Ruth: Taking Risks for Love

She left her home and traveled with her mother-in-law into a world that was new to her. Her name was Ruth. Why would you do that? Why would you leave the land where you were born, where you had grown to adulthood, where you had married, and finally, where your husband had died? Why would you leave the land of Familiar for the land of Unknown? The answer is quite simple, and yet- complicated, for love is always at its core- quite simple and yet amazingly complicated. 

The reason, I think, was love. Ruth loved her mother-in-law most devotedly. Listen to the committment in Ruth’s words to Naomi, her mother-in-law:

“…’Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.’ ” -Ruth 1: 16-17 NKJV

Basically, Ruth is saying, “You can’t get rid of me, because I am going to follow you. So don’t even try.” Honestly, I think these words would make more sense if Ruth had been talking to her husband, or a child, or even her own parents. But this was her mother-in-law! We live in a time in which in-laws are often not treated with the value they are worthy of. So, to see this level of care for an in-law is rather incredible. More so, because (and this is just speculation, but stick with me here) I don’t think Naomi was as dedicated to Ruth as Ruth was to Naomi. Did she love her? Yes, I believe so. However, I also think she underappreciated Ruth. 

Listen to what Naomi says when she gets back to her homeland. 

“I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty…” -Ruth 1:21 NKJV

Maybe it’s just me, but if I had forsaken all to travel with someone to a land I didn’t even know, and we’d get there, and that person would say to everyone, “When I left I had my family, but now I’m back, and I have nothing,” I would be deeply hurt. Yes, I realize Naomi had lost a lot, but she hadn’t lost everything. She had Ruth. I feel like that was an unkind thing to say considering the immense sacrifice Ruth made. Also, forgive me for this statement, but I’m rather impatient with Naomi. She was really good at feeling sorry for herself. Ruth had lost a husband, too, and she had forsaken her Familiar, and I don’t hear her complaining.  

Ruth took a risk for love. A huge risk, considering all the circumstances. I applaud her for that. But, she’s not finished taking risks. The story becomes even more complicated. 

Ruth meets a man. Oh yes, that always complicates things. It just so happens that this man is a relative of theirs, and suddenly Naomi has a brilliant idea. She wants to play matchmaker. You see, in the Israelite world, when a man died without children, that man’s brother was to marry the widow and produce an heir to carry on the line of the deceased. Well, obviously, in Ruth’s case, her brother-in-law could not do this for her, as he was dead, too. So the duty would have gone to the nearest relation. Looking at it from this perspective, though it is strange in today’s world, we can see why Naomi is thinking about marriage for Ruth. Naomi gives Ruth the following advice:

“ ‘…wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.’ ” -Ruth 3:3-4 NKJV

Okay, maybe you’re not feeling awkward about this whole situation, but I am. Talk about vulnerability at its best! Basically, Ruth is taking her heart in her hands and laying it at the feet of a man whom she only has a slight acquaintance with, and saying, “Will you marry me?” What?! I’m an introvert; I don’t walk up to a guy and ask him to marry me. I just don’t. I don’t see Ruth as being that kind of person either. From the story, she definitely does not give me the impression of being an extrovert at all. And this is her heart we’re talking about! At this point, I would’ve started making excuses.

“I hardly know the man, Naomi! What is he going to think of me if I ask him for such a huge personal favor? Will he laugh in my face? Above all, will he love me? I just can’t take the risk. He could crush my heart if I offer it to him.” But this is not what Ruth says. She agrees to the plan.

I imagine Ruth felt a good many nervous butterflies in her stomach as she got ready to go. I imagine she felt a certain level of fear as she came near to the place where Boaz was. She was risking a lot to offer this man her heart, when he had not even offered his to her. Fear of rejection, people? You know what I’m talking about? We’re so afraid to take risks for love, because what if we are rejected, hurt, pushed aside… We’re afraid to be vulnerable. We like control. 

In Ruth’s case, there was a happily-ever-after. The story ends well. I encourage you to read it. But to bring this back to our present time, when is the last time you took an actual risk for love? Are you afraid to love someone, because to love them could mean to lose them? It happens. Do you know someone with a terminal illness, and you’re afraid to get close to them because it’ll hurt when they die? We open our hearts to love, and death steals. 

We love and the love is not reciprocated. We love, and they move to another state. We love, and they don’t handle our hearts well; we end up feeling betrayed. I’m not just talking about romantic love, either. I’m talking about love in general. It’s a risk. People do move away. People do hurt us. People do ignore us. Vulnerability is scary. Very scary. So, should we just become robots, without love and without pain? Is the risk of love too great?

You know the answer. Ruth knew the answer. You love anyway. 

At the risk of starting to sound like a Lord of the Rings fanatic, I will remind you of a scene with Elrond and Arwen.

Elrond tells her, “I looked into your future, and I saw death.” 

Arwen says, “But there is also life. You saw there was a child. You saw my son.”

Elrond replies, “That future is almost gone.”

And Arwen says with conviction in her voice, “But it is not lost.” 

We have a choice in this matter, as in all matters of our lives. We can choose to love, knowing that love is painful, or we can choose to close ourselves to love and lose the joy as well. Your choice. Will you stay in Familiar, or will you walk into Unknown? There just might be a happily-ever-after waiting for you. 

Crazy Happy

I get a message from a friend today, informing me that there is something outside my door. I go see. It’s a shake from Arby’s and a positively adorable little succulent. It’s food for my body and food for my heart- a bundle of thoughtfulness on the doormat.

Today is the second of April, and the sun is shining in through the apartment window. It makes a patch of warmth on the living room floor, which becomes a perfect place to sit. I can hear the wind, for though it looks like spring outdoors, appearances can be deceptive, and there is a strong wind. It was quite cold this morning when I went out to get some exercise. However, it’s not totally unlike a typical spring in this part of the world. At least in the weather respect…

In other ways, it is unlike any other spring in my existence. Yet, even though I’m nervous about what could happen, there are little things that are making me so happy. Saturday, my roommates and I all had the day off. We went on a walk, and even got brave enough to spontaneously decide to wade into a frigid river. I love that about us- our joint spontaneity. On Sunday, I dressed up, even though there was no church. I’m home from work this entire week, and yet, it has been productive and fun. There have been birds singing in the mornings; I can hear them inside as I sit on the couch. There has been coffee and devotional time; I’ve scrapbooked and cleaned and cooked and read and practiced piano.

We bought a bushel of apples a number of weeks ago- they were a really good deal, which I was super excited about. Does anybody else get excited about good deals? You’d probably have to be a homemaker at heart to know what I’m talking about. Those apples have been great this week. I canned seven quarts of apple pie filling on Tuesday; yesterday, I made apple butter in the crock pot and ended up with six little jars of it. The jars boiled in a jolly way in their water bath as they were being canned. I get very excited, not only over good deals, but also about jars sealing. Those nice little popping sounds are so satisfying. My roommates may think I’m a little weird; after all, who gets excited over such random things? Well, that would be me. And I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with being happy.

There were times in my life when I was not who I am today. There used to be days when I’d be in bed close to noon. I was tormented by thoughts and overcome with fatigue. I couldn’t even function well enough to be the employee I should’ve been. I was depressed, burned out, and underneath it all, making everything worse, were those OCD-type tendencies that I’d struggled with even as a child. Living with my mind was awful, and unless you’ve walked a similar path, you won’t be able to understand why it is so good to be so happy.

I did scrapbook pages titled “The Periodic Table of Happy Elements” this week. I scraplifted the idea for the project from a lady who had done a periodic table of her scrapbook elements. I loved the inspiration! Happy Elements: Jane Austen (Aus), classical music (Clm), sealing wax (Slw), Winnie-the-Pooh (Wp), polka dots (Pol), hedges (Hdg), and many more random things that make me happy. I included in this project a quote from Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings):

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

Oh, how I believe it. Call me an idealist, but there is good in the world. The milkshake and the succulent on the doormat were proof of it. The fact that spring is coming regardless of the pandemic is proof of it. The wedding invitation that came in the mail yesterday is proof of it. One of my roommates bringing home toilet paper last night is proof of it (okay, I’m tired of all the toilet paper jokes, too! ).

There is Jesus, and He is real solid proof that there is good in the world. James 1:17 says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning.” (NKJV) God is good, and He does not change. And Who is responsible for all the good in my life? He is.

It’s been a journey- a journey of healing and growth. It’s still going to be a journey. But oh, it is good to have so much joy! This spring is different due to the coronavirus, but it’s also different in a good way for me. I am more whole this spring than I was even a year ago. I never want to go back to who I was. Even in this pandemic, even with all the uncertainty, there is still so much good. So, I’ll listen to Shire music in the kitchen, and I’ll be happy about apples and cheesecake and coffee. What makes you crazy happy?

A Call to Hobbits

There is a lot we can learn from Middle-Earth. In many ways, the lives of hobbits do not differ greatly from the lives of humans as we know humans to be. Hobbits lived their lives with a sort of careless indifference to what was going on in the world around them, until they were forced to pay attention when the troubles of the world were tossed into their backyards. We do the same thing. We did live relatively comfortable lives here in the year two thousand twenty. We became obsessed with our daily lives: with our jobs, with the race to make money so we could live in even greater plenty, with our houses and our food… We, like Bilbo Baggins, are quite attached to our possessions and our idea of normal, and the thought of adventure and danger is frightening to us. We are reluctant to get involved in what is going on out there. However, we will become involved- whether we want to or not, because eventually The Great Story will affect us all.

The Great Story. It began with God speaking the world into being. It is a story that has spanned the time of approximately six thousand years. It is a story of perfection being ruined by a disastrous choice, a story with a fallen angel who deceives and destroys and the Mighty One who rescues and redeems. It is a classic story of good versus evil. It’s a story that is real and one we are living each day. Whether we like it or not, there is a war going on, one which we cannot see, but one that is greater than all the wars of all time. We will fight in it. And we are all choosing sides, either siding with the Mighty One or with the fallen angel. But unlike the wars we know, it has already been decided as to Who will win this war in the end. The Mighty One has indeed already won, and the fallen angel and his followers are fighting a hopeless battle. Still they fight, though, and they will continue to fight as long as the Mighty One allows them to.

Like Frodo’s life being forever changed by the Ring, which he didn’t ask for (it was left to him by Bilbo), so our lives have been disrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. We didn’t want this, just as Frodo, had he known everything, would not have wanted to accept the Ring, but here it is, and we must deal with it. We are being shaken out of our normality. And it is good for us. We have become too comfortable and self-focused, and now, we have a perfect opportunity to choose wisely what we will do with our lives. Will we continue to live in our own little worlds, or will we step into our roles in The Great Story?

It is time to choose action over comfort, all ye hobbits! We must stop ignoring the battle that is being fought; we must stop ignoring the evil in the world; we must look further than our overstuffed refrigerators and cabinets. There is more to this life than eating (of which we know hobbits were quite fond). There is more to this life than what we see each day, our familiar and comfortable surroundings. There’s more to this life than a cozy hobbit-hole (uh, house). We have received a wake-up call. Let’s leave behind our ideas of what our lives should be and follow the Mighty One into battle! He is calling us to come back to Him. How many of us will respond to His summons?

Of Talents

“I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.”

-Jane Austen

If Jane Austen thought this of herself, where does that put me? Jane Austen is practically a heroine in the world of literature. However, if she truly believed herself to be uninformed and unlearned, she was indeed brave to write anyway. Perhaps there is a lesson in this for us. 

We all have talents. Some of us write; some of us sing; some of us draw and paint. Everybody has a talent, a gift, something they’re good at. If you don’t recognize your talent yourself, someone close to you is sure to be able to point it out. It may not be a popular talent- for example, you may have the gift of being a charming hostess, or maybe you’re really good at encouraging those around you. 

Sometimes we are reluctant to make good use of our talents because we feel insecure about ourselves. We see ourselves compared to other people, and we may certainly feel “unlearned and uninformed,” naive, ignorant, less than… Does anybody really feel completely secure about themselves? If we allow these feelings to control us, we are not being good stewards of our God-given gifts. We have so much to give to the world, to contribute to the lives of the people around us. 

It takes courage to rise above the feelings of insecurity. Maybe that’s why Jane Austen used the phrase: “dared to be.” We must be brave and use our talents. Being brave will always require us to step out of our comfort zones. So- sell that painting, host that tea party, write that story, bake that layer cake. Take it a level deeper- help that homeless person, talk to that stranger about grace, give an invitation to that lonely person, spend that hour in prayer. Become uncomfortable. You will grow in the process. Do the things you’re scared to do. 

I certainly have insecurities. I would definitely benefit from taking my own advice. However, then there is a whole other aspect to using our talents that would be good to look into. It is not good to drown in insecurities and hide away our talents. On the flip side, it is also not good to think so highly of ourselves and our talents, that we fall into the sin of pride. If I am to be honest here, I should say that I can be a crazy mix of the two problems. I can be both insecure and prideful. I can feel both inferior to and superior to other people. That is the truth, and it is ugly, but there you have it. We are sinful people, whether or not we want to admit it.

Back to the talents, though. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if you and I could discover the secret to bravely using our talents, yet realizing that, ultimately, those talents are not of our own doing, but are bestowed upon us by God, therefore, He should be the One getting the glory? If we did nothing to acquire our gifts, we should be willing to give the credit for those gifts to the One who gave them. Let’s strive to walk in confidence and in humility!

Birthdays

It’s a yearly happening. When you’re a kid, you count down the days. When you’re a young adult, you hold to the hope that perhaps this will be the year your dreams come true. When you’re a middle-aged person, you treat this day that used to be so anticipated as something of little importance. By the time you’re 80, you try to deny its arrival. Yet, regardless of how we view it and the reception we give it, this day comes faithfully every year. It can be depended on our whole lifetime.

As you read these fictional snapshots, think about your own birthdays. Whether or not you see them as such, they’re a gift, which makes them grace in our lives. Thank God for life. Borrow the heart of a child; treasure your birthday this year. It will do your soul good.


She picked up the phone from the nightstand beside her bed to check the time. It was 6:30. The date stared up at her. Friday, January 10th, 2020. She sighed. It was her birthday. Her fifty-fifth, to be exact. Oh well, it didn’t really matter. She had to go to work today anyway. Five more years until retirement. She didn’t hate her job; she was just tired of it. Thirty years in the same office could do that to a person.


It was 8:00, and in the nursing home, residents were being readied for the day. The young nurse approached the bedside of the frail old man.

“Happy birthday, Jim,” she said. The man smiled.

“Must be about a hundred by now,” he joked. She laughed with him.

“I believe you’re only 83. Let’s get you up now, okay. Your son might stop in later today.”


“What’s a birthday?” The brown-eyed little girl scooped up more of her scrambled egg with her fingers. Her mama handed her a fork.

“Use your fork, Emma. A birthday means you’ve gotten older. You’re three now instead of two.”

“Three,” Emma said and held up two fingers.


“What day of the week is it?” Asked the third grade teacher.

“Friday!” A little boy yelled out.

“That’s right,” the teacher replied. “Do we have any special announcements to share?”

“It’s my birthday,” a curly-haired boy stated with pride.

“Well, so it is. Shall we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Aiden, boys and girls?”

The children sang together- some off-key and some with confidence, as Aiden grinned big.


It was noon, and the exhausted young mom realized her kids would go down for a nap soon. Typically while they slept, she scurried around, trying to accomplish everything she couldn’t do while three small voices cried “Mama” every two minutes. But today, she thought to herself, today I’m going to nap while they do. I’m tired, and it’s my birthday. Surely I can treat myself to a rest. Besides, I won’t feel like going out to dinner with my husband tonight if I’m this worn out.


The young man behind the counter at a small town gas station assisted yet another customer. There didn’t seem to be a lull today. A winter storm was predicted, and the locals were out doing errands before the snow started. He was glad that at least he didn’t have to work late on his birthday. Maybe he could even stop at the gym before he headed home to an empty house and a boring movie.


She heaved a sigh of relief when she got in her car. Work was over for the day. Not that her job at the coffee shop was terrible; she actually enjoyed it, but her feet got so sore from being on them all day. She smiled. She’d savor her hot coffee on the way home. The girls had made sure to supply her with her favorite for the drive. “In honor of your birthday,” they said.

She laughed to herself. “It’s been a good day. Maybe this will be a good year for me, too.”


The first-time father looked over at the hospital bed where his wife and newborn daughter lay sleeping. They’d named the baby Stephanie. It meant “crown,” and she was certainly that to them- a little princess, royalty, the fulfillment of their dreams. January 10th- it was the day that forever changed his life.


The day was nearly over, and the now twenty year old locked her apartment door.

“I may as well have an early night, Tasha,” she told her cat. The cat got up from the rug and stretched. The girl reached down and picked her up. “Or we could stay up and read a book and drink tea. What do you think?”

“Meow,” said Tasha.

“Okay, a book and tea it is. It’ll be my birthday treat.”


Daddy closed the blinds and read a story to his birthday girl. Then he tucked the blankets in around her and placed her stuffed pink bear into her arms.

“Shall we say your prayers, pumpkin?” He asked. She nodded and closed her eyes tight.

“Dear Jesus,” she prayed, “Thank you for birthdays. Thank you for chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Thank you for my new dolly and puzzles. Thank you for Daddy and Mommy. Bless everybody who had a birthday today. Amen.”

Introductions

I’m Susan, and this is my blog: Twenty-something. It’s true that this is a slightly odd name for a blog, but let me explain. I’m “twenty-something,” nearly twenty-four, to be exact. In this blog, you can expect to see collections of my thoughts and my perspectives on life. Some of you will be able to connect with where I’m coming from as a young adult. And for those of you who are in a different stage of life, it could be enlightening to know the thoughts of a girl in her twenties. However, please remember: I am one voice in this great big world of voices, and my thoughts and experiences will be vastly different at times from the thoughts and experiences of other people in the world. In no way am I a stereotype of my generation! 

   Now, rather than a predictable kind of introduction, I want to include snippets of inspiration as well. So, let’s focus today on the little things in life that make me (and maybe you!) happy. If you read between the lines, you’ll probably pick up some basic facts about me as well. 

   I like getting coffee drinks at little coffee shops, not only because of the obvious coffee, but also because of the paper wrapper around the outside of the cup that is put on to keep you from burning your hands. It feels sophisticated to drink coffee out of those cups, and I for one, am a fan of sophistication. Silly? Probably. But admit it- there’s something elegant about driving down the road sipping coffee in a take-out cup.  

   I love books. That may be an understatement. I have a relatively large collection of books, which is awesome, except when you’re moving. I just recently moved to a small town, and let me tell you: moving boxes of books is no joke! However, I have friends among my books. There’s Anne Shirley, who is a kindred spirit for sure, and then there’s Christy Huddleston, a schoolteacher with big dreams in her heart that could rival mine. Jane Austen’s Fanny Price is a sweetheart, and oh, I love Louisa May Alcott’s little women. Of course, there are the Prince Charmings as well: Gilbert Blythe and Edmund Bertram and the awkward Mr. Darcy. We mustn’t forget about Winnie-the-Pooh! Then there’s Sal and her blueberry picking experience… Ah, books. Pages and pages filled with wonderful words. By the way, good reading is key to good writing, in my opinion.

   Little girls just learning to talk make me happy. I’m not a mommy, but I do currently have a nanny job, and there aren’t a whole lot of things in this world that are sweeter than a small person saying, “Yep.” I also love baby shoes and pigtails and being called “Thoo.” Give me little reaching arms and play-dough creatures, alphabet puzzles and hairbows. Children give me so many reasons to smile, and there are several of them that have impacted my life permanently. Take, for instance, a brown-eyed, black haired little girl who melted my heart when I was sixteen and the gentle-souled little boy who reminded me of Anne’s “Paul Irving.”

   Deep conversations are one of the joys of life. Whether we’re discussing revival or dreaming big dreams, these conversations should be treasured. Like Davy Keith, “I want to know.” I want to dig into the Bible. I want to discuss the things I have questions about. I want to learn more. Knowledge. I want knowledge. I would a thousand times rather have a deep conversation with somebody than play games. Let’s discuss our purpose or contemplate whether or not we’d ever exist if we didn’t exist… those kinds of ponderings.

   I’m a seasonal kind of person. I love the pumpkin spice craze in the fall and gingerbread around Christmastime, ice cream in the summertime and hot coffee drinks in the wintertime, springtime lavender and lemon, Valentine’s Day hearts. However, even though I enjoy the changing seasons, fall is my absolute favorite. The colors of fall alone are enough to sway my preference that way. Add to that the pumpkins and cornstalks and mums, and we have a winner.

Early mornings… I’ve rediscovered the fact that I actually do like early mornings. I don’t like rushed mornings, though. No, I prefer the slow, quiet, curl up with a blanket and coffee kind of mornings, the writing and reading and praying kind of mornings. They never last long enough, though, and the time to head out the door always comes too quickly.

It’s a beautiful world, really. The beauty isn’t always visible immediately, but it’s always there. Stop today- seriously stop- and find something beautiful. If you’re a reader, I have a book recommendation for you: One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. If you’re a writer, let the poet within you blossom. Artists, draw a picture or take a photograph… You know what speaks to your heart. Just in some way, today, embrace the beautiful in the life that God has made.