Redemption meets Joy

I just got back from an amazing couple days in Kansas City with my brother. We went and watched soccer and just had a great time. We have had this trip planned since about May. But as I was driving up to KC on Thursday night and back to Memphis today my mind began to wander. My mind began to reflect on just what the last year has looked like. A year ago, I was a senior in college and I was in a rough semester of very tough classes that actually did prepare me for this job i have now as a youth pastor. I was comfortable in most sense of the word because I had friends, fraternity brothers, and other people around me that I had known for quite awhile. I was living a pretty good life. But one part was missing…Matt. Matt is my only brother and he is 28 years old. Five and a half years older than I am.

I got to thinking about this past year and how i was even driving to Kansas City to have this weekend with Matt on Thursday night. Now like most of you I listen to music when I drive. It just helps me drive better and I love singing along to my favorite songs. Well I was listening to NEEDTOBREATHE as I began to see the signs that let me know that I was getting closer and closer to Kansas City. It just so happened to be NEEDTOBREATHE’s Live From the Woods album, which is their live album that they recorded in Nashville this past year. Side note: I have probably listened to this album 50-100 times because I enjoy it so much. But this song came on and it was so powerful that tears came to my eyes.

A year ago if you would have asked me if I would be spending the third weekend of September in Kansas City watching professional soccer and drinking craft beer with Matt, I would have looked at you like you had three heads and wrote you off for a crazy person. But God has plans that are so higher and greater than mine and yours. For those of you who are wondering why I would have thought this was such a crazy idea, give me a minute and let me tell you a little background on this whole situation.

When I was in 8th grade, my brother left. he left because he needed to find himself. He was out of my life until January of this year. There were times where I was growing up that I would question God by saying “Why me?” “Why am I going through this?” It was not the easiest route that I walked through high school and college without the person that I looked up to the most. Well let’s fast forward to last fall, I was just about ready to give up on God that God would bring Matt home. All I had prayed for consistently my whole college life was “God please let Matt be able to see me graduate college.” In October I began to have my doubts that God wouldn’t bring him home and he wouldn’t be able to see me graduate college. But God like always had a bigger and better plan than I did.

I was just about to give up hope when I went on Google+ over Christmas break as a last ditch effort to see if I could connect with him. Well I found him on there and just added him. I didn’t know if he ever got on there or not but I was sure that he would probably get an email notification that let him know that I added him. Well a few days later he messaged me and we got to talking. We FaceTimed and communicated every day and still do to this day. Well fast forward to February. I was able to go up and see Matt in Denver where he lives.

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First picture in 8 years together. February 2015

Well In march as I was walking across campus to my fraternity house for some meeting that I had to be at, Matt called. We were talking about going to Kansas City for a Sporting KC soccer game. He was saying well we should go in May. I told him I was most likely going to be available in May just not early May because i hadn’t finished school yet. I told him that graduation was on May 9th but anytime after that I was most likely going to be free to head to KC to watch our favorite team play. As I walked across the street to the fraternity house, he said something that I will never forget “Graduation is May 9th? I’ll be there.” I was so shocked and in awe. God had already done so much by just bringing him back into my life. I couldn’t hold back the tears but I told him that I was at the house for the meeting and told him I would call him later and chat. I just stood in the front yard of the fraternity house for a good fifteen minutes and just let the tears flow. It was something that only God could piece together.

May 8th came and Matt was in OKC to see me graduate the next day. May 9th I walked across the stage and he was sitting on the 3rd row. It was such a surreal moment that I did not think was going to happen even 6 months before.

Graduation May 2015

Graduation
May 2015

Fast forward to this weekend. I am driving to Kansas City to hang out with Matt and watch soccer. This is a trip that we have been talking about since March and has been planned since May. We sat 4th row behind the goal and watch Sporting Kansas City beat FC Dallas 3-1 with all the goals by Sporting scored on our end.

Welcome to Sporting Park!

Welcome to Sporting Park!

View from our seats

View from our seats

I tell you all of this to tell you, NEVER GIVE UP. Never give up on God, yourself, or something you believe in. Because if God wants it to happen, whether it be good or bad in your eyes it will happen. But don’t stop looking for God in everything. he is always up to something we just have to look for it because we might miss it if we don’t. In my case it was my brother, it may be something different in your case. But never give up hope. Never stop doing good.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.-Galatians 6:9

Thad Ernst

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It’s okay to just be OK

So many times I will be talking to a friend and ask them the simple question of “How are you?” Sometimes I know they are going through things. Sometimes I don’t but this is a question that I ask often. Most people say good even I say I am good some of the time. People expect that others will say that “I am good.” Most of the time I am doing well and feeling blessed. But sometimes I am not good, nor am I in a bad spot. I am just in a spot of OK or alright.

Last week I found myself in one of those spots. I was just OK. The week prior my heart had been through a lot. *If you would like to read more about what all I went through the week prior check my last blog post out here. People who I knew cared a lot about me reached out to me and asked “How are you?” They usually expect me to say that I am doing well and they knew what had happened so some may have expected for me to say that I wasn’t doing very good. But I was doing OK. I was in that middle zone where people sometimes do not know how to respond to someone asking about how they are doing.

But in the past 10 days or so I have really learned that it is okay to just be OK. But don’t let the conversation just end there. Ask them why are they just okay and be ready to listen. Some people just need to have someone listen from an outsiders perspective. But some people are too afraid to show that they don’t have their life together. Who has been feeding us this? Why as a society do we feel like we have to have it all together? It is okay to show that you are a human that hurts and bleeds. It is okay to say that you are just OK. You don’t have to always have a good day. There will be plenty of days that are tough. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or a day that the boss overloads you with work. You will have rough days. You also will have average, boring, just OK days too.

Rest in the OK days because everyday will not be sunshine and rainbows nor will they feel like the world is drowning you. The OK days will come. But I challenge you to find something good out of those days. Let those days where you just feel OK teach you something. Do not just go through them feeling down because you aren’t doing good. But look at those days and seek God wholeheartedly on those days. Do not give up because you did not feel God or experience Him. In Galatians 6:9 it says “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 

I hope that encourages you to be okay in being OK. If we seek him we will find him even on the days that are just alright. You don’t have to be doing well. But please don’t always doing terribly. If you are in that place then please let someone know. But it really is alright to just be alright.

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Thad Ernst