Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Am (Still) Thankful

"Happy Thanksgiving. Life is good. Even when it is lousy, it is still good, and thank God for it."

Today is Thanksgiving. It has not been like any other Thanksgiving I have ever experienced. It has been a great day. Humor me the spurts of cliche and other chunks of random soon to follow, please...

I am thankful for my friends, the new and the old. I have always been blessed to be able to call some of the most amazing people in the world my friends. No, I'm not exaggerating-- it's minimally 100% true. I've also met some of the greatest and funnest people since coming to college. I did not expect any of these people and I do not know what I would do without any of them.

I am thankful for my my family, for the members of which who live near and far, those that I see often and those that I see occasionally. Like everyone else in my life, they are imperfect, and I am thankful for that too! They're always there for me, no matter what! Sorry to be repetitive, but I literally do not know what I would do without them. My family has done so much for me throughout my life and meant so much to me and I can't even to begin to imagine what my life would be like without any of it-- I wouldn't be the person I am or have had the opportunities I have head. It's immeasurable.

I'm not naming people specifically-- I think it would be long and tacky and ineffective-- but I do hope they know who they are.

I am thankful for my school, for the opportunity to go, for the learning, and for the people there. I am thankful for my church at home, the fellowship, and the word being taught there. Likewise, I am thankful for Intervarsity at school: for the fellowship, the word being taught there, for others at school dedicated to Christ to grow with, learn with, have fun with, and worship with. And I am thankful for more, still...

I am (not least of all!!) thankful for the awesome God who has put all of those people who mean so much to me. I am thankful for His unfailing grace, His unchanging presence, and His unending control over my life. I am thankful for the security, comfort, and peace that I only have in Him and always have in Him no matter what is going on in my life. I am thankful for the fact that there is a reason for everything and that no trial that I've been through has been a waste-- only because of His hand. I am thankful because there is a perfect plan that He crafted. I am thankful that I don't need to be hopeless. I am thankful for the life I have to look forward to: the gift of the life I'm living with the people I know and the gift of eternal life with those people that I miss included. I'm thankful for His forgiveness and second chances, that I don't lose the latter life.

I titled this post "I Am (Still) Thankful" because that's really been on my heart all day. I'm so thankful for this day, it's been great. I had the blessing to be able to be home with my mom and to go to my aunt Sara's house and see my grandma and some of my cousins and my aunts and uncle. The food was awesome (Hey, if you read this, seriously, Sara... so good!!), the company was great (as always), and we had fun playing "a card game" (we are the most horrible, it's delightful). But all that being said, and not diminishing that at all: today was not easy. There was a hole. A hole in the shape of my dad... I left the house today without spending a half hour waiting for him to find his tacky Santa-on-the-beach neck tie. No one, to my knowledge, made the raw turkey dance on the counter before it entered the oven. Today I was not coerced into watching a tacky holiday movie, the Macy's parade, the dog show, or a dark comedy that's completely inappropriate for the holiday. It was foreign. I miss him, so extremely much that I can't begin to put it into words. And this doesn't make it completely okay but: I'm thankful that my dad was a guy that we would miss. I'm not thankful that I miss him, not thankful for his absence. But I'm thankful for the time we spent with him. I'm thankful for his loyalty to a stupid tie that made us late for a special occasion at least once a year, for the crassly dancing turkey, and for watching "Eulogy" and "The Producers" before holiday meals (while normal people probably watched "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" or something). Honestly, this doesn't begin to cover what's on my mind... but I'm thankful that God has seen my family and I through this. I'm thankful for my family and friends getting me through this, too-- for everything they've said and done. And I'm thankful that I'm able to count on seeing my dad again one day in heaven!

Even through everything that has happened this year, especially the past almost four months, the hard times I've faced (my family is well)... I've experienced a lot of good. Like the quote says, life's still good, even when it's lousy-- thank God for it (Keillor, 1990). Yes, I am (still) thankful.

A snapshot of today: family playing Cards Against Humanity: keeping it a bit raunchy in true family get-together fashion. It was funny, as you can see.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Paved by grace.

The drive between my school and my home is about an hour each way. To put it simply, college keeps me busy. But the drive offers the time to think and to feel that I don't necessarily allow myself otherwise.

I've been thinking a lot about what I'm doing in life: about the road I'm on, where it's headed, even what it's made of. Today, I'm somewhere on I-94 (figures, I reach a conclusion about my metaphorical road while literally driving on a road) with a Beatles compilation on high volume. I've just changed lanes for the third time to placate the excessive seeming road construction. Yesterday  ("Yesterday/all my troubles seemed so far away...") starts and the past couple of months replay in my head-- a collage of shortcomings, loss, circumstance, and and even triumph-- all painstakingly and still a blur. Yet this is where a realization hits me; somehow, this is where I feel it.

The road I'm on is paved by grace.

At first, that may seem to be an obscure sentiment. Maybe it is. Allow me to explain (and indulge my penchant for lexical definitions). According to Merriam-Webster, "pave" is a transitive verb meaning: "1 :  to lay or cover with material (as asphalt or concrete) that forms a firm level surface for travel" and "2 :  to cover firmly and solidly as if with paving material."  It originates from Latin's "pavire"-- "to strike, to pound." The day I became I Christ-follower, God started a most impressive road construction project (the only one I'm thankful for!). He paved the rough road I was on with His grace. He didn't make it comfortable or easy, simple or straight. However, where I once found road blocks that lacked detours, causing me to make asinine circles as I got so frequently lost? Starting that day, I found navigable road.  

One of Merriam-Websters definitions of "grace" is "unmerited divine assistance" and I couldn't dream of putting it more eloquently. With that grace, the new surface of my path, my journey is no longer controlled by my mistakes-- from the minute cracks to the gaping potholes, if you will. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, "sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14, NIV). I found out that nothing in my life that I'd encountered on my road so far and nothing I would ever traverse was too rough to be not only covered or smoothed but perfected by God's grace. Like Paul explained to the church at Corinth... His grace is sufficient. "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9a, NIV). I know it's more than sufficient for me.

I invite (though it requires no invitation) you to check out that grace... It's made for a beautiful drive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"this is small stuff" (in loving memory of William Halsey Braus - a eulogy)

Elkhorn Garage - Elkhorn, WI - 7/31/14
 My father was many things. He was a faithful man, a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend, an electrician, and a jokester— just to name a few of the roles he played. But what can I really tell you about my dad? He liked his family together, preferably the whole extended family, surely around an overfilled holiday dinner table. He liked his hot dogs Chicago-style sans the relish. He preferred his lawn freshly mowed and a bonfire ablaze. He enjoyed second-rate (or, likely, worse) cheesy horror movies. He drank coffee by the gallon but blatantly refused to set foot in a Starbucks. My dad was the master of stereotypical dad-jokes, Halloween, loud (old) music, and embarrassing me (as well as my mom, if she was so very lucky). He kept his comedy constant and often a little dark—because, after all, life is funny, and he knew we should find ways to laugh, even when it was hard to. 
before Christmas Eve church service - 12/24/13
 In that same vein, my dad brought positivity to many situations where it was desperately needed. He was honestly a pessimist. Yet, he could be overwhelmingly positive for such a person. Even when things felt out of control to me, my dad was always quick to remind me that it could be worse, that I could get through it, and that God has a plan. For as long as I have remembered, he has given me these words to live by: ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff; it’s the big stuff that’s gonna kill ya.’ And before I could ever open my mouth to protest that it was indeed big stuff going on, he would always nonchalantly assure me with some variation of, “Kid, this is small stuff.” Despite the huge loss that many of us are feeling with my dad’s passing, I KNOW that if he could, he would say the same now. That’s the first thing he would want us to learn from his life and to remember. 
way back//my dad was a fangirl
The second thing, I believe, is to help others as often as possible with whatever abilities we have. My dad had a true servant’s heart and he’s always tried to teach me that to do something for someone else, as selflessly as possible, is the best thing to do. Many of you (who knew him) can attest to this. Whether someone needed a light installed, a dryer fixed, a lawn mowed, someone to talk to, or anything else he could help with—he was a phone call away and willing to help as long as it was within his abilities. I remember earlier this year in the middle of the night, some friends and I (they know who they are) ended up stranded in a Walgreens parking lot after a car breakdown and I called him thinking he would be annoyed but he, albeit groggily, got out of bed and came as quickly as possible. He joked around about how he got the short straw being the dad who was called at midnight but he didn’t genuinely grumble at all, even though the circumstances were annoying and frivolous. My point, is that not only would he help others in whatever situation he could (no matter how ridiculous), he did it without complaint.
~many moons ago~
 In Acts chapter 20, verse 35, the apostle Paul is delivering his parting words to the Ephesian elders. He gives a long speech and imparts all kinds of wisdom, but the last thing he tells them is this: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” I believe that amongst all the advice my father gave throughout his life, if he had been given the opportunity, his parting words to all of us would’ve been similar. My dad would’ve reminded to us to help others, even—or especially if—it’s hard, and that it is better to serve than to be served.  
Proudly posing with our massive, home-grown pumpkin - October 2012
  Finally, I know that my dad is in heaven and that this is not truly a goodbye, merely a “see you later.” Even so, it’s difficult. But in light of that I encourage you, as he would have, to use your time meaningfully by helping others. And don’t forget, as he would tell us: “this is small stuff.”
Note: I KNOW it has been forever since I have posted on this blog. But this made a reason for me to do so. My dad went home to heaven on the sixth and this is my eulogy for him.