Life to the Full

Twenty-thirteen has been one of the hardest, scariest and happiest years of my life. In short, it’s been full.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” — Jesus

Here are some highlights:

I rang in the new year on a rooftop on the outskirts of Bangkok and went to bed before midnight for the first time since I was old enough to watch the ball drop.

I learned a new dance from the residents of a tiny Thai village some would call a slum.

I almost died in an overcrowded songthaew careening down the highway. Almost.

I snuck into a fancy hotel just to use the fancy pool.

I held an orphaned baby in a hot room of a Vietnamese temple compound that stunk of unchanged diapers and sour milk, and realized that even if nobody else in the world knew or loved the boy in my arms, Jesus did.

I learned that it’s okay to be angry and that God is big enough to handle me at my worst.

I ate a grasshopper.

I encountered God in a flood of tears in a musty basement in San Francisco, over fried chicken at a dinner show in Walt Disney World, and in a cloud of butterflies beside a waterfall in the mountains of North Carolina.

I saw snow twice, in Korea and Detroit, both times from airport windows. (This is a big deal for a native Floridian.)

I learned that it’s okay to be okay with who I am and that God can handle me at my best. He made me, after all.

I started to believe in the Bible because of Jesus, and not the other way around.

I got my first speeding ticket. Forty-two in a thirty, not bad.

I baptized my little brother in the Atlantic Ocean.

I learned the hard way that sometimes God shows you what’s wrong so you can fight it and fix it and not just talk about it.

I grew fonder of a couple of things that seem to get better with age: Megan and marriage.

I took voice lessons and found vindication in the fact that all those weird noises I make are actually “warm ups.”(Take that, Megan.)

I learned that a no today isn’t necessarily a no tomorrow.

I experienced a God whose forgiveness is forever, whose grace is more than sufficient, and whose love is so much bigger.

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The Gift of Giving

When I was younger, I loved watching my pile of gifts grow under the tree. I’d count them, shake them and keep a mental list of everything I expected to open on Christmas. When I was right, I was right. When I was wrong, well, at least I had a new ugly sweater to wear…in Florida. (To be fair, I liked it at the time. Sort of.) Wish lists fulfilled or not, it was all about m-o-i. Or me, if you don’t parlez le francais.

I was kind of a scrooge.

I don’t think it was because I was any more selfish than the rest of the me-centered teenagers of the world. I did think to get my parents a little something — you know, a really thoughtful gift like a bracelet with “Mom” bedazzled on it. But I didn’t think about anybody else. And I don’t think it’s because I didn’t love anybody else, but because I was afraid of gift giving. Really, afraid? Really!

Giving somebody you love a gift requires vulnerability.

In my world, vulnerability is about as scary as cargo pants or the lift not going up during Defying Gravity. (My heart just stopped for a second  — I’m okay now.) When you hand over a gift, you’re handing over a piece of your love. You’re saying, “Here I am. This is me. I hope you like it.”

I’m blessed because God has used my marriage to break down my walls, take me out of my comfort zone and into the realm of vulnerability, of honesty and truth. It was Megan who taught me, okay, forced me into the joy of gift giving. Our first Christmas together was my second-worst nightmare come true: vulnerability all over the place.

As I pushed through, step by step, I began to realize there’s something holy about truly giving a gift, no strings attached (unless they’re pretty ribbons). I saw that the sacrifice of my pride was worth it. It didn’t matter that it was uncomfortable and scary, because when Megan opened her gifts from me, I knew that she knew that I really did love her.

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Michelle & Cole

Michelle and Cole are wonderful people for more than a few reasons. However, since this is a blog, and I don’t have the patience to write an exhaustive list anyway, I’m going to give you only a few very special reasons. One: they love Sweden and are determined to institute fika in America. (I’m working on siesta myself.) Two: they both love to create — Cole in the kitchen and Michelle, well, anywhere. (Check out her paper goods shop, Ella + Jane, or her blog, Delighted.) Three: they’re wholeheartedly committed to loving each other and the people around them. So, yeah, they’re pretty rad.

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