Are We Holy, or Just HOLEy?

Philippians 4:11-12

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

I had a lovely, long conversation with my wonderful hostess yesterday about satisfaction, and how we can only find true fulfillment in Christ.  We, as human beings, are like a puzzle, or a ragged patchwork quilt, full of wholes–they are wants, fears, hopes, missing loved ones, etc–but there is one whole that is much larger and much differently shaped than any of the others, that can be filldd only by God himself.  Are you filling your God-shaped hole with God?  Take a moment to consider, are you Holy, or HOLEy?

My Historical Romance, Mount Vernon, and the Key that Unlocks Liberty

Today, I visited the home of one of my biggest crushes of all time.  The man is everything and more a girl could ask for: tall, dashing, kind, talented, incredibly intelligent, down to earth (quite literally), and God-fearing.  The only problem is he’s 263 years my senior, and he’s already happily and beautifully married.  I shall concede to love and admire him from a distance then.

No, I am NOT talking about Edward from Twilight.  Perish the thought!  If you know anything about me at all, you should know that vampirism is NOT on my list of ideal characteristics for my future husband.

I am speaking of the honorable General George Washington, who led America to victory in the revolutionary war, oversaw the creation of the U.S. constitution, and served as our first (and undoubtedly best) president.

Washington’s Mount Vernon estate was purchased and restored by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in the mid 1800’s, and they have been sustaining it ever since.  The remaining 500 acres of his once 8000 acre property are still furnished with the gardens, forest, fields, flowers, and livestock that Washington managed as a farmer during his lifetime.  It also features the plantation’s many buildings, including the slave quarters, carriage house, black smith, shoe shop, stables, corn crib, treading barn (for threshing wheat), mill and distillery, and of course the gorgeously restored mansion.  Washington is remembered for his incredible service and leadership for our country, but he considered himself a farmer above all other things.  He was a fantastic farmer, always employing new techniques to increase the plantation’s prosperity and productivity.  He utilized crop rotation, in order to use and reuse the fields he had already designated for crop growth, used different types of fencing in revolutionary ways, and created the ingenious treading barn, a building designed for threshing, which used the power of horses to thresh wheat in a much more efficient manner.

And then there is the mansion.

A long, symmetrical building with three sections, with covered porticos connecting them in between, the over 200 year old building is painted with a mixture of sand and paint, which gives the outside of the house the appearance of stone.  Indoors, the rooms come to vibrant life with shades of yellow, green, and red.  Much of the home is original, including paintings, furniture (Washington’s bed, and fancy rolly swivel chair), harpsichord, and china.

Another original hanging in the first floor passageway caught my attention in particular.  It is the key to the French political prison, Bastille, which Washington’s friend Marquis de Lafayette gave to George as a gift, with the words, “It is a tribute, which I owe, as a son to my adoptive father, as an Aide-de-Camp to my General, as a Missionary of liberty to its Patriarch.” – Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, March 17, 1790 

The key to liberty given to the Father of liberty.

George Washington dedicated his entire life to the service of his country, to protecting and preserving liberty, but even more than that, he dedicated his soul to Christ.  Washington was a Godly man, and found the idea of freedom first in being freed from sin.  That is what inspired him to be the magnificent leader, farmer, husband, human he became.  George Washington reflected well the sort of CHrist-like love, courage, and humility that we all strive for in our walk with GOd.  God, Washington’s leader, is the ultimate father of all life and liberty, and Christ is the key.  Knowing that, I am inspired indeed, and have fallen in love with two marvelous men all over again—George Washington, and more even than him, the true key to liberty, our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Thank you to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association for the information on the website, and the wonderful tour at the Mount Vernon estate.

(By the way, fun fact: Washington set his slaves free shortly before his death.  He truly did value freedom for all people.)

Mommies, SHeep, and The Good Shepherd

Guess what!  It’s Mother’s day!  I know, it’s a surprise, right?

Today’s the day we thank our awesome Mommies for being there when we needed them, for teaching us how to navigate this big, scary world, for making us meals and taking us to countless practices and events, for being so much more kind, gentle, gracious, humble, selfless, and loving than we ever deserved, and sometimes, even for giving us a taste of what exactly we did deserve.  At least, that’s what I have to thank my Mommy for. 🙂

Today, the sermon, and many of the songs we sang in church, were about Jesus as our good shepherd.  He leads them to green pastures, beside still waters, and sleeps in front of the gate at night to ensure their safety from wolves and thieves in the night.  In everything, His flock is his first priority.  As one of our songs says, “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and they know me.  I lay down my life for my sheep.” 

Like our awesome Mommies, Jesus loves us so much more than we deserve.  Wee complain, argue, throw temper tantrums, even attack him, but he still loves us.  He too is always, always there for us.  He too shows us the grace, mercy, selflessness, and loving kindness that we all need, but could never earn, and He has shown it to us in the greatest sacrifice of all, in giving His very life.

So maybe we owe God a happy mother’s day too, because isn’t He really the ultimate Mr. Mom?

 

Aside

Hi! I’m… Who am I exactly? (By Oleta Renee)

So here’s the thing… in trying to introduce myself, I realized I’m in a bit of an identity crisis.

I am originally from New York, Patterson, New York to be exact, and I grew up with my AWESOME puppy raiser around there, but I’ve heard through the grapevine (that is to say Shea and the people we meet on a day to day basis) that labrador retrievers as a race (breed is so demeaning) began in Newfoundland, whereas Newfoundland dogs claim they are routed in Labrador… weird!  So, really, should I even be calling myself a labrador, if we came from Newfoundland, and am I Canadian, or American?  But then, people don’t talk about American or Canadian labs, they talk about American or British labs, which makes no sense at all!  So, am I American, Canadian, or British?  And shouldn’t they be talking about American, Canadian, and British Newfoundlands, not labs? 

People tell me I’m an American Lab (Newfoundland?), which basically means I’m stunningly gorgeous in comparison to those stocky, blocky, British labs.  I am inclined to agree with them.  THere’s no doubt I’m slim, trim, and looking American, right down to the stars and stripes pin on my harness.  Besides, no offense to Canada or England, but America is the best.  I’ll have to expand on that in a future post.

So, with that decided…

Hello, my name is Oleta Renee, and I am a black, American labrador retriever, except I’m actually a labrador guide dog.  Shea is my person/Mom/best friend/partner in…er…completely legal activities.  I have earned my doctoral degree in guide work (attained at the acclaimed University of Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, NY), and went back to receive a human high school diploma with Shea.  I am now currently studying music, with a minor in squirrel management and dog therapy at Shea’s university in Nashville.  By the way, fellow educated canines, if you are thinking about getting a degree in squirrel management, my university is a great place to do it… a lot of practical experience.

Anyway, you will come to know me and more about my work as I post along with Shea on our blog.  I look forward to getting to know y’all as well!  Guide dog friends, make sure you drop in so we can swap guiding tails (see what I did there?).  

Off for a frappuccino on the patio with Mom.  (What? You don’t think she’ll give me a sip?)Image

The Story Behind the Second–SQUIRREL!!!

A continuation on the explanation of my blog title.
I consider my college campus basically perfect when it comes to location and overall vibe. It is in the heart of Nashville, but it is not, like some universities, integrated into the city itself. Rather, it is a separate community of its own, with plenty of green grass, gorgeous gardens, and giant trees. Of course, that means the allergy season is a little bit miserable, and it also means our campus is completely overrun by squirrels. That’s right, squirrels LOVE our university, and who can blame them, when the only other comparable population on campus (college students) carry food with them nearly everywhere they go?
Unfortunately for me, I have a guide dog that loves both food and squirrels, and while the combination may seem perfect to her, it is slightly frustrating from my point of view. I can’t seem to convince Oleta that she is not a squirrel wrangler, and that licking the cafeteria floor is flat out gross. Still, she sees food on the floor right under her nose, and squirrels that run feet from her on the sidewalk as opportunities, and usually, she takes them without hesitation. If I let her off the leash, she might actually fulfill those opportunities, I.E. Catch those darned squirrels, and lick the cafeteria floor until it’s shiny clean.
So yes, I’m saying the possibilities in our lives are squirrels, and we are the labradors, always ready and eager to chase after them until we’ve got them trapped between our teeth. (Ooh, that was graphic, sorry.) Ironically, we are also the handler holding ourselves back from chasing every last one of them down for fear that we might not succeed, or that the rodent in question might turn on us and slash us across the nose, or bite us and give us rabies. But here’s the thing: God is the ultimate hunter/veterinarian combo; he wants us to go after them, and even if we do get a little hurt in the process, He’s got the cure for anything those tree rats can throw at us. Besides, we’re labradors–squirrels are tasty.
So take off the leash, because we are in a world full of squirrels, and it’s time to take them on!

A Word (actually a bunch of words) on Opportunity

Welcome to my blog!  Here, you will find, in the short term, details concerning my trip to Scotland as a missionary, and in the long term, my ramblings about life as a Christian, American, blind person, guide dog user, writer, and musician (I am a vocal performance major).

In an attempt to briefly explain the first word in my blog title, I present to you a Short, relatively unedited Treatis on Opportunity.

Life is, ultimately, a collection of opportunities: opportunities to learn more, work harder, and love greater.  A trial is merely a chance  to triumph; a race is simply another shot to win.  Of course, sometimes we fail, but the wonderful thing about Christ is that he is the key to opportunity, and whenever a door slams shut, He opens a window somewhere else.  I know it sounds cliche (it is cliche), but who ever said cliches are necessarily untrue?  Even when we do lose the race, He’s waiting at the finish line cheering us on, and waving a flyer advertising the next marathon.  Our job is only to grab the flyer from Him and mark the date on our calendars.

Okay, so maybe the analogy didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped, but the point is that in a life lived with Christ, God presents us with countless opportunities (I promise not to use that word again) to grow closer in our relationship with him and to serve him in unimaginably incredible ways.  We have only to walk through those doors, and find what He has waiting for us on the other side.

That, essentially, is what I am striving to do in my life, and what we all aim to do in our journey with GOd.  In my experience in this confounding maze we call life, no matter what you think God is doing, what He’s really doing is taking all those dead ends and locked gates and turning them into new passages to explore.  When I lost my sight as a child, a very large, very heavy door slammed in my face (I didn’t see it, though I definitely heard it), but God led me through other portals, and I discovered piles of hidden treasure that I may never have found otherwise: independence, determination, and daring.  I thought I was trapped when my parents divorced, but God cleared the way for me, when I finally made him the Lord of my life.  And of course, he led me to my sweet guide dog, Oleta, who serves as my eyes, both physically and, sometimes, spiritually.  She often goes after opportunities (oops) much faster than I ever would, which is where I will continue in my next post.  Until “Unleashed”, this is Shea, signing off.