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.

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