Monday, January 24, 2011

Angels and Contemplation from Country

"Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it." Hebrews 13:2.
This verse is so incredible to me. Like seriously and completely incredible. As a girl and especially as Shelby McKenzie, I have always analyzed situations and people and have always asked the infamous "What ifs?" and "I wonders."For example, in junior high, I would constantly wonder who my prom date would be in high school (funny thing is, my first prom date would be the guy I was currently "dating"- which means who you smiled at and waved to from your locker and who you definitely talked on your HOME phone to or if you were lucky your cell phone- in junior high). So precious right? Then some days after I had probably watched The Notebook or Father of the Bride (I mean her last name becomes MCKENZIE for crying out loud) a few too many times, I would wonder if I knew my husband or had ever seen him before. I am quite sure however he was not roaming the halls of good old BHS, but life could throw that massive curve balls someday. Back to the point, then there's always been the chilling question of what if I have seen an angel before? Although to some people that seems radical and extreme, the verse above suggests it might be possible. I am not sure in what dynamic or experience that verse means or encompasses, but it is neat to think that it is truly possible.
So what do I think of when I think of this verse? Yes, my name is Shelby McKenzie, so my mind goes to country music and a particular song at that. "What if She's An Angel?" You might write it off as a cheesy country song, but have you ever really contemplated the lyrics?
"What if she's an angel sent here from Heaven, and she's making certain that you're doing your best to take the time to help one another, brother are you going to pass that test?"
Once again, the suggestion to show hospitality to all who you encounter on a daily basis. The verse and the song above both always just hit a certain spot in my heart and mind. I just want to know if I have ever "entertained an angel," and if I did, did I "pass that test?" In the hustle and bustle of this crazy world and life, I know there are countless days when if I did encounter a stranger in the middle of my "so important schedule and tasks" I honestly probably wouldn't pass that test. It really does make you stop and think about how you treat the people who weave their way into one day of your life and people that you may never see again. How did you impact them, or did you even take the time to recognize them?
Once again, you are going to read the following and say I am being extremely cheesy or just totally off my rocker, but I can't help but WONDER. This past summer, I was taking classes in Oxford, and one afternoon I went with a friend to Kroger and had to wait in the car with the puppy we had just adopted from the animal shelter (yes we became foster parents to a dog- didn't even know that was possible) as she ran inside. As I was sitting in the car, this old lady came out of the store carrying a TON of grocery bags to the car beside ours. Now, we were parked right outside of the entrance, but this lady looked like she had seen quite a few decades of life and like she was about to literally break in half. The next thing I know, I am opening the car door, getting the dog situated in the seat, and then approaching this elderly lady and asking her if she needed help with her bags. It took her a second to consent- I think she thought she was fully capable of carrying twice her body weight in bags- but she finally handed me the bags as I loaded them into her car. I don't say this to toot my own horn because I was most likely searching for a way to get away from the overly-hyper dog for a few minutes, but I say this because of the woman's reaction. When I put the last bag in her car and shut the door, she smiled at me as she turned her head to the side and said, "Well, you got your brownie points today didn't you?" Something about what she said and the way she said it stuck with me. I am not suggesting that this old lady was an angel and hid her wings underneath her little-old-lady sweaters, but there's always the "What if."
Maybe that's how we should approach people in life and how we should interact with the people we encounter throughout our daily routines. Maybe, just maybe, we should act as if everyone we encounter is an angel. We should prove to everyone that we are capable of taking the time to help others. We should prove that we are capable of putting others before ourselves. We should prove we can set aside our busy schedules, pride, time, resources, etc. etc. and "pass that test."
Because at the end of the day, what if he/she was an angel?
And at the end of the day, can you look back with a smile on your face and a servant heart and say I passed that test?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Letting Go of the Boat and Stepping out on the Waves

So I try to include a Lucy moment in each blog, but I easily think this ranks in top 10 at least. I am actually a little mortified that I am seriously including this in the post, BUT I had no choice. I was basically told I had to share this blog with you (I will get to that later). So yes, unfortunately, that is me in this picture. I am sure if my friends are reading this, especially friends that have never seen this picture, you're laughing at me right now. Jerks. So this was my Sophomore year of high school, and our Homecoming theme that year was movies. My class had Pirates of the Carribean, so obviously our float was a pirate ship- and an amazing, float-winning pirate ship at that. So, one night when we are building the float, someone said we needed someone to be the statue on the front of the ship- like how old pirate ships/ships in general had things carved into the front of the boat. Well, everyone's eyes turned and looked straight at me; I guess they knew I was the retard who would go along with this idiocy. A few days later, my entire body is painted gold, my hair in balls on the side of my head, and I held that pose for a good thirty minutes throughout an entire parade where the entire town could see me. Pretty tragic, I know.

So you might be wondering where in the world I am going with this day of humiliation? Well, let's fast-forward four years. Once again, I am a Sophomore, and once again, I am the statue on the front of the boat (but thankfully only on a figurative level this time.) You see, I am the statue on the front of the boat again because for a while now I have been trying to navigate the ship of my own life. I have been trying to handle every situation on my own, and I have been trying to find all the answers and fight all the battles how I thought I should. Don't get me wrong, I had good intentions and did not waver in my faith, but I was not fully letting go of the wheel. I was scared of the uncertainty of the waves and how the waves might change the direction of my ship. Where did this leave me? It left me not behind the captain's seat but clinging to the front of the ship with all that I had. I was so close to the waves but did not want to let go. I tried to embed myself into the ship and be that statue.
Yet, God does not let you stay in the comfort zone and safehaven of the ship all the time. There are times when He calls out to you from the waves and all of their uncertainties, and He is asking you to trust Him despite the uncertainty. The past few weeks, my ship has not gone in the direction I wanted it to go in, and it was not until this past week that I finally heard a voice calling out from the waves to my heart. It was a voice that was saying, "Are you done yet? I have been here watching you try to navigate alone this whole time, and although the gold paint and ridiculous hair looked awesome a few years ago, why don't you come off the boat for a little while? Join me out here on the water." For the longest time I have said "Nope I am good. I have got everything under control here. I like where my boat is going, and I know this is what I need to be doing. Look at those waves anyways. They're huge. No way I am coming out there. Not happening." Yet. this past week, I finally let go of the front of the boat. I finally let go of my pride. I finally let go of my thinking that I was the perfect navigator. I finally started to say, "Ok, I am surrounded by the uncertainty of these waves, and even though I have no idea what you have in store for me, I am still going to let go of the boat and step out on the waves."
Can I tell you that I had an instant feeling of peace like I had never experienced before- or at least in a while, and that was with only one "boat" in my life! Although I have no idea what direction the waves will take me, I know that there's a God who teaches me how to walk on top of the waves and who leads the way. He provides peace in the midst of uncertainty and promises hope despite the uncertainty.
Now, you might be wondering why I said earlier that I was basically told to use such an embarrassing picture in my post or why in the world I am comparing myself to a statue on the front of a boat and so excited about stepping out into the "waves" of life? I had thought of writing this post a few days ago when I was so excited about my new peace. Yet, over the past few days, the peace had begun to wear away and the uncertainty began to set it, and I was not as enthusiastic. However, today I was listening to the radio in my car, and I switched the station to K-love. I did not know the song that was playing, so I went to change it to another station when a voice in my head told me to wait. So I let the song play through, and then the next song started. Do you want to know what the FIRST lines of that song were?
"Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in onto the crashing waves.To step out of my comfort zone, to the realm of the unknown where Jesus is, and He's holding out His hand."
My heart froze. I had thought of this post a few days before, and now I was pretty much receiving the confirmation that I had to share this. More than that, I was receiving the confirmation that God knew I was scared of the "realm of the unknown." He knew that I had been seeing it as "letting go of the front of my boat." He knew that I was still nervous as I tried to learn how to "walk on the waves." Yet, he sent me a message today saying that peace was real. He sent me a message saying that He had a plan for the realm of the unknown. He sent me a message saying that He was holding out his hand. He sent me a message saying you let go. Now just step out. So that is exactly what I am doing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


ALOHA. I have been absent from the blogging world for a few weeks now, so I am starting off my new post with a terribly cheesy pun. Just go with me. Aloha- hasn't it been stated before that it is the Hawaiian lingo for hello AND goodbye? Well, if this is true, then ALOHA would be the perfect one-word description for New Years as we say farewell to one year and warmly welcome the clean slate and fresh pavement of a new one. So ALOHA 2010 and ALOHA 2011. Extremely cheesy, but you know you smiled, or you at least had a sympathetic shake of your head for me. So thank you. (SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS LONG.)
As everyone routinely reflects on the previous year when New Years rolls around, I have looked back on the past year and have struggled to find a way to sum it all up. Hence, this is why the post is January 8th not January 1st. Yet, I finally have found the most accurate nutshell for my 2010, and this is what my nutshell would be:
"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13.
I say this because when I look back at the past year of my life, my year was full of change and full of growth, but the one factor that never diminished or changed was love and love on so many aspects and levels. 2010 was permeated with love, and this love came in the form of an eye of a storm, a flashlight, and a maid. (I would love to see half of your faces right now because I am sure some of you are completely in bewilderment, but I do have a train of thought here- so at least get on the caboose.)
Love as a an eye of a storm- This love is the description that has encompassed my friends for the past year. Whether it was new friends in May made through the chaos of changing my major and having to take summer classes or the friend since Kindergarten that spent five hours in a hospital with me when I was scared with two concussions in October, my friends' love the past year has been the eye of a storm. No matter what chaos or bad time I was experiencing, they were the peace and the calm wedged in the middle of it. From being a shoulder to cry on to a card that had Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson's picture pasted in it (weird obsession that no one but a few people would understand) to being locked in a bathroom with a hair straightner as a weapon when I was convinced someone was inside of Tara's condo, my friends have truly made every storm the past year seem like a rain shower and have danced with me in the rain.
Love as a flashlight- This is the love of my family. The past year has been full of changes for me, but they have always been there to shed their guiding light on every situation and have been a source of light in my daily life. My parents supported me in May when I decided to change my major on a whim- even when I had absolutely no idea where that was going to take me. My mom answered the 3934545 phone calls in the spring when I was about to have anxiety meltdowns over chemistry tests. In the fall, when I had a completely broken heart, my mother was there with a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and of course boot shopping :). When I had two concussions in a span of two days, my mom drove like a maniac and brightened my day even when I was scared. In November, when I was holding Mr. Miller's hand while he was in the hospital, my sister was on the other side of the bed holding his other hand. No matter what, my family has always and will always be the light in my life.
Love as a maid- Last and certainly not least, the love from a Heavenly Father has been the maid in my life the past year. I have truly learned this past year that no matter how messy you make a situation, He will always clean it up. When the "spaghetti comes rolling down," He'll clean up every lost noodle. When your heart breaks, he reassembles every piece. He takes your trash out so to speak. He makes the ugly beautiful and makes the dirty clean. He washes out every stain. He is the example of a servant heart.
So that is what I have grasped from 2010. Love and its abundance. Heartbreak hurts. Death brings grief. Uncertainty reaps fear. Yet, love conquers all. It is the eye of the storm. It is the light to a darkened path. It is the maid who takes away your mess. IT is the GREATEST of these. I wish you all a happy new year and a 2011 that is full of love.