I’m just thankful.

Happy Sunday, friends! Sundays are my absolute favorite days because I get to love on the world’s cutest two-year-olds and hear another amazing message at my church that reminds me of the depths of my Father’s love for me. So yeah, Sundays kind of rock.

After church today, I came to my favorite coffee shop in Stillwater – Aspen Coffee. I love coming here because the baristas are so friendly, the playlist is second to none and the atmosphere (do I sound hipster yet??) is on point.

As I sit here in one of my favorite places, I can’t help but be so immensely thankful for everything God has done in my life. You know, too often, I don’t take time to simply be grateful. And I should.

As I was reading through my prayer journal (I get too easily distracted to pray in my head, so I like to journal my prayers), I noticed how much of it was me asking God for things. And although I always need to ask God for things, I also need to be thankful for everything He has already given me.

Looking back, I realize just how many signs of His affection I ignore because of my sinful, human heart. Too often, when I pray, I feel like God isn’t listening or present, when I’m the one who’s running away. I get so impatient in the waiting, and I insult God with my lack of faith.

Like my mom told me once, we want God to shout, but He speaks in whispers. For me, I always imagined this big, audible voice that would be like “ALLI. DO THIS.” But God doesn’t really work like that. (Which would probably be a little creepy anyway if you think about it.)

So I’ve never heard God directly speak to me before. But I have seen Him at work in me and in my life; it just takes time to realize it.

When I was thinking about college, I kept praying for God to show me where I needed to go. I never thought I was brave enough to go away to college because I’m incredibly shy. (Fun fact – When I was in middle school, my doctors actually asked my parents if I had problems because I was too scared to talk to them. I don’t blame them though…I’d get so nervous I couldn’t remember my name!)

But when I toured Oklahoma State, I met a professor named Dr. Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier was a special kind of person, one with kind eyes and a presence that made you feel like he’d known you your whole life. It was his encouragement that assured me OSU was the right choice.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Dr. Spurrier was God’s way of answering my prayer. I think God likes to surprise us like that. He uses ordinary, flawed people like ourselves to create a beautiful story. And like any great story, there’s a lot of conflict. There’s a lot of struggles. And there’s a lot of wrong turns. But in the end, it’s a story overflowing with grace, and it’s a story ending in triumph.

As I came to OSU, I was still nervous about being so introverted. (I am a proud INFJ personality type)  But God came through again by surrounding me with a community of people through a student organization called FRC. Then, through FRC, I met my best friend, Ciera, who led me to Life Church, where I have met the most genuine, kind people and found my worth and identity in Jesus.

Now, I have the awesome opportunity to intern with Life Church this summer not because I’m good but because God is good. And without Him, I could do nothing. God doesn’t need me at all. But God wants me. And he designed me for some purpose that I’m still figuring out, and I think that’s beautiful.

I used to beg God for answers. I don’t like the whole concept of not being control because I’m one of the biggest control freaks you’ll ever meet. But now, I’m pretty thankful God surprises me. I’m thankful I don’t know all the answers because I get the opportunity to follow Him in places I never dreamed.

You know, I think God likes to take us to the end of our comfort zone and give us a choice whether to stay there or follow Him further. And I want to keep following.

As I reflect on a few of the many blessings God has given me, I am overwhelmed by his unwavering love, forgiveness and grace through it all.

No matter what your story is, we have so much to be thankful for, friends. I have a roof over my head, love overflowing in my heart, and the freedom to worship my God without fear of persecution.

God is so present and interwoven in our lives, and I hope I stop to be still and praise Him for it.

He’s there in the people I meet; He’s there in the sunshine on a warm summer day; He’s there in the car when I commute to Edmond (and if you all know how I drive… you’d be thankful for that too!!)

Sending you so much love from this beautiful place I call my home in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Love Always,

Alli

PS: Sorry it’s been five billion years since I’ve written. Also, to be completely honest, I wrote this weeks ago but I get really nervous about posting so, ya know.

Being Kinder than Necessary

My mom has this bumper sticker that says, “Be Kinder than Necessary.” My dad teases her, but imagine a world where people focused their energy on irrational kindness. Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe in utopias (except Heaven, of course) but I do believe that there is an inherent goodness in everyone. And I believe that displaying that goodness through simple acts of kindness may be the best Bible some ever see.

It’s easy to be unkind in this world. Traffic triggers road rage; advertising advocates discontentment; technology tempts isolation. These negative forces make us unhappy, insecure, irritated and envious – emotions not conducive to kindness. Even worse, our schedules are constantly crammed, our stress levels skyrocket, and the news bombards us with the world’s problems. 

If we want to live happy lives, kind lives, godly lives, we have to love people the way Christ loves them. It’s not easy, and I fail every day. But sometimes the people who are hardest to love are the same people who need it the most. So where do we start?

Loving others begins when we find love for Christ.

If we don’t feel loved ourselves, how can we love others? God loves us with an unimaginable love, even on our worst days. And nothing we do will separate us from the love that is God. He made sure of that by sending His son to die for us. Isn’t that incredible?! Romans 8:38 says, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” God loved us when we didn’t love him back. God still loves us when we do stupid things and blame Him for them. God loves in our failures, in our weaknesses, in our successes and in our strengths. God loves always.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Once we recognize that we don’t deserve God’s unconditional love, it seems only fitting that we would strive to make his love known. If Jesus loves and forgives the people who literally put a crown of thorns on his head, I can love the person who cuts in line. If Jesus loves and forgives the people who screamed blasphemous insults at Him when He was dying for them, I can love the person who subtweets me. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it. I don’t deserve God’s love, but I have it. The least I can do is love others the way He wants me to.

Grateful people are happy, kind people.

Numerous studies have confirmed that the happiest people are the most grateful people. This makes sense because envy and discontentment breed bitterness. In our society, we adopt an unhealthy mentality that we always need more than what we have. It sickens me that I can complain about lack of wifi when millions of children lack water. I don’t say this to engender guilt but rather to prevent greed. After all, if we didn’t have money and resources, how could we help those in need? We just must remember to treasure what we have, not measure what we don’t. If we are content with our lives and ourselves, kindness will abound.

“Hurt people, hurt people. Forgiven people, forgive people.”

When people upset us, it’s our instinct to fight back. It’s true that we think without speaking, but with social media and texting, it’s even truer that we post without processing. In the heat of our anger, it’s all too easy to post things we would never say. But before we subtweet, before we push send, and before we ruin a friendship, we should remember that our temporary hurt is not worth permanent consequences. If we believe that God forgives us for every dumb thing we do, we can extend that same grace to others, who are just flawed humans like ourselves.

Focus on why, not what.

My counselor mom, who has more wisdom than anyone I know, is forever reminding me that there are reasons for people’s mean behavior. It’s easy to focus on what they are doing, but it takes true kindness to examine why they are doing it. Most of the time, insults aren’t personal attacks. They are often just misguided jealousy, insecurity, or anger from other problems. People come from broken homes. People fight addiction. People feel unloved. Recognizing the circumstances of others lessons anger. It doesn’t excuse their action, but it helps our reaction be more like Jesus. So sometimes people just need a little love and a little kindness. It’s not enough to tell people about Christ; we must show them.

Disclaimer: General Statements Ahead

Maybe I sound like a hippie trying to get everyone singing kumbayah. But lately, everyone keeps saying that Christ has evaded our culture. The problem isn’t that Jesus has left. The problem is that we aren’t living like Him. And living like Jesus starts with loving like Him. So my mom’s cheesy bumper sticker sums it all up: “Be Kinder than Necessary.”