Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living in the Shadow of Christmas

The notoriously joy-filled and peaceful season of Christmas has come and gone. Presents have been ripped open (and either enjoyed or returned), the twinkling lights shine no longer, decorations have been packed up, feasts and cookies have been consumed and life returns to normal (perhaps with a few extra pounds around our waists).

The days before Christmas are full of anticipation, preparation and excitement. Then, come December 26th, the magic and merriment seem to vanish instantaneously. Life goes on and the cycle continues the following December.

Is this how Christmas should be - a short-lived, seasonal moment of excitement? For those who have come to know Christmas in terms of a "Hallmark holiday" - mainly existing for consumeristic purposes, with no real depths or meaning other than an opportunity to shower those we love with the latest and greatest gifts and rack up a whole bunch of credit card debt - then the joy of this season really is only temporary (with the ending result/shadow of Christmas including momentary excitement until the gifts get old and the burden of debt).

For those of us who claim to know the real reason for the season - God incarnate who came for all mankind as a baby in a lowly manger - then the "shadow" of Christmas is more like a brilliant light, full of peace, joy and redemption that floods our entire lives. If the reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, then the rest of our year should be spent living out a life of thanksgiving to God. If we know the reason for the season, our lives will be full of light, our situations will look radically different and we will know a source of hope and unsurpassable peace, even in the face of trials, tribulations and despair.

If we celebrate Christmas with purpose and richness that can only be attributed to the birth of a Savior, Christmas songs have more meaning, love has greater depths and hope knows no bounds. For those who are trapped in the patterns of the consumeristic Christmas and for those who live in the seemingly unshakeable shadows of darkness, depression and despair even in the Christmas season, there is hope. It is never too late to know and experience the good life in Christ. And for those who know this Savior, let us rejoice in the opportunity to experience Christmas joy year round, even after the lights are packed up and the decorations are put away.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. - Titus 3:4-7

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Can't (Won't) Let Go

"Do you know where your heart is?
Do you think you can find it?
Or did you trade it for something
Somewhere better just to have it?
Do you know where your love is?
Do you think that you lost it?
You felt it so strong, but
Nothing's turned out how you wanted

Well, bless my soul
You're a lonely soul
Cause you won't let go
Of anything you hold"

One Republic's song has been playing in my head all day. The line that cuts me the most is also the one that has convicted me: "You're a lonely soul, cause you won't let go of anything you hold..." Surrender is an action on which Christianity is firmly founded. There is true freedom (often accompanied by fear) when you realize that the amount of control you actually have over your life is miniscule. But the freedom comes in acknowledging that God is sovereign over all, is in control of everything and has our good in mind. Letting go allows us to see God move. It requires faith. Trust. A daily, maybe hourly, decision to let go and not take what we had surrendered back to try and figure it out on our own.

I've seen God move in areas I've surrendered to him and I am so in awe of His faithfulness. But when it comes to love, the ability to surrender is often crippled by whispers of the past, wonderings what could have been and deeply rooted feelings. While I feel like I've surrendered so much, the fruit of my present predicament points to the fact that I'm still holding on to something. Because I won't let go, i'm disabling myself from fully committing or wanting to move forward in anything else, relationally. And there is no one to blame but myself. I won't play the role of victim or ask God 'why?' any longer; it's time to accept that I am currently in this place because I have chosen to be. I say this without being guilt-ridden and self-degrading, but with hope in the freedom this realization brings.

I love how on One Republic's CD, the song that follows "Say" is "Mercy". It's like the first song is meant to convict you or propel you into a state of self examination, and the latter is meant to remind you how much mercy surrounds you, right where you are. Whether or not Ryan Tedder and the band intended to order their songs for this particular reason or I'm reading into it way too much, it is comforting nonetheless.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I Am {Purposefully} Single

Recently, someone laid out priorities in this order: 1) God 2) family (spouse first, then kids) 3) your ministry. Someone else shared a shift in her life from a thirst for adventure to wanting to be known as a Godly woman, good mother/wife and someone who always has freshly baked cookies in her kitchen. Still another person that knows me fairly well was shocked as we caught up and exchanged news of friends and family members' progressing romantic relationships, and i did so in a seemingly cynical manner. As I've sought council on my current predicament, I've come to realize it's not cynicism at all. I am completely overjoyed for my dear friends and their sweet relational seasons and marriages. I cannot wait for the day marriage is (perhaps) in my own horizon.

About a month ago, God gave me this vision of myself sitting in a room surrounded by doors - some are wide open, some are locked, still others are open just a crack. As I sit there, God is instructing me to wait. Instead of waiting, I've made attempts in moving forward anyways. A friend recently pointed out to me that "drama swirls around you like a tornado". While part of me gets offended (I blame the thinker in him and the feeler in me butting heads ;P) I do know this "dramatic" season has been in large part due to the fact that I have attempted to act out of confusion and take steps forward solely based on my "in-the-moment" emotions. I've self-prescribed my singleness as "unhealthy". I've blamed past relational baggage. I've wondered what is wrong with me in not being able to move forward with one of the most amazing men I've met. I've looked at all these doors and wondered if I'm having commitment issues, in fear that walking through one door will require me to shut all the other ones. While some of these fears and possibilities could perhaps be playing an underlying role, I'm beginning to believe this season of singleness is a God-ordained season full of purpose.

I've placed myself on a track that much resembles the "Christian American Dream", as I refer to it: that drive to find a partner in ministry/spouse at a young age, settle down, etc. etc. which has led to disappointment and failure due largely in part to the fact that God's journey and plans for my life are entirely different.

In talking with my mentor, I realized this is yet another time in my life where God is calling me to yield and surrender EVERYTHING to Him - my relationships, my singleness, my career, my school, my passions, my dreams, literally my all. This thought and act of surrender doesn't seem too difficult at the moment, seeing as I'm in a place where I'm not clinging to anything or refuse to give anything up. Seeking the Lord and waiting for His instruction are the only things I can really do, sitting in this room surrounded by doors. Not to mention, I've seen the Lord's faithfulness in past moments of surrender - where He has taken my petty, humanly-constructed plans and replaced them with a bigger calling and better-fitting journey in Him.

There are seasons of singleness that are unbearably painful - perhaps after a divorce, a death, a brutal break up, separation etc. Sometimes, singleness is cast upon us and we have no choice but to grin and bear it. This particular season, however, is purposeful, sweet and indefinite. I am not putting a time frame or restrictions on it, but trusting God will allow it to continue until He sees fit, as I continuously yield to and lean on Him. I TRUST that He will make it clear in moving forward and that He is continuing to heal and prepare me for the next season.

For now, my priorities are my Lord and my ministry and that EXCITES me. I do not have to attempt to fit into a relationship or move forward when I am clearly not ready. I firmly believe love will be awakened when the timing is right. And one day, while I'd love to be a Godly woman, good mother and wife, with cookies readily available (probably store bought cookies, in my case ;P), I will enjoy this wild adventure and sweet season as a single woman seeking to know and draw closer to the Lord. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Come Away

I can't get enough of Jesus Culture's song, Come Away today. "I have a plan for you, it's gonna be WILD, it's going to be great, it's going to be full of Me..." This line keeps penetrating my heart over and over again. God's plan for us is WILD - this EXCITES me. I think I've lost site of that idea lately. I have this vision of myself sitting in a room full of doors that are partially open or closed and locked or not yet open, and God is instructing me to wait patiently and be still before Him, allowing Him to move in His timing. Just this morning, I was in the midsty of battling exhaustion on so many levels - spiritually, mentally, physically, and ready to give up. Yet in His mysterious way, God used a song with simple lyrics to restore my confidence in Him. His wild plan involves journeys through desert seasons, through trying times and heartbreak. It leads us into great joys, bigger and better dreams than any human could ever fathom or construct. It may lead to unbearable pain, may cause us to surrender other plans, may bring us to a point of diverting from the social norm. But His plan is great and ultimately brings us to know Him MORE. And while this plan may involve pain, it's worth it over and over again.

So in a time that requires much patience in practically every area of my life, I rejoice knowing it's all part of God's WILD plan. What a relief for a free spirit to know my life and journey in the Lord will never be mundane, boring or look like anyone else's! Besides finding rest in this song, it's also time to reread C.S. Lewis', The Great Divorce. Mmm, yes. Life's simple pleasures :).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Musings on Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to grow up in a middle class family, where worrying about if we'd have enough food to eat or a safe place to live and sleep were never concerns. I have had opportunity after opportunity handed to me - the ability to travel and see the world, the opportunity to attend a university and now SEMINARY, the chance to go "back to school" shopping for a new wardrobe and new shoes each year.
And yet, as I'm reading Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution, my world is being rocked. It's like his words and the ideas he conveys on how to live a life of poverty and simplicity is one more chip into the mold of the life i've accepted and know so well - a comfortable existence. I've seen snapshots of what life is like in third world countries on mission trips, I've seen cases of homelessness and soup kitchens, but i've seen them through the windows of air-conditioned vehicles or with the mentality that I have an escape and can return to life as i know it whenever i want.
Here is the quote that has had my mind reeling since i read it: One of my friends has a shirt marked with the words of late Catholic bishop Dom Helder Camara: "When i fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When i asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist." Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them. - [Claiborne, 129]. As a girl from the suburbs, charity and giving to the poor is what's kosher, it's deemed enough. But is it enough? Are some people called to give generously (backed by the idea that "to whom much is given, much is expected")? Or are we all called to something more? Jesus lived his entire life amongst the poor, He was one of them. It wasn't a matter of how much should He give to the poor, it was a matter of choosing to live that lifestyle.

Given a choice, how much is enough? Because i've been blessed with a life of opportunity, can i be satisfied with simply giving? Are some people called to live a life of poverty and others called to give while continuing to live a comfortable life? Or is it one calling some take literally and abide by while others settle for charity? Am i asking, what next? and even considering a drastic life change because i envision an idealistic and inaccurate idea of poverty? How much have material items drowned out God's voice in our lives? How much is too much? Can I continue on living the way i do, if i use my education and future vocation for the greater good? While my dreams of international missions are still a possibility, what of the state and great need in this country? What if i could own a house and open it up to the homeless? What if i adopted a crazy amount of kids and gave them an opportunity for a "better" life? What if i was a foster mom and opened my house to kids who are struggling with feelings of abandonment and self worth? What if i didn't even own a home? As all of these questions plague my mind, I love Claiborne's response: Not everyone responds the same way. Some will give up their houses and leave their fields. Others will offer their possessions to the community and form hospitality houses like Mary and Martha, and Peter's family...There are Matthews who encounter Jesus and sell everything. But there are also the Zacchaeuses who will meet Jesus and redefine their careers. So not everyone responds in the same way, but we must respond" [Claiborne, 142].

We must respond. As a church full of people to whom God has unique purposes and unique callings for each individual, it is our job to respond, in one form or another: to glorify Him with our vocations, with the way we lead our lives, with the purchases we make, even down to the amount of clothes we buy, how much we spend on dining out, how much we give. Our calling may be as drastic as giving up a life of luxury for a life of poverty. After hearing countless messages and sermons on giving and the needs of this world, after seeing mere glimpses of poverty in different faces and places, is Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution the cherry on top, the final chip that will cause this mold of "life as i know it" to shatter? Here, as a twenty something woman who ha been giving much opportunity and an infinite amount of blessings, I am left wide-eyed and wondering - God, what is the lifestyle you are calling me to? How are you asking me to respond?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


It's decided: I am a book worm. The scene in Disney's Beauty and The Beast where the Beast gives Belle a huge library - book shelves from floor to ceiling packed FULL of books - would be a dream come true for me:

While that amount of books may be slightly overwhelming and may take more than a lifetime to get through, how cool would it be to have that many books at your finger tips? Seminary is a sweet blessing when it comes to never running out of things to read. While reading for class takes up the majority of my reading time, I try to set aside time for reading of my choice, as well. I am currently reading and/or will be reading the following list: Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli, The Great Omission by Dallas Willard, Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere and Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I cannot wait to crack open these books and absorb all the information, lessons and outlooks on life and faith they have to offer.

This short and slightly nonsensical rant about my passion for reading is a post of thanksgiving - i am so thankful for the written word. I am so thankful for the access i have to books - gosh i don't ever want to take this resource for granted! I am so in awe of the power behind the written word, the power of speech and the ability we have to put mere symbols/letters together to make words and sentences and stories and books, which allow us to COMMUNICATE. I am beyond thankful for the Living Word that serves as the backbone, foundation, guidance, direction, way to true life. Thank You, Lord.

Friday, February 25, 2011


My dreams are changing:
From neatly packaged visions, wrapped tightly in perfect bows
to boxes ripped open - wrapping paper torn to shreds and tissue paper scattered everywhere.

Had my dreams for my future been in charge,
Seminary sure wouldn't have been in the cards. Youth ministry/marriage and family therapy? Probably not. A photography business? DEFINITELY not.

Point being: My dreams have changed. And continue to do so. Up until recently, my dream for the future included getting married young, starting a family, being an elementary school teacher living in a comfortable home. Now? Apparently, marriage is further from my mind than i thought...or maybe it will take just the right guy to come along and awaken that dream again? Who knows. What i DO know is i've been given a wonderful opportunity for more education - one that encourages me in and grows me spiritually. This mixed with a wonderful church family and community, an amazing internship, a caring family and so much more - life is GOOD. God is good. And thank the Lord His plans are so much greater than i could ever fathom.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

One Year Ago: Sweet Grace

While i should be working on the homework i've allowed to pile up, I can't help but be swept up in an unshakeable peace. A little over a year ago, I was at my lowest of lows. This one horridly painful night I will never forget - grief had overtaken me and i remember choosing to wallow in my anger and self-loathing over God. I literally turned away from Him, and went so far as to curse Him for allowing me to experience such heartbreak. How far He has taken me in this past year. How much He has redeemed me, poured out His love and blessings over me, looked at me with favor. Don't get me wrong - it sure wasn't smooth sailing immediately following this particular night. But the more room I gave God to move in my life, the more He awakened my desire for Him, the more He was able to restore. It was in this painful season I realized we were never meant to do life alone.

Now, here is where my mind is blown. On the one year anniversary of this painful night, guess where i was? I was with my middle school ladies at a church retreat for the weekend. And on this very night, I watched the Prayer Walk i had spent time planning and praying about in my internship come to life. As I helped lead a station centered around forgiveness and being washed clean, my heart was so uplifted as i watched hundreds of young woman spend time before the Lord. This image will forever give me goosebumps.

To see how far God has grown me and to watch Him become Lord in my life more and more each day even in this past YEAR alone is evidence of His beautiful restoration and plans for our lives. My God, it took walking through darkness and despair for me to truly rejoice over the vibrance and richness the next season held. I am so grateful for the opportunity to go to Seminary, to be a part of Substance church, to be able to watch God move in the middle and high school students at Hosanna!

The word to describe this season is grace. It is by grace we have been saved (Eph 2), His grace is freely given. His grace is what pulled me through, His grace is what redeems and saves me from a sinful nature each day. How evident His grace is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Day 3 of fasting make-up and eating out. I'm having most trouble with the make up fast. Already, I have caught myself wrestling with feelings of inadequacy and not feeling "put-together". It's crazy how much more i feel exposed and transparent with a bare face. Even walking into my class Tuesday I felt self-concious as questions of my worth and vicious lies swirled around my brain. Praise Jesus that self consciousness isn't an area i typically struggle with. But this fast has already revealed how much I find confidence in feeling "put together" as far as looks are concerned.

As I sit here, day one of my internship with the amazing Middle School/Senior High Ministry team at Hosanna!, I'm brainstorming ideas for a prayer walk for the middle school girls retreat. One of the reasons I'm fasting make up for the next three weeks is on behalf of these students and their own faith journey, and in preparation for the retreat. While the prayer walk project involves creativity, planning and leading middle school girls to know and experience the love of Christ (all passions of mine! :P), I also want the prayer walk to glorify God first and foremost. I want it to be original and creative, to really make the girls think, meditate on and spend time with the Lord rather than cheesy and redundant. God, be the passion and fuel behind this planning.

As God is uncovering areas in my own life where I find confidence outside of Him, I have this amazing opportunity to use that in ministering to middle school girls. How SWEET is that?! God, be the source of our self-worth. As we experience more of Your love, may we allow it to transform our lives, from the inside out, so that we may be a testament to your grace, mercy and all things good.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Awakening Fast: 21 Days

Twenty one days of fasting starts today. Substance church is partaking in the Awakening fast (check it: Sunday's sermon really put the idea of fasting into perspective. The idea of fasting can be written off as outdated and unimportant in today's day and age. The purpose of fasting can be misunderstood - as God's way of making us suffer or as a method of bartering with God (we give up this, if you give us this in exchange...) Pastor Nick Foulks really hit home with this main idea: "We don't fast to get something from God, we fast to ALIGN ourselves with God". When we are truly aligned with God, He is able to do a new work in us. So often does the clutter of this world and our focus on the tangible, immediate situation that surrounds us (rather than focus on the ever-present, unchanging LOVE and plans the Lord has) distract us and trap us in our bondages and footholds.

The idea of fasting is insanely relevant and extremely essential to our lives. If you feel called to give something up - whether it is a traditional food fast (giving up one meal a day, fasting for a 24 hour period one a week, refraining from fast food or dessert, etc.) or takes another form - join us for the Awakening fast. I guarantee God will move and work wonders in your lives and the lives around you. As Pastor Nick reminded us, fasting allows our sins to be broken off and for us to become aware of the needs and live s of people around us. Check it: 6Is not this the fast that i choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house...8Then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. -Isaiah 58:6-8

I feel the Lord calling me to fast a couple things:

1) Make up. It's so easy to go without make up on a mission trip in a foreign country. And i gave up make up for five days this summer (check out the blog post here). But in the ordinary ebb and flow of normal life, it is HARD. I love putting make up on - it's like an art (as cheesy as that sounds). It also covers up blemishes and enhances...well, your appearance. But how much time do i spend in front of a mirror each morning, getting ready for the day? This fast will not only give me more time to spend with the Lord each morning, but it will emphasize the importance of finding our self worth in Him. I also feel called to give up this area on behalf of the middle and senior high girls in my small groups! May their own faith walk be strengthened by knowledge of God's great love for them, may they find their self worth in the Lord, for their purity, for their hearts to find strength in God and not things of this world.

2) Eating out. See ya later, Panera, Caribou, Flame, etc.! I spend so much money eating out when a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from home would be cheaper and just as delicious. If i can put so much of my finances towards eating out, isn't there a better place for them? I'm hoping that this fast from eating out will lead to more clarity regarding finances, investing in my business, savings, and most importantly - giving more for Kingdom advances.

So, do you feel called to fast anything? If so, seek God first and foremost. What is it He's calling you to give up? What area of your lives have you not trusted Him to enter and are afraid to give to Him? Surround yourselves with people that will support you in this fast and set goals you can actually reach so you are not bogged down by failure but focused on the reason for fasting - alignment with God.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Musing on the New Year

New Years Resolutions are lousy. In attempts to better our lives, we firmly decide to do or not do something for the upcoming year. While the first of January marks a new year and new beginnings, why must we wait until the new year to strive for a better quality of life? It's also an ongoing joke that New Year's Resolutions are broken not long after they are put into place. That diet, that work out routine, that decision to go to church more or read our bibles more or whatever shape our resolutions take are kicked to the curb long before the beginning of the new year. So much for resolutions being "firm" decisions if we are able to dismiss them so quickly.

While i fail to see the point of New Year's Resolutions, i do think it is essential to strive for a better quality of life. But what if we took the time to evaluate our life - to notice areas of weakness or places that require upkeep, to locate areas of spiritual dryness or that need refinement - on a monthly or weekly basis? What if we took time to spend intimate time with the Lord on our own, while allowing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to surround us, build us up and provide us with fellowship and community? Let's not stop there - what if we took the time to give back to strangers and reach beyond the walls of church in outreach and service? It is my prayer that you - no matter where you are in your faith walk, whether or not you have chosen to believe and follow God - and me enter into this new year open-hearted and anticipating a better quality of life.

I have been convicted time and time again, by my parents and other friends, that i am far too busy. I over-schedule myself, am always on the go and am hard to reach. Even in this Season of Rest (that is rapidly drawing to a close) I still found myself running around quite frequently. In Brennan Manning's The Wisdom of Tenderness, he asks readers to examine our lives and ask ourselves a series of questions. Here are just a few that convicted me:
-Have I kept others waiting?
-Have i carelessly forgotten (or simply not kept) an appointment or a date?
-Have I been difficult for others to reach, feeling too busy to put myself at their disposal?

Talk about a shot to the heart - these are areas of my life I so struggle in. So i pray, that into this new year, God refines me and teaches me the importance of keeping appointments and not allowing a busy lifestyle to interfere with reaching others and spending time with them in fellowship.

It's a new year. Instead of making a resolution that you fail to keep, i challenge you (and myself) to continuously take the time to examine our lives and strive to find a better quality of life. God, teach us to love more, to give more, to serve more, to reach out more and to seek you wholeheartedly. Open up our eyes to You and Your merciful ways.