Saturday, December 31, 2011

eleven learnings from '11.

Well, as unbelievable as it seems, we’re wrapping up another year!  2011 has come and gone.  I’m one for reflection (as you probably know) and it’s always fun to see how the past year has been spent and to see what growth God has made within me in the previous 12 months.  So here’s 11 of my biggest meantime learnings from 2011.

11.  In the Meantime.  This year has been great!  I’ve been in 3 other countries, hosted parties, wrote articles, been to concerts, had precious visits and time with friends and family, coached great kids, mentored college students, learned tons about being a worship/spiritual leader, learned a new instrument (harmonica), ran a 5K, lived in community, lived in freedom probably more than any other time in my life, let God into my dark places to bring light, let people walk with me, and had a lot of stinking fun!  It's been a year of living up the meantime!  Here’s to the best year yet in 2012!

10.  Gifts.  Understanding that God has given us all gifts--some that we are proud of, some that we could just die if anyone knew about them.  He has made us all creative and wants to use that creativity for His kingdom.  I’m learning that it’s the enemies’ favorite tool to squash our creativity.  He wants us to feel stupid or that our creativity is worthless or a waste of time.  If he convinces me or you of this, he is victorious in keeping us from inspiring and leading others with God’s Word by using our gifts.  This has been a huge struggle of mine this year--with worship leading, with speaking, with writing words and writing music.  My creativity has been stomped on and I’ve allowed the enemy to embarrass me out of being creative.  In doing so, I've denied the gift I've been given and haven't allowed God to use it for what He would.  In 2012, Lord, give me boldness to use my gifts for the things that You have prepared.

9.  Stay and be content.  I’m a goer and a doer.  God is asking me to stay.  This has been new for me.  2011 had some antsy times.  God has given peace about staying.  Staying is hard because it means investing in people and persevering through the junk, the difficult times, and routine.  God asks for obedience.  God, may I be willing to go or stay as You choose in 2012.

8.  “Be okay with mystery.” –Derek Webb.  This is one of the best ways to describe my time in Nicaragua and I’m excited to get back there.  The way people prayed there and trusted in God to provide was truly inspiring. I was floored at how God powerfully answered prayer and when talking it through with students, I had no way to describe how it worked.  We can’t know.  It’s mystery.  It’s prayer.  It’s grace.  It’s God’s love and provision for us in Christ being way bigger than we could ever fathom.  While in Israel/Palestine, President Holst often said, “we’re playing the game without knowing the rules.”  This is prayer.  This is faith.  God asks us to be in relationship and communication with Him.  I have not a clue how that works.  I just know He is faithful and good.  So I play the game that I don’t know the rules to.  It’s embracing the mystery and raising up things we can’t understand as another reason to praise God, for He is beyond our understanding.

7.  TOWDAH – I wrote about this over the summer, but it’s one of the Hebrew words for praise.  It’s all about praising God for what is to come.  This is one of the coolest things I’ve learned this year.  Gratitude is huge--to be grateful for what God has done yesterday, today, and what He will do.  There’s no need to wish away the present for what may come in the future.  God will handle the future and it will be great because that’s who He is.

6.  Simplicity.  This is something I’m sure I’ll be writing more about in 2012, but simplicity has been a recent interest of mine.  In possessions, schedule, words, food, everything.  I’m reading the book:

I desire to be of simple heart—that the only thing my heart would long for is Christ and His will.  There are lots of things I desire that I don’t need.  There are lots of things I do in order to manage how others see me instead of putting that energy into my relationship with God and how He sees me.  It’s tough, but rich.  In 2012, it’s my prayer that things are draw my heart from Christ are revealed and removed.

5.  Relaxing and Control.  I had goals for this year that weren’t met.  I have a roommate that challenges me to rest and take a break, that the dishes can wait, and things don’t have to be perfect.   I have not achieved this, but am making strides to let things go.  It’s okay to fail.  It’s okay to let go of expectation and realize that life and people aren’t perfect.  We are a beautifully broken mess that God chooses to deal with.  The sooner we realize that, learn to make room for others faults, and ask for forgiveness, the better.  That’s real.  Managing how others think of us by trying to appear perfect leaves us false, empty, and isolated.  Lord, break us from our desire to manage others’ opinions of us and in doing so, lose sight of Your grace amidst our brokenness.

4.  Saying goodbyes.  This has been a year of saying goodbye and watching lots of friends and loved ones move out of my immediate, everyday world.  It’s been deeply difficult.  It continues into 2012.  God continues to remind me that He will never leave or forsake and that He provides where gaps need to be filled.  Wow.  I’ve been so amazed by that.  And at the same time, blessing me with people in my story to acknowledge that struggle and hurt and encourage me to be honest in grieving that loss.  I’ve seen the importance in that this year.  Where before I’d put on a tough face, once again, I’m seeing that this isn’t being vulnerable or letting others help, serve, or love me.

3.  Palestine and Israel.  Seeing these places has changed my perspective forever.  I loved the ordinary-ness of it all.  Jesus is a regular guy who walked around in a regular place and is also God.  Seeing the hugeness of Him and what He’s done for His people throughout generations opened my eyes to how big He still is for us today.  Oh, that we wouldn’t miss Him.

2.  Relationships & Surrender of Independence.  This has been a giant learning this year.  God knows I’ve been independent since birth.  It’s been something I thought was such a strength, but He has shown me how it’s made me push people away in order to be in control or not appear weak.  That’s not real relationship.  Relationship is letting people in to see your hurts and weaknesses.  It’s letting people help you.  It’s admitting when you’re lonely.  It’s inconveniencing yourself to invite someone into your story.  I have lots of amazing people in my story that God has continued to gift me with.  I am so grateful to not be walking alone in this thing called life.  Community.  It’s how we were made.  I’m learning this.  I’m excited to see how God uses this lesson in 2012.

1.  God simply drawing me nearer and nearer to Himself (catalyst: Pure Worship Institute, June 2011).  Being in His Word regularly, trusting Him in prayer and relationship.  As I grow more in relationship with Him, He pushes me to grow in relationship and vulnerability with others.  Overall, really tough and amazing growth.  We are a process.  The process continues in 2012.

As I think about goals and what’s to come in 2012, I want to quote a post on my 25th birthday this year:

However, I constantly must remind myself that my goals and the points on my lists aren't always on God's list of goals and plans for my life.  Our agendas don't always line up.
  … The path that we plan to take is not always the one God leads us down or if it is, it's usually not what we think it'll be.

We don't know the plans.  When we get so set on our own plans for our story and find out that they don't come to pass, it can be easy to get discouraged and disappointed. … Be gracious in your reflection.  Embrace your journey.  Realize that wherever you are in that journey that God has filled your life with stories.  They may not have been the stories I would've chosen, but it'd be lame if they all were.  Every once in awhile you watch a movie knowing how it ends, but generally it's not desired to know the outcome. Life leaves an element of surprise that teaches us to trust and lean on one another.  I want adventure and that's unpredictable.

Even with boxes unchecked, there is always one thing on my list I can accomplish.  That's to bring joy.  To choose joy in the waiting.  In the adventure.  In the mishaps of adventure.  In the boring.  In the devastating.  In the seemingly hopeless and the utterly disappointing.  Choosing joy.  Bringing joy to others.  No matter the things to come or what has been, God is faithful.  God is providing.  God is unfolding.  He is untouchable and unchanged.  As long as the tomb is still empty, we have reason to be overflowing with joy.  If you are disappointed about failing to accomplish any goal, may it be that one.

So here's to [2012]--a year of joy and adventures both planned and unexpected, and to the grace I will rest in for the things that don't get accomplished.  Here's to lessons, stories, relationships, and choosing joy.
Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, December 16, 2011

stay and make disciples.


You know, maybe it's just because you see things you're eyes are turned toward.  Whatever it is, waiting is the theme that just won't go away. 

If you've read posts in the past several months, you know that I've had the experience of cheering on some of my dearest friends to new cities, adventures, and journeys.  It's been incredibly difficult, but quite awesome to see how God is using them, teaching them, and providing for them.
Maybe it's just been envy of change or feeling left behind, but I thought I would also be on to other things within the next year.  Possibly a new job or a new city, maybe even a new country!  My imagination has been filled with possibility for the last few months.  It's been overwhelming and exciting, but I've never felt settled about anything.  After all, I'm an adventurer!  I'm born to see things, do things, live in strange places and eat odd things!  I shall never be tamed!  After all, Scripture says "GO and make disciples," not "stay and make disciples!"

Yeah...except for in the past few weeks, God has granted me great peace in the prospect of staying.

Most people wouldn't be disappointed about this.  Consistency is often a welcomed friend.  I, on the other hand, almost began hyperventilating at the thought of "long term commitment" to a job, home, or otherwise.  Since I work at the university I graduated from, this is the literally the longest I've lived in one place.  I'm used to turn over and I embrace newness.  To stay is actually pushing me outside of my comfort zone.  It's not that anything is wrong with my current situation.  I love my job, adore where I live, and still get so excited about the Twin Cities.  I just thought I was one of those that God was telling to "go."


Then there's this progression of peace.  Could I stay?  What if I stayed?  I think I could stay.  I could see myself staying.  I want to stay.  I'd love to stay.  I'm EXCITED about staying!

Weird, right?  For the first time in a long time, I'm excited about this direction of my life.  I know where I need to be and I have a huge heart to be there.  It's exciting.

So what's the issue?  So many people in my world are still continuing to move.  They're moving geographically, vocationally, personally.  And here I am.  Staying.  It's okay.  I'm learning to be confident in God's provision and goodness.  That doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to my friends who are in motion.  I find fewer and fewer where I am and that's tough.  Staying is almost the harder thing to do--to commit and stick it out through the rough places.  After all, most things that are worth it in the long run, are just that: a long run.

I was telling God about this last night.  One of those chats where I pointed out what He was doing and how hard it was going to be for me.  He's familiar with these chats.  The simple beauty of the words from Gungor's "Beautiful Things" resonated in my head.

You make beautiful things.  You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things.  You makes beautiful things out of us. ....You make me new.  You are making me new.

Okay, Lord.  I might be feeling kinda dusty at the moment.  But, okay.  I'll trust.  I'll be obedient and stay.  I won't quit.  I won't run if You're asking me to stay and make disciples; especially if that's what's best for Your Kingdom.  As long as You're here staying with me, I'll stay.

I have to wonder, is this true for many of us?  We so want to be "go" people in this area or that area of our life that we miss what God is doing while we're staying there for awhile.  Who or what is in your story for the time being for a reason?  I've been pushed in that as I become more at peace with staying and just loving the people that God has called me to instead of trying to wish myself away.

So that's where I'm at.  Staying.  Waiting.  Wondering if it'll ever be my turn to be a "go" personBut trusting God and His promise to make beauty from my ashes and redeem difficulty and hardship in my story.  I want to stay to see that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

pink candles.

Happy Advent, friends and neighbors!

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from writing lately.  Even my coworker and a friend asked me recently, "have you written anything lately?"  I sighed with a "no."  It's not that I haven't wanted to.  I just feel like I have little to say lately.  My season of waiting has surpassed my insight about the topic....just in time for Advent.

I don't know that many people know this, but I'm not a huge fan of Christmas.  I could do without the music and decorations.  It all just seems like a bunch of work for little reason.  Call me your regular Shelly Scrooge.  I saw a quote on a video recently that said, "if you're tired of Christmas by the 24th, you haven't celebrated Advent well."

That made me get to thinking.  It is a pretty cool time of the Church year.  It's like getting the party going so that it's at its peak when the Guest of Honor arrives.  This is a unique time that is simultaneously all about joy and all about waiting.  We a whole season of celebrating and looking out the window to see if His car has pulled into the drive.

An Advent tradition that may be sort of strange if you aren't familiar is the Advent wreath.

It's a decoration with 4 candles, one for each week of Advent.  Each week, we light one candle and it leads us through the process of Advent.  I love applicability of the Advent wreath.  Think about that party that's getting warmed up for the Guest of Honor.  As more and more guests arrive, more lights in the house get turned on.  As the arrival of the Guest of Honor draws near, we work our way up to all the lights in the house being on.  The wreath works the same way.  As we go along, all the candles on the wreath will be lit, ready for the King to arrive.

My favorite part is the pink candle, though.  Not because it's my favorite color or anything, but for what it represents.  The pink candle gets lit third with one week in Advent remaining.  It is lit on Gaudete Sunday which literally means "joy."  In this building time of celebration, the pink candle gives us an extra burst of joy to really amp up the party.  It's like the wreath was designed to get us through the long season of waiting.  When it begins to get a bit long, the pink candle on Gaudete Sunday says, "He's almost here!!  Stay ready!  Get excited!"  It's Clark Griswold flipping the switch on his outlandish light display.  This is really what keeps us going.

I'm reminded of when I ran a 5K a couple of months ago.  The race organizers place encouragers a quarter of a mile from the finish to say, "you're almost done!  Give it all you have!"  That's our pink candle.  Advent is a marathon and the pink candle says, "you're almost done, finish hard."  You run faster than you thought you could because of adrenaline and enthusiasm and it is exciting.

I think this is true in my life right now.  I'm in a season of waiting.  Who knows for how long.  BUT God is good and working.  Sometimes, I just want to walk in this race.  Sometimes I just want to put away the candles on the wreath, but throughout this time, He gives me pink candles that encourage me to stay the course.

I have friends who remind me.  "Keep waiting.  What's coming is good.  Be faithful.  God is good.  Lean on Him.  Grow with Him."  I have God's Word and His working that reminds me to seek Him first and all things will be added.  He grants me relationship and encouragement both from His Word and from other people.  They are my pink candles that urge me on.  When it feels like the purple candles are endless, I get surprised by the pink candles that seem to appear from nowhere.  They are the sparks that remind me of hope and joy that are both now and not yet.  To the pink candles in my life, thank you.  Thank God today for your pink candles.  He is faithful to give them and to encourage us on our journey of life with Him.

I can't wait for the pink candle to be lit this Advent.  I can't wait for the Guest of Honor to arrive.  But in the meantime, I shall attempt to be the pink candle for others.

May we be grateful for the pink candles.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

a song.

I haven't blogged in the past few days...mostly because I was working on this.

Or should I say, God gave me this song and I've been trying to do it justice.  It's fitting for the blog, I promise.


Monday, October 10, 2011


I've always been a tough girl.  I've taken pride in that for a long time.  I can do things've heard my independence story.  I grew up thinking that feelings, "mushy stuff," and gushing about love and like were ridiculous and for the softees of the world--the weak ones.  Not me.  I'm tough.

God is so awesome.  I just want to say that.

Since I've left home as an 18 year old, God has been softening me.  For awhile it was my incessant prayer that He would.  That He would help me to feel compassion for others, to experience the depth of pain and the height of joy, that He would break me down to ask for help, and that He would help me to receive love.  Romantic or otherwise, it's been difficult for me.  He doesn't give up.  He keeps pursuing hard hearts.

I met up with my friend, Mary, for appetizers last week.  It was a gorgeous fall day.  I spend a few hours at my favorite coffee shop that I had been neglecting.  My play list was off the charts.  I spent an hour or more just digging into Scripture that afternoon.  By the time I met Mary that afternoon, I was glowing.  I had been romanced for the afternoon by the God of the universe.  I had only one word.  Smitten.

Surprised?  Me too. :-)  I'm not really the smitten type.  I've been too tough for that.  But tonight, I sit in my low lit room, with a glass of wine, a scented candle and pretty music in the background as God speaks to me His love and promises through His Word.  He's teaching me to be loved, to have butterflies, to be delighted in and it's awesome.  So awesome.

He's teaching me what it looks like to be pursued and loved so I'll know when it comes.  He pursues me with the colors of fall, quiet moments with sun on my face, serene drives with the windows down, warm coffee drinks, beautiful music, intoxicating breezes, beautiful nights, reality that's too good to be true, and the thoughtfulness of strangers.  He chases me with the things that bring my soul to life--things He only knows I need to feel special.  He's relentless in pursuing the hearts of His children.  I know that the man who pursues me won't do it like God does.  He can't.  But I'm grateful that God is teaching my heart to be loved.

I pray He teaches yours and gives us both an opportunity to love in return both toward Him and the one we wait for.  I pray that once our waiting is done, we will still have eyes open to how our God pursues us as His beloved and continue to be smitten by your Savior.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

who are you...becoming?

Who am I?  Have you ever asked yourself this question?
When I talk to college students or chat with friends, the “who am I” question is one of the most common themes weaved throughout ongoing conversations.  In a stage of life where people are trying to figure out “what should I do,” “what should I study,” “what am I good at,” it all points to the question identity.  Who am I?
Can you relate?  Fill in your own details, but the story is common.  You show up to college as Jane Brown of Small Town, USA, where everyone in the county knows your name and what you’re about.  While you were the best of the best at home, college is filled with many who are just as good or better.   The classes you couldn’t wait to take are much harder than expected and you’re not sure you even like them.  Nothing is what you thought it would be.  You aren’t who you thought you’d be.  And that’s when the big question surfaces…”who am I?”
If this is you, let me just start by saying “Congratulations—you’ve arrived!”  I know it sounds scary, but let me welcome you to world of opportunities and options, questions and discovery, experience and growth.  It is exciting!  Asking the question, “who am I,” means you’re seeking to find the answer and that is a great place to be.  You are not lost.  Here are some pointers of where to begin.
1.     1. Start with what is true.  Let me encourage you with a little help from CSP’s theme of the year.  We are God’s People.  You are God’s creation and He calls you His child.  When you are uncertain of who you are, start there.  You are loved by God in Christ and that won’t change.

2.     2. Learn about you.  Take some time to get to know yourself.  What do you enjoy doing?  What brings you joy?  What are the activities or who are the people who bring you to life or refresh you?  What are the things or who are the people who drain you?  How much sleep do you need?  How many commitments can you handle?  How do you know when you’re stressed and how do you cope?  What are you tendencies in communicating or in relationships?  How do you react to certain people or situations?  It’s good to be self-aware and difficult to grow or improve without knowing where you are.

3.     3. Try new things!  Young adulthood is filled with tons of opportunities to take a leap outside of your comfort zone and explore something new!  Take an elective that you’ve been curious about.  Go on a service trip.  Try a new ethnic restaurant.  Go to a campus event by yourself with the intention of meeting new people.  Sit at a different dining hall table than normal.  Pick up a random hobby like harmonica or geocaching.  Find a place to volunteer in the Cities.  Who knows what you might have a knack for or take an interest in?  Who knows what sort of adventure you may have, who you may meet, or what you might learn about yourself along the way?

4.     4. Be in relationship.  That’s pretty self-explanatory.  Dating or otherwise, this is a huge part of life learning.  Don’t go through life alone—you weren’t made that way.

5.       5. Do some reflecting.  You are in a time of significant learning about the world, others, and yourself.  There are a lot of valuable lessons going by!  Make time to do some reflecting.  Reflect on who you’ve been and where you’ve come from.  It’s in reflecting that we are able to learn and make use of our experiences.  When we reflect, our experiences become our teachers and we are changed.

6.       6. Get some help.  As you go through this time of self-discovery and world discovery, you may run into some road blocks.  Past wounds or issues may surface.  You may not know what to do with what you’ve learned or you’ve learned something about yourself that you don’t like and can’t change.  Counseling is never a bad idea and it’s free for college students.  Use it!  Seek out a mentor—someone who can walk alongside you and encourage you as you grow.  When figuring out more about yourself, it’s good to have guidance and grounding from others.

7.      7. Relax.  You don’t have to figure out everything about you and you won’t.  You won’t have your whole future planned or know every step of your life.  The more I’ve engaged in some of these six things above, the more I’ve realized something.  Just as much as I am Shelly, I am becoming Shelly.  Life is a process and process is beautiful.  It is growth.  Paul said himself, that he hadn’t achieved the goal, but presses on toward it.  Romans 12 urges us to “be transformed by the renewing of [our minds].”  We are free in Christ as God’s children right now and we continue to be more free in who we are all of the time.  This is an amazing time of developing yourself both inside the classroom and out.  Don’t miss out!
I hope that throughout your life, you keep asking “who am I,” digging into what your career should be, or what gives you have.   In addition to finding your identity in Christ, I challenge you to keep asking yourself, “who am I becoming?”  Ask God for help and guidance.  What past steps you can celebrate and what are the things you can continue to work at?  Challenge yourself.  Expect to grow.  Make plans to be different.  Who are you becoming?

Monday, September 19, 2011

He knows the plans and they're good.

Life in the meantime isn't always awesome.

I'm not trying to bring you down, but it's true.  It's not that life is terrible or that we are plagued with meantime living.  That's far from the truth.  It's just that living in the meantime, or any other time for that matter, isn't perfect.  There will be struggles and trials.  And we press on.

Yesterday, in two different venues, I heard a famous reading from the book of Jeremiah 29.  It goes like so:

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  (Jer. 29:10-14)

 The bold verse in the passage is one that is memorized, recited, and written on mugs and shirts.  It's a common response to "what's your favorite Bible verse?"

Now, I've heard lots of people talk about how ridiculous that is.  That people wouldn't choose this verse as a happy, hopeful word if they knew that the context was Babylonian exile.  God says to Israel through Jeremiah "I have good plans to prosper you....after 70 years of being in exile by Babylonians who will not be kind to you."  That's not an addendum we usually find when people use this Scripture.

Even so, I would be the last person to say that it isn't one we should be quoting and clinging to.  Sure, maybe people use it as a "feel good" Scripture.  I know a lot of people who cling to that specific word in the midst of difficulty, which is what it's all about.  The fact that context is so unbelievably difficult and awful, makes the promise all the more beautiful and meaningful.

Because, like I said, living in the meantime is rough.  Can you imagine the meantime feeling of the Israelites in Babylon?  Some had conformed and embraced the culture, but others just waited longingly to go back to Judah, Jerusalem, the Holy place where God resided.  In those times, too, we see in Jeremiah, that when we seek God, He will be found.  He won't be distant or make you stay in exile, but has good things ahead.d

I had a friend say to me recently how awesome it has been to see God refining me in the past 2 or 3 years.  She told me she could see me drawing near to the Lord more than ever.  All of this surprised me.  (It's good for people to let you know you've grown, by the way.  Sometimes it's hard to see that about yourself.)  She explained that she's seen me have struggles--people coming in and out of my life, hardships, transitions--but she reassured me that God is doing something with me.  My friend has seen me through lonely months, through spiritual and sin struggles, working through wounds, and through dealing with uncertain future.  She said, "I can see how much God is refining you.  It came with a cost, but He's drawn you near through those things and refining you for something."  What a gift for that perspective.  What excitement and hope I have for what is to come.

What's your exile today?  A relationship?  A job situation or transition?  A period of loneliness or bitterness?  Trust in the promise that through those things, God knows the plans He has for you and they are good.  Seek Him and find Him in that situation.  Let God use it as a refining fire for you and what your future holds.  That refining fire happens when we let Him have His way with us and draw near to Him and His Word.

Come have your way, Lord, with our meantimes, with our exiles, with our hardships.  You know the plans You have for us.  Draw us near for the journey.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

life: living for relationship, not refrigerator space.

As much as I've loved the court time with my volleyball girls in the past months and weeks, I must say that it hasn't been easy.  To start with, it’s taken a lot of time and energy that is usually used to rest or invest in relationships with others. 

I’ve also been challenged because when it comes to coaching, I feel a little like a scooter on the freeway.  I realized at the beginning of the season that this would not be an experience that I felt incredibly qualified for.  Minnesota volleyball is a lot different than in when I played ball in Kansas.  I saw right away that this would be a humbling experience where I would have work hard to be mediocre.  I would have to go in confident and collected even when I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.  This is my regular coaching experience.  It has been a great one--humbling, uncomfortable, and breaking of my perfectionism.  God has been working on me.

I heard someone at a conference say recently, “Anything worth doing is worth being bad at for a while.”  That is good encouragement for me.  I’m not going to be perfect at anything.  Even to be good at something takes time and dedication.  To be good at something takes time, effort, and heart.  That means there will be a lot of work put in that isn’t worthy of hanging on the refrigerator.

 I love that imagery.  I had a professor say to me the other day, “Part of our job is teaching students that everything they do isn’t gonna get hung up on the refrigerator.” I laughed.  He’s so right.  We are a culture that needs to be commended.  We are raising generations that have got trophies for being on the team.  Sometimes we have to put in the hard work that nobody sees to reach the bigger goal.  As I thought about what the professor had said, I realized, I need to remember that I’m not going to get every project on the refrigerator.  Sometimes I’m going to be mediocre and nobody is going to notice.  Sometimes I’m just going to be doing the everyday things.  I don’t need a high five for that.

Encouragement is a great and important thing.  When it becomes what we run on, then we have an issue.  We find our identity in our successes, in our victories, in the stars our picture has as it hangs on the fridge.  We must be careful.  We must be careful not to wear “busy” on our sleeve as something others should honor, but repenting that it’s taken all of who we are.  To not sacrifice our relationships with family and friends for another activity or accolade.

At the end of a long week, too, realizing that it’s not really that big of a deal if I’m mediocre at most things.  If that’s my best, healthy effort, then that’s what it is.  The thing that ultimately matters is relationship.  As I’m doing my best, am I being the best person I can be on the way?  Am I taking time to acknowledge the best in others—to give them my best attention, my best ears, my best heart?  Those are things that matter more than an award, wins on a page, or names on a plaque.  To be our best at the relationships in our lives.  Not to fill up our story with lots of things that we’ll be mediocre at, just for a chance to get more attention and gold stars.  Not to be the person with the most relationships or the relational guru, but to be loving and learn how to be loved.  It’s worth doing well, so that means you’re probably going to be bad at it sometimes.  It’s probably not going to earn you a gold star or your picture on the fridge, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s grounding.  It’s lovely and whole.  It’s messy and fun.  It’s hard and beautiful.  It’s scary and safety.  We are not fully human without it.  Relationship is our essence.  To be satisfied with the ordinary, which is quite extraordinary.  To make time for adventure that may very well fail in measurement, but be a win in experience and relationship.  To see and embrace just how different God’s economy is from the world’s—that we aren’t looking for notoriety, but taking note of ways to give ourselves to others.  I’m trying to learn this as I live in the meantime.  To start embracing relationship and making it a priority right now, even though it’s not a romantic relationship or a family that I’m making time for.  Married or otherwise, this is what we were made for—relationship.  God knew this.  He calls us His and we make the refrigerator, not because of something we did that was worthy, but He calls us worthy because we're His.

Let us love one another and call each other important.  It’s the good stuff in life—better than any space we could occupy on the refrigerator.