Love Well (a wedding poem)

Love Well
Written for J &A H. on the event of their wedding.
8/16/2015
With love, Ranelle Gildersleeve

What is love?
Is it always flowers and candlelight dinners?
Is it always easy smiles and shared laughs?
Love is pushing up your sleeves and digging deep.
Love is picking up socks for the fiftieth time that week, and still smile when he walks through the door.
Love is getting in your car and driving an hour out of your way, just to bring her a forgotten bag.
Love is a struggle. Struggle well together.
You may have candlelight dinners, but more often than not, you will have a table full of bills.
You may have flowers, but you will always have dishes to wash.
Love is a dance that is more often a violent tango rather than the gentle waltz.
Dance well together.
Let never one stand by themselves, but always have your arms around the other.
Love isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. If you work for it.
Work for it.
Take time no matter how busy it is, and sit together to share your fears and your joys.
Take time to walk the park as dusk falls, hand in hand with no words.
Struggle well together in your faith. Find God in the midst of your marriage and give him control.
Be better together rather than apart. Pray for each other.
No, love isn’t always flowers and candlelight dinners.
Sometimes it’s ripped shirts and dirty knees.
Sometimes love is the act of planting the flowers, rather than picking them.
Love each other well.
God has given you that person that will lift you up when you feel like you can’t go on.
He has given you the person to patch up your wounds when the world is just a little too rough.
He has given you the water for your soul when it’s parched, by giving you the person who can speak the soothing words needed.
In your struggle of life together, may your hands be gentle when you hold your love.
May your mouth be ever kind when you speak of him.
May your thoughts be ever happy when you think of her.
May your eyes ever seek the face of the one beside you.
May your feet always return to the one beside you.
May you never be alone in the midst of the storm as the world rages.
May you always struggle well together as you face life as one.
God has given you the most holy of duties, for two to become one.
Defy the laws of physics and show it is possible for two bodies to become one person.
Love is a struggle. Struggle well together.
In your hands lies your life. Your life is in the hands of your love. Treat it well.
It is a precious gift, one that must be nurtured, and protected from the forces that would tear it apart.
It is your sacred duty to work on building that flame of love every day for the rest of your lives.
Tend it. Feed it.
Let it become an inferno, so that everyone you come in contact with, can feel the heat of it.
May your love be the story of the ages.
May you struggle well together.
May you love well for eternity.

Hope Overflowth- Reflections on Joni & Friends Family Retreat

Joni & Friends Twin Rocks Family Retreat, 2014

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How do you describe one week out of your year that manages to change your perceptions, your attitude, your spiritual health, as well as teach you compassion, joy, and hope, all while giving you a peace that you so very rarely are able to get in the ‘outside world?’

I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out.

I had the wonderful pleasure of serving at Joni & Friends’ Twin Rocks Family Retreat (Oregon) again this year. I was already planning on what supplies I needed to gather for next year, before that camp was even done. I do believe that I officially have gotten the bug for this amazing ministry. Serving at this camp has a way digging it’s way into the heart, and promptly enlarging it, much like the Grinch’s did when he found out the meaning of Christmas.

I have always had a passion for awareness towards disability. But, this camp, it continually shows me that my passion is so small in comparison to the deep passionate love God has for his children. He also uses it to force me to learn and grow with every exposure to people who are considered very different from me. Well, at least different to me by the world’s consideration. He uses it to teach me, that in my brokenness, I am still loved.

I wish I could show the emotional peace that came over these parents and campers of special needs as they stepped onto the campus. Campers who are caught within their disability and seem to have little awareness of their surroundings, relaxed and smiled. The frantic energy that comes with some levels of autism seemed to lessen it’s ferocious grip on young minds, loosening the tongue so they were able to communicate more than they usually do at home. Parents who are exhausted from any small amount of travel due to their need to be extremely diligent of their loved ones, are revived. Parents who have become cautious around strangers due their protective attitude regarding their child, feel free to laugh and shed tears with other parents who understand.

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Hope seemed to infuse these precious people as soon as they came through the loud welcoming crowd at the entrance to the camp. Here, hope was given out as if it was candy. There was no need to hold on to it as if we were misers, wanting to build up our pile of gold. Instead, we shared it, we showed it, we gave it away. It was because God was filling us with that joy and peace that only were given to us by him. We were, as our motto was this year, ‘overflowing’ with hope. Because we were overflowing, we felt no need to keep it to ourselves.

Our Bible verse can be found Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I think it was the perfect verse for these weary travelers through this life. Our speaker did a wonderful job of showing that this hope is not a wish that we make. But rather this is a hope based off the knowledge that God is good, that he has only the best of plans for us, that he has proven himself trustworthy. Our hope is not on the outcome, but rather based on the very God we pray to.

To hear that from the lips of Brian, whose doctors had given up on, due to an accident that left him with 3rd degree burns on 97% of his body, carried more weight than it would from a pastor of ‘normal typical’ means. Here was a man who by all rights could have become very bitter by what life has supposedly given him. Rather, though I’m sure it took time and prayer, he became a man who spoke passionately about the God who loves him. To see this man, his wife, and his children, so vocal about God’s love and grace in the face of such a horrid accident, was eye opening to my own responses to the situations of my life.

The hope that God provides has the power to change lives. It is not about wishing vaguely on something that we thought would help us. Godly hope is about trusting God to keep us and not forsake us. He never will.

These parents and campers see that hope more clearly than most of us do. The typical person is stuck on what we think is important, while these souls are focused on just surviving the day sometimes. It’s not that they are closer to God than we might be, but there is that possibility that they might have some of the blinders that we have, removed.

Another wonderful thing to see at camp is the willingness that these strangers have to get involved in the joys and struggles of other families. I believe we had nearly half of our camp families new to the ministry this year. These families who had never been exposed to each other, welcomed one another with love.

That love was echoed throughout the volunteers who come and give of their time and money to serve these families. We have families who travel all the way from Pennsylvania, just for the joy of serving. We have 20-somethings who save all year to go to two or more of these retreats, just for the chance to make a difference. We have teens who by all rights should be goofing off at the beach, working hard to bring laughter to a child who is shut off from the world. We have 70+ year old who should be enjoying her retirement, chasing after a boy with a big smile on her face. We have leaders, who they themselves should be there for respite , due to family members with special needs, plan for this week all year long, and work themselves to exhaustion just to help.

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This camp is run off of love. If you have never experienced this short of love that is so sacrificial in nature, you are truly missing out. This is what God’s love looks like. This is what the church should look like, where everyone can come as the broken mess they are and find acceptance. Nobody comes to this camp with everything perfect, because that is not what this camp is about. This camp is about offering hope to weary people. It’s about showing them that they are not alone in their love for their children, nor in their willingness to fight for their right to enjoy life. It’s about a beautifully sang song having just as much excitement and clapping as does a boy who throws a ball. It’s were whatever talent you bring, is used and accepted, because God gave you that talent. No matter what it might be.

This camp is about rejoicing in exactly who you are right this moment. Not about trying to force you into some mold that will never fit. No one fits into those molds, we just pretend a little better that it doesn’t chaff or pinch. Never try to fit in. Every person is born to stand out and shout loudly of the Creator God. That’s what I love about this camp, it helps us learn how to rejoice in those differences.

So I urge you. Give hope to a weary family near you. Tell them about Joni and Friends’ Family retreats!!

Please look at Joni and Friends website for more information regarding the amazing ministries available through them (including the Wheels for the World, Family Retreats, Cause 4 Life, etc…) 

Joni and Friends is celebrating 35 years of disability ministry- listen to Joni Eareckson Tada’s radio program which can also be found on the website. 

You can read about my first experience serving at a Joni and Friends’ Family Retreat last year here and a revisited post here

Liebster Award

I was nominated for the Liebster award by my friend Joanna who writes over at Into a Marvelous Light – which I am deeply touched by. I will be a good sport and pass it along! It’s a wonderful way of getting more people to look into blogs that they might not even know are out there!
Rules of nomination
1) Each person must list 11 things about themselves.
2) Answer the 11 questions that the tagger has set for you PLUS you MUST create 11 questions of your own for the 11 people you will nominate with this award.
3) Choose up to 11 bloggers linking them to your post.
4) Go to their page and inform them of the nomination.
5) Absolutely NO tag backs (no awarding who awarded you).
6) Remember to ONLY award bloggers with less than 200 followers

Joanna’s Questions for me
1. If you had one day completely free of obligations and responsibilities, how would you spend your time?
Half the day with a good book, then the rest of the day spending it talking to one of my favorite elders of the church.
2. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is the fear of not doing what God has demanded of me- either in action or word. That I don’t reach out to that one person that God puts in front of me to love with His love because of my fear.
3. What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Ohh! Hard question! Depends for what reason?
Encouragement against fear: 2 Timothy 1:7- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and of sound mind.”
For purpose of life: Psalm 139 “For you created my inmost being…”
Cycle of Faith and Power of Grace- John 9– the story of the blind man being healed
These are just a few…
4. If you had the opportunity to meet anyone you wanted to, who would it be? (living or deceased)
Joni Eareckson Tada
5. What is the most exciting thing that’s happened to you in the past year?
I moved into a new apartment, found a new job, and also am seeing the fruition of 6 years of hard work on my Disability and Theology paper being turned into a class for Spring!
6. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?
Tea- I love it iced, but enjoy it hot
7. Do you enjoy traveling?
I don’t know- I’ve never really traveled. I’m a homebody though, so as long as I know I’m going home at a certain time…maybe?
8. What are you most passionate about?
Making people look past their own preconceived ideas regarding Scripture and get back to the ‘heart’ of the Bible. Questioning the tradition of the interpretation not the Scripture themselves in regards how the church should participate in Disability advocacy and care.
9. What is your biggest pet peeve?- I have three 🙂
Everyone has the ability to DO something- refusing to allow someone to explore their ability or finding your own potential due to laziness.
Taking credit for someone else’s passion
And people who don’t push in their chairs
10. What is something that puzzles you?
The sheer cruelty of man- the ability and desire that some people embody to harm others
11. What is your favorite song?
Oh no! Another tough one! I have too many! A few right now that are ones I have to turn up the radio on are: Sidewalk Prophets “Live like that”, Casting CrownsPraise you in this storm” , Kutless “Even if”  Josh Groban “You are Loved” — just a few but I have so many more! 🙂

 

My Nominations:
Manda of Oddly Crazy
Leslie of Definingmydash
Cari of As I Follow
Katie at Living in Hebel
Andrew over at Reaching Youth for Christ
Heidi at Thoughts and random goodness
and Nut’s Notes 

My Questions for you:
1) What is the number one thing you want to do in your life? (work/pleasure)
2) What is your favorite down time thing to do?
3)What is your favorite animal and why?
4) What on earth do you most want to see before you die?
5) What is your weirdest comfort food item that people always question you about?
6) What do you like learning about the most? (subject or discipline)
7) What spiritual disciple do you grow through the most? (Prayer, quiet time, Bible reading etc)
8) What book do you recommend the most to read? (besides the Bible!:-)
9) If your house was on fire- besides family and pets- what is the first thing you would grab?
10) What was the name of your first pet?
11)Favorite season and why?

The saint who quotes Disney

This last Thursday (April 12th) I was awaken at 3:30 in the morning by a former roommate with the scary news that a friend was in the hospital with a brain tumor. My friend (JHK) was placed on life support and the doctors were planning on doing a test to see what level of brain activity she had. At 5:30am my friend called to tell me the sad news.

JHK had died at the age of 25. She had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary a few weeks earlier.  She died so unexpectedly and so quickly that I, my friends, and the campus where we all went to school together are reeling from the shock.

She had a large, cancerous brain tumor that she didn’t know about. It had been causing headaches, but headaches are easy to explain away. We don’t know how long she had it, but we know it took her. Just that Monday she had been out with her husband and another friend to go see a Blazer’s game enjoying life. And that quickly, she’s gone.

It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around it all for numerous reasons.

She was so young.                                                                                                                            It happened so quickly.                                                                                                                                         She had her whole life ahead of her.                                                                                                Did we miss the signs?                                                                                                                   I just saw her!                                                                                                                                      …and so many more…

JHK was a pleasure to know. If you simply mentioned a Disney movie, she would start singing a song from it or quoting a favorite scene. She loved Disney. Between her , my former roommate, and another friend, I started to enjoy it a whole lot more during the 6 years I have gotten to know the three of them.

I don’t recall one time that I was around her that she didn’t have a ready smile. I know she had her bad days, but she was always eager to move onto the good times. She was always willing to be helpful and generous to those around her.

She was going back to school to get her Master’s in Teaching and I know that she would have been a wonderful teacher. She LOVED children. Children loved her. Her natural exuberance swept kids up in the adventures that she created. Her infectious joy forced even the grumpiest person to smile.

She will be greatly missed. Her laughter, her joy, and her love all had a childlike honesty that epitomized who she was, will be missed.

The JHK who lived was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a believer, a recent graduate from a Bible college, a teacher, a graduate student, and a good friend.

The JHK who passed away from this world is now eternally God’s child, a saint who stands before the throne of Christ. She is the saint who we will join in worshipping our God with this coming Sunday. She’s the saint that will be watching what we are doing. She’s the saint who will be praying for us. Because she was a child of the God who died for her, she was welcomed home along with many other saints.

So when it’s your time to go home, she’ll be there welcoming you. Just remember that she’s a good friend. She’ll be the saint who quotes Disney movies.

~JHK- you will be greatly missed- until we meet again! RIP 4/12/12

~ Psalms 56:8- You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.

~Psalm 147:3- He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

From JHK’s favorite Disney movie Aladdin- “You’ve never had a friend like me!”~ The Genie

Changing the World- MLK Jr

Today is the birthday of the late great Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Days like this, I wonder, have we succeeded in making his dreams come true?
Sure, we now have an African- American man in the Oval Office, but how is the prejudice and the racial stereotyping?
I personally think that we have just gotten really good at hiding our politically INcorrect language and feelings. Perhaps our children are not quite as prejudice as our grandparents were, but are they truly changing the world with true tolerance?  (By tolerance, I am not talking about today’s wishywashy understanding of tolerance, but God’s divine love where despite our brokenness and sin riddled souls he still loves us)- It is a known fact that to be prejudiced is actually a learned trait, it’s not breed into us like our eye color or height.
Faking tolerance by cleaning up our language isn’t what is going to change the world- it is in actually reaching out and creating relationships with those who we term ‘different.’ It’s about encouraging one another to change our basic attitude. It’s about learning to love one another on the truly spiritual Body of Christ way.
This means that our church, local and global, is the last place where prejudice should be found.
How is our church stacking up to God’s decree? When we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves in James 2:8; to love each other as Christ loves us in John 13:34; we were ALL created in God’s image as can be evidenced in Genesis 1:26-27; and God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for US ALL John 3:16.
Are we loving each other the way we should?
Are we loving each other as Rev. King had hoped we would by now?
You be the judge.
And remember- “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 38).”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.” -MLK Jr
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”-MLK Jr

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from MLK’s “Loving Your Enemies”)”

Here’s hoping that the world changes even more before we leave it. Praying for change and the gumption to be part of it.

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