Monday, May 30, 2011

meantime adventures.

Memorial Day weekend is awesome.  You know that feeling that comes half way through Sunday when you're like "tomorrow is Monday?!  Where'd the weekend go?!"  Well, this week it doesn't count!

The past week has deserved an extra day off and day off I had.  Following a busy week and sort of a lazy/mopey day yesterday, a free, beautiful Memorial Day hanging with my dear friend was just what the doctor ordered.  Today I realized something.  A milestone has passed this week and it's been tough because I don't have much to look forward to at the moment.  I've been busy soaking up the present, but that's been a difficult present to live in.  It's important to do that, but the time has come to lift my chin up and look forward.

So today I decided to make a list of summer adventures I want to go on.  In effort to soak up every moment of Minnesota awesomeness, making a list is the best way to be intentional and actually make that happen.  So here ya go:

Shelly's List of Summer Adventures
  • Camping/Backpacking on an overnight.
  • Go to the Stonearch bridge.
  • Go to Stillwater (It's about time.  Right, Katy?)
  • Some sort of water activity -- tubing, canoeing, etc.
  • Begin learning harmonica.
  • Write 4 new songs.
  • Happy Hour on Stella's roof patio.
  • At least 2 Sunday afternoons at a lake beach doing absolutely nothing.
  • buy produce at Minneapolis Farmer's Market.
  • Make salmon for dinner.
  • Go to Valley Fair (& take bathing suit this year).
  • Outdoor concert and/or summer movie.
  • Explore a new area of the cities (including going to a new restaurant or coffee shop)
  • Eat at Seasalt.
  • Read 2 books about campus ministry/college aged people.
  • Go fishing.
  • Run, walk, or rollerblade (hopefully a couple of times a week)
  • Try a new food.
  • Dress up and go dancing.
  • Go to a Saints game.
  • Tell someone how I see Jesus in them.
  • Be Jesus to someone.
  • Go on a road trip of some sort.
  • See a show at the Guthrie.
  • Put red in my hair.
  • Surprise someone with a gift.
  • Bring joy.
Donald Miller wrote a book called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years."  It's all about living a better story.  I'm not convinced that doing all of these things will bring about a better meantime story for me, but they could be some great catalysts to some awesome stories.  Just thinking about these things gives me joy and excitement.  Who knows who I will meet, who I will share these adventures with, what we will find, or what will happen when we get there.  I'm excited to find out.  Sometimes it's hard to see a beginning when you end something great.  The past few days I've been clinging to the truth in the Word that says God is making all things new and working for the good of those who love him.  Here's to a new beginning full of meantime adventures.

Friday, May 27, 2011

singleness: freedom to serve.

I've been surrounded by weddingness lately.

I mentioned it briefly in previous posts, but my oldest sister got married last weekend.  It was lovely...the service, the dress, the dance party...all was well.  It was just a cool and unique weekend with my family.

My friends and I were recently watching their wedding video from last year.  The pastor's message was about finding freedom in marriage.  It is freedom from having to pursue or be pursued by anyone but your spouse.  Thinking on the complexity of relationships in the life of a single 20something, I long for that type of freedom.  Yes, sir.  That sounds awesome.  Even so, the past couple of weeks have given me eyes wide open for something absolutely amazing.

It started with a conversation I had with my lovely friend, Traci, a few months ago.  She is a wonderful woman of faith in ministry who also happens to be single.  I really look up to her.  When I was struggling to find something beside work to fill my life, I asked her what she did in her free time.  Her response: serve.  She serves the community, friends, and her church in many different ways.  She introduced me to a wonderful opportunity that she has right now in this season of singleness.  Recently, I got to experience this.

I've thanked God deeply for my singleness these past two weeks.  Weird, right?  I say this for the following reason:  I have been so blessed by the freedom to serve.

With so many people around me transitioning, there are some changes for me, but mostly, I am staying still.  I am staying still with the ability to support those around me in a freedom that few in my life currently have.  That is awesome.  I mean that sincerely.  I was able to run around and do wedding things and serve my sister and parents.  I was able to support friends who are moving, mourning, celebrating upcoming weddings, and facing challenges.  I praise God that I could do that.  It's been such a blessing.

Sure, I'd be lying if I said there weren't times throughout wedding things that I thought longingly about what freedom in marriage would be like.  Normal thoughts.  Even so, I was so blessed to be a part of all of these milestone events for people that I love, that it was nowhere near the forefront of my thoughts.  Seeing how God has freed me up to love those around me through action has given me such gratitude for this single meantime of my life.

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

Thanks, Lord, for that freedom to serve.  Thanks for how You've served us.  Thank You for giving me eyes of how You are using this meantime in my life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

letting down my nets: obedience in waiting.

Luke 5:5 says something to me.  It speaks strength and trust.  It speaks persistence and obedience in the midst of utter exhaustion and desperation.  The disciples were a clan of doubters who asked silly questions and needed to be told over and over again.  Yet, in this verse, tired and sure of nothing but who they knew Christ to be, they obeyed His request.  Luke 5:5 encourages me. 

Luke 5:

 4 When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

Life in the past couple of weeks has been a bit of a whirlwind.  Finals week with all of the accompanying ceremonies, my sister's wedding and all that entails, and getting back in time to say goodbye to friends moving today.  And it still isn't over.  The next week holds more services, parties, and goodbyes.

Much around me is changing quickly.  I'm surprisingly grounded at the moment.  Maybe it's surreality or maybe it's peace reigning in my heart.  Either way, I'm doing okay.  I think, though, the thing that's made the difference is this:  I'm rejoicing in obedience.  Weird, right?

I truly am heartbroken at the amount of my closest people that are going here and there. 
This has been a wonderful time in my life.  I'm grieving at the loss of people and routine hangout times.  I have to.  It it my tendency to be tough and lock it up.  I have to keep telling myself that it is a big deal.  It does deserve weight.  That being said, I am glad to say that God is more creative than that (thanks for naming this for me, Barrett).  It's not just a sad ending.

Last week, God showed me how awesome it is that I have such amazing people in my life who are willing to say "Here I am, Lord.  Send me!"  I rejoice in their obedience to take up the call to go to seminary, on ministry internships, or be sent to be used by Him.  My sadness is proof of their obedience to God's call even though it proves difficult.  I rejoice in that obedience.  I rejoice in what God has done in them and how He will use them in the future.  I rejoice that I get to watch and be their prayer warrior and cheerleader.  I rejoice in their love for Jesus and surrender to Him.  I'm also clinging to my own obedience.  My friends have asked me to come along to St. Louis.  I could've if I really wanted to.  I know, though, that I am called here.  I realize more and more all of the time that this is where God is using me for now and for who knows how long.  I have realized that I am not just being left behind, but also taking up my call to stay here.  Jesus, give me a spirit of obedience even though it is trying.

And so I come back to Luke 5:5.  The disciples had been fishing all night.  They'd waited and waited.  The night was tough.  It wasn't what they'd expected, but even when it was difficult and they were so tired, they said, "okay, Lord, we'll obey Your request."  They did.  And guess what, He knew best.  Go figure.

My favorite sign in Israel was at the spot that commemorated Jesus and His fisherman disciples.  It said this:
At Thy word I will let down the net.  Luke 5:5 
"The deeds and miracle of Jesus are not actions of the past.  Jesus is waiting for those who are still prepared to take risks at His word because they trust His power utterly.”

Give us obedience as we wait to see Your will unfold even in adversity.  Help us trust in Your power utterly.  Today, my heart aches, but I know it's You who has the plans and so I give mine to You.  Lord, today, I'm letting down my nets because You've said so.

Monday, May 16, 2011

don't wait to give thanks. He isn't done.

Well, we made it.  Another semester closed.  Another year in the books.  I've finished my first full year in the post-collegiate, full-time working world.  I've caught myself saying "it seems like I was just doing this," a few times in the past week.  Baccalaureate and commencements have been held.  Resident halls have been emptied.  Parking is once again available on university streets.  It's all a bit surreal, but here we are.

That's the funny thing about time.  It doesn't stop.  I mean, I guess that's comforting if you are waiting for something.  You're already moments closer to what you're waiting for that when you first arrived at this page.  On the other hand, the end of this year, something I haven't been waiting for, quite dreading in fact, arrived right on schedule.  I've known for months that this week would come.  Students would leave.  Some friends would graduate and move on.  Some would leave to return in a few months.  Others still are wrapping up the final ends and will be leaving in the next week.  Within the next month or so, I'll have said "see ya later" to several of my people and wished them well on their way to Arizona, New York, Houston, 5 to St. Louis, 3 to Alaska, and Malaysia.  Needless to say, this hasn't been my favorite time ever.

To those of you who know me well, this isn't news.  It's been an impending heartache for months and now it has arrived.  And boy, I sat in it this weekend.

Netflix accompanied my dreary graduation weekend as I wondered if I could continue to invest so deeply in people to see them leave once again.  I remember at one point thinking that I'm sick of experiencing such wonderful things because it always hurts so much when they come to an end.

I went to church last night, weary from a draining weekend.  It was good to be out and about and the day was nice.  My best friend, Katy, invited me to go to worship at a nearby college later that night and even though it had been a long weekend, I've become jealous for any time I can spend with her before she and her husband move.  So to Vespers we went.  Since it was the last service of the year, the leadership of the worship service was being recognized and the leadership for next year was brought up.  One of their campus ministers asked the people in attendance to think about who God had been for them in the past year.

 "Has He been your healer?  Has He been your deliverer?  Has He been your provider?  Your comforter?  Your peaceful presence?  How has He changed you in the last year?  Where have you seen His work in your life?"  I thought back and was surprised when I realized that I would've used several of those very words to describe God's work in my life in the past year.  Funny, though, my first reaction was not giving thanks to God for what He'd done.  I knew that it should've been, but I was still crabby about the fact that it was ending.  "Great, God...more good things that are in the past."

She went on.  As she laid hands on the teams that would serve for next year, she said this:
"Lord, would You open our hearts to what you are continuing to do in us?  You are never done!  You are. Never. Done.  Give us joy and excitement.  Help us to pay attention to what You will continue to do."

Thank you, Jesus, for that word.  Turns out, this was a repeat lesson and I'm a slow learner.  When I was in Israel, we got the opportunity to visit Old Jericho.  I walked on the very ground the Israelites did when the walls fell down.  I was speechless.  I remember saying to God, "wow, Lord, You were SO big for Your people."  I went on and on about the places we'd already been. "Wow, God.  You healed people with muddy water.  You calmed storms.  You felled walls.  You did huge things."

As I walked through the rock pile of Old Jericho that is now an archaeological hay day,  I was hit with a holy 2x4.  "I AM big for my people, Shelly.  I AM doing huge things.   I am tearing down walls.  I am calming storms.  I am healing.  It is My Name.  I AM.  I AM the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Last night,  I was once again reminded of this.  He isn't done.  He isn't.  This isn't the end.  The good isn't only behind us, but still to come.

So began a time of sincerely giving thanks for what good has already been.

1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
   make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
   tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
   seek his face always.  5 Remember the wonders he has done,
   his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 O descendants of Abraham his servant,
   O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. 
  Psalm 105

I definitely had a list to give thanks about.  I remember doing research about fear last year.  Neurologically, when brain scans have been done on fear (don't ask me to get too technical...I am no brain surgeon), they found something to be true.  The activity in the area of the brain that produces fear cannot function fully if the area of the brain that produces gratitude is working.  Gratitude and fear cannot physically coexist well in our brains.  I was feeling fearful about the future.  Gratitude.  It shows God's faithfulness in the past.  It reassures hope in the future.  I'm grateful for that promise.  Don't wait to be grateful.  It brings joy.  It brings faith in the future.  It reminds us that we haven't missed our chance, but are still living in the meantime of the best of things.

Jesus, You've been SO good.  I thank you that Your goodness hasn't ended like this school year.  The salvation we have in Christ is continuing to unfold.  Goodness abounds.  I am grateful.

More on this week later...I have more thoughts.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

thanks for asking. I'm okay with my meantime.

It doesn't bother me that greatly.  I know people mean well.  I know it's that time of year when people ask about future things.  In the past few days, I've had the following conversation several times.

CCI (Curious, Caring Individual): "So Shelly, are you going to be in this job for another year?"
Me: "Yeah!  That's the plan."
CCI: "Okay, so another year here, and then what?  Do you know where you're headed after that?  Any plans?"
Me: "Uhh...well...I'm not really sure.  Maybe I'll be here longer.  Maybe God will toss some opportunities my way and I'll see how they fit when they come along.  I'm excited about where I am right now, though, and okay with not knowing for awhile."
CCI: "Ohh...alright.  Okay.  Yeah, that's great.  That's great."

Sigh.  Does anyone else just get rocked by those conversations?  I leave chats like that feeling like I don't know what's going on in my life.  Like there is this "life to do" list for 24 year olds that nobody ever showed me.  Gah..I feel so clueless about life sometimes.

I went back to my hometown recently.  I see these lovely friends from high school who are married, have bought a house, and are having or have children.  And I think..."geesh...I haven't done anything with my life!"  After a drink of water, slap in the face, and some deep breaths, I come back to reality and remind myself of what is true.  And that is this:

I've already done a lot in my short life.  I've got to travel to several continents and countries.  I've lived in a van, traveling the east coast for a year in a band.  I've spent a year doing ministry in Arizona.  I've had an awesome college experience that has been rich intellectually and relationally.  I've got to serve, experience, and do things I wouldn't have otherwise.  I've got to love people deeply and be loved deeply.  I've been stretched and pulled and prodded and watched God unfold things in me I would've never dreamed were there.  I realized that it comes down to choices.

We all have choices in life.  We can do one thing or another.  We each have different wandering paths on our journey of life.  How foolish to think that one is ahead of another based on the status of many and various life variables.  Comparison is a deadly and paralyzing sin.  The truth is, you could take one step forward and be knocked back five.  You may think you're almost to your goal or have plans about to unfold and your world completely changes.  Have goals, but have joy.  Have joy in today.  Take the pressure off.  Have joy in how God is using you now.  Have joy in the gift of where you are in the moment.

Last night, as I thought through all of these things, I realized this: all of these expectations and attempts on figuring out the future are too much for me to handle.  So I said, "alright, God...I don't know what I'm doing.  I'm going to let you have this.  Actually...just take it all.  I'll just be good with right now.  The meantime.  Kick me where you want me.  Prepare me for how you'll use me or where you'll take me."  We have to have these conversations from time to time, but this was a big one.  Strangely, through that, I've been given peace once again.

So that's where I've landed.  If you're wondering...I don't know where I'm heading.  I don't know what kind of ministry I want to serve in or in what state or country.  I don't know if I'll get married in the next 5 or 10 years or have a family.  I don't know any of that.  I don't even really know what next week looks like.  And here I am.  Okay with it.  God is good and God is God--reigning over all of those things.  So thanks for caring.  Thanks for asking.  I'm quite enjoying my meantime.