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Morning Walks with MeiMei

Morning Walks with MeiMei

We got a puppy! Finally after 12 years of marriage, 3 children, 5 moves, and lots of rigorous discussion and negotiation, we got our first family pet. We went all in and decided to do the puppy thing. Telling our kids the news that we were getting a puppy was a precious moment we will never forget. Then came the fun of dreaming up names, deciding which pup we wanted from the litter, and finally planning the trip to go pick her up.

We chose the name MeiMei (which is Mandarin for “little sister”) and were quite smitten with her from the beginning. But, for those of you who have experienced puppy life, you know that it’s no joke! The house training, nibbling everything, and crying at night was exhausting! But even with the sacrifice of time, money, and sleep, we still have had so many joy-filled moments with this new little pup we brought into our family.

 

New Beginnings

We had four months to wait from when we decided to get a puppy to when we actually brought her home. During that time we all had something different we were looking forward to about having a dog. For my son, it was having someone to always play with in the backyard. For my girls, it was looking forward to the cuddles. For my husband, it was the companionship and being greeted at the door when arriving home. For me, I was looking forward to taking walks with my dog.

Not only were we preparing for a new stage of life with a pet, but we were also about to enter a new stage of family life. This fall my youngest started kindergarten, so we now officially have all school-aged children. It is bittersweet and I’m still adjusting to the new rhythm. But, a huge blessing that has come with getting a puppy, and with kids being in school, has been my morning walks with MeiMei.

I knew I was excited about starting the routine of going on morning walks, but I did not know how big an impact it would have on each day and the week as a whole. It has become a time of refreshment for my soul. A quiet way to start the day. I am so grateful for that time…for my morning walks with MeiMei.

 

Gratitude in the Little Things

I know not all of us have the luxury of starting off the day with a lovely walk with a really cute puppy. But I do believe that each of us has little things in our day that can lead us to hearts of gratitude. As we choose to notice these little things and allow our hearts to be filled with gratitude, our joy increases! When our joy increases, we have more capacity to love well, have more patience, are in a better place mentally, and many other positive side effects.

The Bible is full of verses about thankfulness, and we know it is important to be grateful, but it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day mundane moments. What if we actually let some of these verses guide us to have hearts of gratitude throughout the day?

Ephesians 5:20giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….
When you are enjoying that cup of coffee, that is a good gift from the Lord! Enjoy it and thank him for it.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it.
When you walk to your car and feel a refreshing breeze, give praise to God! He has made this beautiful day.

Psalm 95:2 Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving; let’s shout triumphantly to him in song.
When a song plays on the radio that stirs your soul, give him praise.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
When the babies are finally asleep and you can breathe, or shower, or eat, praise the Lord for giving you your babies, but also praise him for the gift of quiet.

 

The Choice of Gratitude

Gratitude is a choice, and we can ask our Heavenly Father for help in noticing opportunities to experience gratitude throughout our day. A good starting point is to pray for help from the Holy Spirit! Then notice the little things…the good lunch you had…the changing colors of the leaves…the sound of the birds singing…your pet’s comfort and company.

Another option is to start a gratitude journal. Take time at the end of the day to write down some little things that you were grateful for that day. For example: the traffic wasn’t too bad…got time with a friend…finished a good book.

The list of reasons to experience gratitude is endless and God is worthy of praise for it all. I am praying for us, on my morning walks with MeiMei, to notice the little things, to give God the praise for it, and allow him the space to grow our hearts of gratitude.

“Slow Me Down” … During VBS Week?

“Slow Me Down” … During VBS Week?

The Joys and Challenges of VBS Week

The Shawnee Campus hosted Vacation Bible School again this year, and it was AWESOME. Ninety kids, 75 volunteers (including 25 student volunteers), and just buckets of energy in the building for four straight nights. It was an “all-in” event for our staff, and I had the privilege of serving as “Storyteller” for the week, along with the “Host,” Johnny Tsunami, otherwise known as Johnny Daigle, our pastoral resident.

It truly was a blessed week, but I’ll be honest, in a variety of ways, it was also a frenetic and frantic week. Building set-up, lesson prep, volunteer training, loooooong nights, and more. And all the regular weekly rhythms still remained: staff meeting, pastoral care, Sunday morning sermon.

It’s hard for me to admit, but during the midst of all that, my inner world started to speed up to an uncomfortable pace. It’s that feeling of not noticing that you’re driving 17 miles over the speed limit, but then you see a police car up ahead. “Ah! I’m going WAY too fast, and now I’m also stressed that I’m going to pay for it in other ways!”

Do you ever feel that? Frenetic? Frantic? Like you’re giving all you have but it’s just not enough, and the only option is to speed up and “drive” faster?

Listen, friends, I don’t know the exact “speed limit” of our souls (and it’s probably different for each of us), but I do know that I tend to very regularly jam my foot down on the accelerator and start driving my life, body, and soul faster than I should.

 

The Gift of Slowing Down

Which is why it’s a gift when God reminds us of our need to slow down.

He has an incredibly diverse number of ways to do this, some more extreme than others. There have been times in my life where God had to hit me over the head with a sledgehammer to get me to slow down.

Thankfully, this most recent time, he reminded me with a song, not a sledgehammer.

I’ve been listening to The Porter’s Gate worship collective since they started making beautiful music together in 2019. The Porter’s Gate is a sacred ecumenical arts collective reimagining and recreating worship that welcomes, reflects, and impacts both the community and the church. It was founded with a mission to be a “porter” for the church—one who looks beyond church doors for guests to welcome.

They have a number of stunning albums, and one of their most recent is titled “Worship for Workers.” Their first album was called “Work Songs,” so I went into my listening of their follow up album on the topic of work with low expectations. How much meat could really be left on that bone?

I was sorely mistaken! The whole album is incredible, but the first song is how the Lord graced me to remember to slow down. Not surprisingly, it’s titled “Slow Me Down.”

And honestly, at this point, I don’t even want to say any more. Enjoy, be blessed, and for the love of your soul, SLOW DOWN.

 

“Slow Me Down” Lyrics

O Good Shepherd, would you teach me how to rest
I’m rushing on, will you make me to lie down
Will you build a fold by the waters that refresh
Will you call my name and lead me safely out

From my anxious drive to labor on and on
From the restless grind that has put my mind to sleep
Will you call me back and gently slow me down
Will you show me now what to lose and what to keep

O Good Shepherd, O Good Friend slow me down.

When my table’s bent with only greed and gold
And my grasping hands are afraid you won’t provide
Will you pour the wine that loosens up my hold
Set your table here with what truly satisfies

On the busy streets trying to make myself a name
If the work is yours, there is nothing I can claim
Will you lead home to the pastures of your peace
The house is yours, I’m sitting at your feet.