
2. Be wise.
Mama always said, “If you have that funny feeling in your stomach that something is just not right, don’t do it.” Friends, mama is right. While college is a time to have new and fun experiences, don’t compromise your standards. Stick to who you are. Use good judgment and don’t be afraid to say ‘no.’ You’ll always thank yourself for making the right decision.
3. Eat with people.
The simple but true strategy for making friends! Ask some classmates if they want to go to lunch after biology on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Invite the girls down your hall to join you for free queso on “Moes Monday.” Or–if you’re feeling extra on top of things–gather a few friends and cook one of your favorite dishes from home. Forget easy mac and Chinese takeout for one; meals are meant for sharing!
4. Miss home.
It’s okay. In fact… it’s normal! After spending 18 years of your life with the same people, it’s hard to not see them every day. FaceTime your family (and your dog) to keep up with those who love you the most. Plus, the time that you do get to spend with family is now even more precious!
5. Really study.
College is no breeze, but it’s doable. My best advice? Study every week on a regular basis. Your next test may not be for two months, but boy do you need to know the material that you talked about in class today. Do the homework, read the books and–yes–go to class! Once again, you will thank yourself later.
6. Change your major.
But you’ve wanted to be a teacher since you were five years old! You thought you loved politics! You swore you’d never have the same career as your parents! I know. I’ve been there. You’re talking to the girl who used to consider becoming a lawyer, until journalistic law nearly put me to sleep. On the other hand, I thought I’d hate accounting, but I actually loved the class (#nerd). All that to say, be open minded! It’s okay to change your plan.
7. Make many friends.
Friendships don’t happen overnight. As a freshman looking at a sea of hundreds of potential besties, it’s kind of hard to know where to start. I think It’s important for you to make many friends from different parts of college life. Don’t stick to one or two people and shut out everyone else. Take this opportunity to befriend lots of people, and be friendly towards everyone!
REFLECTIONS from a year of blogging
I have spent the past 12 months blogging for WMU’s “myMISSION” collegiate column. It’s been fun, challenging and–if I’m honest–convicting! Each month I had to stop, take an aerial view of my life and ask, “How have I been living on mission? Where am I sharing the Gospel? Am I being responsible and sharing the incredible gift that I’ve been given?” (Luke 12:48).
Sometimes blogging intimidated me because I’m not perfect. *Gasp!* What if I shared what God’s been teaching me, and then I messed up? How could I encourage others to not worry when I tend to worry myself?
Well, friends, God taught me a message that is both humbling and hopeful: We’re not perfect. He is. We fail. He doesn’t.
The beautiful thing about being a child of God is recognizing that we don’t always have it together, and that’s okay. God knows that we mess up, but He still wants to work through us!
Throughout this year, I’ve learned that blogging is best when it’s about real life. When I obey God, when I disobey God, when it’s easy or when it’s hard. Christians aren’t perfect robots. We are sinners saved by grace.
All that to say, I’ve pick out some of my favorite blogs and categorized them for you to look through! I hope you can relate to them and learn from my experience. Don’t forget, I always love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Enjoy!
0 of 8 questions completed Questions: This trivia will test your knowledge with fun facts about one of America’s most beloved holidays–the 4th of July! From history tidbits to firework finances, this quiz will test your brain (and possibly your patriotism!). Good luck!
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Independence Day Quiz!
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This trivia will test your knowledge with fun facts about one of America’s most beloved holidays–the 4th of July! From history tidbits to firework finances, this quiz will test your brain (and possibly your patriotism!). Good luck!
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Did you learn something new? Share with your friends and see how they compare!
When did Congress establish Independence Day as a holiday?
Which two Founding Fathers died on the 50th anniversary of Independence Day?
How many changes were made to Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence?
Which bird did Benjamin Franklin argue would be a better symbol for the nation than the bald eagle?
When did Independence Day officially become a paid holiday for federal employees?
What is the record number of hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes for Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest held on July 4?
What other two countries celebrate their Independence Day on July 4?
What was the estimated consumer firework revenue in 2015?
Why Elsa & Elphaba are actually the same character
Both characters are near and dear to our hearts. We’ve played their songs on repeat and sang at the top of our lungs more times than we can count, but I think there’s a deeper connection to their stories. I propose that these two unlikely protagonists have much more in common that the first two letters of their name. Do you agree?
1. MAGIC POWERS
They both have secret magic powers that they try to suppress.
2. THE BRAID
Same style, different color.
They both have a needy younger sister, and they don’t know how to help her.
4. CLIMAX SONG
“Let It Go” and “Defying Gravity”—the songs are insanely popular hits that define the movie/musical. Also, both songs describe the characters’ climax when they decide to give free reign to their powers.
The townspeople fear both of these characters and think that they will use their powers for evil.
Both characters make major sacrifices for people they love.
The voice behind it all!
To Write a Paper
I’m so excited to finally release this short comedy! This semester I had the opportunity to write, direct, edit and produce a short film. I want to give a HUGE shoutout to the many wonderful people who made this dream come to life: my fabulous actors Margaret Mason and E.A. Wiatt, cameraman Harrison Tarabella (he’s the real professional here), Dr. Teddy Champion for sound/supporting me throughout the process and last but certainly not least, Dr. Bernie Ankney (who believed in me enough to override a few prereqs and let me register for this class). Ultimately, I give thanks to the Lord for giving me this passion and for orchestrating opportunities far greater than I could’ve ever planned myself. I hope you enjoy! Please visit my YouTube channel and comment to share your feedback!
Rachel’s Survival Guide [Finals Edition]
As an expert in collegiate stress management, I have five lovely tips to help you through finals weeks.
JOKES! Let’s try this again: I am college student learning by experience, and hopefully my tips will be somewhat helpful for you.
1. TAKE YOUR BREAKS
But you have five more pages to write and half of an anatomy book to review! I know. But at some point, a 10-minute break is worth an hour of extra energy. Plan a time for you to stop. Lay down on the couch, watch a funny YouTube video or call your mom. Don’t think about school. Your brain will thank you.
2. CHANGE YOUR SCENERY
Get up and move! Don’t spend all day in your corner of the library or your closet-sized dorm room. Go to a local coffee shop. Camp out on the quad. Move to the lobby or chapter room. This tip is especially effective if you’re changing studying topics. You will be refreshed and refocused.
3. PLAN MEALS WITH FRIENDS
You need to eat. Your friends need to eat. Why not eat together? Even if you spend 30 minutes grabbing Chick-fil-A in the food court and lamenting about the next 48 hours, time with friends is good for the soul. (And real food is good for your stomach.)
4. KNOW HOW YOU WORK
As fabulous as my survival guide is, the perfect study plan is not one-size-fits-all. Ultimately you know how you work best. If you need to find an empty room and study without any distractions, go for it. Someone else may need to find a focused group of friends to study with. In the end, you know what’s right for you!
5. DON’T LEAVE OUT GOD
Finals week is crazy, but don’t forget that God is there. Ask Him for advice on how you should study. Tell Him when you’re stressed. Praise Him when you get a good grade in a hard class. He’s with You on this journey too.
Last week, I found myself sitting on a picnic blanket in the middle of the quad at 6:30 in the morning, watching the sunrise and reading my Bible. Why?
- I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.
- I had plenty of time for my devotion. I thought, “Why not get away? Go somewhere different? Get out of my 250-square-foot dorm room?”
Every believer has a different pattern for spending time with God and reading the Bible. I used to be a study-and-pray-at-night girl. Now that I’m in college and don’t have any 8 a.m.’s [*insert halleluiah chorus here*], and I like meeting with God in the morning. I’m still cutting out time for Him, but just at a different place in my daily routine.
Lately God has been teaching me that growing closer to Him is more than a “pause” on my day. We should pause every day to seek Him, but we also need to go away to grow deeper with Him.
Going away means going somewhere by yourself specifically to be with God.
Jesus didn’t have to leave His normal environment to pray. He could have prayed before breakfast, on the way to the synagogue or while sailing across the Sea of Galilee. And He probably did. But He made a point to physically remove himself from people, places and things that could distract Him from God.
I wish I could say that I’ve mastered “going away to pray,” but that’s not the case. I am still learning what it means to go away and focus on God, but I can tell you that it’s worth it!
Think about your relationship with your best friend. You probably text each other at different times of the day, and you may set aside time to talk on the phone. However, you also plan moments to go somewhere special and enjoy time away from the busyness of life.
We need time like this with God. This week, I challenge you to pick a day to get away with God. Go to a park or a local coffee shop, and be ready to learn. He will meet you there.
#myviewofSU • April 18-22
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be taking over Samford’s Instagram account this week! The #myviewofSU campaign will showcase the many unique events that happen on and around campus every single day. Follow @samfordu to take part in my journey, and post your own #myviewofSU experiences.