Monday, December 31, 2012

what i'm taking from 2012.

It's that time of year again.  Time to remember the old and usher in the new.

It's been my custom to do a year in review sort of thing, but this year, I decided to do something a little different.  Instead of events, here are the learnings of 2012.  After all, I would argue that what we take away from an experience is often far more important than the actual experience itself.  Much of life's circumstances are out of our control, but we can always choose to learn, grow, and be better from whatever happens.  So here is what I'm taking from 2012.

1.  Change is so hard.  And life is full of it.
I look back on this year as one of the most transition filled in my whole life.  However, I look back on it and say, "I did that.  I'm okay.  I made it.  I was brave.  I had an adventure."  No regrets about taking leaps, only hope and excitement for what's ahead.

2. Life is full of disappointments.  Things often don't turn out how we imagine they would.  You must learn to grip the rope of life loosely, so when it gets pulled out from you, your hands don't get burned.  Jesus is the only thing that will not burn you.  There is brokenness in the world and that's not God's fault, but we have a God who loves being creative.  So creative, in fact, that He makes beautiful things out of the dust. Even out of the chaos, He makes beautiful things.  Colossians tells us not to be surprised when difficult things happen to us.  It's part of the fallen world and us being people marked in Christ.  We have a hope, though, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him.  A promise like that makes brokenness worth enduring.

3.  Life is so beautiful.  Don't allow experiences or circumstances to make you bitter or fearful.  It's a battle.  Sometimes, I want to hide under a table and let the world go by for fear of what awaits me next.  Sometimes, I want to ignore everyone and be jaded about all that is wrong in the world and its residents.  There are days where I could stay in that place, but I'm reminded of this:
"I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." John 10:10
Captivity to fear and captivity to bitterness is nothing resembling fullness.  We have to be careful that the lessons we learn from bad experiences in the past, don't keep us from taking a risk on great experiences later.  For me, it's recognizing when my heart is going there and taking steps to be free.  I'm excited for some life to the full in 2013.

4.  Take a risk.  You only have limited opportunities to do so.  If something falls through, you tried, you learn.  One of my favorite quotes this year was from Helen Keller.  "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

5.  Jesus is faithful.  Wow...I can't say that enough.  The lyric from the hymn "Abide with Me" has been a word of strength this year. "Change and decay in all around I see, oh, Thou who changest not, abide with me."  He has provided in ways I can't comprehend.  Through so many trials, He has prepared me and rescued me.  He has spoken words of truth from His Word and through others.  He has allowed me to be broken and loved me into wholeness.  He's given me opportunities I couldn't have dreamed of.  I would not have weathered this year (or any other for that matter) with out the wonderful grace of God in Christ.  Your plans are still to prosper.  You are Sovereign over us.

6.  People are worth it.  I've said a lot of hard goodbyes and see ya laters in 2012.  I've spent a lot of time and money in the last year (and will continue to do so this year) to travel to be with friends and family who are far away.  I'm rarely disappointed by that choice.  Stuff, gadgets, whatever...they aren't nearly as valuable and fulfilling as people.  Spending time and money to see people is always worth it.  I'm grateful for getting to see my godson be baptized, my nephew as a new baby, friends here visiting me from all over, time at the Sem, last minute adventures before moving, those moments and connections are precious.  Don't take time with people you love for granted.  True friendship is not all lost.

7.  Which leads me to..don't do this thing alone.  The best times are better and the worst times aren't so bad when you've got someone in it with you.  You can't do it alone and you're not supposed to.  Let people in.  Be messy.  Be real.  Be loved.  Invite someone along for the ride in 2013.

8.  "Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well."  Seeking God's Kingdom and His righteousness not an easy request.  It puts aside our kingdoms and our own self-righteousness and calls us to something bigger.  Being part of kingdom growth in Nicaragua, Concordia, and Arizona in 2012 has been a labor of love. Often challenging, but where my heart is filled.  If we're not doing something in order that God may be glorified and more people come to know Jesus, then what are we doing it for?  If it is for ourselves, we need to stop and repent immediately.  And His righteousness.  We have been given a task that we cannot complete, but in Christ we are given robes of righteousness.  We are called to walk in the light and allow God's Word to be sharper than any double-edged sword against any sin in our hearts.
    Then, we don't do this so that we get things added unto us, but seeking Jesus is the goal!  All else goes strangely dim and pails in comparison.  It's a resolution for each new year, that we would seek you, Jesus, more than we have before. 

9.  Joy is both a gift and a choice.  God gave us joy in Jesus when we couldn't choose joy on our own.  We are gifted with joy from our Heavenly Father in nearly every moment we breathe.  But when things are challenging, our hearts our breaking, the world seems dark, we can choose to see joy.  So many things are beyond our control and yet, the promise of life to the full remains.  Scripture talks about having joy in the presence of God.  Since Jesus is Emmanuel, a very present God, we are given joy.  Joy that the enemy can't touch nor take nor damage nor shake.  It is hidden with Christ in God.

10.  I'm way stronger than I thought. :-)  I've came through a lot this year with starting a new life in a new place.  I know it wasn't in my strength that I did it.  God can bring you through so much more than you thought you could handle.  But yeah, I'm kind of proud of that.

11.  And way weaker than I thought. :-S  None of us are untouchable or unstoppable.  We all have weaknesses, breaking points, and vulnerabilities.  This is why I can't do this thing alone.  This is why I need rest.  This is why I desperately need Jesus.

12.  Hope.  It's the word of the year.  "Ponder anew what the Almighty can do."

May your 2013 be full of reminders that you are desperately loved by Jesus.  Here's to a new year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

people say dumb things.

People say dumb things.  It’s part of being a creature in this fallen world.  Fortunately, most creatures are incapable of speech, but for humans, our depravity sinks to a whole new level with the wide world of words.
We’ve all been there.  Those days where you wish your own words were on a string, so you could reel them back in just as quickly as you spewed them out.  And then there are those days, when you wish you could use the speech string to tie someone else’s mouth shut.  Thank God for His grace because it's true.  We’re compulsively prone to say things that are just plain dumb.

I was standing around after a gathering this past week, when I woman I hadn’t seen in a few years came up to me and gave me a hug as she squealed “welcome back!”  I smiled remembering that some people hadn’t seen me yet, since I’ve moved back here this past summer.  She leaned in close, “so did you go get married yet?”

I smile, with my eyes rolling in my head.  Really, lady?  “No, not yet…” I respond politely.  

With puppy dog eyes, she whispered, “oh honey..I am so sorry.”

I’m sorry I’m in this conversation.  Remember, Shelly, she’s just trying to be supportive.  I put on a happy face.

“Ya’s really okay.  For right now, this is where the Lord has me and I’m grateful.  As much as I'm excited for a relationship, he’s blessed me with a great place to be in ministry and I know that He is using this time for His purposes.  I’m grateful.”  It was an honest answer.

“Good for you, honey.  That’s what you have to do!  You just stay strong!  And ya know what??  It’ll happen.  You’ll find someone.  Or…maybe you won’t.”

And off she went as she caught the next person she needed to speak with.

Well intentioned.  We all are the majority of the time.  I think we have to be careful of that.  Those well intentioned words that we mean to build others up can have the ability to leave them down trodden.  Proverbs 15:28 says, “the heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking.”  Our words are a tricky ship to navigate.  Ones that can get easily swept away and never go back to being  unspoken.

It is wise to pray for our words and the words of others.

One of my favorite orders of worship is Celtic Morning Prayer.  Part of the liturgy says this:
This day, be in the heart of each to whom I speak.  In the mouth of each who speaks to me.

It’s good to pray for our words and that God would guard the hearts of those we're speaking to when we do say dumb things.  Those of us with great opportunity to speak have great opportunity to tear down or to build up.  Pray that God uses your words and mine.  Pray also for the words of others spoken to you.  That those words spoken to you would be uplifting and truth-filled.  That they would speak life and healing.  That they would always point to hope in Jesus.

May we be so soaked in Jesus that we say fewer dumb things because we can't help but speak truth.  May we be so soaked in the truth that we don’t help the enemy's work by repeating to ourselves the dumb things that others say to us.

After all, people mean well.  We just say dumb things.

Monday, August 13, 2012

not on the same path: giving God some praise.

Well, I've come a long way since this day.  26 years of adventures, misadventures, lessons, joys, hardships, and lots of laughs have brought me to where I am today.  I am in awe.  God, You are so good to me.

I recently had a conversation with one of my dearest friends from college.  He is doing professional theatre and working on an MFA in acting in the south.  He's living his dream and I, mine.  We're in places that have been a long time coming.  It's amazing to see that journey unfold and say "I made it to this great landmark of life!"  He and I were talking, though, how easy it is to be at this point and look at the people that you used to share a landmark with.  Whether you were at the same place in grade school, high school, college, or the past decade, it can be tempting to compare.  Some people are married and about ready to have their third child.  Others are overseas doing Bible translating in remote locations or working on their doctorate.  Some are busy pursuing music while others are loving being full-time mamas.  It's amazing to think that all of us once stood at the same land mark.    It's so easy to think that some are ahead or behind of others.

 As we talked, I heard God speaking wisdom about journey.  You cannot be ahead or behind if you're not on the same path.  That still makes me smile.  There's no use comparing journeys or trying to measure the story of your life against another's.  It doesn't even make sense.  And how you do measure it?  You can't.  You're on a different road.

So on this 26th birthday, I praise You, God, for my unique path; my never-before-written story.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made--help me to hold fast to that!

I thank You for the many and various places in Your world that You've allowed me to see.  Natural wonders, historical places, rich cultures and people; Your beauty surrounds and speaks to Your glory.

I praise You for the wonderful people along the journey that have been characters in my story.  They teach me about You and show me a bit more of Your image.

I praise You for your provision and how You've steadied my heart through many and various storms and trials.

I praise and thank You for how You've called me to serve Your Church.  I am humbled and joyful.

I thank You for the gentle reminders of Your love and grace in my life and the opportunity to share those with others.  In You, is wholeness.

I PRAISE You for what is to come Jesus and how You are working behind the scenes!  You know how I love surprises!

I praise You for where You've led me through, where You have me right now, and where You are leading me next.  Thank you for being my faithful travel partner who navigates the road and unfolds the story with such beauty, grace, and creativity.  I wouldn't trade my path for anything.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

conversation transformation: changing my attitude of prayer.

Well, in the last few weeks, much to my dismay, I haven’t done much writing.  I have, however, done more than my normal amount of praying.  Not because I’m awesome and have mastered having a rockin’ meditative prayer life, but out of necessity.  Scripture says “be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  I’m done being anxious.  That means there’s been a lot of “presenting” going on with me lately.  There are things that I want to be in place right now that aren’t.  When I look at my life, I get frustrated sometimes because of the gap between where I am and where I desire to be—whether that’s in eating healthy, exercise, friendships, relationships, work or my relationship in the Lord.  It’s difficult to cease striving (the meaning of the “be still” in Psalm 46) and rest in who God has already made me to be.  It’s tough for me to embrace where I’m at, trusting in God’s goodness in the present, and just soak up the journey.  This is the downside of being a goal person—it’s difficult to simply enjoy the place where you are.

So I’ve taken to telling God about these gaps in my life.  Great, right?  Well…kinda.  I found myself reminding God about my situations.  I’d remind Him about how He hasn’t given me “this” yet or shown me “that” yet.  Ya know, God, I have been waiting for a long time for your best for me.  I’ve been here a few weeks now and you haven’t brought many new friends yet. I wholeheartedly believe in praying with expectation, but this was twisted.  I found myself praying with my expectations instead of praying with the expectation of God to show up and fulfill His promises.  There’s a huge difference.  I realized this recently and just froze; appalled at my actions.

God, I’m sorry that I’m assuming You need a reminder of my situations.  I’m sorry I’m treating You like You’ve forgotten me.  I’m sorry I’m acting like You’re not already working behind the scenes in my story.  I’m sorry for asking for more when You have blessed me with SO MUCH.  And even so, I can’t help myself in wanting more.  I’m treating You like You work for me instead of vice versa.  I’m telling You about how big my struggles and stresses are instead of boldly claiming the promises You’ve made to address them.  I am so sorry.

It’s a heart struggle.  I’m trying to achieve and have what I want to have instead of letting God be Lord of my life.  The thing is, God is in control of all things and all people.  He knows our hurts, our struggles, our joys, our dreams, the things we long for and the things we fear the most.  He knows all of that.  Not only does He know about it, He is working on it.  We need to address Him as so.

I haven’t stopped telling God about all of those things in my story.  We’re still talking them over.   But the way I address Him and my attitude about it all is so different.  Instead of nagging God, I’m thanking Him for already working on those things.  Instead of reminding Him about my worries, I’m claiming the promises He’s already given me.  Instead of pouting that I haven’t seen Him work, telling Him about my excitement of what He’s going to do next because He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  Instead of insisting on my will, surrendering to His and knowing that it’s going to be better anyway.  I'm learning to trust You, Jesus.  With the big things and the little things, may You be glorified.

There’s been a transformation in our conversations.  Well, at least on my end.  The I AM is still transforming me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"stop telling me what I can't do with you."

It’s still a little surreal, but I’m here.  The first wave of reality hit about half way through the road trip.  I’m actually doing this. 

At the risk of completely blowing my confident cover as a single 20-something doing her thang, I’m going to level with you.  As utterly excited as I am for this move and new job, I get freaked out sometimes.  I let my thoughts get away from me and the enemy attacks with accusing questions.  Am I going to be any good at this?  Will I thrive here?  Will I be liked?  Will this be where I’ll stay forever?  What about buying a house?  What if I don’t make friends?  What if I stop growing?

What if I can’t do it?

Fears and doubts.  I don’t like them at all.  It’s a struggle I’ve seen surface in the past few months.  I’m sure it’s been there most of my life, but only recently have been able to see it for what it is.  It’s not all the time, but occasionally I’ll catch my mind jumping aboard this train of cyclical fear-filled thought.  I’ll act and realize that I’ve just made a decision out of fear.

Fear isn’t from God except if it’s for God.  It’s sinful—pulling circumstances from God’s capable hands and letting them overflow through our trembling fingers.  I want to stop making decisions out of fear.  Fear isn’t freedom.  Taking a big step despite fear is freedom, though.  A few months ago, I really felt God saying to me, “Stop telling me what I can’t do with you.”  I agreed with God.  I have been doing that for a long time in many areas of my life and I want to be done with it.  I’m excited to see what You’ll do, Lord.  You like using the improbable and scary.  Thank you, God, for helping me get to this place. 

Overcoming fear means trusting in the goodness and promises of God—for your life, for your eternity, for your family, your job, your future, your relationships, your well-being, for everything.  It’s trusting that God is so very faithful.  It’s trusting He brought me here for His holy purposes that He’s going to accomplish.  It’s trusting that He loves His people and His Church.  It’s trusting that He loves me.  Because of all these promises I know to be true, it’s going to be okay.  Better than okay. 

I read a quote today that went something like this:
“Memorizing God’s promises could be the difference between winning and losing the battles of your day.”

Philippians 4:6 has been my favorite as of late.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

I cling to these promises, keep breathing, and take one thing at a time.  It’s the enemy’s trick to make the storm look bigger and our God look smaller.  For me, too many thoughts easily turn into a mind tornado, but one at a time is a lovely breeze at my back that pushes me to steadily move forward.

Lord, today I’m choosing Your promises over my fears.  You know better and will be glorified and further Your Kingdom with Your plans.  I want to be part of that.  I need You’re help to trust, but I know You’re able to bring me peace and strength just as much as You are able to deal with all that surrounds me.  Help me to trust You’ll never leave me and that You can use me, even when I fear.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Friday, June 1, 2012

daring to be uncommon.

In the still moments of my morning, the beauty of relationship and trust envelops me as I listen to Phil Wickham’s Divine Romance.  It’s one of my favorites.  It brings me back to the reality that being a Jesus follower all comes back to a relationship.  I see an image of Jesus and I embraced and moving together.  I am safe and whole.  I am loved by Him fully and completely.  And only then, can I surrender to the overwhelming grace and incredible journey He’s inviting me into.

I’ve always known that the life I desired, was called to, could only find acceptable was anything but ordinary.  Whether in a seemingly average existence or something completely off the map of normal, I long for extraordinary.  On some level, I think that as Christ followers there’s something inside of us that longs for life that’s not common.   People don’t dream of average.*  I dream of unexpected adventure.  I desire extraordinary relationships.  I yearn for an uncommon story that is unaffected by the pressures of maintaining status quo. 

John Eldridge said this in his book Sacred Romance:
We have been rescued, but still the choice is ours to stay in our small stories, clutching our household gods and false lovers, or to run in search of life.

So what does this look like and how do we get there?

Well, if I knew what it looked like, that’d be the worst told story ever. 
I’m ready for plot twists and blind opportunities.  I’m excited for a story that draws others in and says “wow, God isn’t boring or far away because He was obviously at work with You.”  Psalm 139 talks about all of our days being recorded in His book.  I think God writes our stories as page turners.  He’s riveted.  We’re the stories He stays up all night reading because even though He knows what happens next, He can’t wait to surprise us with what is around the bend.  I love that.

As far as how to get there, there are only two things I know to do.

The first is to
seek the life and freedom that Scripture brings.  As it convicts, as it boldly testifies of our God, as it seals and firms His promises in our heart, we are fitted with His armor and find ourselves ready to follow with our crosses in hand.  The Word makes known to us what God’s heart is.  I know people with seemingly ordinary stories who are soaking up the Word and allowing it to direct their far from common daily journey of receiving and giving grace and love.  It’s inspiring.

The second is a practice I’ve adopted in the last few weeks.  It’s simply to get up in the morning and ask the Holy Spirit to take me on a journey.  My morning of getting ready is often full of questions.  “How would you use me today, Abba?  Where do you want to take me?  What do you want me to see or learn?  How do you want me to rest or be challenged?  Who do you want me to notice or love?  How are you going to do the unimaginable today, Daddy...and can I come, too?”

For me, though, I’ve been discovering how much fear is connected to these questions.  As much as I truly desire all the things I’ve been asking and long for an uncommon story, I am sometimes afraid to even think those prayers.  The enemy whispers that I wouldn’t be able to do it.  Whatever that even means.  I get scared of where this adventure could lead.  I might not have time for my “to do” list if I’m at the mercy of His.  My life may not meet expectation, but cause people to question or even disapprove of me.  I get scared of whom He might have me talk to or call me to love and that it will be difficult.  I get afraid that my life is impractical or unfeasible or irresponsible.  Fear steps in and breaks up the embrace my Savior has wrapped me in.  He fights to bring me wholeness and love despite it, but this fear keeps stepping in between.  It keeps me from experiencing the depth of God’s promise to never leave or forsake me.  It keeps me from desperately clinging on to Jesus when times are uncertain.  And when adventure is high and stories are uncommon, you can’t have anything standing in the way of you and your Lifeline.  I'm sorry, Jesus, for not trusting You.

So over and over again, I speak the truths I know.  God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power and self-discipline.  God, Your Spirit is wild.  I’m giving You my fear and trading it for the adventure of taking up my cross and following You.  Your journey is going to be far more thrilling and fulfilling than anything I could plan or dream and You promise that we’re in this thing together.  We might have to start over again tomorrow when I see that fear has snuck back in the midst of us.  Maybe some days it won’t.  Either way, You are patient and we continue on together.  I love soaking up those moments with You as we walk together today and I see the glimmer in Your eye as we look toward what’s just around the bend.  This life, this faith, this relationship with You is making everything far from ordinary.  It’s enough to bring me through fear into Your freedom and so we keep walking.

Monday, May 21, 2012

my new meantime.

For those of you wondering and/or those who follow my blog at all, I’ve just come through a time of major discernment of how God would have me serve in His Kingdom.  I’ve loved my time serving in campus ministry.  It’s been an invaluable experience and a great first two years of professional ministry and development.  I have been so blessed by a place that has been full of relationship, worship, and mission opportunities all centered in bringing honor to Jesus and furthering His Name.  I do strongly believe, however, that God has used these past two years to prepare me for what’s next.  I’m confident in His calling for me to be a DCE in Arizona.

I will be serving as the first Director of Christian Education at Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Chandler, Arizona.
  I served there as an intern for a year about four years previous and have been delighted to see the growth and development that’s taken place since.  My position is DCE of Students and Serving.  I’m excited that I’ll be working with students and creating meaningful connections where they can grow in faith and life and fall in love with their Savior.  I’ll also be working in a brand new area of the church, which is the serving part.  I am thrilled about how God has impressed on this congregation’s heart to take bold steps in serving and honored to be part of carrying that out.  The congregation wants to be intentional about serving both locally and globally.  One of the ideas it seeks to explore is making a community connecting with some local Native American reservations.  I will be playing a significant role in those connections and how we might partner with those communities as well as other local serving.  My role in serving would also include coordinating and leading multiple mission trips each year to places around the globe.

The older I get, the more I realize that I have a unique heart.  God has gifted me with a random bunch of skills, passions, and gifts.  (Then there are these other things that I have not a clue about, but are exciting because I see opportunity for God to totally show up without me trying to take credit.)  I’m so excited about this new calling because it seems that my unique heart fits in the gap of this church’s need and where they are heading.  I love diverse people groups, orphans (both physically and emotionally), mentoring, traveling, culture, serving, worship, teaching, and walking with people as they get introduced to all of these things.  Most of all, I love Jesus and helping others love Him, too.   This position is going to challenge me, allow me to grow, allow me opportunities to step out in faith amidst lots of looming fears that tell me I can’t, and this position will offer grace and freedom to follow Jesus wherever He is leading for the sake of His Gospel.  You bet, I’m a bit scared, but I’m every bit just as excited.  I’m putting on my game face and saying, “Lord, lead on.  I’m trusting You.”

You know, a friend of mine recently told me that we’re supposed to dream big.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  That freedom that comes from the Holy Spirit brings a wildness—something massive and adventurous—that we are incapable of.  It causes us to dream dreams that we often think “oh, that’s not reasonable or practical.”  My friend reminded me that God doesn’t care about that.  He thinks “impossible” is fun.  He does “never gonna happen” in His spare time.  We are being used and following the Spirit when we dream so big that it draws us to our knees every single day because we have no idea how it’s going to happen, but we know God is working and capable.  So we, eager to be part of His creating and recreating, humbly submit to how He might use us.  This is how I’m entering this new call.  Excited.  Totally humbled by what I don’t know.  Expectant.  Joyful.  I never know what’s going to happen next, but if I did, that wouldn’t make the adventure very exciting, now would it? :-)

Thank you for your prayers through the discernment process.
  I’d love your prayers as this process unfolds—as God and I begin to dream about what this next chapter of my story holds.  Welcome to my new meantime.

new (original) song: I wait.

Well, it's not Bethany Dillon's EP, but creativity begets creativity and I was way overdue for some creative outlet.  A very rough first recording of my newest creation...

I Wait

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"To those who wait;" New EP from Bethany Dillon

Bethany Dillon has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters for a long time.  I've had the opportunity to see her live several times and chat with her a few times as well.  I've always admired her and enjoyed her work because it often seemed to me that we had similar hearts.  That was confirmed in the release of her new EP, To Those Who Wait.

You can pick it up on iTunes, but here's one of the tracks for your listening pleasure.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I think “home” is a strange concept.  People say, “home is where your heart is,” “there’s no place like home,” or my friend says, “home is where life realigns itself.”  After a childhood full of moving and an adult experience that has been nothing but transient, I have grown content with the concept that heaven is the place that is home.  Until then, each place feels a little like home, but parts are missing.  This is largely due to my philosophy on home.  To me, home is people.

I’ve thought this for a long time.  After a year in a van with 6 other people, it becomes apparent rather quickly that consistency, a sense of home, is only found with those consistently with me.  Home was my team.  I’ve seen that happen with college, camp, and internship.  It became the most obvious, though, once I’d left my “homes” and returned for visits.

This past week, I had the pure gift of spending a few days in a place where I’ve never lived, but it has seldom been trumped in the sense of home it brought to me.  I’ve never called St. Louis home before (except for in regards to Busch Stadium..go Cards), but a handful of my closest people live there.  They make it so for me.

It’d never been so clear as it was this past week that we are created for relationship.  More than a location, mom's cooking, or gardening in the summertime, home is a state of the heart.  Think about what you do when you get home after a long day.  You change into sweats, put your hair in a pony tail, lounge on the couch, and let it all hang out.  Home is where you can be comfortable, safe, and let down walls and masks that get put back on the moment you step back out the door.

This is my heart’s reaction when I’m among these people.  I’m comfortable.  I’m unafraid to show the most embarrassing and silly things that are often the most honest things about myself.  I feel safe to put on my emotional sweat pants and wipe off the make up of what is socially acceptable.  They see me with my flaws, joys, fears, doubts, and whimsical dreams.  I am known for all the crazy and lovely that I am without my value being placed in it.  And because of that, I can rest on the couch that is our friendship.  I am recharged, encouraged, delighted, and delighted in.  We laugh at things that would never even be shared outside of this home.  We cry about things the rest of the world wouldn’t understand.  We reach the silliest and most broken parts of who we are and the best parts of who we could become and it’s beautiful and refreshing.  In that place, I am so restored.

I watched in these past days as three of my favorite married couples delighted in each other and found home in those relationships.  For the most part, they are all away from familiarity of family and friends.  There are struggles, changes, and growing pains that they are enduring.  They have learned to lean on each other, have grown in that relationship, and have become home for each other in a very real way.  I can’t even imagine.  I already feel so at home with some of my friends.  Even thinking about being known and loved at a level greater than what I've experienced thus far is thrilling.

My dream of home refuses to stop there though.  How thrilling it will be to finally be in the presence of our Maker!  He knows us completely and loves us fully.  To be present in that kind of relationship and see it face to face is beyond amazing.  It’s wholeness.  It’s what my heart yearns for.  Even more than my greatest comforts or relationships, it’s satisfying.  To walk in and be welcomed by familiar open arms that I didn't even knew I recognized.  I see the best parts of myself in this Being.  I am consumed by His love and His glory.  I am complete and all is as it should be.  And that's when it happens.  I've arrived.  This is home.

I'm reveling in the fact that I got just a glimpse of that this past week.  I want to hear--what's home mean to you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blue Like Jazz the movie: a review.

After having my spiritual perspective affected so deeply by reading Blue Like Jazz a few years ago (and then again recently), I was thrilled to see the book come to life on the big screen.  After reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I was interested and curious as to how the book would come to life.  It did.

With many liberties taken in the creation of the movie from the book, I was delighted to see the heart of Blue Like Jazz left fully intact.

Don takes a journey from his conservative Christian world into the college dubbed as the “most godless campus in the country,” Reed College.  He dives head first into a world of experiences that many accurately depicts what many freshman face as they take their first flight from the nest (which explains why it’s rated PG-13).  Don is warned about the dangers of being religious and fears people finding out that he is a Christian.  He goes so far as to ridiculing the religious in order to feel connected at Reed.  The common struggle displayed between who he has been and who he is becoming is relateable and is what our young people need to see.  I wish I could show this movie to each and every one of my college students.  Get ready, friends.  There will be experiences and there will be struggles.  The struggles are part of the journey.  You are not alone.

The film also gives a glimpse of a well doing, intelligent Christian named Penny—an actual character from the book.  She is a refreshing character who is honest, loving, and passionate about creating good in the world as part of her journey with Jesus.  Penny is patient with Don, gives him perspective, and shows a positive image of what faith looks like in the midst of a highly secular setting.  For those criticizing Blue Like Jazz for their criticism of “church life,” we see a beautiful picture of unashamed, love-filled faith in Penny.

Penny knows who she is and calls Don out when she sees he’s living a double life.  I won’t ruin it for you, but Don finally admits his doubt in church, in God.  He admits his brokenness, the brokenness of Christians.  He admits he’s misrepresented and been ashamed of God.  It forced me to ask the question, “when have I done the same?”  Whether at college, in the work place, in the grocery store, at a bar, among “secular” or “Christian” friends, when have I been ashamed of Jesus and what He would actually stand for?  I think more often than I’d care to think about.

Faith involves people, therefore faith is messy.  Mine is messy.  So is yours.  We need to be honest about that mess.  We need to be open about the struggle and in doing so, allow others to do the same.  In admitting the struggle, we gain freedom trusting that God’s grace is enough for our doubts and broken parts and we don’t have to pretend to be resolved.  For we are and will be unresolved until Jesus returns.  That’s the point.  It’s blue like jazz.

Go give it a shot.  I pray it will be thought provoking and moving for you.  I’m excited to see how God uses Don’s story and this film to touch peoples’ hearts across the country and around the world for Jesus.  Or at least open the conversation.  Maybe it’s time for you to stop being ashamed.  Maybe it’s time for you to say “I’m sorry.”  Maybe it’s time for you to see Jesus as Jesus for the first time.

Blue Like Jazz just might be what you’re looking for.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

this is not the end.

If you've been around me lately, you know that I've been on a Gungor kick, but more specifically the song "This is not the End."  I saw them live a couple weeks ago and couldn't help but dance like a crazy when I longed for the promise of these words and utterly rejoiced in them.

We did a Lenten series this year called eLemENTs ( ).  One of the weeks, we looked at the element, clay.  Clay is a cool thing.  It's messy and dirty.  It's basically dust with some water thrown in.  When clay is soft, it is not finished.  It is process.  It is not final, but vulnerable and moldable.

There are multiple references in Scripture to God being the potter and people being clay.  It's a great image.  God shaping us.  In the times that we feel ruined, smashed, or ugly about our life and story, it's not final.  It made me think of being in God's hands differently.  The potter isn't always gentle with the clay.  Sometimes He smashes it to reshape it into something lovely.  What we usually see as a comforting hand to rest in can also be a strong and disciplining hand that is capable of flattening us to start over.  He is a great and terrifying presence that longs for and demands beauty.  I, the clay, beg to just get there already--struggling to wait in the process of being molded.  The vessel won't be finished until complete beauty is achieved.  Who knows how it might get there and how many times it may need to be destroy, dried, watered, and built again for it to be finished.  God won't settle for less than beauty.

But this is what I know to be true.  God is a great potter.  A loving potter.  A potter that doesn't destroy clay for the sake of it and won't push it harder than it can stand.  There will be those days where we feel out of sorts.  We wonder what God is doing.  "How could He make something beautiful out of the mess that I am?"

Isaiah 45:9 warns us about this. "Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’"

We are clay in His hands.  The hands of a good Potter.  A potter so good that let His Son be clay and absolutely destroyed Him.  There was nothing left.  But our God is one who can't end the story that way.  A world in His hands can't end that way.  He is peace.  He is wholeness and beauty.  He is completeness and rightness.  He is shalom.

That is how I know, on this Holy Saturday, with Jesus in the tomb and the world in the tomb, that we won't stay there.  God continues to mold.  The clay sealing our tomb begins to move revealing a stream of light.

And in the midst of the broken, the dark, the death that surrounds, our good Potter leans over us with a knowing smile and whispers, "this, my darling, is not the end."

waiting for Easter.

In honor of Holy Saturday, here's a blog post from last about waiting for Easter this week and in life.

Blessings as you wait.  This is not the end.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Week reflections.

Holy means "set apart."  This week leading up to Easter is a week that the Church has set apart for centuries.  It's easy, in preparations and celebrations, to get side tracked and lose focus on what truly is happening during the week that leads up to Easter.  Even if you haven't yet, I challenge you (and me too) to set apart the rest of this week in reflection on Jesus' Passion and what that means in your life.

I found a lovely series of Holy Week devotions here:

His words about simplicity, what God has intended for us, resting, and how Jesus is teaching us to love each other are awesome.  Here's a taste of what you'll see there:

The temple had become a marketplace.  Instead of people bowing their hearts, they were turning a profit.  A pretty far cry from God's original intention.
Reflection:  "When God first drew me into a relationship with him, he had something good, pure and life-changing in mind.  Is my relationship with him still characterized by that simple purity and life-changing devotion?
"Lord, forgive me for cheapening your presence in my life.  Fill the temple of my heart with your over-powering glory once again."

So, when Jesus got to the temple did he think "What good is  a temple if people don't meet God there?  It's supposed to be a place where your soul gets fed.  That's its purpose after all.  Not just to look pretty."

On the outside, the temple was a busy place (just like the fig tree: it had a lot of leaves), but on the inside it was dead  (just like the fig tree: it didn't bear any fruit).  The temple was supposed to be a "house of prayer", instead it had become a place of preoccupation and spiritual distraction, robbing people's hearts from their God.  So, Jesus "cursed" the temple too, by clearing out the money changers and teaching the merchandisers a lesson:  this isn't what it's supposed to be like!
Reflection:  "I sense my life is cluttered with things that distract me from connecting with God on a more intimate level.  What things do I need to clear out of my life?  Am I really willing to declutter my life?  Am I willing to simply pray and wait upon God?  Or am I content with avoiding God by doing the business of 'Christian activity'?  I will take time to listen to God and meet with God this week."Prayer:  "Lord, clear out my heart.  Do what you will, even to the point of 'over-turning' my tables.  Remodel my inner world."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Have you ever felt ridiculous?  I do all the time.  I get embarrassed about my appearance or things I say or if I’m good enough.  Then, this is usually followed by a layer of shame for how insecure and self-focused I can be.

Last week, I got to speak on a challenging text—Jesus being anointed at Bethany by an unnamed woman in Mark 14.  A woman walks into Simon the Leper’s house while Jesus is eating with the disciples..  She dumps a jar full of ointment on Jesus that was worth a year’s wages.  Talk about ridiculous.

The disciples thought so too and let Jesus know about it.  They chided her for not thinking of the poor when she made such a “waste” of wealth, not to mention bringing shame on herself as a woman among a room of men, none to whom she was married.  Jesus quieted the disciples and honored the woman and her act of love.   He explained that the woman was anointing Him for His burial—a common use of oils and ointments.  He even said that she would be mentioned every time the Gospel would be told, but her name isn’t even listed.  After all, she wasn’t there for her name, but to honor Christ’s.

I was convicted and moved by this story.  How often am I that smitten and enamored with Jesus that I am completely unaware others’ perceptions of me, the shame I may encounter, or what it may cost me?  Not often.  I think it’s difficult for most of us to relate to such an impractical expression of love in such a responsible world.  It seems so ridiculous.  And it is.
I’ve experienced people thinking I’m ridiculous for many things—not going to college right away,  serving on a ministry team for a year, going into professional church work, not being a party-er or dating any guy I could find, or putting myself out there for conversation with strangers and those different than me.

I’m not a huge fan of feeling like people are disapproving of my choices, but that’s what this Scripture is all about.

Jesus said we would have struggle here.  People here don’t know or understand Him or us because they don’t know our Father.  We need to get used to this and believe, instead, in the love the Father has for us.

It’s a love big enough to make us totally unaware of ourselves.  We stop thinking about others’ opinions, how we look, and if we’re good enough.  It’s not convincing ourselves to put them aside, it’s being so in love with Jesus that you’re rendered unaware of anything else.  Adam and Eve knew what that was like.  They were naked before the fall, but they were so enamored with the Lord that they didn’t even care to notice.  When we believe we are loved like Jesus loves, we are freed from our addiction of self because we just can’t take our eyes off of how wonderful He is long enough to even glance in the mirror.  This is what is truly beautiful.

A life to the full is one lived without fear, without shame, and totally engrossed in the love of our Lord.  Whether you are like the woman in the story, the disciples, or even Judas who runs out to betray, know and trust His ridiculous love for you regardless of who you are or how you respond.  This coming Friday, Good Friday, we remember how shamed, embarrassed, and ridiculed Jesus was on our behalf.  I challenge you to set apart time this week to love Jesus and be loved by Him.  Read and retell the story.  Respond how it moves you to do so.  You can never outdo the ridiculous love Jesus showed for you on the cross, but you can love Him because of it.

Here’s to a ridiculous Holy Week, meantime, and eternity.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

as the seasons change.

The sun is warm and bright.  The degrees are in the 70's and the snow is gone.  Gradually you see the people of the north land peeking out the window to see if the dreaded winter monster has left.  It's a fickle monster, but at least for awhile it's away.  It might come to scare us again before the summer, but for now it looks like the seasons are changing.  The Cities come to life.  Patios open.  The warmth brings exhilaration and relief.  I must admit it takes me a good while to not feel naked without a scarf, but I embrace the change.  The warm breeze brings hints of new adventure to come as the seasons change.

I've mentioned seasons before (see "seasons: alone leads to together") on this blog.  They are an important pattern in life.  It's God's way of letting us know that He is still moving and moving forward.  It's awe inspiring.  You get to experience the richness of that season--be it sledding in the snow, strolling through leaves, swimming in the lake, or watching the earth reawaken.  And all the while that you're taking these lovely things in, you know it won't last. The grandeur of another season will soon take its place. 

My friend, Mary, (Mar--you may as well be a guest writer here) and I were talking about seasons the other night at dinner.  Mary let me in on a little life philosophy of hers: To live everyday like the wedding is tomorrow.  It could be an actual wedding you're thinking of or figurative, but to live your life like you're on the brink.  There's joy and excitement the day before a wedding for nearly everyone involved!  The thought of living life in that way is thrilling even at its mention.  It's believing that what God is going to do next and what is coming is going to be so great that I'm giddy!  It is the joy of what He's going to do and eventually how He will be our Eternal Groom.  That's SO thrilling that the joy spills into today.  Because friends, not everything is perfect about any season.  The flowers might bring allergies or lots of mud, the snow is cold and can be dreary, the fall (is pretty close to perfect) can bring cold winds and foliage withers, while summer can be scorching and packed with activity.  There are wonderful and difficult things about each season and at times we find ourselves longing for the next one.  I find myself longing for my next season of life--whatever that looks like.  There are things about my story right now that make me look forward to what is next.

I think God conveniently made it that way after the fall.  Our perfect relationship with Him that we  were designed for was broken.  For us, that means that no stage or season, until we see Jesus face to face, will feel complete.  It's not supposed to.  We were made for a lot more than this and if we did feel complete in it, we would more easily forget about our Maker.  So we wait and look forward with giddy excitement.  Tomorrow could be the day that a new season arrives in your story!

The other half of my conversation with my friend was about contentment.  Great combination, right?  Contentment is an on-again, off-again struggle for me.  Some days I'm happy as a clam with my story and the current setting and plot.  Other days, I struggle.  I struggled living on my own again.  I was angry about feeling isolated.  Finally, one day, it was as if God said to me, "don't wish this away."  I was changed in that moment.  I'm done wishing away seasons.  They come and go quickly enough as it is and I always seem to be wanting what I don't have.  I'm done with that.  Well, I'm trying to be.  Contentment is choosing to see time spent alone as an appointment set aside by my Creator to simply enjoy my company without interruption.  These times and opportunities that I have with Him and to minister to others are unique--the richness of this season.  Even though I'm excited for what is to come, I refuse to wish that away.  It is such a sweet, sweet meantime.

Anticipation and contentment.  We need both pieces.  Life is best lived when we are, both looking forward in anticipation for what's to come, as well as refusing to wish away where we are.  Here's to joy in the journey, for stories of seasons past, for the beauty of the present, and the thrill of what's to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

remarkable secrets about things to come.

Prayer is a funny thing.  Have you ever felt like your words or thoughts are just bouncing off the ceiling?  I feel like this a lot.  It's a hurdle for me in my prayer life, but I know that God has gifted me with conversation with Him.  Yes, there are times when the conversation seems more like a monologue.  However, the Word says that it's to His delight and for my betterment that I seek Him.  So I do.  Well, I try to, at least.

The following paragraphs are my best attempt of putting into words how God has been speaking to me lately and responding to my prayers.  Warning: If words were money, I spent my whole pay check on this entry.  God has just been showing up in so many places in my story.

So last week, God ripped Scripture open for me (see Pits and Promises).  Out of the several awesome chunks of Scripture He showed me, I chose to memorize one particular verse that just caught my heart.

Jeremiah 33:3: "Ask and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about what is to come."

I'd been seeking the Lord a lot lately about my future and what He dreams about me doing for His kingdom.  This verse was a promise I could hold onto.  As I asked, He would reveal.  He would reveal His heart for me, for the world, and for those that I can love and serve in the Name of Jesus, for the glory of Jesus.  I've repeated that Scripture over and over this past week.

Meanwhile, I had the privilege of leading worship and doing a short message at the Minnesota Early Childhood Educators Conference yesterday.  I was led to a scripture from Psalm 22 to share with them.  It says this:

27 All the ends of the earth
   will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
   will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
   and he rules over the nations. ...
  30 Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!   

I was delighted upon reading this Psalm.  It tied in to what God had shown me last week about people all over the world knowing Him.  It'd showed me His heart for people.  It also showed me His heart for raising up generations that know and fear Him.  We are called to make His Name known to generations to come.  So that was what I shared with these teachers whose conference theme was "Lasting Impression."  I gave them 2 challenges:
         1.)  Let God's love in Christ be impressed upon them.  Be affected by His love.  Get in
         His Word.  Swim in His love and grace.  Know Him and be loved and changed by Him.
         2.) Share that with your kids.  Let them in on how good God is and what He's been
         up to in your life in both struggles and joy.

I continued to chew on this passage.  It made me think of my excitement to be a godmother soon!  In about a month, a new life will enter the world and I've been invited to be a permanent part of that child's life.  I get to love this child relentlessly, teach this little one about how much Jesus loves her/him more relentlessly, and support the tike's parents in raising her/him.  It's thrilling to me--God's crazy love for younger generations, even ones unborn.

So this morning I'm in worship.  I'm continuing to ask God to share His remarkable secrets with me about things to come.  And wow.  I was astounded by what happened.

We looked at Proverbs 4 this week.  It's all about wisdom being passed down through generations--mostly from a father to his children.  Our guest preacher, Dean, let the Holy Spirit speak some powerful truth through him today.  He talked about what a great Dad our Heavenly Father is.  He promises love and wisdom and grants it to us faithfully.   One of the greatest reasons He does this, is so we can share that wisdom and God's love with future generations.  Wow.  There's a lot of connecting going on for me.  I'm gripped as he continues to speak.

My beautiful college students in Nicaragua.
Dean points out Psalm 78:5-7 which basically mirrors that of Psalm 22, with similar language and everything.  I'm in awe.  He charges everyone in the room with the responsibility to love those children and young people intrusted to them.  Parents, grandparents, singles, uncles/aunts, friends.  He reminds us that it takes a village to raise a child (a quote I used YESTERDAY when talking to my godchild's grandmother who happened to be at the conference).  I suddenly felt joy as I thought back to the Scripture I'd read last week in Isaiah 49 about my most desolate places being full and saying "who has given me all these descendants?"  God was showing me that even as a single, young woman, He has entrusted me with the lives of many young people to whom I need to speak His love and truth.  I have little cousins, friends' children whom I love dearly, beautiful Keyla that I sponsor in Nicaragua, lots of college students that I love more than I understand and desire Godly lives for, my volleyball girls from the fall, and now my godchild.  There is no waiting when it comes to loving and raising up future generations.  This has been going on and will continue.

I was brought to tears when I realized that God had entrusted these people to me to love on His behalf.  Then Dean shared a few more Scriptures.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9--a Scripture that we looked at over and over again in my college ministry program.  Then, he read it.  Jeremiah 33:3.  My verse for the week.  My jaw dropped as I looked at my friend and said "no freaking way."

I began to get really emotional and you'll soon see why.  Since I was maybe in high school, God has been growing my heart for those who haven't been chosen--especially children.  Those who don't have supportive parents, who were told they weren't wanted or couldn't be made a priority, and especially the orphaned of the world.  There are few groups of people more dear to my heart.  God's Word even says that right religion in His sight is looking after the orphans and widows and not being corrupted by the world.  I've dreamed through college about adopting children.  My roommate and I had dreams of moving to West Africa or Latin America and starting an orphanage where we'd sit on the porch and choose children who need to be chosen.  It's almost laughable--I'm even reading a book right now about a young woman who up and moved to Africa and ended up adopting 14 children there (Kisses from Katie).  I asked for God's wisdom about the remarkable secrets of things to come.  I think He was showing me a glimpse today.  I think He knows I need a lot of hints.  But it's clear to me that in some way, I was made for choosing those who haven't been chosen and showing them they were already chosen by their faithful heavenly Father.
 As I stood their singing, "I will go, Lord, send me...take everything I am, I'm clay within your hands," I felt God saying, "oh sweet girl, I'm going to use you for this."  I don't know what that looks like yet.  I hope it looks like serving on teams that relieve orphanage nannies and mothers or even being an orphanage mother!  I hope it looks like a time and place in life where I can adopt children and choose them.  Until He reveals a few more secrets, I will be finding ways to invest in and love young people with God's love wherever I am living and serving.  I am so very open to how God wants to use that passion in me for His Kingdom.  God's dreams are so big.  I'd love your prayers in preparing me and leading me for what He has in store.  I'd also love for you to join me in praying about and acting on how you can influence generations toward Him and with His love.  It's something that even those of us in the meantime can invest in.  Heck, maybe this is what we've been waiting for!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

blue like jazz: the movie.

Turns out one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz, by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, has been made into a movie and will be coming out next month!  It's a wonderful book that captures real and raw elements to living out the Christian faith in everyday life.  Don Miller writes as a single guy.  He addresses living in community in the book and has a strong sense of adventure--very meantime-esque themes.  Some of his writing has really shaped my thoughts on meantime living.  God really changed me through reading Blue Like Jazz and I'm thinking the movie will be pretty powerful as well.

Check out the trailer!

You can get more information about the movie, where it's playing, and also early screening opportunities here at!  If it's anything like the book, you won't want to miss it!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

pits and promises.

Have you ever been in the pit?

Pneumonia was kind of the pits, but I got over it and also learned how to spell the word “pneumonia.”  Once I began feeling better, though, I was flying high!  Back to work, back to life, back to lots of relational ministry.  I started eating better which has made me feel a lot better in general.  I had more energy and even picked up a sewing machine along the way that has supported some new crafty hobbies.  I was determined to make my newly roommate-free home a place I look forward to instead of dread.  It was going quite well for awhile.  I was taking seriously the challenge to not wish away this precious stage of solitude in my life.

Yeah...just like most things, that came to an end.  For nearly a week, I struggled hugely.  I thought living alone again wasn't going to affect me.  I was wrong and I was in a pit.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not awful.  There are a lot of great things to living solo.  I enjoy it a fair amount of the time.  Even when I had a roommate, I got a lot of alone time because she traveled a lot.  So I've already adopted hobbies.  Quite the list actually: harmonica, writing/recording music, crafting, sewing, reading, writing, decorating, movies/Netflix, thrifting, coffee shops, photography, exploring the Cities, volleyball, Spanish, napping, working too much...the list goes on.  I like all of these things and tend to cycle back through them from time to time.  But I started realizing what they were: busted efforts to make my life not suck.  Things to the lick the lonely and beat the boring.  And honestly, I don't think any of these things are bad.  I'll probably still keep doing most all of them (while giving a strong effort not to add to the list).  As great as each of these things can be, though, they aren't relationship.  And boy, has it been made evident to me lately, how much I've been designed for relationship!

So this morning, I wake up to a text from a college friend who happened to be in town asking if I could meet her at Starbucks.  I hustle to get there.  On my way there, my mind was busy thanking God for this random visit with a good friend.  It was helping me see God providing for my need of relationship in the midst of a drier time in my life.  Our conversation goes real, quickly.  We both share how we're in lonely stages of life.  As I drove back home, I was flung deeper into the pit.  I've missed her.  I've missed lots of my dearest friends that live far away.  I went to a coffee shop for the afternoon.  I was tired of being alone for two solid days on the weekends.  I was getting frustrated and pouty.  Having experienced this chain of thinking before and not really wanting to go down that road, I held up a mental stop sign.  Time to shut down the social media and opened up my Bible.  I needed some promises.

I opened to Isaiah 41 and read this verse:
“But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend,
I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’
For I have chose you and will not throw you away.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Promise #1 for me today:  I'm not getting thrown away.  God did choose me for something.  God is with me and is my strength and help.  He captured my attention.  I flipped the pages some more and ended up in Isaiah 49:16:   

“I have your name written on the palms of my hands.”

Promise #2: God loves me enough to get my name tattooed on His hand.  He can’t forget me—it’s right there!

Verse 19 went on to talk about the return of Israel from exile and I loved the promises for the lonely and desolate that God made:
“even the most desolate parts of your abandoned land will soon be crowded with your people.”

Promise #3: Loneliness won’t last forever.  Community will return.

Then to Numbers 23:19 says:
“God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried through?”

Promise #4:  God is not like us.  God is good at keeping promises.

And Jeremiah 33:3:
“Ask and I will tell you the remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.”

Promise #5: Ohh…I like this one.  God has awesome secret plans about the future and He will let us in on them if we ask.  It’s like getting to peek behind door #2.

Isaiah 58:10:
“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”

Promise #6: God is going to guide me.  He will be the one who provides me with restoration, not hobbies or relationships, but Him alone.  The Word is life.  He doesn’t just want to sustain me either, but make me ever-flowing!

Finally Jeremiah 3:9:
“Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth!  The people of the world will see all the good I do for my people, and they will tremble with awe at the peace and prosperity I provide for them.”

Promise #7:  God does good things for His people.  The world will come to know His goodness by us telling how faithful our God is to us.

I could have written several pages of Scripture that God pointed out to me today, but the major theme that rang loud and clear for me today was promises.  Sometimes we are in the pit.  There isn’t much that’s awesome about that.  God, on the other hand, is completely awesome.  The plans are good for us, friends.  He hasn’t forgotten us or thrown us away.  His promise is that the pit won’t last forever and promises to spend precious time in there with us.  He’s excited to bless us so that we can tell the world how awesome our God is!

I left the coffee shop feeling physically lighter and less tense, with a peaceful smile on my face.  Everything isn’t perfect, but my God’s promises are.  They are for you, too…even if your waiting room looks more like a pit.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

what I've learned from pneumonia.

So I've been living with pneumonia for a whole week now.  It's pretty exciting stuff!  I've started back to work in the mornings and am grateful to not feel so "bump on a log"-esque.

It is frustrating because even though I'm feeling heaps better, I still have to take it slow.  Pneumonia is the kind of thing that can come back to bite you if you rush it.  When a person has pneumonia, their immune system is very weak, so it's very easy to catch anything and everything that others may be carrying.  All of these things mean that I have to continue to take it easy and rest for awhile.

This reality in my life has taught me the following things:

1.  I am terrible at resting.  Just bad.  I never thought I was!  I've felt guilty about not getting things done.  My roommate moved out the day before I got sick, so my apartment is in massive disarray.  (Can you imagine having to "rest" for several days with that?!)  I missed a conference over the weekend and a handful of other commitments and projects.  It is hard for me to stop and let the world go by without me.  The past few days, I've put "nap" on my to do list.  This is how I make rest happen.  If you need to do this to get there, you should.  It has been liberating to see that it still does and not everything requires my control or effort.

2.  Things can wait.  I found myself getting a bit overwhelmed a few times in the last week.  I was overwhelmed about what I was missing, what needed to be done in my apartment, at work, other projects I want to work on, etc etc.  I had to remind myself that it can wait.  It'll either get done or it won't.  I can only do one thing at a time.  So for this week, I've given myself a goal for each day--1 thing to accomplish in my home and 1 thing to accomplish at work.  I hope to do more in my morning at work, but it keeps me honest about when I need to go home.  I don't need to do more than this once I get home.  I could spiral into a cleaning machine and as much as I would love that, it wouldn't be good for me right now.  Today I got the fridge cleaned out (and took out the trash--two for one.  Cut me a'd get stinky!).  Then I made myself stop, even though the floor was begging to be mopped and all those crates need to go to the basement.  Another time, another day.

3.  I thought I was really good at taking care of myself.  Hahahahah.  So wrong!  I was mindboggled for a few days as to how my immune system could be weak enough to get pneumonia (an infection where bacteria sneaks into your lungs when your immune system isn't looking).  I thought "yeah..I'm healthy!  How could this happen?!"  As I read about things that can strengthen my immune system, I realized, "no..I'm pretty terrible at taking care of myself."  From the time I got home from Nicaragua until I got sick, I hardly slept, I ate all the worst things, I didn't exercise (for the exception of some night skiing....yeah...didn't sleep that night hardly at all), and I was under a heap of stress with work and my roommate moving.  I was shocked!  I'm doing better on all accounts but exercise, at the moment.  The breathing thing is still an issue, but I want to do better with that when I feel better.  My point is this: I thought I was a healthy rockstar who could do all of this stuff without consequence.

Proverbs 16:18:  "Pride goes before a fall."

Yeah, there's a reason that's in Scripture.  I didn't even know I thought I was invincible, but according to how I was living, I totally did.  That must change.  Bodies are fragile things.  I have learned this.

I'm hoping that you can learn something from my sickness, too.
  • Rest is important.  It's one of the biggest ways to keep you from getting sick.  Not to mention, God mandates Sabbath in Scripture.  Yeah, He knew what He was talking about with that.  The Third Commandment is God's gift to us--telling us, the world will go on if we take a day off.  It's for our own good.  We desperately need it to live and live well.
  • If you need to put things off to rest, do it.  Things can wait.  So many things can wait.
  • You are not invincible.  It's best you learn that now.  You are but a breath.  Bodies are fragile.  They must be taken with care.  Be a good steward of the body God has given you.  Ask Him for help with that.

Rest well and be well, my friends.