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.