Thursday, December 30, 2010

20 things from 2010: a year well spent

2010 has been good to me.

It's funny, when I began my year of internship for my BA program I was in, many people told me to prepare myself for a big year of growth. I kind of shrugged it off because I already had my major year of growth when I served with Youth Encounter for a year. However, internship year served as a huge year of personal growth. The crazy thing is, I thought that was it again. 2010, you, my friend, might've been my biggest growth year yet. It's truly been a year of gathering oil in my meantime.

So this blog post is 20 things from best and favorite gleanings, findings, and things I've put in my pocket this year. It's a collage of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual oil I've collected in 2010. Enjoy!

  1. Facing the harsh reality of one of my favorite sins:
    "We wear busyness like a badge of honor when we should be repenting of seeking validation there." --Trey Herweck

  2. Deliverer by Vicky Beeching

  3. "Are you hoping that a change in circumstances will bring a change in your attitude? If so, you are in prison, and you need to learn a secret of traveling light. What you have in your Shepherd is greater than what you don't have in life." --Max Lucado, Traveling Light

  4. Wonderful self discovery. :-)
    Tonight's discovery: All of my close relationships are a dichotomy of extreme silliness and intense depth. I like this and all those who share these qualities with me. –my journal, 11/2

  5. Your Love Never Fails by Jesusculture.

  6. Being grounded in the truth of God’s Word. Especially Psalm 16.

  7. "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17

  8. "If you're not happy with something, evaluate the situation. Can you change something to make that better? If yes, okay! Be proactive--do something about it. If not, let it go. Some things you can't control and you have to learn to let go and let God." --a wise woman I know.

  9. "Sometimes grace is speaking harsh truth. Sometimes it's not saying anything."--my twitter, 4/22

  10. "Because I'm so scared of being alone
    That I forget what house I live in
    But it's not my job to wait by the phone
    For her to call"
    --Caedmon's Call, Table for Two (give it a's great!)

  11. Being connected in a church family with theAlley.
    "Everything in this world will fail you...your family, your friends, your church, everything. But Jesus WILL NOT FAIL YOU." --Pastor Ben, theAlley

  12. Don Miller's blog, books, and seeing him live.
    "Before I realized we were supposed to fight fear, I thought of fear as a subtle suggestion in our subconscious designed to keep us safe, or more important, keep us from getting humiliated. And I guess it serves that purpose. But fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life." --Don Miller, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”

  13. Get help. No matter what it is…we all have something we need to ask for help with. Work,relationships,medical issues, counseling, fitness, spiritual help, etc. You are not weak for asking. You are living in freedom from whatever binds and being proactive in breaking down those chains.

  14. Living in relationship—this picture has just a few of the people that have encouraged, challenged, and walked with me through a year of growing. Relationships and all the stuff that goes with them challenge and fulfill me more than anything. To you all, I'm so indebted.
    "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." --Moulin Rouge

  15. Running the Pura Vida 5K -- Being part of something bigger than myself to celebrate someone very special that God used in big ways. It was definitely my greatest physical challenge this year.

  16. Have a mentor and be a mentor. I can't tell you how valuable it is to learn from someone who has been there and is a season or two wiser than you.

  17. The Hubbs Center -- I gained lots of perspective and compassion through teaching adults English. It was amazing to see their dedication to something as difficult as learning to read so that they could better care for their families. My time there also confirmed my love for different cultures and people. This place is doing incredible things.

  18. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
    "Each of us pays a heavy price for our fear of falling flat on our face. It assures the progressive narrowing of our personalities and prevents exploration and experimentation. ... If we are going to keep growing, we must keep on risking failure throughout our lives." "After falling on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace? Are you moody and melancholy because you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don't have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?”

  19. Time spent reflecting and journaling. It is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. It brings self-awareness and helps you to be proactive in areas of difficult. It also is a way to celebrate wins and triumphs.

    "It is said that the greatest learning happens through experience. I think that's only part of it. Experience will give you scars and tattoos and put miles on your car. But reflection..reflection on those experiences is where wisdom is gained."—my journal, 8/23 "I'm always glad when I can look back and think of times and places that have brought joy and wisdom to my life and be grateful for them, but all the while not wishing I'm anywhere else but now. Lord, you are good yesterday, today, and forever."—my journal, 9/7

  20. If you wait until your “fixed” to let someone love you, it will never happen. Let others embrace the mess. Jesus already did on the cross. Live in that grace.

Christ has come to bring joy, peace, hope, and freedom.
May you see it all around you in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

the waiting makes it great.

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Habbakuk 3:2

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite nights of the whole year. Now, this is coming from a girl who usually pays very little mind to Christmas and its accolades. I'm not sure why this year has been different. Maybe I've watched Elf a few extra times and I secretly aspire to be the female version of Buddy the Elf. Whatever it is, Advent has been such a rich season this year and Christmas Eve has been spot on. There's something about this night that's a bit more serene and for about 24 hours there's a magic surrounding a baby who shares His bed with farm animals. The story comes to life all over again and this year more than most.

Honestly, I can't help but wonder if waiting made the difference.

We have a whole season to prepare for Christmas. The season of Christmas isn't over in a day, mind you, but we do spend a lot of time preparing for this one day. The journey to the stable makes the joy of what happens there all the more rich. The prophecies from ancient days, people waiting for the rescue of a coming Messiah, Mary's visit from an angel, Joseph's obedience to God, Elizabeth's miraculous pregnancy and encouragement for her cousin, wise men following a star to the new king, a physical journey to Bethlehem. That's a lot of build up, folks--Christ's birth is the culmination of all these subplots. Great things have come from waiting in faith.

I think of the scene with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis toward the end of A League of Their Own. Davis's character has decided to leave the baseball league and Hanks's character asks her how she could just walk away from something that was so great.
"It just got too hard." She responds.
Hanks looks at her and says, "the hard is what makes it great."

For us, the waiting makes it great. The depth of Advent, the intricacies of the story, the hugeness of our God unfolding in the form of a tiny little bundle of joy. So sweet are the great things we have waited for.

Tonight, He has arrived. This isn't the kind of thing that you wait for, get caught up in the hype, and then find it to be simply overrated. Tonight we celebrate the arrival of the hope that doesn't disappoint. How sweet it is. The waiting is the icing on the sweetest of cakes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

seasons: alone leads to together

Seasons. I'm a seasons girl. While growing up, I went through lots of phases. Phases of Mickey Mouse, Ninja Turtles, dinosaurs, cowgirl things, and lots of other things that live in garage boxes labeled "too cute to throw away." Seasons and phases are something I can get into. And actually, this concept is pretty biblical if you ask me.

Ecclesiastes 3:
There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
...You get the picture.

I think it's cool because most of these times or seasons cycle. Think about plants throughout the year. They die, then seeds of the dead cause them to bloom again. We are in constant cycle. We hurt and then we heal, usually just in time to be hurt and healed once again. One part of the cycle leads us into the next.

My seasons? Aloneness and togetherness.

As a single 20-something, I've grown to enjoy both of these very much. I'm recharged by quality time with others. I love to spend time with people--friends new and old. However, there's just something splendid about being on my own. These are two very important things to have in your life no matter your relationship status, but sometimes I feel strange admitting that alone is a great thing for me to be. Being a strong extrovert, I often get looks of surprise when I mention my solo trips to restaurants, movies, coffee shops, you name it. It truly is fun to be that and do that from time to time. You need both.

One of my favorite quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer is from Life Together:
"Let him who cannot be alone, beware of community... Let him who is not in community, beware of being alone."

Alone seasons are a time where I get to know God, who He has made me to be, and learn that He's placed a lot of strength and capability within me. It's also a time to realize my depth of brokenness, which reveals my dependence on God and community. So much growth happens when you're simply letting yourself sit in the hands of the Holy One. In the last two years, I have had tremendous personal growth where I have seen God working on me in the meantime. I attribute that growth to seasons where being alone has been more prevalent in my life. This doesn't mean I'm isolated or out of community, but I've definitely been blessed by some "Israelites in the desert"-esque experiences. God taking my hand and saying, "trust me for a promise for you on the other side is great." So far, so difficult, but so worth it. Seasons of alone better equip me for seasons of together. Just like Ecclesiastes, one spurs me back into the other. The beauty is that alone often allows us to be closer to others in the long run. It's a beautiful cycle that I'm learning to embrace more and more.

If you're in an alone season, I feel ya. Hang in there...wait it out until you like it, as the video says, take advantage of what it has to offer, and realize two things:
1) the promises on the other side of being alone are great--wait for them; 2) that even when you're waiting alone, God's promise to never leave or forsake you, to be your Emmanuel, still stands.

In honor of alone seasons, here is a fantastic video. Give it a watch...and take yourself out to dinner. :-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a baby will come...

The following is a song that was sent to me recently by a friend and it's been a wonderfully meaningful addition to my Advent journey. It's such a beautiful telling of humanity's story of waiting as we look toward the coming of Christ this Christmas. You can listen to it here.

A Baby Will Come by Bill Wolf
The kings of this world
/Have torn it apart/But we can take heart/A baby will come

To the hungry and meek/To those who grieve/To the broken, in need/A baby will come

We have known pain/We’ve felt death’s sting/God, help us believe/This baby will come

The angel appeared/Said do not fear/For peace is here/A baby has come

The advent of life/Let hope arise/We’ve our Savior and Christ/The Baby has come

We’ve waited so long/God, for Your mighty arm/May our doubts ever calm/For the Baby has come

The proud will be low/The humble will know/They’re valued and loved/For the Baby has come

Cause the kings of this world/Won’t have the last word/That, God, is Yours/For the Baby has come

Blessings as you wait for Christ to come and as you simultaneously live in the joy that He's already here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

collecting oil and coming up short

The past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew's Gospel. It's such a cool story that is so thick with the culture of the 1st Century Hebrew people, it is filled with beautiful imagery, and deep spiritual applications. The biggest appeal about it to me right now? It's a common story for Advent and it's all about waiting.

Click here to read the whole passage.

As I've marinated in this story, 3 points/views worth thinking through have surfaced.

#1: The cultural context of this story. In this culture, the wedding party was a huge feast and not something you'd want to miss out on. The groom would journey from his house to the bride's home and would spend the day and evening parading around the city in celebration. It was the role of the bridesmaids to wait at the gate of the groom's home for them to return so they could enter the wedding feast all together. This was a feast that lasted for days at the groom's home. It was important for the bridesmaids to have a lit lamp when the bridegroom came because it identified them with the wedding party. If they were without a lamp, they risked the chance of being seen as a party crasher or even someone there to stir up trouble. If the 5 virgins with extra oil would've shared theirs, they would've ran the risk of running out of oil before the bridegroom returned and jeopardized their place at the banquet.

So with all that in mind, I was wondering to myself, "what temptations in my life are asking for my oil?" Is it my calendar? Am I giving away my oil, or maybe better put, my heart that belongs to God? While I'm here waiting, am I willing to hold out hope that, even if it's a long wait, I will stay undivided in my heart for Christ returning?

#2: My friend Mary is very wise. One day we were talking about life as single young women of God. She encouraged me that waiting can be difficult, but she referenced this parable and explained that waiting is a time to collect oil. I love that. I realize that there are always going to be struggles and times when I don't have things figured out, but to see that there are areas that God is really working on me right now and that will be beneficial down the road for a relationship, for ministry, for life. This season of my life, especially this Advent, has been a great time of oil collecting. I am grateful for that and to have eyes for how God is preparing and working on me.

#3: A wise friend of mine shared a great insight with me about this parable yesterday that I have been milling over ever since. He said that it was passed on to him that this story isn't even necessarily about running out of oil or being prepared, even though those are valuable things, most certainly. The truth in it all is that if the 5 women who ran out of oil wouldn't have left, they would've probably still been welcomed. Instead, they ran away trying to cover up their inefficiencies.

Even when we see that sin and idolatry is draining our oil, even as we collect oil for this season of waiting, we are going to come up short. It's not enough. We aren't going to have everything figured out. We will always be a work in progress until Jesus comes back. Admitting the failure and living a life that is broken is going to be difficult, but we watch with anticipation, stay put, and own up to where we lack. Christ followers are merely the women without oil, kneeling at the feet of the coming Bridegroom saying "We ran out of oil. We have failed you." He smiles with compassion and simply ushers us through the door and gives us a seat at the wedding feast.

Now there's something worth the wait.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

join in the Advent party.

So this weekend was one of the snowiest experiences of my life. It was crazy. Snow has the ability to paralyze the whole metro area from their normal speed of busyness and I love it. For some reason, it was thrilling to know that I normally would be out and about shopping or running errands, but now I would be confined to campus.

With the exception of an arduous adventure to Target and back, I hadn't left all weekend. Some friends came to watch movies, play in the snow, and eat (a whole lot!). It was a blast--completely and utterly. I haven't eaten or laughed that much in a long time.

It just made me realize something. Last weekend I didn't leave my apartment much at all either, but it was not quite as exciting. I was productive, but I was by myself. It was isolating and I couldn't wait to get out.

This weekend was different. I didn't want it to end. Jumping in snow drifts is actually pretty cool when you're not doing it by yourself. Leaping off of picnic tables could look strange if you're going solo, but it's a blast when you're with a bunch of friends. And let's be real, sometimes you need someone to pull you up out of the snow.

I guess what I'm getting at is community makes the wait bearable. More than bearable, awesome. This is what Ecclesiastes has to say.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls

and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4

We were created for community. The only thing that God said wasn't good in the beginning was for us to be alone. I learned that this week. Even though it can be a challenge to be in relationship at times, our time on this earth is pretty meaningless without it.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

It's part of how God has instructed us to live. We are to be living in expectant hope together and not give up coming together to be in community, but encourage one another as we are excited about Jesus' return. That makes life one big Advent party...and you're invited.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

waiting on the wall: what dodgeball taught me

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.." Romans 15:7-9


Yeah, do you remember playing in elementary school? I was often one of the first people on the wall after getting zinged with a hit. Then, for what usually what quite a long time, I was sitting along the wall, watching the game go on without me. I was eagerly waiting for someone to get a catch so I could come back in and rejoin the game.

Believe me, it applies.

Around these two verses, Paul talks about the Scriptures and the hope that the people of the Old Testament had for the Messiah to come. Then I got to thinking about the old way of doing things. There were lots of regulations on life back then and a lot of them involved separation from the camp when violated. That's what covenant life looked like when God asked His people to be holy and set apart. Lepers, thieves, aliens, people outside of the covenant, and others were sentenced to time, if not a life, outside of the camp. That was a dark place to be--vulnerable to robbers and animals and isolated from society. This was sitting on the worst dodgeball wall ever. Spiritually, we were all there and had no hope of getting back in the game.

I got to thinking, though...when it comes to life outside the camp, our waiting is over. As verse 8 says: Christ has become a servant of the Jews. He came outside the camp to dwell with us, took on our leprosy at the cross, and brought us back in. We don't have to look forward to that promise of freedom. We have it! The wait is over. We've been given a catch and are back in the game!

I remember those kids in my class that would be so bent out of shape that they were on the wall, that they didn't even realize they'd got a catch to get back in the game. Somebody had to give them an elbow to the rib before they realized what had happened for them. They were waiting for something that had already arrived and was theirs. How often are we still waiting for the freedom that has already come? How often do we still live like we're sitting on the wall? What are you waiting for?! Be free!

But don't just stop there. The text says accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you. Later in Corinthians, Paul talks about how we are reconciled in Christ, no longer outside of the camp. Now reconciled, we are given the ministry of reconciliation, to show others that they are no longer separated! So what does that mean for us? Get outside the camp! You don't have to wait--Jesus broke the barrier. He ate and spent time with people that most all were too proud to associate with. He sat on the dodgeball walls of our world and let people know they had life in Him. He is asking us to do the same.

So what are you waiting for?! Rejoin the game. As we await the second Advent of Jesus, think of those still sitting on the wall. Pass on the freedom--let them know they're already back in the game.