The Butterfly Effect

I spend too much time thinking. My mind is in a perpetual hum, going in a million directions, yet going nowhere at all. It’s exhausting! When I was young, I used to look out the window with a furrowed brow on long car rides and just think. My Dad would glance in the rear view mirror and say, “Kenzie, what is it that a five-year-old has to think about so seriously?” At the time they were probably pretty basic questions of life, why is the sky blue?, why do we have ten fingers and ten toes?, who let the dogs out? (please help, I still don’t know this one)but lately something else has been plaguing my mind: purpose. How is whatever I am doing at this moment meaningful? And not just on the surface level, but I mean deeply, viscerally meaningful. It’s like everything I do has to have some kind of “productive” end point. But that’s not how we were meant to live. It’s a perspective issue, not a reality issue.

I know how we all have a specific calling and purpose designated by our Lord and that our identity is ultimately found in Him. This is so important to understand. But at times, it’s not always about the insecurities about who I am, it’s more about what I am doing. But maybe the two get inappropriately tangled at times? I’m not sure.

Something I’ve found myself caught up in recently is the purpose of this blog. I started it to catch up friends and family on the happenings in our lives, share how God is working, and to record a few of our favorite adventures for us to reminisce about someday. It brings me joy. And that should be enough. But at times I feel like it’s not- particularly when I get caught up in the comparison game. For example, there are times I’ll find myself slaving over a recipe, giddy in the making of this creation, getting ready to post it, and then suddenly I’ll come across an “accomplished” blogger with many printed cookbooks, perfect photos, and a massive following. Naturally I think, “What’s the point?” and stuff the post into drafts.

Comparison is the thief of joy- no truer words.

But lately my perspective has been shifting, and I hope to offer encouragement to anyone else that may be experiencing the throws of writing insecurity, lack of direction, or is just asking, “What is the point?” in anything you do.

This shift came with contemplation of the Chaos Theory- the idea that a flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. Some think the theory is a bit silly, but I love the illustration. It fascinates me- this idea that something seemingly minuscule can create something massive, powerful, unstoppable.

Maybe we can learn a lesson or two from this small, fragile creature. As cheesy as it is to use a butterfly metaphor, I’m gonna use it, gosh darn it.

Let me pose these questions-Did the butterfly physically see the the breeze created from a simple flap of the wings? Or did the butterfly actually witness the power ultimately created from this small act? No, but it continued fluttering along anyway.

The butterfly didn’t flutter it’s wings with the intention of creating that tornado. It flew because it was what it knew how to do, because it allowed the butterfly to live its short life the best way it knew how with what it was given…because it was the butterfly’s own form of artwork. Maybe the “small” things we do and invest time in don’t always have results that we can see right away, but they can breed wind storms of creativity and joy within ourselves. When we do something we love for its own sake we are bringing joy to the Ultimate Creator, who instilled these innate passions and abilities uniquely for each of us, so why deprive ourselves of this? When we can learn that investing in joy is a worthy investment, despite tangible results, our lives can be lived dramatically differently- in freedom.

Additionally, the butterfly flutters on persistently despite what the other butterflies are doing. We each have been created with an originality and purpose that will differ from anyone else’s. Just like no two butterflies are the same, neither are we- so why do we insist on comparing each of our journeys?

It’s when we can fly in this freedom that the breeze becomes a gust, and the gust becomes a storm- a storm of inspiration that overflows out of us. When a butterfly flies on by, it’s hard not to pay attention to the beauty of the creature basking in its own ease, persistent in doing what it was meant to do with it’s short life. In all that we do, no matter how seemingly small, if we do it with the same fervor and persistence, others will be inspired. When we allow ourselves to get lost in our own chaotic creativity, passions, and pieces of life that bring us joy, others will not be able to look away. There is something contagious and infatuating about someone who pursues what they love unapologetically. But if we miss the freedom of being content in our own originality and situation, we lose this power.

Even when we feel like we are walking uphill in thick sand, when nothing seems to matter that we do, and when we don’t feel like we are making a difference in the mundane ebb and flow of life, we have to realize we may not ever know the profound effect we are actually propagating. We just have to take that next step, continue fluttering, if you will. We don’t know what difference our footprints could make for someone else who stumbles across them later on. It could even be the comfort they need in knowing they are not the first to walk that journey

So to those who are wondering if you should share that post sitting in your drafts, publish it. To those that are wondering if you should call that long lost friend, do it. To those that are wondering if pursuing something you love is worth the risk, it is. To those who are wondering if you have a purpose, you do. To those that are wondering if you are worth it, you are.

Take that step unapologetically. Whatever you do, do it with love and with heart.

That next step may just be the first step to unstoppable.

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Today I’m Terrified. But…

This is probably pretty elementary for most… but it’s just something that is ringing true in my life today. I know by recording these thoughts I can look back in the future and see how God has been faithful through this time. 

Sitting here on this rainy day, I have an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. When most people jumped for joy ringing in 2017, I had a part of me that dreaded the turn of the year. This may shock many of you… considering I tend to optimistically embrace change in life more often than not.

So why the dread of the New Year? In 2016 a lot of good developed in me as an individual. The person you see is not the person I have always been.  I used to live life with anxiety about the next day, rather than embracing the present. I’m always a work in progress, but I see 2016 as a time of growth. That season of transition , although initially a frustrating waiting period, developed into, perhaps, my favorite time of life. I learned to live a life of balance (well at least more balance), I started embracing life in a way I never have before, I started doing things that brought me joy for their own sake, I traveled, and I found my faith again. Up to that point I let school, studies, schedules, and deadlines dictate my life.

Now, in this first month of 2017, I am faced with boot-shaking interviews, hefty decisions regarding my career path, and the end of this season. I feel like I am grieving a stage of my life that I so loved. I’m afraid that I will give up on the “extra” things that have brought me immense joy- blogging, exploration, baking, reading, writing, traveling, hiking, etc. and get lost in the tangle of the day to day again.

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a nurse, don’t get me wrong. I have a zealous passion for this career path, and I truly do feel called to it. I am beyond excited to get started. I even have an interview with my dream employer- I am ecstatic about this opportunity, and truthfully in disbelief that I even made it to this point. At the same time, I know the chances of getting this job are slim, statistically. For a long time I didn’t want to admit that I really want this job. But I can’t deny it: I really want this job.

But… what if I fail? What if I choke in the interview? What if I do get this job, but I disappoint? What if I am not good enough?

Having these thoughts I felt convicted, because, oh, they are so not what our Father in Heaven wants us to be thinking.

Philippians 4:6– “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Those “what if” thoughts reap anxiety and worry. They are lies. These are seeds of insecurity that are not in line with Christ. 

When I am being fed these lies and begin to believe them, there is only one thing that combat them: TRUTH.

Isaiah 41:10“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God promises to be with us in these times of life that bring trepidation. He will strengthen us and help us. He will be with me and help me in that interview.

2 Timothy 1:7“For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control”

God’s Spirit is not of fear. He promises His Spirit of power. I can have the assurance that I have His power helping me, even when I feel weak in my current abilities.

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

He promises us peace. I can have peace in any circumstance, because He has given us this gift. I can have peace walking into this field even knowing there are endless challenges coming my way.

1 Peter 5:7“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” 

Wow…we can simply just give our worries to Him. Because He cares for us, He promises to carry our worries. I don’t have to worry about being good enough, about having the right words, about my inexperience, or about having time to continue to do the random things I love- because He’s got me.

Matthew 21:22“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Cowabunga. I know He promises to give us what we ask for in His name with an expectant hope. Something I am working on this year is praying more confidently in Jesus’ name. If I truly believe He is who He says He is, how drastically different my prayers should look!

I know He will come through on His promises. I know He will place me in the nursing job that will allow me to bring healing to my patients and love them each deeply in His name. I know He will take care of me, because He promises this.

And if I truly believe this, then what do I have to fear?

Something our pastor recently said has stuck with me with great gravity: “Two opposing options reside in the unknown: Fear and Faith. Which will you choose?”

I want to choose Faith.

So rather than my “what ifs” of insecurity, uncertainty, and fear, what if I choose faith. What if I choose to trust in God’s promises, what if I strive for what seems impossible in His name? What if I no longer ask “what if” and rest in His promise?

Going forward, I am going to change the way I have been thinking this first week of January. I am going to be excited and expectant for the future. I am going to lean on Christ and rejoice in His blessings each day.

I choose to give my fear to Him and rest in His beautiful name.

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How God Answered My Impossible Prayer

This is the most intimidating story of my life for me to share yet. There are many reasons for this- I know it will uncover emotions that I have learned to keep at arms length, it may be a challenge to condense many interplaying factors into one single comprehensible post, and I am afraid that sharing this story will in turn somehow destroy a sacred cherished memory I hold dear. I am afraid it will offend people, confuse others, or cause me apprehension and regret on sharing it in the first place. However, when I started writing on this platform I promised God that I would be obedient to His prompting. I am writing this without any idea on who it may give hope, encourage, or touch, if anyone at all… But at the end of the day I am choosing to place these fears in God’s hands and allow this story to bring Him glory because there was a day He answered my impossible prayer. 

On November 28, 2009 my dad passed away unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. I remember the moment I found out clearly. There is a door in my mind that accesses the room I house that memory. Rarely do I go near it to look inside, but sometimes I do, inevitably feeling like a train has bouldered into my heart. Sometimes I don’t choose to look, but the memory works it’s way through the corridors of  my mind, forcing itself to the forefront of my thoughts. Regardless, that moment has a way of replaying itself occasionally like a reoccurring nightmare.

The phone ringing, my older sister sounding on edge on the other end of the line, asking to talk to my mom, not wishing to chat or make small talk. My mother sitting across me as I was just casually unwinding from a day at basketball practice. A plate of cheese and crackers next to me as I watched some mindless television. The characteristically cloudy November day. The look on her face.

I knew. I just knew.

Screaming “No” over and over again as I felt that I was spiraling into the ground. I begged myself to wake up as I embarked onto my first stage of grief, the shock and numbness manifesting in both denial and hysteria. The realization. This is not a dream. My heart breaking more minute by minute, realizing this would soon be my younger sister’s nightmare too. She’s only thirteen. Thirteen. The millions of questions in my head, far too clouded and confused to even articulate one. 

Yes. That moment I will forever remember- branded into my brain and onto my heart, an indelible mark. The events in the months to come thereafter were not so clear. I remember parts and pieces of that time like a bystander, rather than a partaker. I barely remember the Calling Hours, but I do remember a few conversations from that day. People would say, “You will see him again”, and “He is watching over you!”. I never grew angry at anyone’s attempt to empathize, I greatly appreciated all the compassion and could not have made it through that time without it. But those phrases… those words. I couldn’t come to peace with them. Here is where this gets tricky to explain. But I will do my best.

My father was a remarkable man. He had the kindest heart. He loved people and above all else family. At the end of the day, he would always ask my siblings and me, “Did we make a good memory, guys?” He is the reason I understand the value in making and treasuring the memories in our lives. He saw no one as a stranger, but as a potential friend. He was one of the funniest people I have ever known, and could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was a math wizard, a gene I did not inherit. He was the best listener, my protector, and the one with whom I had the most inside jokes.

But there was something I had great unrest about. There are many factors here, far too complicated to explain for the sake of this, but overall I just didn’t know for sure if my father had a personal relationship with Jesus. We had never talked about it, about what he believed personally. I could assume that he did, sure, he supported my siblings and I in our involvement in church growing up, would pray rehearsed prayers with us before meals and before bed, and referenced God occasionally. I just didn’t have an assurance that outside of those things he believed. I hope this doesn’t come across harsh or condemning. I know that we cannot truly know the state of someone’s heart. I know God is just, and He is the only one that can judge. I just wished so badly I could go back in time and ask him if he believed all this too, for himself- that the motions of religion weren’t just a way to raise us “right” or appease my mom, but something he wanted personally.

So I prayed for peace and assurance. I wanted to be able to say with confidence that I would see him again, but I just couldn’t. I just didn’t know. It felt like such an empty prayer, because how could God possibly give me this rest in my soul I so desired. I couldn’t go back in time. I couldn’t ask him.

Three years went by and healing did take place, slowly. For a long while I didn’t want to admit that anything good could come out of losing one of the people I loved the most. But upon reflecting, I see how God turned elements of the pain into blessings. It has taken me a long time to admit that.  And yet, despite the tremendous healing that time allowed, I still longed for peace about the wearisome question mark in the back of my mind.

The  summer before my freshman year of college my grandfather on my dad’s side, whom we called Papa, received the diagnosis of cancer. Since my  dad’s death, my siblings and I had become especially close to my papa. That summer, my sisters and I sat with him and read the Bible, prayed with him, and just talked with him. He never gave much feedback during those times of scripture and prayer. I couldn’t read how he felt about all of it.

In Autumn of 2012 that followed, we knew things were taking a turn for the worse with Papa’s health. Before heading back to school on my fall break I made sure to visit him. I remember that he wasn’t “all there” anymore mentally. My heart broke as I watched him slip away, and I knew this was likely my last time with him. As I said my goodbye and walked out of the nursing home, I felt a nudge in my heart, turn around and ask. I ignored it and walked to the car. TURN AROUND. I started the car and started driving. I became nauseous and the words of my soul screamed incessantly turn around now! The tears started and right when I was about to turn onto the highway entrance I turned around. A great part of me protested within myself, I don’t want to ask him. What if it makes him angry. He won’t even know what I’m saying. I don’t know how he will respond. I want to leave on a good note! 

But I pulled back into that nursing home, and jogged through the halls with a sudden urgency. I opened his door and started sobbing. I could barely calm myself down enough to ask. But regardless of the trepidation, I had to ask, I had to know. I blurted out before I could second guess what I was doing, “Papa- do you love Jesus?”.

He looked at me, as though a switch had been flipped, and lucidly said, “I sure do, Honey, I sure do” with a weighted confidence.

On that drive back to school I felt overwhelmingly thankful that I heard those precious words from my papa. I didn’t want to deal with the questioning that forever would be on my mind about my dad.

A few weeks later, my papa passed away. I drove straight from school to the funeral home. Although it was a painful time, I was thankful he was no longer in pain, and even more thankful for our last conversation. I remember standing over the casket with my older sister’s hand on my back. I said to her, “Andi- I know we will see Papa again, but I don’t know if we will see Daddy”. This is the first time I had said these words to anyone like this. She looked at me, without saying anything for few seconds, and then took me into the lobby of the funeral home.

She handed me her phone and had a voicemail playing she had saved. I listened. It was my dad’s voice, my dad’s beautiful voice, saying such sweet things to my sister and concluding with “Thank you Andi, for getting your old man ready for when his time comes”. I stood there in shock and awe. Andrea explained that they had been reading the Bible on the phone for the last few months leading up to his death. She said with undeniable certainty that we would see him again. I heard it in my father’s own voice, three years later. He was ready, he was prepared.

I will see him again.

So while November 28th is a day that brings with it memories that harbor tremendous pain, on the other side of that pain is a prayer. An impossible prayer. And on the other side of this impossible prayer is a limitless God.

And He answered my impossible prayer.

To Him forever be the glory. 

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img_3660 See ya later alligator… <3