When all you want is Macaroni and Cheese

Over the past 25 years of my life, there’s been one Thanksgiving that has stuck out over the rest.

I was about nine and my parents had decided to host the year’s Thanksgiving festivities. Unlike the years before, both sides of our family, plus our next-door neighbors were all invited. The house had been cleaned from roof to floor, and the sugary smell of sweet potatoes began to linger in the air. The doorbell rang and guests began filing in, filling up our tiny living room. I remember walking through crowds of people, ducking my head down to avoid hitting their elbows. Our house was packed.

Around noon, I took a break from playing with my cousins upstairs to run down to the kitchen to check out the meal’s menu. I looked on each counter and peaked in each pot on the stove only to find that I didn’t like anything being prepared. I immediately began hunting for my mom. When I found her, I ‘kindly’ suggested that she make me macaroni and cheese, but was given a blunt ‘no’ in return. With an outburst of anger, which was a typical response from me at that age, I grabbed a plate, a piece of turkey, and a roll and ran upstairs to my bathroom. I sat in the floor, on my fuzzy green bath mat, crying. I hated ham. I hated yams. And I hated Thanksgiving.

Thank God my perspective, and my taste, has changed.

This past Sunday, I was hanging out with a few of my friends, when someone suggested that we go around the circle and tell everyone the top 3 things we are thankful for. To be honest, the question was a bit difficult, for there are many things I am thankful for. I mean, what would I do without my coffee pot, a warm bed, and the job I have?

After much thought, here’s where I landed (in no particular order):

My Family.

I cannot think of a day that my family has not impacted. My dad is a constant force in my life. In a world that continually begs for you to be something different than you really are, it’s refreshing to see someone who doesn’t listen. He’s himself, and he’s fully okay with that. If someone asked me to list the people in this world I respected the most, he would be on that list. He truly shows me, on a weekly basis, what it means to serve, love and support others.

My mom is my mom – and that’s almost all I can say. She may be one of the most outgoing women I know, and I love that about her. The word “stranger” is not in her vocabulary, for she has never met one, and within a few seconds she can update anyone on what’s going on in the lives of those around her. Throughout my life, she has opened her arms not only to me, but also to all of my friends. The way she loves and encourages others is warm and inspirational. She is quite possibly one of the most kind and compassionate women I know.

My sister, Natalie (I call her Sissy), and The Martin Clan (her husband Ryan and their four children, Jackson, Macy, Cooper and Kate) bring such joy to my life. My life would look dramatically different without their presence in it. My sister has always been a continual means of encouragement in my life. She offers advice and lovingly points me in the right direction when my attitude, thoughts or actions are a little off course. Watching her and Ryan balance their life with love and intention always evokes awe in me. From Jackson, 5, to Macy, 3, and on down to Cooper and Kate, 6 months, I thank the Lord for this cute little family. I’m blessed to get to be a part of their lives.


Friends are one of the things I continually thank God for. I mean, God is God and he can do what he wishes so the fact that he designed us to live life with others, and then provided others to live life with is astonishing to me.

This year, possibly more than ever, I’ve grown to appreciate the gift of friendship. With the establishment of new relationships, to the strengthening of older ones, I’ve gotten to see how the Lord really uses friendship to shape who you are and who you’re becoming. From my roommate, to my Community Group, over to the MEGA Girls, I’ve learned to appreciate the unique design God used when creating each of us. My college friends, and post-college friends, have shown me what it means to faithfully invest in the lives of others. I’m extremely thankful for the love and truth they offer, and feel privileged to get to spend my days with them.

The Holy Spirit.

Every morning when I wake up, I brew a cup (or 4cups) of coffee, sit down with my Bible, a pen, and a journal and get to thinking. I don’t get far before I feel compelled to thank God for the light that allows me to see, the coffee that keeps me awake, the water that I have that many others don’t, the Bible I read, and the aptitude to write. I thank Him for the ability to speak to Him without having to stand behind a curtain, and the ability to have fellowship with Him through His grace. You see, the fact that I have a relationship with him was not of anything I did myself. All I did was respond to what He was doing in my heart. It’s pretty amazing that I can know Him. I’m thankful for His direction. If I were guiding myself, I’d end up in places that I know my heart would not benefit from. He knows where I’m going, and He is my only hope. He’s for certain – the only thing worth banking on – and this Thanksgiving, as every other day, I’m thankful for His guidance and the growth that has come out of it.

If I had to be honest with anyone, I would say that I’m still not a huge fan of turkey and ham, and I STILL think that we’re missing out on a great thing by not having Macaroni and Cheese as a part of our Thanksgiving Day spread, but, at age 25, there’s a lot more to the meal than a cheesy covered shell. There’s the celebration of life and all that comes with it! There’s the gratitude in knowing that we deserve nothing but are given much.

Now, that’s worth celebrating.

A Thing is More Than a Thing

I have come to believe that nothing is just something. Just when you think a book is just a book, you end up learning something profound in its pages. A song becomes more than just a fine melody when you gain clarity through one of its stanzas…I could go on for hours.

Two weeks ago, I went on a trip to New York City.

From the moment we landed I knew the trip was going to be freeing. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, and my Toms made their way out of my suitcase. I breathed deeply and got ready for the adventure at hand.

Setting off from our hotel, we walked down 5th Avenue, checked out Trump Tower, strolled down Broadway and 7th, and trucked it through Central Park. We took pictures of the Dakota, the last residence and murder spot of John Lennon, and ventured through Strawberry Fields. The history was rich. My respect for the city grew. As we walked around, I remember admiring the fashion and the way people hurried in their business suits from one place to other. I was fascinated by the tall cathedrals and beautifully constructed buildings, and, to be completely honest, was a bit envious of the way in which people seemed to be taking on their dreams.

That night, as I was walking into my room to go to bed, I told my mom, “This place makes me want to succeed at something.” I would soon realize the depth of that statement.

The next morning, I woke up and went down to the deli next to our hotel. I bought a cup of coffee, pulled out my Bible and pen, and started reading. I came across this verse, and it wouldn’t leave me alone:
Jeremiah 7:23&24 reads, “But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.”

You see, a big part of my story is a continual struggle with trying to find meaning in things that were never purposed to give me such. On this list are a variety of things: a reputation; a certain amount of money; a job title; a particular body shape; and a busy schedule. On that day, in that little deli, I realized that many of the things that once plagued me were, once again, beginning to offer me a dose of their toxins. The idols had fallen off of their thrones, but they had not been destroyed.
Psalm 81:9&10 reads, “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to any alien god. I’m the Lord your God…open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

In that moment, I realized that my heart was becoming unfaithful. The success that I desired the night before was not the right kind of success. It was success geared at making much of me, and not much of God. I was amazed at how easily an environment had influenced my heart. Would I seek God if I lived in New York City? The question haunted me.

On the plane ride home, later that week, I thought about the question. I spun it around in my head. I looked at the people on the plane, and then thought about it some more. Here’s the answer I came to:
My pursuit of anything that leads me away from God’s design for me is futile. Through my own pain and rebellion,

I’ve learned that one thing is certain – God deals with the sinner whom He loves, and He does what He wills to capture his or her heart again. I could live in NYC and pursue all there is to pursue. I could chase money, success, things, status, etc., but deep down I know that all of those things would lead me to a state of emptiness. I’d end up in a place wanting nothing more than life, joy and peace. I’d end up in a dark place asking God to, once again, turn my life around. It’s a circle.

You see, things that weren’t designed to fill us never can.
Matt Chandler frequently talks about the fact that we are our own number one joy robber. I think it’s legit. No one thing robs me of my joy as much as I do. My decisions, my choices to ignore the convictions the Holy Spirit places on my life, my declarations to go my own way when desiring something of this world, they all rob me.

In Christ is life. Drinking of Him means to drink life at the fullest possible level. When my walk with Him is thrown off, when my fellowship with Him is interrupted, my life lacks peace and my heart becomes ill.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within” (John 7:37&38).

My little trip to New York was no longer just a trip to New York. It had become an instrument the Lord had used to reveal to me the depth of my brokenness and my desperate need for Him. I was aware, more than ever, of my idols. He used the experience to remind me that He created me, and He knows what satisfies. He satisfies, and He alone is God.