Giving: From Complex to Simple

Giving is such a beautiful concept. It’s so easy to get caught up in receiving, receiving, receiving. But when we take a step back and look at what it looks like to truly give, boy it can give us a whole new perspective. I think we often think of “giving” as buying things for people or giving people physical “things” (for lack of a better term). I mean, I am definitely a sucker for (giving + receiving) a bouquet of fresh flowers or a hot Scooters coffee, but sometimes generous giving can be more simple than that. It doesn’t have to be, but it definitely can be. Generous giving can be as simple as giving our time, giving a listening ear, giving a smile. I will tell you that when I’m walking through Target and someone looks me in the eyes and smiles, it’s an instant mood booster. Or if I’m down and someone just listens to me vent, it’s so nice. Just last week, actually, I experienced a little something that sparked my heart. I was having a rough day, rough week honestly, and a friend of mine had called to chat. Before I knew it, I was word vomiting ALL over her (“This just sucks”, “I’m sad about this”, “This doesn’t make sense”, “I don’t understand why…” etc.) And you know what she did? She simply listened. She said, “It’s okay Chlo. Your feelings are justified and know that I love you.” After I hung up the phone that day, I realized that sometimes the little stuff is sufficient; someone with open ears or a simple smile – sometimes the simplest gifts are the best gifts.

Cooper Neal

Saturday, June 3

7:12am

As I sit here in the passenger seat of the car riding along with my mama on the way to Minnesota, I feel a little bit like I am on the road to the unknown. “But you know where you’re going, so it’s not unknown.” Ehhhh, sort of. I am on my way to visit my brother in Minnesota. My brother who I haven’t seen or talked to (aside from a one three minute phone call) in two months. Cooper is in Northern Minnesota at a therapeutic boarding school due to a series of poor life choices. I don’t say that to degrade him because I will be the first to say that my brother is a rockstar.

He DOES have a soft heart, he DOES have a loving heart, he DOES have an optimistic heart, he DOES have a heart that loves Jesus. At the core of this sweet 16 year old boy, is a heart of gold.

He has just struggled in the past couple years, just like each and every one of us have. Coop just needed a little extra guidance, so with the counsel of my parents and his willingness to go, he has been/will be in Minnesota until April of 2018. All of that being said, I get to see him today!!! I feel anxious and expectant, I feel simply EXCITED to hug him and hear about the first two months of his time away.

12:14pm

I feel so giddy! We are about 30 minutes away and I am really nervous but really really excited. Even though I don’t know exactly what to expect, I am so certain that this is going to go well and I just cannot wait to BE THERE.

4:58pm

We are just leaving! Oh my GOODNESS MY HEART IS FULL AND I’M JITTERY WITH HAPPINESS. I don’t know if being “jittery with happiness” is a thing, but I’m making it a thing right now. When we arrived, we got out of the car and after taking not even 15 steps, I hear, “Mom! Chloe!” Cooper had been sitting on the roof of one of the buildings on the look-out for us 🙂 Hugs and kisses were to follow and boy was I glad to squeeze my baby bro again. He took us down to the dock by the lake that is on campus. We sat and talked for what felt like only 10 minutes but was really about an hour and a half. He gave me a little tour of campus (mom had seen it before) and introduced me to a few of his buddies. It was cool to see his new home away from home and get a small feel for what it’s like to live there. It was SO fun to hear him tell stories, to see him smile, to watch him listen so intently, to pray with him, to hear him laugh.

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I couldn’t stop hugging + kissing him. He said, “Is your new love language physical touch?!” LOL

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So handsome + joyful + humorous + full of life

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Seeds, seeds, + more seeds!

10:48pm

As I lay here in bed reflecting on the day, so many happy feelings rush to the surface. It was such a good day and I truly could not say one negative thing about it. You can just tell how much the Lord has softened his heart and how receptive Coop has been to the treatment he is receiving. Just by the tone of his voice and the way he was carrying himself, you could SEE the changes (positive changes) that have taken place over the last two months. It was sad saying goodbye – those four hours came and went SO quickly but oh my word I am so happy that I got to spend this afternoon with him. This big sister’s heart is so so full.

Until next visit, Coop. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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Take a Break

Guys. Life gets crazy sometimes. Life gets really crazy and it is so easy to get caught up in the craziness. I feel like a common perception is that “the busier you are, the better” or “if I’m not doing anything productive, I am a failure”. I am just as guilty as anyone else of allowing these things to control my daily routine, but I will also be the first to say that “off days” are freaking wonderful!

About a month ago, my sweet family and I took a little “off day” together. We went to Lauritzen Gardens here in Omaha, Nebraska and got to explore some of God’s beautiful creation together.

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It was such a beautiful day of not only being together and experiencing connection amongst the four of us, but being together in such a beautiful, peaceful place that our Great Creator hand crafted.

The Last Night Here

Tonight is the last night. The last night sleeping in Stockton 115. The last night in the room that’s seen it all. These four walls witnessed the creation of the most beautiful, lifelong friendship. Tonight will be the last night falling asleep next to a white cinderblock wall with residue from command hooks that have been stuck to that same wall over the course of last 50 years. The last night saying a quick little prayer with the roomie before dozing off. The last night falling asleep in this 14×14 room that I’ve called home for the past 9 months.

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This afternoon, I took a break from the chaos to reflect. To reflect on this past year – my first year of college. It was, undoubtedly, some of the most challenging months of my life all while being some of the most incredible. I’ve learned more things in 9 months than I have in my entire 18 years of life (ehhhh, that might be a bit of a stretch, my parents did a pretty dang good job) BUT for real, I’ve learned a lot.

You’re Gonna Make Rookie Mistakes

Starting with my first day of Tuesday/Thursday classes. When I read my class schedule, I had classes on “MWF” and I had classes on “TR”. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Thursday. I had Tuesdays off! Or so I thought……………

I showed up to my first class on Thursday and as I’m walking in, amongst a larger group of students, the prof says, “Go ahead and bring your papers up to me as you walk in.” Instant panic. Being a paranoid perfectionist, my mind started going 1,000 miles a minute. “What paper?! I never got an email?! I didn’t know there was an assignment?!” I looked over to the kid next to me, who you could tell this wasn’t his first rodeo and I said, “Was there an assignment?” He chuckled and said, “Yeah, the paper he assigned on Tuesday”. GOOD ONE CHLOE. Long story short, I missed the first class of the semester – TR stands for Tuesday, Thursday.  Rookie mistake. You’re gonna make them. Not just during your first week at college, but in life. And hopefully you have a nice boss or client or coworker or professor like mine, that lets you turn in your paper a few days late and still get full credit.

Embrace the Season – Be Content

When I was in high school, I was forever saying, “Gosh, I cannot wait to go to college!” I obsessed on this idea. Finally moving out of the house, finally living on my own, finally living “THE life”. Dumb. Not only did I begin to wish my high school years away, but I had unrealistic expectations for what college was going to be like. Because of these expectations, when I got to college and it wasn’t exactly how I expected it to be, I found myself thinking, “Gosh, I can’t wait to get out of college and be married and have a job and have cute babies.” What a vicious cycle I was beginning. Through this I realized that I need to learn to be content with where I’m at. And my first year of college has taught me exactly that. I have learned to embrace the season I’m in and to be content, right where I’m at.

Don’t Be Afraid of Late Night (or early early early morning) Runs to Taco Bell

One night, my roomie and I were up fairly late both laying in our beds chatting. Conversation slowly started to die as it passed 1:00am and right as we began to stop talking, I got this craving. Taco Bell. I need a quesarito. I knew that if I wanted this quesarito, I needed to speak up quick because Faith was about to doze. I said, “Soooooo Faith I’m really craving Taco Bell. Wanna go?” In typical Faith fashion, she said “Are you kidding me?! It’s 1 in the morning! No freaking way!” After about 10 minutes of convincing, Faith ripped her covers off, got out of bed, looked at me, and said, “Fine. I’ll go. BUT YOU’RE BUYIN MY FREAKIN CHALUPA!” We had a deal. In our pjs, off to Taco Bell we went. So there we were, 1:30 in the morning, sitting in the Taco Bell parking lot eating a quesarito and a chalupa. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t all that funny, but we laughed pretty freaking hard that night and I tell you what, it’s random stuff like that that makes college so great.

I can’t help but be thankful for all of the ups and downs that my first year of college brought. All of the breakdowns and laughter. All of the people that the Lord has brought into my life over the last 9 months. It was hard, but man, it was oh so good.

Here’s to freshman year, here’s to beautiful friendships created and memories made. Here’s to the last night here.

Deep Dependence

We are always taught, “lean on God, trust God, obey God,” and I always thought I had it. I always thought I knew what it looked like to trust the Lord, but God shook me up and said, “Chloe, you have no idea. Let me show you.” The last couple months have brought me to a place of whole hearted, deep dependence on Him. Learning what it looks like to do more than just crack open my bible, do a little Jesus Calling and call it good has changed so much in my heart. It is so easy to fall into that trap. I am so so guilty of it, because studying who God is and what He has taught us through His word takes time, effort, and energy.

Studying Proverbs 3 has taught me so much about what it looks like to lean into Him and deeply depend on Him in all circumstances. Verse 1 reads, “Do not forget my teachings; keep my commands in your heart.” God is revealing to us the power of reading His word, absorbing His word, and applying what He has taught us. We are called to not simply read just to check it off our to-do lists; God has called us to read, absorb, and apply.

When you walk through your day-to-day life with His word on your heart, deeply depending on Him, I promise that you will be amazed at the ways that Jesus works in AND through you.

Dating [all the way back] To 2012

I’ve had my bible since 2012. It’s not in great shape and I’ve had people ask me, “Chloe, why don’t you get a new bible?!” This is why:

This morning, I was reading my bible and I came across a highlighted verse in Colossians with a little note in the margin saying that it was a verse that an old coach of mine had sent me and it was dated September 2, 2015. It’s crazy because I remember the day that she sent it to me like it was yesterday. It was during a time where I was going through a tough transition and it was in the midst of several hard months that I remember highlighting that verse, writing the little note off to the side, and thinking, “I can’t wait to look back at this, years down the road, and reflect on this time to see how God worked through it.” Here I am, March of 2017, teary eyed in a coffeeshop as I see this highlighted verse and note in my bible doing just that – Reflecting on several things:

  1. It really is one of the coolest things when God works through people to reveal himself – even through the simplest things. He used my coach and this simple verse in Colossians to change my heart in that moment and give me beautiful, new, fresh perspective two years later.
  2. God is a dang good author. Period. Point blank.
  3. The things you do today matter – not only today, but in the days to come. The simple things and the complex things. The things that may feel awkward and the things that make you feel the warm fuzzies. All of it matters.

After I found that one verse this morning, I started to find so many other things that dated all the way back to 2012 – highlighted verses, notes written in margins about certain situations, people, or prayers. It’s funny because I’m in my bible a lot and not very often do I come across my stuff that’s from years past, but today I did. And I needed it more than ever. It was so refreshing to see the ways that God has worked through certain circumstances, made specific things clear to me over the years, and healed me in more ways than one, also reminding me that He is CONTINUING to do all of those things, day in and day out. God is good folks, God is good. 

If Only We Could Turn Back Time

Dear 14 year old me,

People will tell you that high school is the best 4 years of your life. Spoiler alert: it’s not. They also aren’t lying when they say time heals everything.

There is so much that I learned over my 4 years in high school that I wish someone would have told me when I was entering high school. Things like, as hard as you try and as much as you want to, you’re not going to impress everyone and what seems like it’s the end of the world right now, most likely is not going to be a huge deal 3 months from now.

People will come and go, but just remember that the ones who are meant to stay in your life will. No, it’s not going to be easy… no relationship or friendship is. But when people come into your life and are in it for the long haul, you’ll know – keep those people around.

Respect yourself – know your VALUE and WORTH.

Be yourself – 100% of the time. People won’t like you – know that ahead of time and don’t force friendships but at the same time, know that there are people who love you so incredibly much and would literally jump in front of a train for you. The only way to make true, genuine friends is to be yourself and the ones that stick around are the real ones. Know who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in.

In the end, the darkness will allow you to appreciate the light. This is just the beginning

Love,

Your 18 Year Old Self