Love Gets Good

It rained that morning.

You were full of excuses; forever the king of justifications, the king of reasons why.

That was the morning I stopped believing anyone who says the words “I wish I could, but…”

This week I sat at my favorite hotel restaurant, the one with the floor to ceiling windows and white linen tablecloths.

The dark clouds reminded me of that morning. I thought about how I always knew your coffee order and that I am almost certain you never knew mine.

I never showed up to you holding a vanilla latte.

That was what my coffee order back then. Sometimes caramel, but mostly vanilla. I can’t remember how many times I must have ordered one standing next to you, but I would be willing to bet¬†you never noticed.

Because there are some people that never know the coffee order of the person standing next to them. Then there are those that could list the coffee orders, birthdays, and eye colors for people they’ve¬†met only a handful of times.

As my hands wrapped around that little white mug that splashed on that white linen table cloth, I laughed that I couldn’t¬†remember the last time I had a vanilla latte.

There are also those of us who spend years being walking apologies to someone who will never know how we take our coffee. Even after we showed up at their door with their exact order more times than we could count.

There is a temptation to be bitter, but I think I just feel sad for the person¬†who may never know what it feels like to show up at someone’s door and know what they need even before they do. To have pulled yourself outside of your introspective mind long enough to hear someone say,¬†skinny vanilla latte. Just long enough to store it and to think, I care about this person enough that¬†one day,¬†I’ll use these words.

I lived inside of my head for most of my childhood.

I didn’t realize how dark and greedy it was until I realized that I didn’t know what it was to love another outside of myself. That I never valued¬†the thoughts of another, never truly treasured another’s feelings over my own.¬†I¬†lived inside a monologue with an audience of one.

That way of living and thinking never hears or cares about the coffee order of someone else, doesn’t remember birthdays, doesn’t memorize the sound of another’s laugh. It doesn’t care if someone sits alone. It never notices the pain of the person who knows your exact coffee order, who shows up on all your birthdays, who gets disappointed when you only want to converse with yourself. It only notices its own pain, its own weakness, its own feelings, its own¬†I’m-so-exhausted-and-I-don’t-feel-like-it. It only notices its own¬†I’m-just-not-good-at-remembering-things…

Get good.

Because love gets good.

Love gets good at making and ordering coffee (or tea) for others. It gets good at warm hugs, birthday cards, saying¬†I still see you, I notice you.¬†Love gets good at saying I’ll be there, gets good at getting out of bed and fighting through exhaustion to make good on that promise. Love gets good at cutting the meeting short and making it to the recital on time. Love gets good at remembering anniversaries and birthdays, because love gets good at noticing pain and wanting to avoid it¬†the few times in life when it is possible.

Love gets good. It starts to see the joy of sacrificing our own convenience to show the depth of our affection to another.

To force our brain to remember a coffee order and a birthday. To stop and to give a hug when running late, to make eye contact when you really need to be in a meeting. To stay at the dinner table a little longer, even though the game is on.

I take my coffee differently these days: this was what I thought as I took the last sip of the morning, and left the restaurant. I wondered if you still take yours the same.

 

 

 

It Won’t Be the 2nd Floor Apartment: Moving, Questions, and Short Seasons

The first few weeks I lived here I came home every night and watched the 2016 Olympics. I cried every time Michael Phelps won another Olympic medal. It didn’t really matter that I knew he was going to win before he jumped in the pool, the end of his career still stirred something in me.

I’m packing up my apartment and I knew this day would come. That’s the thing about apartments, you know they aren’t permanent. You know the end before it happens. You know you’re one day going to pack up all your boxes, take all the pictures off of the wall, scrub the cabinets, and try to figure out how to secure all the breakables.

Yesterday¬†I sat in the office of a friend, he crossed his arms over his white plaid shirt and smiled, “Whatever the next step is, it probably won’t feel like¬†a clear¬†yes at first, it will probably just feel something like¬†well, it’s not a no.¬†Then, you’ll just keep taking steps and asking questions. And you might always have questions, but somewhere in there, you will find a yes.”

Suddenly, I was sitting on that street corner again, looking at myself ten¬†months ago deciding whether or not to move to this city, rent this apartment, change my entire life. I followed that nudge, that¬†well it’s not a no. I kept asking questions, and in the midst of it, however short it turned out to be,¬†there was a yes.

There was always a yes. Nestled there¬†in the¬†crying in the kitchen, laughing at work, my plunger emergency, the literal¬†ceiling caving in, sleepless nights and exams, my beloved Chick-fil-a man, learning how to let go, how to stand up, nearly dying from a migraine, hosting the best Christmas party ever, my sister getting married¬†and then getting pregnant, having one of the most absurd¬†“define-the-relationship” conversations ever, forming unlikely friendships.¬†There was¬†a yes, there in the deepest part of my soul, even though I had¬†a billion questions.

“God didn’t allow this moment to make you weaker. Don’t let it make you weaker.”

His words were once again exactly what I needed to hear. Because questions can have that kind of power when we let them. They can make our knees feeble and our hearts weary, we can find ourselves doubting and uncertain that we’re on the right path, or that we ever got on the right one in the first place.

Having questions doesn’t mean you’re weak and it doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong path. Sometimes it takes a person (who was a stranger just¬†months ago), whom you met at a place (that some might say seemed like a “wrong turn”), to show you that questions and short seasons often keep you right on track.

Stop feeling guilty for your questions, your short seasons, things that¬†didn’t work out like you expected, or for crying when MP predictably wins a medal or you predictably have to move¬†again.

This moment doesn’t have to make you weaker, guilty,¬†or fearful. There’s something ahead and it won’t really matter if it lasts for nine months or nine years. It will be the right turn, the right time, the right track. You’ll cry when it’s over and you’ll cry while it’s happening. You’ll gain and lose along the way, you’ll find the¬†yes in the middle somewhere and you’ll keep asking questions until you find yourself asking a question that takes you to a different turn.

And one day you’ll move your boxes to a new place. You will set up the tv, turn it on¬†and make a new memory. It won’t be Phelps at the 2016 Olympics and it won’t be Raleigh. It won’t be the 2nd floor apartment with the perfect sunset view or the closet that smells like Christmas. It won’t be right down the street from the Harris Teeter with the annoying kid who never stops talking. But it will be home again and there will be people there waiting to love you and people that you’ll hope to never leave.

But if and when you do, they are what you will know made this whole thing¬†the right turn. Even though it hurts and even though it’s a lot of logistics, labor, inconvenience. The women who laughed with you, prayed with you, let you vent and cry in the hard moments. The bosses who sat with you, heard your questions, processed your pain, valued your voice. The men who kept you laughing, whose comfort and encouragement reminded you that honor and integrity are worth whatever the cost, who cheered you on when you thought you might give in. When you’re packing it all up–questioning why and trying to understand it all–they are what and who will make you certain that thought it wasn’t what you expected, you made the right turn after all.

There’s No Quick Fix for Your Health or Heart

This blog post is brought to you by the fact that I’m about to start a quick juice cleanse.

That being said, I’ve recently been on this insane tirade about cleanses, fad diets, and the Whole30 obsessed culture we live in that is looking for a quick fix¬†while trying to avoid a life of discipline and self-control.

Why does self-control seem so impossible?

When I was forced to give up sugar I had to ask myself this question daily. Now, years later and mostly still sugar-free, I am starting to realize the reasons I have been able¬†to endure. Primarily, I’ve made it because not doing so would result in immediate pain, as well as long-term problems.

But I’ve realized that immediate pain is a much better motivator than the consequences¬†we can’t see.

The hardest part of self-control was what I felt like I was missing out on in the moment.¬†I was watching everyone else enjoy themselves in the moment and the pity I felt for myself was overwhelming.¬†I wanted instant gratification. I wanted fulfillment because it wasn’t fair that everyone else was getting partake and I was having to sacrifice.

The root of the lack of discipline in our lives is often not this careless disregard or laziness that we think it is. It is often a very calculated decision surrounding what we have decided we want, deserve, or convince ourselves we can get away with in a moment of pain or weakness.

My lack of discipline often comes from the fact that I cannot see past the moment I’m standing in. This doesn’t just apply to my health, but to my relationships and to every other aspect of my life. The pain of not getting what I wanted in that moment took priority over¬†the long-term consequences. I wanted a quick fix for that moment of pain. Then when I felt guilty, I¬†wanted a quick fix to cleanse myself of that¬†pain, too.

There are no quick fixes.

There is no simple solution. You cannot snap your fingers and be healthy. You also cannot instantly become a whole person. You will not wake up tomorrow and master the art of forgiveness. You will not suddenly decide to be a better spouse, a more reliable friend, a more confident person. There is no book, self-help calendar, quote on Pinterest that is going to fix the cycles you find yourself in.

Recognize the immediate pain you’re in from the cycles you’re bound to and let that be a motivator.

We learn to push down the pain from our lack of self-discipline and when it does come up, that’s when we grasp for a 30 day solution or a self-help book. We look for a quick fix because the idea of grinding through the agonizing reality of where we’ve let our hearts, bodies, and minds go to is absolutely terrifying.

But if you find yourself constantly looking for quick fixes or easy answers, you’re in pain.¬†

A juice cleanse for me is not radical. The idea of going through most of my day with healthy food and no sugar does not scare me.¬†Because I live most of my life that way. Granted, there are a few things I will have to do without, but it’s not a huge leap.¬†Lifestyles of discipline produce the kind of health we will need to prepare us for the moments when we have to endure the cleanses and detox seasons that God and our hearts show us we often need.

And they are far less difficult to endure when we live in a way that is not constantly filled with things that, if and when we are deprived of them, will cause our bodies or hearts to have horrible reactions.

When we constantly look for a quick fix, a 30 day solution, we are putting an expiration date on our discipline. We are saying that we are only committed to helping ourselves for as long as we think is necessary, but then we want to live however we choose after that.

Discipline is not a book club, a membership, a degree that you eventually get and then hang on the wall. You don’t¬†arrive¬†at it, mark it off your calendar, and then post your accomplishment. If so, it accomplishes nothing that it intended to. It was a show, a facade, a moment when you pretended to be a person that you¬†wish you could actually be, but are secretly admitting inside that you have calculated is not worth sacrificing other less worthy things to become.

This is not about criticism or condemnation.

This is about saying that there aren’t quick fixes to heal the pain, fix the problem, change the things you’re scrambling to solve.

Stop asking what things you can do and ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. I don’t want to be someone who does quick diets, reads self-help books, occasionally¬†attends 21 day Bible Studies.

I want to be someone who is disciplined, reflective, empowered, knowledgable, deep, connected to God. The methods in which I do it may often come in the form of a cleanse, a study, or a book, but they are not my source. They are not my fix, my thing that I run to when I’m desperate to change the state I’m in.

These are tools, things to give us a boost of energy when we get weary or feel that we need to re-focus. These are not the things that are meant to carry all the weight of our physical, mental, or spiritual health.¬†Your health cannot depend on a 30 day diet, a pastor’s sermon, or a weekend retreat.

Figure out what kind of person you want to be. What kind of¬†life you want to live. Start slow, start with a prayer, start now. Let the immediate pain in your heart, the reality that you don’t like what you’re seeing, whatever it is that makes you reach for the quick fix: let that be the thing that motivates you to a decision that doesn’t have an expiration date.

“Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; don‚Äôt squander your precious life.”¬†Proverbs 8:32 (MSG)

 

I’ll Tell Him That He Didn’t Fight These Last Few Years Alone

The smell of stale coffee always reminds me of a man I met on a flight bound for Seattle.

He wore a navy blue hoodie and dark framed glasses. He crossed his chest in prayer before we lifted off and touched the ground.

When I saw him again three days later boarding the same flight as me I will never forget the same look of wonder and astonishment we shared. What were the chances that two complete strangers would book the exact same flights and sit so close together?

I wish that the story was more profound than it is. But mostly we just stuck close together out of familiarity and then kind of shook our heads in speechless amazement when we said goodbye at the gate.

But sometimes I think of him and I wonder how he is. I wonder if he still prays, if he still watches Oscar nominated pictures. I think about him because in that moment and time we were two humans who banded together out of what seemed to be a coincidence of circumstance. We knew each other more than we knew anyone else on that plane (which wasn’t saying much because we didn’t know each other at all). But it’s amazing that one previous encounter tied¬†us to each other just a little bit, just enough to make us closer than an absolute stranger.

I still think about him when I’m in an airport or when I tell stories about weird things that have happened to me on planes. I think of him, I smile, and I pray for him. I can’t help but think¬†about how crazy that is, that a chance encounter made him the object of another person’s prayers. I wonder about the people that I’ve bumped into at banks or met in the line at grocery stores…maybe sometimes they pray for me.

Maybe there’s a woman with big green eyes who met me at a cinema. Maybe she sometimes laughs at the girl with the southern accent and sends up a prayer for her when she smells buttered popcorn.

I’ve started to wonder about these kinds of people, the people that sometimes waft back through my memories. Maybe they’re the people that God puts in front of us because somewhere, in their corner of the universe, they’re fighting a battle and thinking that they have always been just a face in an airport that no one ever remembered.

Maybe the things we notice and the people we remember are branded on us for a reason that far extends the moment we know them or the amount of time we interact with them. Maybe the reason God gave us a memory was to fight the lies someone is believing that say there is nothing special about them, nothing that makes them stick around in a heart years after a plane landed.

We love in a movie when someone remembers what the other was wearing the first time they met. We love the little details, the little tokens someone held onto from a first date. But we don’t always¬†value the memories we store for the people we might never see again.

Years ago I started realizing that there must be more to the impressions people make on our lives; because our mind’s ability to store these random memories has to be for a bigger purpose than just sitting inside of our heads.

Maybe it’s not just strangers, but maybe it’s the girl who sat next to us in third grade or the¬†co-worker we had in high school. The people who were for a brief time in a world, but somehow still manage to come bouncing through our memory from time to time; the ones that give us this¬†slightly inexplicable feeling that they’re tied to us as more¬†than just a random person we once knew.

Someday I hope that I board a flight to Seattle and he’s there. It seems improbable, but I won’t say impossible because we managed to find the same plane twice in our lives. And if he is, and if we do, I’ll tell him that he didn’t fight these last few years alone. I’ll make a toast with stale airplane coffee to praying for strangers and knowing that God gave us a mind and a heart that stores things for greater and bigger purposes than we’ll probably ever fully know.

 

 

The Plans We Make + The People We Keep

It has now become public knowledge that I recently left my job. But this blog is not about that.

This post is also not about the number of mornings or evenings I’ve spent crying in my kitchen floor this week, although I could probably release a few full length novels on the subject.

It’s more about sitting in a parking lot on a Friday afternoon and venting through a telephone line to my sister. I can’t even remember the question she asked me, but I remember the tears that stung my eyes and that every single fiber of my being rose to the occasion to answer it.

Nothing is constant.

I remember God telling me that when I lived in Georgia and was in the middle of panicking over something that would soon be just a blip in the rearview mirror. “Nothing in this world is constant, love. You’ve got me. I’m always here, but everything else changes.”

Part of me wanted to despair at His words. It seems like an awful¬†way to live, never being able to fully anticipate the future. But I felt a sort of freedom wash over me because it meant that few of my choices would be¬†set in stone. These things that get me so tied up in knots wouldn’t and couldn’t¬†ruin my life because they would never be a constant.

I never intended to take a job that I would quit in seven months.

I never intended to be left without a plan.

Believe me when I tell you I pretty much didn’t intend on anything that’s happened in the last week and a half.

And months later staring at a set of poorly trimmed hedges, I said something that I felt to be fiercely true: all we have are the people we choose to keep. Those words broke me when they came out of my mouth because they are the only thing that have been proven true in the instability of my life.

Plans change. Dreams change. Nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) ever turns out the way you intend. Jobs don’t work out. You fail classes. People die. Families get faced with unimaginable battles. You find in the midst of a world that seems so cruel and full of disappointment that the only thing you really have control over is today and the people you want to stand next to.

I am convinced that this is one of the million reasons Jesus told his disciples not to worry about tomorrow. Because tomorrow is not what you think it is, tomorrow always changes. Your emotions will be different tomorrow, your plans, your circumstances, and you cannot live your life based on those things. They are forever going to change and you cannot anticipate what they will look like.  When you live trying to plan for them, you will lose out on today.

I’ve missed a lot of really good todays worrying about tomorrow.

Today there are things and people in front of you that are there for¬†today and that’s what you know. That will be consistent¬†as long as you have¬†today.¬†I’m convinced that the only way to make a decision is to realize the fragility and beauty in that.

My job has ended, but the relationships with the people are what I will choose to keep. Just like when I moved away from Georgia, from home, from other jobs and places.

Because during a bad diagnosis, a failed dream, a deep loss, or a huge success, what you’ll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with are not the plans you made, but the people you chose to keep.

Last night I got in my car and drove to my best friend’s house. I came inside and we¬†covered up with blankets and just let all of the pain and frustration from the week come out. In the moment of being my best and worst version all I could think about was that line from earlier in the afternoon:¬†all we have are the people we choose to keep.

Our friendship has been one of distance, miles, phone calls, meeting in the middle, but it has been one of the best decisions of our lives. When it all starts falling apart,¬†my job isn’t¬†the place that offers me a warm bed, a cup of coffee, and a place to clear my head. My failed or passed class doesn’t sit with me in my pain, anger, uncertainty, or lack of clarity. The poster of dreams I drew up five years ago won’t look me in the eye and remind me¬†that I’m going to be okay, and that I’m not going to get stuck, there’s just no way God would let that happen.¬†The friend¬†we chose to keep in the inconvenience of circumstances, uncertainty of plans, and instability of emotions is¬†the person who sat with us last night and reminded us that¬†no matter what plans we make or change, we’re not alone.

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from one of those now former co-workers and she offered me a sort of invitation that stopped me in my tracks. She simply invited me to be a person she can choose to keep.

Even though my job changed. The circumstances are different. The constants I had planned fell through. I heard that sweet reminder again: all we have is Jesus, the people we choose to keep, and the people who offer us an invitation to be the same.

 

My Birthday, Jack Bauer, and Fighting Back

My 24th year of life was somewhat similar to the tv show 24. Ironically enough, it was also the year in which I watched all eight seasons of the show and fell in love with Jack Bauer and also Tony Almeida. But not Sherry Palmer, she was legit the craziest person television has ever seen (except for Deb from One Tree Hill).

Anyway, my 24th year of life was like that show in that it was a lot of sleepless nights feeling like I had to save America. Except I am not Jack Bauer and I failed us because Marco Rubio is not President.¬†I tried, but my methods of coercion¬†are a lot less persuasive than Jack’s.

But as I’ve been reflecting on the past year, I’ve found that it was a year of fighting back. It was about finding some stability,¬†standing back up and dusting myself off. It was one of letting go, grabbing back on, and letting go all over again.

Fighting back came in the form of moving to a town where no one knew my name, my face, my history. We didn’t have strings, years of history swimming between us. It came in the form of solitude, getting rid of the voices that told me who I was supposed to be.¬†It took getting alone in a city of strangers to find out who I really am, who I always was, and who I am free to be.

I had to find my footing again. My voice. I had to hear God on my own, without the temptation of distraction. I had to find him in the silence, in the stillness between my own four walls. I had to learn how to stop being afraid of the darkness. I had to learn how to ask questions that ripped my heart to pieces. I had to weigh costs that and decisions that felt impossible to make. I had to learn how to open my doors to my home, to my heart, and risk that it may only be for a season. I had to believe it would still be worth it.

I had to learn how to make speeches that have been stirring in me for years. I was finally able to let go of the pain and regret of unsaid words. I prayed and I still pray that I learn from that pain and I don’t spend so much time in fear. I pray I’ve become the person to¬†take chances and say the things that are worth saying to the people worth saying them to.

I had to learn to laugh. To make plans. To finally plan a birthday that didn’t make me cry, to no longer feel obligated to make that one day a day of redemption and atonement for everything that goes wrong the other 364. I had to learn that boundaries are good and beautiful, that you must embrace and often welcome pain when it comes, but you don’t necessarily have to invite it.

I had to choose to see that holding yourself and others to unrealistically high expectations is rooted in pain and a fear of disappointment. Disappointment is not nearly as bad as your fear of it. The anticipation of everything is always so much worse than the actual thing itself. Worry and dread are the enemy. The results you can live with, it’s the turmoil of inaction that will nearly kill you.

Here at the beginning of 25 I realize that there is still so much I don’t have figured out, there are so many opportunities that sit in front of me and the ever present temptation to be overwhelmed by the options and possible outcomes. But if 24 taught me anything it’s that taking chances is worth it. Nothing ever turns out the way you imagine or anticipate, but it often gives you a gift that far exceeds your expectation. Life and God have a funny way of presenting the right people and places at exactly the right time, and so when you find yourself wanting to dive in, it’s usually got something worth offering to you.

Dive in. Sit in the silence. Weigh the cost. Fight back. Say the thing you need to say. Life is a gift, the opportunities and people in front of you are the best part and every time you let yourself grab onto them, you always find something worth holding onto.

 

Adulting: It’s Not a Thing (or a Verb)

Let’s be honest, we’ve all laughed at a good¬†adulting¬†meme¬†that so adequately describes the difficulties of trying to¬†be a grown up and do the responsible thing.

I will be the first one to admit that the majority of the first half of my twenties has¬†been a complete train wreck. I didn’t own a rain coat for most of it. A rain coat. Even small children own rain coats. I also literally did not understand the phrase¬†take it with a grain of salt until like two weeks ago. So you know, there’s a lot that I have yet to master about adulthood.

But I have become so incredibly annoyed with a generation of people who keep complaining and making t-shirts about how hard it is to¬†adult. Adult is not a verb. It is an adjective. It describes the stage of life that you¬†are in and will continue to be in. You don’t get a choice about that, my friend.¬†You are an adult. You will never be a child again and it is time that you just get past that fact and accept that this, in all its glory, is not a choice.

Your adulthood is just a fact.

When we treat adulthood like a choice we create a lifestyle of really horrible habits. We justify and make jokes about our¬†really poor choices because¬†adulting has become a thing we do or don’t do¬†today.

I love you enough to tell you this because I was the person doing it like eight and half seconds ago.¬†Eating doughnuts for breakfast every morning and watching Netflix until 2 PM in your bed when you’re in your twenties is not cute. It is not worthy of a “like” on Facebook or Instagram.

Being a¬†human is hard sometimes, but the hard parts about it are not your laundry, making your bed, or taking a shower. Difficulty is not¬†looking at your bank account and being sad that you can’t buy more Starbucks.

When we say it out loud, I think we can see how selfish it is: I’m feeding a culture that says life is hard because¬†I¬†want to be able to eat Oreos and not gain weight, or have the luxury of walking into Target¬†and spending $200 on pointless stuff.

We are a product of our choices, the things we do and the things we say. If I keep telling myself that the struggle is real at Target and everyone spends this kind of money because adulting is hard and budgets are hard when I wake up without any money for my future, at least I can laugh about it. I can post about it on Instagram and get a few hundred nods of approval.

Those things are not the hard part about adulthood and if you¬†actually believe that they are, you live in a very small world. You live in a bubble known as¬†entitlement and it’s a really dangerous place to stay. It’s a dangerous thing to joke about. It feeds bad habits. It’s a bubble that I’ve known well and it has caused more grief in my adulthood than maybe anything else.

You know what I love about my grandmothers’ generation? Those women got out of bed every morning, got dressed, took on the world, and sometimes never left their own home to do it. They’d wrangle seven kids looking like they just stepped out of a magazine. I never understood it and I actually thought it was incredibly pointless. But throughout the years of listening to¬†their stories I finally started to understand why.

They did it because getting out of bed, looking presentable, making breakfast, and¬†getting things in order is¬†good stewardship. It¬†is being thankful. It is loving themselves and others well. It is taking care of what God gave them. It is living a lifestyle of worship, of having a grateful heart. It is saying to God: I love and cherish this sweet life that you’ve given me and it is way way more than I deserve. I’m going to take care of it, I’m going to treat it like the gold that it is.

That’s not to say that some of them didn’t have careers. Both of my Grandmothers worked. They showed up for themselves, their kids, their husbands, and worked outside of their homes. They kicked butt (am I allowed to say that about my grandmothers?). They were moms, wives, business women, workers, church members, community members, and more. They were not¬†adulting,¬†they just accepted the fact that they were adults. Most of their generation accepted this a lot younger than¬†I did.

The point of all of this is not to say that we have to be perfect. I will have times of rest.¬†I will also still have some days where I wear sweatpants and watch a few hours of Netflix.¬†I will have times of eating pizza and wishing that it didn’t have so many calories. But that’s not an acceptable daily lifestyle and it’s not a culture that I want to encourage.

God handed me adulthood, sometimes it’s hard, but the fact remains that I don’t get a choice. But how I honor this gift of life¬†and how I choose to respond my¬†God-given responsibilities is entirely up to me.