Category Archives: My Cup Runs Over

Thoughts on Christianity, sermons, verses, and the overall Christian lifestyle.

Revisit: Grief

This past Wednesday should have been my buddy Houston’s 22nd Birthday here on Earth. Luckily for him, he spent it in heaven with his Saviour as he has done for the past several years. While the grief has evolved over the years and become manageable, there are still times where I find myself longing to see loved ones that have passed on before me. There is no time table on grief, and sometimes you will have waves of emotion come out of nowhere. 

This Revisit is from my first winter break of undergrad. I was back in Kansas City about to head back to St. Joseph for my second semester. With these revisits, I make it a rule for myself to not change anything that I originally wrote in 2017. I started this experiment with myself when I was cleaning out my Google Drive and ran across two documents in which I was pushing myself to write once a day for an entire year. Neither project was completed to the intended goal, but the original drafts serve as a sort of time capsule for myself. This week, I wanted to look back on where I was at almost three year ago in terms of how I thought about grief and hard questions we ask. Words in bold are 2019 Abby, and italicized words are from 2017 me.

 

January 8th 2017

During Sunday School today while we were doing a lesson on Job, a few of the girls were asking really hard questions. Seventh grade girls can ask really hard-hitting questions at the most unexpected times. You know, those questions. The questions like, “If God can do anything, why does He let sin happen?” and “Why doesn’t God fix bad things?” Earthly suffering is a tricky topic is juggle when looking at it from a human perspective. When you add God to the mix, there can be a lot of frustration and confusion. 

During my high school years, there were many times I was very angry with God. Like, super angry. As in lots of yelling in my car on drives to school that I didn’t want to go to and feeling guilty later that I was feeling perfectly normal emotions. A big time was when Houston died. A bright, wonderful, loving, talented 17-year-old killed in a car accident right before he was supposed to lead Tarzan. I mean, come on WHY? I’m never ever going to forget that horrible night when we were sitting at the table playing Jenga and mom got the phone call. After that phone call, I went to Target to pick up some things with my dad. I wandered the store, calling every person I could think of, including one of our Pastors. An hour later, our living room was filled with a dozen heart-broken teenagers. For a few weeks after that, I was bitter towards God. Why did He take someone like Houston? It seemed like Houston had so much more to give to this world. Having someone who is such a big light be taken away never fully makes sense to us. 

I was numb towards God in Romania. That night in the children’s home up in the mountains when both Grams and Grandma weren’t doing well and my team was praying for them, I remember praying, “God, please don’t take her till I get home.” It was one of the last few days I spent in the country with my missions team. We had finished our service work and were doing some sight-seeing on our last few days.  Totally selfish thinking, but I didn’t talk to her enough at my graduation party. I wanted more opportunities to talk to her. I just wanted to talk to her one more time. Come to wake up hours later, Susan  was gone from her suffering, leaving me on Earth with my own. I’m glad God took that pain from her, I truly am, and that’s where I find my joy. But the grief, that still lingers, and has fanned the flame of other grief I haven’t yet gotten over. This grief has lightened over the years, but still remains. 

God’s timing is perfect, and that’s not just something I say because that’s what I’ve been told all my life. No, I trust that His plan is perfect, because He is perfect. But man, there are times I’d really like to see His timeline laid out. It’s so aggravating being trapped in this human form at times; being stuck in my sinful body when I know that there’s going to be a time when the pain and hardships that are caused by sin are gone. Constantly fighting against my own body in order to be in communion with my Father is exhausting at times. I know the Holy Spirit brings us strength when we are weary, because if He weren’t inside of me, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be alive right now. I guarantee that if I did not have Christ living in me that I wouldn’t be alive today. 

Oh, how awesome is my God that He would reach out to a wrecked piece of creation like me. How awesome that He would take my little hand and wipe away the tears from my eyes. How awesome that He would carry me through the pain of loss and heart break. How awesome that He would hold me as I shake with anger and grief. How awesome that He would lay down his life for me. How awesome that He would send other hearts that He’s created to live out the call of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. How awesome that He never leaves us, even when we wander. 

Suffering comes in many forms. It can be something seemingly small or hugely devastating, but regardless of what level it is, I feel as though I have come to the conclusion of how I look at God through it all. God is bigger than me. This is a huge understatement, but it is still true. God is bigger, and He sees the bigger picture, because He created it. Who am I to wag my finger t at Him and tell Him that He’s wrong? What right do I have to shake my fist at the One who went through the greatest amount of suffering any person could ever go through? While my soul may bleed and ache, I know that He knows the “why”, even if I never will. 

 

Life can suck at times. I am unbelievably grateful that I have a Father who remains unmoving even when I am being tossed by massive waves. Is grief ever easy to handle? Absolutely not. Is pain something we should be happy with having? Of course not. Even in the midst of our suffering though we can still find joy when we understand that what happens in life can shape us into stronger people. Do I have all the answers to why crappy stuff happens? No, and I never will as long as I am on Earth. Because of this, I have given up the fight in trying to understand and chose to press on by continuing to grow. Lord, let me today and everyday renew my commitment to reflecting Your Love even when my imperfect life seems to be crumbling down around me. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

Trading My Sorrows- Psalm 40:1-3

There’s this song called “Trading My Sorrows” that we sang all the time in the theater group I grew up in. It’s based off of Psalm 40, which is a passage I find myself going to often. I sat down and really broken it apart, piece by piece, and these were my observations from the chapter. 

I waited patiently for the Lord- Waiting on God is the first step to getting out of your situation. Sometimes God has us wait to work on our trust in Him. 

…and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.- God is listening for us to call out to Him. We need to be proactive in stepping out in our faith so we can watch Him act. You see, God is always reaching out to us in friendship; we’ve got to reciprocate. 

He brought me up from a desolate pit- God brings us out of our most crappy situations. If you’re trapped in a pit with no way of getting out yourself, you need someone else to throw down the rope to you. You also have to trust your rescuer that they are more than strong enough to pull you out. Struggling against the rescuer will make the process much more difficult. 

…out of the muddy clay,- See above. I kind of like to think of this as quick-sand. The more you struggle in mud, the deeper your feet can sink in. The longer we just wallow in our situation without asking for help, the deeper we slip into our frustration and disaster.

…and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.- Now we are doing a complete 180 in this verse. God picks us up from instability and grossness onto a stable and clean foundation. Your feet can’t slip through solid rock. 

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.- We learn how to worship from God. We are all hardwired to worship something. Even though we were created for the purpose of worshipping God, out earthly desires often times pull us away from our original design. By reading the scriptures, we learn more about who God is, and with that knowledge, we are better able to worship Him. 

Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.- From our actions, people can come to faith. People can watch us and learn where our joy comes from, and we can plant seeds to bring them closer to Christ. 

 

Psalm 40:1-3, what a set of verses. It’s a passage that has been made into a fun song that I play on my green guitar while jumping up and down with kids and teachers before classes, rehearsals and performances. Often times with any worship song we lose sight of what we are actually singing. I challenge you to look up the source of your favorite songs sung in church or on the radio. Study where the lyrics came from in the first place. I find when I do this for myself, it makes worshipping much more meaningful to me. Give it a try, and feel free to share your favorite songs in the comments so I can check them out too! 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

My Brother, Jeremy

Jeremy Wolff is an astounding human being. For eighteen years, I’ve had a front row seat to watch him grow and mature into the dashing individual he is today. To be quite honest, I don’t think my family was sure we were ever going to get to the point where we are right now. A lot of people told my parents that Jeremy was probably never going to be able to talk in full sentences, let alone graduate from high school. Well, he proved them all wrong, because if you’ve ever had a conversation with him about something he’s passionate about, you know that he has no problem talking anyone and everyone’s ear off.

To give you some background, when my brother was in preschool, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD. In today’s modern medical world, Asperger’s now just falls on the Autism Spectrum. According to Autism Speaks, the disorder can be defined as, “a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” For the first few years of Jeremy’s verbal communication, he would only mimic what other people said instead of having his own original thoughts to add to conversations. He also had a very hard time putting on weight and was tiny until we discovered how many allergies he had. When we were in stores, we would always make a run for it when we heard a musical baby toy go off because the high pitched noise would make Jeremy cry. These are just a few examples of the obstacles Jeremy has overcome. With the help of many amazing people, especially my mom, he learned to communicate, finally grew, and learned how to cope with the frustrations around him.

We recently celebrated Jeremy’s high school graduation, and I shared two things I had learned from being his big sister. The first is the importance of being willing to slow down. While Jeremy and I are siblings, we are polar opposites. I am the type of person to plan their life three months in advance because I am always on the go. I’m also the kind of person who likes things to be done quickly. With Jeremy, I’ve learned that it’s not only okay but good to slow down for others. Taking an extra ten seconds to further explain something or listen to someone’s excited rant is not the end of the world. In fact, it might open your eyes up to a bigger world around you.

The second lesson I’ve learned is to never judge a book by it’s cover. Yes I know, it’s an old cliche, but it is so true. There are so many times that Jeremy was dismissed for one reason or another, and so many people have missed out on the chance to get to know him. Multiple times over the course of my college experience I have been quick to judge others by their outward appearance and first impression, along with the opinions of others. However, time and time again, when I took the time to slow down and really get to know certain people, I kicked myself for being so quick to judge. There’s a bible verse that Jeremy and I both learned in Awana that says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” This was God talking to Samuel, who was trying to figure out which of Jesse’s sons to anoint as the next king of Israel. The most unlikely of the bunch was the one God chose, and the Shepherd David ended up being one of the greatest kings of Israel. Often times we move along with public opinion instead of forming our own. I cannot promise that I’ll never fall into the trap of jumping to a final opinion on a person too quickly ever again. However, from the experience of being Jeremy’s older sister, I can say I am getting better at treating everyone with the same amount of respect as I would like to have.

Jeremy is one funny dude. While he’s not a huge fan of photos, he has made many of our family photos experience quite hilarious. He’s also super passionate about his interests, and because of his love of talking about his favorite things, he does not know a stranger. This man can talk to anyone who knows how to hold a game controller or what an anime is for a good long while without getting tired of sharing his wealth of knowledge with them. If you wanna hear an amazing concert, just hang around our house for a bit, because you’ll end up hearing Jeremy’s amazing pipes from his bedroom. Most of all though, he’s the one boy who has been there through every heartbreak I’ve ever gone through. He’s the one who gives me his rare but blessed hugs when some guy has been dumb. He’s also one of the handful of people that has to approve any romantic relationship I have. If Jeremy approves, then I must have made a decent choice. To tack on, Jay is a total stud and any lady would be lucky to do on a date with this handsome man.

I won’t lie and say Jeremy and I are the best of friends. We bicker every other day and drive each other nuts. I irritate him and he irritates me. At the end of the day though, I know that the boy that lives down the hall from me is one of the biggest blessings God has given me. The hours we’ve spent watching Gravity Falls or quoting the Julian Smith “Hot Cool Aid video” are memories I will treasure forever. Jeremy has overcome so much and I know he will live a full life in the years to come. I am so grateful to have such a smart, funny, good-looking little brother, and I wouldn’t trade him or the lessons he’s taught me for anything in the world. As my mom says often, when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. No two cases are ever the same, and no person with autism is just, “that autistic kid.” People are not labels. Never underestimate a person just because they are different from you. You might find you can learn a thing or two from them!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby                   

 

Things to Stop Saying to Yourself

I’m my own worst critic. There are times in my life where I struggle hardcore with how I feel others think of me. To be quite honest, it’s more common that I’m slightly paranoid about my relationships with people. Unfortunately, often times it is my own mind that makes situations exponentially worse than what they actually are. When you are filling your mind with self-induced negativity, you begin to believe that everyone else around you believes the same lies you are feeding yourself. These are some common phrases that can cross our minds, along with possible alternatives that could be used instead.

 

“I’m so stupid.”  Replace this with -> “I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge I have at this point in my life.”

 

“I’m annoying; nobody wants to be around me.” Replace this with -> “I am unique and the people that matter love me.”

 

“I look so ugly today.” Replace this with -> “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, even on my off days.”

 

“I suck at *insert something you love doing.*” Replace this with -> “I’m never gonna stop learning and improving.”

 

“I’ll never be as good as so-and-so at *insert a task that you want to excel at*.” Replace this with -> “I am not in competition with the people around me; life is about improving yourself and working with others.”

 

“I’m a failure.” Replace this with -> “I didn’t expect or want this situation to go this way, but it does not define me.”

 

“I’m not good enough.” Replace this with -> “I may not have all the skills I need now but I can get there.”

 

“I’m unlovable.” Replace this with -> “I am loved beyond my human understanding.”

 

“I don’t matter.” Replace this with -> “I am capable of making a huge impact in my world.”

 

“I wouldn’t be missed if I was gone.” Replace this with -> “I am connected to and loved by so many people that care about my well being.”

 

It is so easy to believe the lies we feed ourselves and allow them to affect our overall life experience. My challenge to you is to start catching yourself whenever you start to tear yourself down. As you work on building yourself up, you will find that building others up as well will come much easier to you. There’s a verse where Jesus talks about the two greatest commandments, which are loving God and loving others like ourselves. In order to love others fully, you need to love yourself as the wonderful creation God created you to be.

Full disclosure: I have been so hard on myself for as long as I can remember. I hold myself to impossible standards, and when I fail to meet those expectations, I beat myself up mercilessly. A handful of my professors are helping nail down the idea in my heart that I am loved, valued and capable, which means I can let up on myself. So do me a favor: join me in being kinder to yourself. I promise you, it’s gonna do wonders for your soul.

 

 

Until Next Time,

 

Abby

Another New Year’s Post| Ft. Love

Heeeeeeelllooooo 2019! Let me tell you something, New Year, your buddy that just retired was ROUGH. It seems like everyone and their dog was ready for 2018 to fly away so we could all get a fresh start. If you know anything about me, you know I love goals and, more specifically, accomplishing said goals. I’m the kind of person that has at least two planners at all times and is motivated by stickers. So you’d expect that I’d start this new year out with a post about my resolutions, right? It’s not like I haven’t done it before! (Woooo 2015) Well, despite my track record, this year, I don’t have a formal “2019 Resolutions” list (at least not yet). Yes, I still have my to do lists that seem to never end, but over the past few weeks, I have been reminded of something that I didn’t realize I had become apathetic towards: God’s Greatest Commandments.

I became clear of this message that God has been trying to get through to me on Sunday morning via a sermon by one of our wonderful pastors. A little background: in chapter 22 of the book of Matthew, a group of religious leaders were questioning Jesus to try and catch Him saying something that they could use to get rid of Him. Now, these guys have spent their whole lives memorizing the law. In fact, there are  613 laws that they had to know. Well, they decided to ask the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” in hopes that Jesus would finally slip up. There were 613 to choose from, after all! Which one would Jesus say?

Catch what He says: “37 And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” This is kind of a no brainer for the religious leaders. A devout Jew would recite this commandment from Deuteronomy at least twice a day. But then catch what Jesus says as a follow up: 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Go back and read that again, cause I had to a few times myself. Notice how Jesus didn’t say that going to church every sunday, or memorizing the most scripture, or raising your hands the most during worship time was the greatest commandment. He’s not wanting us to be the best looking holy Christian rolling into the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. In fact, it was the “holy” people Jesus was calling out time and time again. Jesus told us to love our neighbor, meaning every other being that has been created in the image of God. This doesn’t just include your best friend, your boyfriend, or your favorite aunt. This includes that boy that hurt you. This includes the girl who you know is talking behind your back. This includes the family member you can barely stand to be in the same room with at times. Regardless of religion (or lack thereof) a person professes, we as Christians are called to love God and love other people.

I know I have people who read this blog who do not share the same faith as me, and if you’re still reading this, hey, I appreciate you! For a moment though, let me talk to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

*deep breath*

GUYS!!!!! Sometimes we need to flippin’ CHILL OUT. There are times when we can feel as if we are proclaiming Christ to be siding with a certain political party on Facebook or avoiding certain types of people in order to keep ourselves from stumbling. However, we immediately follow this up by shouting at others and “sharing prayer requests” for our wayward friends (aka, gossiping). I know so many people who have grown up in a church environment and have completely dropped God because of how negative Christians can be. There are times we need to get off our holy high horses and realize that regardless of whether or not a person is Muslim, Hindu, Agonistic or whatever other spiritual stance still has a soul. Jesus didn’t just die for people who believe in Him: He died for all of us. Yes, there is time where tough love is needed (I’m thickheaded, I need it often), but so often, we miss the point of our mission on earth. Genuine love has been thrown out the window, and we as the church must reclaim it and better represent the One we claim to be following.

I wrote this post over the course of two days, and in between those two days, I was hit with a situation that made me step back and reevaluate how I treat others. I was faced with a choice of whether or not to be hard-hearted or to extend the love I have been taught for years. Thoughts of, “I have no obligation to show love right now,” and “Someone else will take care of this; you don’t have to try and reach everyone” ran through my head. I had been hurt and had finally gotten over the pain I felt in high school, I was not about to step back into a realm where I could feel burned again. But then I remembered how unworthy I am of the love that has been lavished on me by my Heavenly Father. I remembered how God has brought people into my life over the past year to build me up when I have been at my lowest. I recalled how my Saviour suffered pain and heartache on my behalf. If Jesus decided to die for a messed up person like me, shouldn’t I be able to extend a humble love to my fellow man? So I got up, and did the best I could to love as I knew how. I don’t share this story to stroke my Christian-ego; I share it as an example that a person who has spent over twenty years in church still has issues with being active in loving others. Anyone who tells you being a Christian is easy is a liar and you should run far, far away from them.

Regardless of your beliefs, I am of the conviction that we need to do a better job of loving one another. I challenge you today: if you need to mend a bridge or reach out to someone you have had on your mind, stop ignoring that task. Be slower to anger and quicker to loving the people you cross paths with in life. I don’t know about your 2019 goals, but I know mine is this: to love more often as Christ has loved me.

 

Thanks for the inspiration, Steve.

 

 

Until Next Time,

 

Abby

 

Face Painting in the Bathroom (A Romania Story)

As craziness has begun to settle around the Wolff Household, I have finally been able to sit down and process the experiences that I had while in Romania. There are so many stories I could tell about this trip, and this one was probably one of my favorite moments from my time over seas.

The city we spent the most time in is called Serverin. During our second day of ministry, we served at our host missionary’s church: painting rooms in their family home, playing games with kids at the church’s carnival, and attending the evening church service. It had been a very eventful day, including:

*Learning that Logan isn’t the greatest painter ever

*Eating baked Chocolate Banana Boats (the best dessert ever invented)

*Watching Alishia get painted by two very artistic kiddos

*Hearing a mandolin orchestra play worship songs

* Getting to share bible stories with the help of very awesome translators (shout out to Sammy who helped me, even when I said Lazarus raised Jesus from the dead)

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Thanks for translating, Sammy!

After the church service, we got ready to load the bus to head into the city for dinner before going back to our hotel. I ran to the bathroom to change into different clothes, where I saw two girls, Dariah and Ava, washing their faces off. They were big fans of the face paint (and were the two that had painted Alishia). Before I could slip into one of the stalls, Dariah came up to me, holding one of the face painting pallets. Not knowing any English, she pointed to her cheek. I quickly painted a heart, with Ava leaning over my shoulder to see what I was doing. Once I finished my work, I pointed to the mirror and gave her a thumbs-up to get her approval.

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Ava and Dariah

To my slight disappointment, she shook her head. She then pointed to her forehead, nose, chin, and other cheek, and Ava laughed and laughed. One heart was not good enough, no sir! You have to have five to complete the look! As I was finishing my masterpiece, some of my friends went in and out, trying to stifle laughs at the ridiculous sight of me face-painting in a church bathroom, but I was having fun, and so were the girls (even though I really wanted to change my jeans and had to go).

Once Dariah was done, she pulled Ava in front of me, and pointed to all five spots on her face again. I did the same paint job, and afterwords, she ran out of the bathroom, looking for her mother. Dariah stayed behind though, and pointed to my wrist. I have a habit of drawing a little cross on my wrist; it’s a tattoo I want to get someday. She said the word for “Christ” in Romanian, and used some of the green face paint to add a tint of color over it. She then tried to draw a few lines on my palm with the green, but it wasn’t showing up very well. I took my black pen out of my pocket and handed it to her. After redirecting her from drawing on my face, she drew a little snowflake on my wrist, saying “Elsa” once she was done. Frozen creates international connections. I hugged her goodbye and joined my group on the bus, treasuring that special time.

Summer 2016 116

Ava ran off before I got a good selfie with the two of them 😛

While sitting on the bus on the way to get dinner, I thought about how special kids are. It’s amazing to get to connect with kids, especially in a different country where you can’t even understand their language. It was almost shocking to me how trusting they were of us. They had never met us. They had no idea what our lives were like. They had no reason to love us. But they did. Oh my goodness, these kids knew how to love. It was like how God loves us. We gave God absolutely no reason to love us. In fact, we were His enemy. But because of His amazing love, He sent Jesus to build a bridge for us to be able to live in His perfect love. This trip made me better understand the unconditional love that God has for us, and to be able to see the attribute of God being reflected through the people we met was life changing.

Our team went to try and be a blessing to the people of Romania, but in truth, I feel like they were more of a blessing to us. I’m so thankful for the huge moments that God revealed Himself, and for the little, precious memories that I will keep in my heart forever. And, in case you were wondering, no, I never did get a chance to change my jeans 😛

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My cross, Dariah’s snowflake, and a leftover Batman symbol. Reminders of a great day in Severin 🙂 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

 

Grandma Wolff

It seems fitting to break my six month leave of blogging by talking about my sweet Grandma who, at the time I’m writing this, has spent eight glorious days with Jesus. Though, knowing her, she would rather me talk about my missions trip over talking about her, because that’s just the way she was: always diverting the conversation away from herself and back onto you. I can’t express to you how strange it is that she is gone. Over the past few years, I’ve dealt with a lot of friends and distant family passing on, but nothing has hurt as much as this. But, though there is a tremendous amount of grief that is weighing on my heart, there is a sense of peace at the same time.

I do have to talk about my Romania trip a little bit after all. I had known the Sunday night of our trip (Sunday morning Kansas City time) that both Grandma Wolff and my Great Grandmother weren’t doing well. At our team meeting that night, I asked for prayer for both of these wonderful ladies to be out of pain and peace for my Dad, who was the only son and grandson in town to deal with it all. As I prayed to myself as I lulled off to sleep, I prayed not only for their pain to be relieved, but also that no one would die while I was out of the country.

I felt very selfish praying like this, but this had been my biggest fear before leaving on my trip. A week before we left, our team had it’s final meeting to practice and get all the last minute details. Up until 10:30am that day, I had felt great! I was so excited to travel and see God work. I had had no worries about anything up until that point. But an hour and a half into the meeting while we were sitting in small groups, a spirit of fear that I had never experienced before washed over me. One of the adult leaders was sharing her testimony, and part of it was that her father had died when she was 13 years old. I began to have horrible thoughts about something bad happening to my dad while I was gone, and my thoughts then shifted to thinking about Grandma dying while I was away. After the meeting, I went home and sobbed; I had never been that scared.

Over the next few days, I talked to God and ultimately gave my fear over to Him: if something happened while I was gone, there was nothing I could do about it. God has His own timing. A week after my panicked episode, I had my graduation party, where many friends and family, including Grandma and Grandpa, came to stop by and congratulate me. As I laid in my bunk in Romania, I thought about how I week before, I had hugged her and taken a photo with her. She was gonna be fine; we’d had scares before. I finally drifted off the sleep, still praying for pain to be relieved, but to please Lord,  let me see my Grandma again.

The next morning, the fear that had been crippling to me came true. I woke up to hear one of my team leaders talking quietly to my sweet friend Avery, and I knew something was wrong. When the leader left, I sat up, trying to decide whether to call my mom or just get the news there. I ended up going with the second. I asked my sweet friend Avery, “Who’s gone?” She climbed up to my bunk and told me the news. She held me and together, we cried. Looking back on this moment, Avery reflected a lot of what Grandma’s life’s work was all about. Grandma was the sort of person who hurt with her friends and was there for people in need. In dark times, she was a light to those who needed it.

Calling my parents was hard, because I realized that the first part of my fear had come true. My dad was the one at home helping my Grandpa deal with the passing of his mother. He was hurting deeply, more deeply than I could imagine. After hanging up the phone, the only thing I wanted to do was go home, but I was an ocean away and wasn’t heading home for three more days. Thankfully, Grandma’s loving spirit was reflected in my teammates yet again. As we fellow shipped together, friends were there to cheer me up and distract me from the many negative emotions I was feeling. Romania is a beautiful place, and I knew that Grandma would be mad if I let her ruin my last few days enjoying God’s beautiful creation.

Looking back on the fear that I felt before the trip, I know that the fear wasn’t from God, but I do believe that God used that episode to prepare my heart to let go. A lot of our human experience is about letting go. In fact, Jesus said to be able to follow Him, you are to sell everything, take up your cross and follow His lead. Death for those who know God is wonderful; it’s us left on Earth that deal with the bad part of death. We’re the ones who have to live on while our loved one is living a pain and sadness free eternity. It’s bittersweet: we are left with a hole that can’t be filled by anyone else, but we can find peace in knowing that they are enjoying the presence of Jesus.

While there have been moments of anger that have come to my mind, they have been followed my moments of thankfulness. The thoughts of “I wish I had talked to her longer; hugged her more; spent just a few more minutes with her” are followed by thoughts of joyful memories that help relieve the heartache. I am thankful for a God who shares in out pain. It’s okay to be angry and sad; Jesus had those emotions too. But I have comfort in the fact that Jesus is also the giver of joy and will lift us up out of our darkest moments. While I will never understand the will of God, I know that He had me where I was and where she was for a specific purpose. I don’t need to know all the details because He’s already got the rest of them figured out (though, there are times I want to know those details, in which cases, God is ever patient with me).

Susan Wolff’s life shaped the lives of my Dad, my Mom, my brother, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, cousins, teachers, thousands of students, church goers, Nebraska Furniture Mart humans, friends from missions trips, and me. It’s not too often that you meet a woman like her. A word that was said a lot at her funeral was “legacy”, which, man, she has a great one. It is the job now of us left here to complete our own races to carry on the Christ like love that Grandma had for others. Knowing Susan Wolff as a Grandma was one of the greatest gifts God could have given to me, and I pray everyday to live a life like hers.

 

Philippians 1:20-21

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

 

Until Next Time,

 

Abby

 

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Below, I have added the blurb I shared at her funeral.

 

How does one begin to describe the life of Susan Wolff? Some called her a friend, a sister, or Mom, but I had the great honor of calling her “Grandma”. In fact, I was the first to call her Grandma. From birth to my college graduation, Grandma was there as a beacon of light that couldn’t be replaced by anyone else. Over the past 18 years, I was influenced by her many talents, her strength, and most importantly, her Godly personality.

Grandma was one of the most giving people you could ever meet. As I was growing up, if I expressed interest in something, she found a way to help me succeed in it. When I decided that I wanted to be a writer, she gave me my first laptop, which I wrote dozens of stories on. She also gave her time, going to see almost all of my musical theatre productions and even taking me to see the Broadway tour of War Horse for my birthday. Between the seven “Wolff Pups”, she made sure to have special moments that we would remember for years to come. If there was a way for her to give, she would do it with a joyful heart.

Photography was one of Grandma’s favorite things. At any family gathering or event, you could bet that she had a camera in her hands. Over the years, I have received many mini digital cameras from her, and it was always a thrill to get to use Grandma’s Big Fancy Camera. The love for photos that Grandma inspired was passed down to her daughter-in-law, my mom Rachel, who in turn passed it along to me. As I study photography in college, I can’t help but remember the times when Grandma handed her camera off to my 13-year-old self to let me start exploring the fun she experienced behind the lens. It’s a joy to capture memories, and Grandma was always good at making sure those moments got caught.

The most important thing that Grandma passed along to me was her Christian heritage. As far back as I can remember, I can hear Grandma singing praises as she drove down the highway or bustled around the kitchen. Man, she loved to sing. I know that she has to have been doing it much longer than I’ve been on this Earth, because my dad, Chad, does the same thing. Every Christmas, she would have all the kids sit down and read the story of Jesus’s birth, and every year without fail, she would say, “And that was only the beginning.” Her passion for mission work inspired me to pursue a life that is a light to others, whether stateside or in Romania. Her love for Jesus was what fueled her strength to battle her sickness and encourage others to live life to the fullest. I’ve yet to find someone who loved Jesus more than Grandma.

There are thousands of other memories that I could share about my Grandma, some including precious stuffed dog Pepper when I was a baby, matching Oreos in the hospital while waiting for my brother to be born, playing Veggie tales games on her school computers, waving at her in the stands as I got ready to graduate, and the many, many Silver Dollar City trips. But nothing is more important than the Godly legacy she has left her on Earth that I and everyone who was touched by her life have the privilege of carrying on. I feel very blessed to be one of the select few that has the gift of calling Susan Wolff their Grandma. I hope to live a life like hers as I grow in my friendship with Christ in the time that God has set out for me.  I know for a fact that if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Live Now

You are here for a purpose. A really important purpose, I might add. You were born at a certain time in a certain place into certain circumstances that have brought you to where you are today. While it might not seem like it now, your life so essential. It might not be in a huge, top new story kind of way, but you have a very specific mission: to live the life that was given to you to the fullest.

 

Often times, we kind of just coast through life. We do everything just well enough to get by. We hang out with people we love, but don’t really invest in saying hello to the person sitting next to us in math class. We come home everyday after work and binge Netflix for hours at a time to unwind from the day.

 

What if we truly lived. What if we got out of our comfort zones? What if we went the extra mile? What if we talked to that person sitting next to us? What if, instead of sitting around, we got up and did something great?

 

I’m preaching to myself more than anything. I’m part of a group called HYPE, and we’re studying a book called Do Hard Things. This is a book I’ve read three different times, and every time I read it, I get encouraged to make big changes in my life. While big changes can be really great, little changes can go a long way to living life more fully. Recently, I’ve made a conscious effort to try and smile at people while walking around campus instead of glancing away or staring down at my phone. Let me tell you, that’s harder than doing a show for 500 strangers, but it’s something that has become a habit and is becoming a lot easier to do.

 

Life is too short and too fragile to live safely. Pushing past comfort zones is the biggest step you can take to living out the life that you were created to live. Every person is so important, and by making the choice to live presently can make a huge impact in someone else’s life. Don’t let disastrous circumstances make you come to the realization that you only have so much time on this Earth. Do everything you do to the very best of your abilities. Love others as though you are the only person that will ever show them that they are valued. Spend less time wasting time. Live now. 

 

 

Until Next Time,

 

Abby

In the Midst of Pain…

The past month or so has been full of reminders how fragile yet resilient human beings can be. A local police officer/former Marine from our church getting into a horrible motorcycle accident; a boy I’ve known for years is currently paralyzed from wreck and is getting ready to start rehab; as I write this, I’m sitting in my uncle’s hospital room, who is recovering from a heart attack. 

A few years ago, I would have been angry with God for all the pain that was happening to people in my life. How do I know this? Because I’ve been angry with God about pain before. When my friend Houston died, that was hard for a ton of people, and there was a period of time when I was very mad at God. I hated that my friends were in pain, and it a very tough patch of work through.  

 I feel that Houston entering into Heaven though made me want to grow a better relationship with God. While it was hard for the first month or so, the gap in my life was able to be filled by spending time getting to know my Heavenly Father. It’s not a one way street; being a Christian means that you have a relationship with Jesus. In any relationship, it’s a give and take. Imagine if a friend you loved to the moon and back only asked you for stuff. They never asked how you were doing or wanted to get to know you. We as humans would probably drop that friend after a while. 

Often times, that’s how we are with God. We ask for His blessings and for Him to answer our prayers instead of trying to get to know Him. It can be a hard road, believe me. It takes effort, but all the greatest relationships take a lot of effort. 

In the midst of pain, I feel better equipped to be content in hard situations because I better understand the God who is in control of everything. There’s still so much I need to learn, but I’m so thankful that my God is the God who wants to a thriving friendship with me. As I pray for the people who are hurting, I am able to pray with confidence that God is not only watching over us, but is working through us. 

Keep Nate, Cayden and Corey in your prayers as they all work through their medical battles. Through it all, God is good. 
Until Next Time, 

Abby

Two Years

There are days were it just feels like yesterday when I was sitting at the kitchen table playing Jenga after dinner when my mom got the phone call. That night, some of my CYT family came over to my home to just be together as we tried to process the unimaginable. As I went to school that week, I would wander around campus, numb, not knowing what to do with myself as I tried to understand what had happened. In all honesty, I was mad at God. I was mad that He had taken Houston St. John off of this earth. I was mad that I would never get to see such a wonderful person again, and I was mad that my family was so devastated.

But oh, God is so good.

Through the devastation of losing Houston, CYT Kansas City banded together like nothing I have ever seen. People who had issues with each other forgave each other. Every hug was so meaningful. We wiped each other’s tears away and we loved each other like we never had before. As we worked through the pain, God worked through us.

A day hasn’t gone by where Houston hasn’t crossed my mind, and I couldn’t be more thankful that God let me have such an amazing person come into my life, even if it was for a short time. Houston was a prime example of what it means to really love people. He was one of the most, if not the most, talented human beings I have ever met, yet he was also one of the most humble. He didn’t let his talents get in the way of being a friend to everyone he came into contact with. He would never deny a hug, and would tell people “I love you” so easily. You don’t meet too many people like this, especially in high school. Houston didn’t waste any time; he was always working to become a better performer, but he was also working to spread as much joy to others as possible.

In the midst of heart break, God refined so many spirits. There are so many people who now strive to be the kind of person that Houston was on earth, and CYT KC has been shaped for the better because of it. As you go about your day, remember that you don’t know how much time you have left to love other people. God gave us the ability to love each other and share the grace that He has given to us. Life is a vapor, so view every day as an opportunity to spread love to everyone around you. It’s something that Houston was extremely good at 🙂

We miss you so much Houston, but thank you for helping us to better understand what it means to live life to the fullest.

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Until Next Time,

Abby

Philippians 4:13 For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.