Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Misérables Moves

On my own, pretending he's beside me...

My latest experience with Les Miserables hasn't fully wiped away all my previous ones, but it's certainly helped erase the reminiscent sounds and screeches of my musical theatre classmates from high school as they attempted to mimic the great classics that should never be performed by non-professionals. In fact, Les Mis seemed to be a musical of choice as classmate after classmate got up to sing yet another rendition of On my Own, Bring Him Home, or I Dreamed a Dream. Sometimes it felt like torture.

I saw the movie yesterday and while there are critiques to be made and I was slightly disappointed with the inability to be completely encompassed in the sound as I had been in the Broadway production of the musical, I felt like I was able to follow the plot better than ever before.

I sat in the theatre and was immediately inspired by a beautiful story of redemption and true change. It's a show that immediately engages your heart as you are constantly immersed in the inner thoughts and struggles of each character. And I couldn't help but think, 'Why can't I always feel like this? Why doesn't love always feel like this? Why doesn't life feel like this?' This intense heartache coupled with the greater joy that accompanies love and romance.

I remember applying to grad schools a few years back to get my Master's in Counseling. As I interviewed with one, I remember talking to a few of the current students about the program, discussing both the pros and the cons. I'll never forget one conversation I had with one of the girls. She told me that in this program she had uncovered more pain and heartache than she ever thought possible...but with that was a greater joy and love that was deeper than anything she'd ever known. I wanted to know that. I wanted to dig through the sludge and the muck, and while there might be great tragedy to process through, there might also be great triumph.

Les Mis kind of brought this to life for me. Knowing great joy in the midst of so much pain. In the midst of despair, poverty, destitution, death...there was still something to hope for, something to dream of, something (or someone) to love. And as we go about our daily, often mundane lives, I wonder how we become people who are passionately living through both the joys and destruction in our lives. In the face of tragedy, how do we become people who are willing to go to the depths of the pain so that we might know the greater joy?

Or are we people who run from it, avoid it, pretend it simply doesn't exist? When we experience loss, or heartache, or devastating news... are we willing to wade through the hurt in hopes that we might discover something better? Are we willing to confront our worst enemies (which may very well lie within us) in order to find victory and redemption as we choose better? And are we willing extend this same hope to others around us....to offer them a second chance?

Can we be like the priest who offers Jean Valjean both hope and freedom in a single gesture as he gives a thief another of the silver that was already stolen? Can we be like Valjean who faces his inner darkness and chooses to love despite his inclination to hate? Can we search for ways to, in a moment, be people who extend grace and forgiveness instead of only offering judgment and penalties for breaking the law?

Can we be people who watch movies like Les Mis and allow them to move us toward action...whether it's internal or external? Can we be a people who might believe that the Lord can use any medium in which to call His people into something greater and deeper, into a place where we come out loving Him and His people more abundantly than ever before? A place where we are reminded of the grace and redemption we've experienced in our own lives as Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all of our sins and transgressions...a place where we desperately long for others to know the fullness of both the depravity and hope we wrestle with as we receive such a sacrifice and embrace the joy of what it means for our lives.

These are the things I think about when I watch Les Miserables (and thousands of other movies/tv shows, actually). What do you think about?


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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Coming Home

Coming home is always weird.

Perhaps you can relate to these sentiments as you drive down old streets, run into past classmates, hang out with your high school friends, and revisit the memories of your former self. Unfortunately, the feelings that accompany such sentiments aren't always the warm fuzzy ones of nostalgia. In fact, I used to hate coming home.

I hated it because I didn't always like who I had been...and coming home reminded me of that person's existence. I'd rather forget that person had ever been a part of me.

There's been something strangely refreshing about coming home this time around, though. It didn't hit me until Christmas Eve service, where my family returned to the church I had grown up in. We stopped attending that particular church when I was about thirteen, so it had been a while since I had been back. My brother, sister-in-law and I gave ourselves a tour prior to the service beginning. In the process of creeping through the dark hallways and empty rooms, there was an unlocking of several memories for me.

see.. who IS that little blonde-haired girl, anyway?
I was barely engaged in the actual service, as I looked around at many faces that I hadn't seen in over a decade. These people knew me as a small, blonde-haired little girl. These were the people that would say things like, 'I didn't even recognize you...', and, now that I'm older, I can actually appreciate the comments. How many times in my own life have I gasped in disbelief at how old someone now is?

I realized that this church held pieces of me. It held memories for me. And as we wandered around, it was as though these vague memories in my mind were slowly becoming realities once again. It wasn't just how I imagined it was... it was actually how it was. It was a delight! It was affirmation that these things happened, that they were real, that they played a valuable role in who I am today.

The same feelings have washed over me as I've reminisced with old friends and also my family. Beyond the catching each other up to speed on what our lives currently look like, there's always moments of remembering the past. These memories, through these friendships, are affirmed as real... and I love that. I love that shared experiences can bring us back into moments that we begin to think we only made up in our minds. I love that while the details can be fuzzy, through the 'Wait! Didn't it happen like this....' and the 'I thought that he said this...' we are slowly able to paint a picture of how it all actually played out.

And while I don't always love who I was during my childhood, adolescent and teenage years (or early twenties or even late twenties...)..I think there's something beautiful to acknowledging that each of those things have played a part in making me who I am today. They're a part of my story. It's a story that I don't want to forget simply because I'm scared of looking at the harsh realities of who I once was. More than ever, I find myself wanting to open the doors of my past, wanting to revisit the good, the bad, the ugly... and allow for the truth of how I've changed to be most prevalent. The truth of how the gospel has transformed, redeemed, and saved me.

I don't want to run from my past.
I don't want to run from who I was.
I don't want to lock away all the bad things I've ever done or been and pretend like they don't exist. I think it's good for us to be aware of those things, to even be reminded of those things... and to live in the fullness of the changed people that we are.

Coming home is weird.
But weird doesn't have to be bad.

If you're anything like me, I hope that coming home can be met with positivity instead of negativity (as mine has typically been in the past). I hope you're able to embrace the fullness of who you are, acknowledging that all events of your past have brought you to this place. They aren't the things that define you, but they are things that are part of you. The Lord has used it all and is intrinsically weaving it all together to make everything beautiful in its time.

There's much to hope in. Much to be excited about. No matter where you come from, what you've done, who you've been....

Don't run from it. Don't hide it. Don't be ashamed of it.
Let the fullness of your story radiate, as you let the reason for your hope and redemption shine through the darkest parts of your past.

Somewhere, somehow, in some way...
Jesus makes it okay.

I hope we can be a people who truly believe that.


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Friday, December 21, 2012

I met someone

I don't know if it's jet lag, but I woke up at 4 a.m. and was quite alert.

...and processing...processing...processing.

It's the state of my heart these days: constant turmoil as I sort through the events of the past weeks, months and even years.

I met someone new.
Someone who is kind, good, passionate, selfless, thoughtful, faithful, and determined.... and he likes me. He made his intentions clear without me ever having to wonder, without me ever having to consider taking the initiative myself. I'm not sure if I've ever really known what that could be like.

The prospect of someone new in the midst of so many somethings new has created quite a lot of uncertainty in my heart. And, most challenging, the hurts and wounds of my past have immediately resurfaced and created a barrier between my ragged heart and a man who longs to know it.

For so long I've convinced myself that I didn't deserve quite a lot of things...especially when it came to love and romance. I convinced myself that what I thought I needed weren't actually the things that I needed, and that the Lord was even teaching me much through the absence of those things. And, I imagine He was...but recently I've realized that it might not be what He desired for me.

Gentle whispers intimately guide their way through the slammed doors of my heart, forcing me to hear the words that flow from One who knows me better than I know myself: this is how it should be. 

This is tricky for me to accept, because, if you know me at all, I've set myself up as a basher of 'shoulds'. The 'shoulds' create expectations, the 'shoulds' create disappointment.

But there's a man who waits patiently for me to rummage through my baggage as I decide if I might ever be able to trust again. A man who gently reminds me that I matter, that I'm beautiful, that I'm worth it. A man who pursues, who sacrifices, who honors his word. A man who loves the Lord wholeheartedly and lets that define the ways in which he walks. A man who is not perfect, who is not what I expected, who may not even be who I end up with.

He's a man who reminds me that this is, indeed, how it should be.
And that, maybe, 'shoulds' are okay sometimes.

Ladies, I need you to hear me in this...
That while, yes, men are also broken vessels... there are good men that exist. Men who long to know you, long to be faithful to you, long to be the things you think you need in a relationship. There are men who are willing to do whatever it takes to be near you, men who believe in you, men who genuinely think you matter. Men who are kind, patient, and fully encourage you to embrace the fullness of who God has created you to be. Men who may not be perfect in any of these things, but men who are still striving because of the way Jesus has truly transformed their hearts.

These are the types of men we should all be waiting for. Because I honestly think that this is how it should be. Not just for me... but for you, too.

Because when we are wooed by men who give us the freedom to be ourselves, who give us the freedom to be honest and open without the fear of what they might think or how they might respond...it unleashes something good within. It allows us to trust, to hope, to feel comfortable and excited about who we are.

And, no, men aren't necessary in making this happen...but I think that they can be a beautiful catalyst that cause us to truly embrace ourselves. Too often we find ourselves in the midst of relationships that never allow this to happen. We're too focused on how we need to be different in some way, and we become consumed with believing lies about ourselves and never feeling good enough. As a result, it becomes what we offer to those around us. It's a viscous cycle of being hurt and hurting others as we desperately desire for someone to simply tell us that we are enough, even in our darkest moments.

No human can ever complete this within us, no matter how great they are... but, I do believe the Lord uses others to speak this truth into us. And, I do believe that the enemy can use others to speak quite the opposite into us as well. For those closest relationships to us, I think it's vital to surround ourselves with people who speak life into us and constantly point us to truth.

Don't settle.
Because, yes, I think there is such a thing now.
Wait.
Wait patiently.
Believe that there are good men and that they are worth waiting for...even if it means that means letting go of the plans you had for your life. Even it it means being 22 or 28 or 35 or 65 and single.

I may not even end up dating this new man due to other variables...but the Lord has already used him to show me that there is a way that it should be and it's quite all right to hold out for that.

I hope you'll do the same.
You're worth it.
And, if you don't hear it from me?
I pray that Jesus would whisper that truth through the closed doors of your heart as well.


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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Africa my Nineveh?

I didn't really want to come back.

Being away from everything was good for my soul. It's like Africa provided this barrier that had been placed between myself and all previous expectations on my life. It provided the haven of a break. A true break. A much needed break. No one could expect much of me because I was out of the country... I was unreachable... I was gone. 

Sometimes it's nice to be gone. 
To be in the midst of a situation where the expectations for you are simple. I knew what I needed to do in Africa. 

But when I looked at coming back, a huge monstrosity of confusion clouded my vision. Maybe it was more just the overwhelming realization that upon my return to America, a new life for me would inevitably unfold. As much as I've been thinking, planning, and praying for what would be next in my journey come January...there was always the buffer of time on my side. Nothing ever feels real when it hasn't happened yet, when there's still months and weeks left to meander through. 

Coming home meant a new life was literally right around the corner, and I didn't feel sure about that new life. The question that I've been successfully avoiding was now at the surface of every thought accompanied with my future: is this really what I should be doing? 

It's a question that stems from fear. 
Because, the truth is, I don't actually know. And I hate not knowing. 

So, naturally, while in Africa one must entertain the notion of what it could look like to spontaneously drop everything and move across the world to love orphans who are clearly in need. That is undeniably important. But is that what I should be doing? 

I don't know. 
A part of me would love nothing more. And in the midst of my uncertainty about my current future plans, this romantic/dramatic part of me would love to sell everything I have, move overseas, and establish myself as a woman who will be there to love and care for those kids no matter what... to be someone of stability in their life. 

On our trip we had devotions each morning led by various team members. One particular morning, Erin led us in a discussion about Jonah. It was complete with the Jesus Storybook Bible (which might be one of the better books around, if you've never read it...). Naturally, it brings up this inner conflict as you sort through the Ninevehs in your own life. Or, at least it did for me. 

Is Africa my Nineveh?
Is God calling me to go to Africa, to preach the good news there, to live a life of love there... and I'm rejecting the call? 

Honestly, I still don't know. 
So this is where I've left it... 

I'm going to graduate school in a few weeks near Boston. And while I don't know that this is what I'm supposed to be doing...I'm walking in faith that it's still good. I'm walking in faith that if this is not the path I'm meant to be on, that the Lord will make it clear to me. I'm walking in faith that if the Lord truly wants me in Africa, that it will be a decision that I feel confident in. Because, like Jonah, God didn't release him of the call even when he didn't initially follow through. I feel like God will be faithful in that to me. 

I struggle with discernment. I struggle with knowing what the Lord would have me do versus only doing what I would have me do. I know I'm not alone in this struggle. So, in that? I think this is the best I can do. 

Often I'm walking blindly, often I'm walking into the unknown, often I'm simply unsure. But, no matter where I go, I pray the Lord find me faithful... I pray He find me obedient in loving Him and His people. So regardless of if I'm in Africa, or Boston, or somewhere else in the world, I think I'm okay as long as I'm seeking to know Him. 

And when and if my Nineveh ever comes? I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in going, in sharing, in loving... no matter the cost. 

But for now I'm simply too unsure to make drastic life alterations. For now, I know I'm still walking into something good and maybe necessary before I move onto another season of intense ministry. 

And for now? I'm back. Fully immersed in the previous expectations that I had received a small break from... and it's good and they matter. You matter. 

Instead of us being people who flounder around in the uncertainty of where God would have us go, I pray that we would be people who walk assuredly toward becoming the people He has called us to be, trusting that He will move us in and out of various places along the way. I wonder if our journey is much more about who we are becoming over the places we are going and somehow we get caught up in the thinking the latter defines the former. Perhaps it's the other way around. 

May we be a people who focus on loving God, knowing God.... and letting that define how we serve God. 

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let the Children Come

'I love you Kani.' 

My whispers echo in my memory, and I wonder if she ever understood the words that flowed from my lips. I held this beautiful, 5-year-old girl in my arms, stared into her massive brown eyes and tried to convey the depths to which my heart yearned for her to know happiness, to know hope, to know love, to know Jesus.

Kani
Three little words and after excessive amounts of repeating them to her, I was soon aware that these weren't the three words she needed to hear. I was leaving her. I couldn't save her.

'Kani... Jesus loves you. He loves YOU...' 

She stared back at me. And I prayed that if she remembered anything from my short time with her, that those would be the words etched upon her heart... that Jesus' name would be the one that prevailed and mine would be forgotten. As much as it brought joy to hear the quiet voice slowly attempt to sound out my foreign name, my name isn't the one that saves.

I went to Africa with few expectations...mostly just assured that I would be uncomfortable.
I went to Africa, and I, quite unexpectedly, fell in love.

I don't know if I fully knew how engaged my heart was in the lives of these children until a little over a week into trip. We were saying goodbye, and sweet Kani didn't understand that we would see her a few days later. All she could grasp is that we were leaving, and as I watched her eyes well up with tears and her normally smiling face transform into sadness and fear...I had no control of the emotion that seized me in those seconds. Rationally I knew I would see them all again, but inconsolable tears streamed from my own eyes that day, as I looked at these beautiful children who had no family to go home to.

We rode on the back of motorcycles to where we were staying that night, and in the safety of the dark, I let myself cry for these children. For while I didn't know each of their unique stories, I knew that their lives had been defined by loss, by abandonment, by loneliness, by illness, by hunger, by death. And, in that moment, I wanted to run away. It was too much...it was too hard. It was too overwhelming to think about the extent of their needs, the extent of their loss, the extent of their brokenness. But, simultaneously, I was aware of how much I loved them, how much they mattered, and how, despite the pain, there was still hope. And that makes it worth it.

Elisa
Kani was the catalyst that opened my heart to what the Holy Spirit was doing in me...but it didn't stop with her. There was 12-year-old Brenda, whose stoic stares eventually became shy smiles as she informed us of her desire to be a judge or a lawyer some day. There was 3-year-old Elisa, whose self-reliant behavior of dressing herself and shutting others out eventually melted into a little girl just wanting to be played with and held by a father (and clung to a father, she did). There was 17-year-old Halima, who often cared for the younger children in addition to the daily duties required of her, but was inspiring in her willingness to ask hard questions about God and faith. There was 11-year-old Cathrine, who quietly confessed that she'd much rather laugh and play than go back into a world where she was hauling water, doing laundry by hand, cooking and cleaning. She was the same girl who grabbed my hand, rubbed my arm and insisted that my white skin was more desirable than her brown skin. No matter how many times I reminded her of her beauty, she shook her head in disbelief. There was Juan, and Tony, and Noel, and Sekwat, and Morris, and Patine, and Victoria, and Peter, and Faith, and Grace, and Jessie, and Patu, and Jackie, and... and... and...
Brenda, Cathrine, Noel

I love them.
Within minutes of meeting them, I loved them.

It's a terrifying thing to admit, and I'm still processing through what that means for my life. Because, don't get me wrong... Africa is certainly uncomfortable. I'm thankful for my hot shower last night, with running water. I'm thankful for privacy. I'm thankful for a toilet with reliable plumbing...instead of a hole to squat over that's often filled with roaches in the middle of the night. I'm thankful for a bathroom that's inside of a house. I'm thankful for Mexican food and for a variety of food. I'm thankful for being able to sleep without a mosquito net. I'm thankful for orderly traffic laws. I'm thankful for mirrors. I'm thankful for being able to wash my hands and actually feel like they are clean. I'm thankful for washing machines.

But, despite the discomforts and despite the hardships of life in Uganda...I feel like I walked away more entranced by the beauty of it all. The beauty in the broken. The beauty in the simplicity. The beauty in the people. The beauty in what Jesus is doing in that place. The beauty in the hope that they have in Him.

Juan and Kani
And I think that's why I could leave without shedding more tears. Because Jesus is taking care of His people, He is tending to His flock. I can trust Him to do that. It may sometimes look different in Uganda than it does here in America...but God is still God. He still saves. He still heals. He still brings hope to the hopeless. He still beckons the little children to come to Him... and there they are safe in His arms. He still moves in the hearts of people, inviting them to care for the widows and the orphans.

So while these children may not have an earthly mother or father, they have people that care deeply for them...people who have sacrificed much so they have a place to sleep, food to eat, clothing to wear. People in Africa and people in America. People who point them toward truth.

But there are more children. More children who are living on streets, selling themselves into prostitution, getting high off the metal pieces in the money that they are sometimes given. More children whose parents are dying of HIV, or killed in war, or overdosing on drugs. More children who don't have hope, who don't have a future, who only know loss and despair.

What do we do for these children?
And what do we do for the children in America whose stories might seem significantly different, but are really quite the same...when they are left abandoned, abused, and hopeless?

While I don't know right now what my future looks like with Africa... I cannot deny a call upon my life to respond to the (sometimes silent) pleas of the orphaned children of the world. To offer them the hope, love and redemption that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Peter
A week ago, I decided to sponsor a little boy named Sseviri Asadi Peter in Kampala, Uganda. Two days ago, I got to walk through a zoo with him clutching onto my hand. I can't begin to describe how sweet it is to know this little boy who I hope to be helping for a long while. I'm more adamant about sponsorship now, especially in seeing the impact that it has on these children's lives. To see the joy when they receive gifts or letters... to see the hope they get when someone they don't even know is willing to give of their resources so they can have a future.

These kids matter.
They are worth it.
They are worth your time, your energy, your money, your prayers, your love.

The needs are too vast for me to do much on my own, but I pray that we would be a people who, like Jesus, let the children come to us... no matter how busy we are, no matter how annoying they seem, no matter how dirty they appear, no matter the cost. That we would be a people who offer hope to the hopeless because of the hope we have found in Christ.

Our stories cannot remain about us.
I'd encourage you to check into sponsorship--find a ministry/organization that is all about holistic care, tending to both the spiritual and physical needs of the children (Lahash International, whom I traveled with, is one I'd recommend). I'd also encourage you married folk to check into foster care or adoption.

Let's find ways to truly let the children come to us, and to speak boldly of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, praying that the truth would penetrate the hearts of everyone we encounter.

May we be a people who leave the whispered truth to children all over world that Jesus loves them...and may the truth of the gospel be the thing that lingers when all else fades away.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Uncomfortable

'Are you SO excited?!?'

It's those leading type of questions that are always awkward to respond to when your immediate answer isn't an exhilarated 'YES!' Or, when it's the opposite type of question... like the time a friend of mine and I got our hair cut over the same weekend, were walking together and someone said, 'Oh! You both got your hair cut! ...do you hate it?'  Err... should we hate it?

Should I be SO excited?
What if I say I'm not...?

If you're not caught up to speed on my current life situation, the most pressing news is that I'm going to Africa. Tomorrow.

I can hear the squeals now, followed by a, 'Are you so excited?!?' Because that's the typical response...and it's not a bad response. I'm thankful that you're so excited for me...but sometimes I think I only get SO excited about food.

But, really...here's where I'm at:
Leading up to this trip, I feel like all I can think about is how uncomfortable I'm going to be. Because, in any trip I've ever taken out of the country, that's always the word that can sum up the whole trip. It's uncomfortable physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. And uncomfortable isn't bad... but it's still uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable isn't something I look forward to, and it's probably not something that I'm SO excited about. But... is this something that I know is worth it? Absolutely. Is this something that I'm glad I'm doing and honored to be a part of? One hundred percent. Will it be easy? It doesn't feel easy so far, and I haven't even left American soil yet.

The cool thing is that I have an email sitting in my inbox from a man in India who I partnered with two and a half years ago as we went from hut to hut sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen. The cool thing is that I just edited and modified a newsletter for a woman in Costa Rica that I had the opportunity to work closely with for three and a half weeks a couple years back.

Moa and Ana both remind me that trips like these are worth it. They remind me, even beyond a short-term mission trip, that the relationships built and the impact made can truly be lasting. They remind me that I can join in personally with brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and how much more meaningful it is to know them versus only know of them. I am blessed by these relationships...by these friendships, even if I never get to see them again on this earth.

My trip tomorrow still feels surreal. My bag is mostly packed, and I'm not really taking much. I'll fly from Boston to Amsterdam tomorrow evening and (hopefully) meet up with the rest of my team there. I know this trip will be good...and I know the opportunities that we have will be incredible. I know I'll see things I've never seen before (did I mention we're hosting a kid's camp along the Nile River??), I know my heart will be crushed by the heartache of these kids with no families... but I long to bring them hope.

kids at the Amazing Grace Children's Home!
As I prepare to lead Ugandan girls through discussions about godly beauty and adoption, in addition to finding games and group development pieces that are cross-cultural...I pray that the Holy Spirit would be our guide and that we would cross barriers in order to penetrate the hearts of those who need Jesus Christ. As I stay in a tent with a few of these girls each night, I pray that I would be willing to dive in deep...but also willing to laugh and simply love who the Lord has created them to be. I pray that these children, these youth, these teenagers, these early twenty-year-olds would know that they are loved by the King.

Would you pray for me and with me in this journey?
Would you pray that, even though uncomfortable, that this trip would never be about me? That I would always have eyes to see the ways people are in need and that I would tend to those needs quickly and quietly? Would you pray that the Lord would utilize my strengths and that I would not be afraid to share those with others? Would you pray that I would trust Him to be strong in my weakness? Would you pray that, above all else, that the Lord would truly be glorified? That many might come to know Him? That He would heal, save and redeem? That He would bring hope to the hopeless and joy to those who mourn?

I'm not SO excited.
But I am ready (as ready as I'll ever be)...and I am expecting God to show up. And that moves me into a place of 'let's do this' (Rocky-theme style) more than a place of giddy school-girl giggles and jumping up and down style. Maybe it's just semantics.

Either way... you won't be hearing from me for a while.

So, while I'm gone... you should do the following:

  • Pray for me/my team/all those we'll be interacting with.
  • Send me anything and everything you could possibly want me to write about upon my return (like, I'd love it if my inbox were full when I got back). 
  • Let me know about your life and how you really are... because you matter, and what you're dealing with matters (you can do this anonymously by clicking on the link below). 
  • Be courageous and brave.
  • Play.
  • Remember what matters. 
Thanks for your support, your encouragement, your prayers. 

It's that time. 
Time to just do it

Read me in a few weeks! 
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just Do It

Nike was onto something when they developed their world-famous mantra.

Just Do It.

I actually think I subconsciously adopted the motto without realizing it...only mine sounded a bit more like, 'I'm just gonna do it...'

My eldest brother and I had a conversation last night about what life would look like without fear and how much fear affects the entirety of our being. He made a lot of good points (he's real wise) about what it would look like to do whatever we wanted to if fear wasn't a factor. That being brave or courageous has everything to do with fear existing and us still doing what we long to regardless. That the presence of fear deters us from doing the very things we are called to do, passionate about, created to do...and it often changes everything for us because we are driven by the fear, instead of forging through the fear into something greater. And then he said, 'That's kind of what you're doing right now.'

Hold up.
Me...? ...brave? ...courageous?
It's kind of laughable.

But, I've been thinking about it... (of course).
It's true that my life is currently riddled with scary junk and the constant fears of the unknown. And as I've taken steps toward new and different things, I realized that my attitude hasn't been one of 'No Fear' (I suppose this post is all about clothing brands).

By that, I mean that my focus hasn't been consumed by longings to not be afraid...because I think my reality is that some things are just going to be scary. I can't change that. Leaving everything behind and attempting to start over will do that to you. Leaving everything behind in a weird camp setting and starting over in the 'real world' seems to enhance those fears even more. I can easily nestle into a world of 'what-ifs' and worst-case-scenarios and suddenly the fears become crippling. This is where Nike comes in. Instead of trying to push away all these fears, I think lately I've kind of moved toward a, 'Oh well...I'm just gonna do it'.

Come into my mind with me for a moment:
I'm going to Africa in a few days. If I think about it too long, my mind can go crazy with all the possibilities of what could go wrong: missing flight connections, not finding team members, crashing in the Atlantic, getting attacked, having things stolen, getting malaria, losing my underwear (it's happened before), failing at leading a completely different culture through a camp experience....you name it, and I've probably considered it. Conclusion? 'Oh well... I'm just gonna do it'.

I'm moving to new place, starting grad school and I barely know anyone. Will I find friends, will I find purpose, will I find a job, will I make enough money to cover necessary expenses, will I fail in the academic world, am I too socially awkward to communicate with normal people now? 'Oh well...I'm just gonna do it'.

So rather than letting the fear paralyze me, I suppose I'm forging through the fear.
It's risky and it's unknown, but I'm not too worried about it. At some point, the thousands of things that could go wrong, the thousands of what-ifs, the thousands of excuses and reasons to not do something... they are no longer the deciding factors any more.

Just do it.
Whatever it is you are called to, whatever it is you are passionate about, whatever your dreams are...whatever the Lord asks you to do.. do it. There's no reason good enough to not do it. Don't get so consumed with praying against the fear existing...but, instead, pray that you would walk bravely and courageously through the fear, proclaiming that in the name of Jesus it has no hold on you.

I also think that maybe too often we get caught up in being frustrated with ourselves that we're scared and thinking that we shouldn't be...and then all of our attention turns to attempting to extract the fear from our lives. It seems to become a distraction from simply doing what we were trying to do in the first place. And I think that once we just start doing the things we were scared of, we realize that they actually aren't that scary at all...that maybe we were more ready than we realized. We find ourselves living out the adventure instead of being where we were, scared of everything the adventure might entail.

Don't focus on living a life of 'No Fear'. Just Do It. Do life...live life. To the fullest!
Push through the fear, because it will exist.... but don't let it define you, don't let it alter your course, don't let it cripple you.

Do what you were made to do...in the little things and the big things.
Be brave and courageous in the presence of the fear, and trust that you're not alone in the journey.

It's worth it.
I promise.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leaving Camp

'Why did you finally decide to leave camp?'

It's a question I get asked pretty frequently...and, sometimes, it's a question that's hard for me to answer. 
I think people are curious for a few different reasons...
  1. They wonder what's so wrong with camp that I would ever want to leave. 
  2. They care about my life. 
  3. They just like to know things about people. 
  4. They are trying to figure out how to know when it's time for them to leave something.
Assuming that you might fall under one of these categories, I'll try to answer that big question accordingly. 

Why did I decide to leave camp? 
It's complicated... and it's simple. 
It was time. 

Cliche, right? 
I'm not usually a fan of quitting. Especially when it's something I care about and I've invested a lot in...something that I think truly matters. Camp was that for me. Because, for those of you who don't know, you don't just work at camp. You live there, you eat there, you sleep there, you work-out there, you hang out with people there. Even when you're away from camp, you're never really away. There's always work to be done, always people to be communicating with. Your co-workers are your friends and there's no escaping conversations about work, even on your time 'off'. 

I tried to leave once before--about two and a half years after being there full-time. I packed up my car, moved back into my parent's house...and a week later I had re-packed my car and found myself back in Texas. Not because living with my parents was horrible, but because I felt like I still had work to do at camp. I still had hopes and dreams, I still had changes I wanted to implement, I still had messages to communicate to counselors and campers. 

Living at camp was never really easy for me. Comfortable, on some level, sure... but never easy. Never easy because it was an environment of constant change and I'm not particularly great at change. It felt like every six months we were having some sort of staff turnover, it felt like every few months we were changing policies or programming or how to internally communicate or where doors and roads were and were not. Some changes were good and welcomed...almost all changes were necessary and for the benefit of camp and/or campers. But, because they embodied something different... I didn't like them. 

Ironically enough, I left camp at a time when stability seemed on the rise. Implementation of five year plans, goals and desires to make everything excellent. Camp is in a good spot, and it's moving into an even better spot. Which, continues to beg the question: why now

As camp continued to change and grow, some of my very favorite parts about it began to fade. Suddenly I realized that I was clinging to a job that I no longer felt qualified for, especially as my duties needed to change in order to accommodate the growth and stability. This wasn't a job that I loved anymore, and it didn't seem like it was moving in a direction of something I wanted to continue to be a part of on the same level I had been. Mostly, I just realized that there were other, better qualified people to do what needed to be done. There were other people who could step in with new ideas, fresh perspectives...people who didn't know camp the way I had known it, people who would be better at jumping into the remodeling with much more joy and excitement than my hesitations and longings to protect what once was. 

It wasn't an overnight decision. It probably took over a year of me going back and forth to realize that this was the right decision- both for me and camp. 

And it's hard. It's hard to leave something you know and love and go do something different. It's hard to know when the right time to leave is. It's hard to admit things could be better without you there. I kept wanting God to just tell me to go, and I wanted Him to tell me what to do next. It felt foolish to leave without any sort of plan for what was next. It's hard to leave a life where I know I'm having some sort of impact on thousands of lives each year...and to not know if I'll ever feel that useful or purposeful again. 

But sometimes it's just time. 
And, I think a lot of the time we know when that time is... we're just too scared to do anything about it. So we stay. Sometimes I think we continue to return to things because it's what we know, not because it's what we should do. 

I love camp. I love the way that God moves in a camp setting like no where else. I love that while, yes, there is often a 'camp high', that people actually make life-changing decisions there. It may not be so apparent immediately, but they are things they often come back to--even if it's years later. I love the community. I love the summer nights. I love the worship. I love the openness and rawness and the inability to hide in darkness for very long. I love the spontaneity of the tasks required and not knowing what each day is going to look like. I love living in the middle of nowhere. I love working hard, washing dishes, cleaning showers, frying thousands of chicken strips. I love talking to guests from all over the country. I love recruiting, hiring, caring about summer staff and attempting to lead them each year. I love talking to hundreds of campers and sharing my heart with them. I love watching programming come to life. I love writing curriculum. I love camp. 

But more than that...I love the way God heals, redeems and saves people. I love the way that Jesus Christ can radically change lives and bring hope to the hopeless, light to the darkness, and peace to the trouble-hearted. That doesn't just happen at camp. 

It was time. 
I'm more sure than ever that this was the right step...but I'm not sure I would have known unless I had taken a leap of faith and stepped into the unknown. 

Sometimes it's okay to quit.
Sometimes it's okay to leave behind old things to do new things.
Sometimes it's okay to make decisions when you aren't 100% sure and to hope it can be better. 
Sometimes it's okay to leave things you love and to hope to find something you love more. 

I'm no longer 'Debbie: Camp Person'. 
I'm okay with that... and I'm eager to see where else the Lord takes me on this new adventure. I'm eager to work hard in other capacities, to be uncomfortable in other settings, to be used in ways that hopefully foster life-change in lots of other people...even if that's not at camp right now. 

I'm willing to believe it can be better. Scratch that. Will be better. 

Maybe it's time for you to finally leave something, too.
Maybe it's time for you to try something different.
Maybe it's time to admit that it could be better for you and others if you left (this one is super humbling). 
Maybe it's time for you to believe that something new could be better than what you know... even if it's unknown. 
Maybe not.

And if you aren't entirely sure? 
Take a leap of faith...take a risk...be bold.
Because it's freaking scary, but it opens you up to a whole new world of possibilities.

That's what my life feels like right now: scary, but filled with possibilities.

Thanks for asking.
Thanks for caring.
Now you know. 

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Play

I played today.

I swung on a swing, attempted to flip on bars and scurried across monkey bars. I felt like a giant in the process, and I forgot how much monkey bars rip the skin off your palms... but it was fun. I was alone in a small little playground and I played.

When's the last time you did that?

this guy was one of my favorites back in the day... 
I was there for less than 15 minutes and while I eyeballed the other pieces of plastic playground equipment (they don't make 'em like they used to), I was sure that I was definitely more likely to break them than enjoy them, especially without a partner in crime. Remember when playgrounds used to occupy our attention for hours upon hours? Remember how, when it was time to leave, we still begged for one more time on the slide or one more dash through the tunnels?

Today reminded me of another day in college where I had driven out to a big lake/park outside town to have some alone time. There was a playground there. I remember needing to get away from the stresses of college life...tests, papers, relationships, extracurricular obligations and just take a time-out. I didn't expect to play, although it's exactly what I ended up doing.

It feels a bit ridiculous to play when you're an adult. Especially when you're by yourself.
But sometimes I think it's necessary.
I think it's good for us to remember what it's like to be a kid.
There's a shamelessness to it.
There's a joy to it.
There's a hope.

There's a peace in letting go and just letting yourself play. Letting yourself enjoy the moment without getting too caught up in the millions of other things that are on your mind, the thousands of things that you have yet to do. And there's a freedom that comes in not caring what anyone else thinks when you do decide to play.

If you're ever alone and you come across a swing set or a playground and you feel the gentle prodding of, Play...I hope you do it. I hope you play. Embrace your inner kid. Maybe that doesn't mean playing in a playground, but maybe it could mean coloring in a coloring book, painting with finger paint, building a fort, singing made-up lyrics at the top of your lungs, dancing like a fool (I'm quite sure I gave myself whiplash once from head-banging to some rocker music alone in my room...and I wasn't a teenager).

I hope you breathe in the simplicity of it.
I hope, as you play, you remember the hope that you have...that you would remember what you find true joy in. That as you play, you allow the complexities of life to fade away, even if only for a moment, and you seize the fullness of the sincere and uncomplicated faith of a child.

It may just be a day-changer for you. It may just put a lot of things into perspective for you.

So, what are you waiting for..?
Play. 

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jesus = Sinner?

They thought Jesus was a sinner.

I think I probably would have thought so, too.

Wouldn't you?
This man comes in and defies everything they've known about what it means to be a Jew. He defies laws, he defies religion...he challenges their authority, he challenges their interpretations, he does things they've never before witnessed.

I've been thinking a lot about what that would look like for us today. Christians adhering to a strict moral code, judging all others who do it differently than us. We are right, they are wrong. As much as we don't like to admit it it, I think, at least for me, that's kind of how we view it. That's kind of how we live life. Striving for holiness and perfection...and that strife soon becomes a list of dos and don'ts. When anyone else strays from our interpretation of what that means, they are automatically wrong/sinners.

Jesus healed a man born of blindness on the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.'

What if Jesus came and healed, if he raised the dead, if he multiplied food, if he turned water to wine today? What would we say? I imagine, especially if He turned water to wine, that a lot of Christians would have a lot to say about that... and how He could not possibly be from God.

And sure, I know that culturally it's different and we can make those type of arguments all day long...
but I'm wondering if I'm the kind of Christian who is open-minded enough to allow Jesus to come and to do His thing and to simply follow and believe without judging, without condemnation, without fear, without skepticism, without doubt. Or I wonder if I'm the kind of Christian who would be exactly like the Pharisees.

Because, unfortunately, I think I am. And I bet a lot of you are, too.
We're so accustomed to what we've come to know as right and wrong, good and bad...but there's a large part of me, when I read Scripture, that makes me think that we don't really know. And what we think we know? I honestly believe Jesus could come and do it all radically different.

The Jesus that I've been trying to follow my whole life doesn't seem to be the Jesus that I read about in Scripture. The Jesus in Scripture is the giver of abundant life, He is healer, He is savior... and yet I feel that sometimes I'm following a Jesus of rules, guidelines, and strict religion. As much as we are a generation of believers who long to disregard religion and simply be followers of Jesus... I don't feel very successful in that endeavor.

I don't know how to separate the two. Because being a Christian means both striving for a life of purity and holiness and simultaneously receiving Christ's grace, love and mercy every day because nothing I can do can ever save me. I don't know how to strive for this holiness without quickly turning into a Pharisee. I don't know how to maintain the balance. I don't know how to allow for Jesus to do radical things in me and through people around me, to remain open-minded to Him coming and doing things different than I ever thought possible... and then also allow things those to be okay when they may be the very things I thought were sin or breaking the 'law'.

I don't know how to let Jesus come and heal the blind when He's breaking the law while He does it.
Because what does that say about the law? And what does that say about sin? Or...what I've always thought sin to be?

But maybe that's the point.
Maybe the things we thought were black and white sin....maybe they're not always so black and white. Maybe, in my striving for purity and holiness, I can't ever let it be about dos and don'ts and right and wrong. Maybe there's something fuller that I've been missing out on.... something deeper.

'Cause I don't want to be a Pharisee.
I don't want to miss out on following the real Jesus.
Because I've been religious my whole life... and I'm unsatisfied. I'm truly unsatisfied because I don't think I've allowed the real Jesus to penetrate my heart. I don't think I've allowed myself to really follow Him. And part of that is because I don't know how.

This remains unsolved for me for now.
My prayer today is that I would be open-minded and open-hearted enough for Jesus (the Jesus who went against all pre-conceived notions of what the Savior of the world would be) to show me who He really is and what it means to really follow Him. I think I'm willing to admit that it could look different for each of us. I think I see that in the way Jesus responds to various individuals throughout the Gospel.

I'm weary of not ever feeling good enough, of not ever believing enough, of not ever doing enough. I'm weary of religion.
Jesus came to give life...a whole life.
And that's not the life I've been living.

I'm not sure if any of that made sense... but it's where I'm at.
Where's the balance...? How do you strive for holiness/purity without losing yourself in the legalism and forgetting the Gospel?
Thoughts?

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Loving & Hating

I have a love-hate relationship with holidays.

As much as I can be thankful for things and appreciate all the good stuff going on and genuinely love so many aspects of them, there's an element of sorrow that accompanies each day of celebration and family fun. I can't avoid the feelings of loneliness that always seem to surface, and I can't seem to escape the 'shoulds'.

On a day where you 'should' be surrounded by the people you love and care about the most, there's always a void when those people aren't there...or simply don't exist yet. Holidays make me miss ex-boyfriends. They make me ever-aware of my singleness...especially as I'm always the fifth wheel (or, in my family's case... the 9th wheel).

It's a sad, pathetic story... I know. It's probably one that some of you aren't too unfamiliar with yourself. Only, I'm blogging about it for the world to see which makes me feel especially pathetic. I'm blogging about it, assuming (or hoping) that you might also have a love-hate relationship with holidays.

As much as they can be a reminder of what we have, I fear that they also remind us of what we do not have. Sometimes it reminds us that our families are broken. Sometimes it reminds us of those who have hurt us deeply. Sometimes it reminds us that we are alone.

I talked to a friend briefly yesterday whose parent's are recently separated. Two separate Thanksgivings after being accustomed to one.... not two because of having to split between in-laws due to the joys of marriage. Holidays can become a source of a pain, a reminder that once was no longer is. For my friend, I felt the pang of the love-hate relationship with this holiday...aware that my loneliness and singleness was a far cry from the hurt being experienced in the wounds of separation.

I know this isn't unfamiliar territory for many of you... many of you who have been dealing with this split for a lot of your lives. And I've been wondering if one of the reasons we love holidays so much is because of the hope that it embodies for us. That there's this captivating feeling that surrounds them...maybe our parents will get back together, maybe our families will be reconciled, maybe our ex's will want us back, maybe we will meet someone new, maybe the voids/hurts/pains that shouldn't be there will suddenly be erased and all will be made new.

There's something magical about holidays. Or, at least I want there to be something magical about them. And sometimes, I think our excitement for the holidays is this misplaced hope. We get more excited about reunions with family and friends than we do the real meaning behind them...sometimes I'm not even sure we care about the meaning behind them. I mean... Thanksgiving? What are we really celebrating here?

Mostly I just want to acknowledge that sometimes holidays suck. And as much as we put our happy faces on and spew out the thousands of things we're thankful for because that's what people apparently do on social media all day long during the month of November... if you're one of the people who is hurting, who is having a hard time, who is angry, who doesn't feel so thankful... I want you to know that you're not alone.

Sometimes holidays are hard.
Sometimes they remind of us crappy things.
Sometimes, I think it's okay for us to admit that it's hard vs. put on the facade that we're in the holiday spirit and everything is okay.

Mostly...I hope that the holidays move us toward a searching for a greater fulfillment. I hope they move us past hoping solely for our families, our friends, and our love lives to sustain us. As I was lying awake for a while last night, thinking about how different this Thanksgiving was than year's past...feeling lonely even in the midst of a great family... I realized this wasn't something they could fix. And it wasn't something even the perfect man could fix.

Because my loneliness screams of a deeper loneliness, a deeper void that I keep trying to fill with things that don't last, with things that don't matter.

If the holidays are hard for you...
Let them be hard, but don't get stuck in hopelessness.
I think there's still much for us to hope in, much for us to hope for.
You don't have to be a scrooge, but you don't have to be fake, either.

And at the darkest moments of your despair and pain...at the heightened moments of your joy and happiness, I pray that you would find the hope of Jesus Christ. That you would find the redemption, the life, and the promises He made true. I pray that you would find Him faithful...even when it looks different than how you might have envisioned it all.

I love this season.
But I also hate it.
I think that's okay... because I'm still hopeful for more than this.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Be a Blessing

Generous people are the best...don't you think?
Especially the unexpected, out of the blue type of generosity that flows from strangers.

It's often the little things that I tend to value a lot. The little things that can go unnoticed, but I so greatly appreciate them. They make me feel blessed...and I'm humbled in the way that others notice the little things they can do for others, both people they don't even know and the people that they love dearly. They aren't big things done in a prideful arrogance that beg for the world to notice them... but they are simple, they are thoughtful, they are selfless things.

Like the lady at the store who has a million groceries in her cart and notices me with a handful of things behind her and insists on me going before her. Or the man who lets me take the parking spot instead of trying to fight me for it. Or the woman who rushes to help open the door for the stroller-pushing, exhausted mother. Or maybe picking up after your sibling, or asking for ways to help your mom with Thanksgiving prep, or spending time with your family when it means not spending as much time with your friends.

Little things.
I love when the little things become big things.... when they become day-changing things. In the good ways, of course. I love when someone else's generosity can remind me that there's still good in the world, there's still hope.

It makes me want to notice the little things. It makes me want to reach out in little ways to people when I see a need...or even when I just see something that could help make someone's day a little better.

Generosity breeds more generosity.
Pay it forward, right?
And when it doesn't work like that... well, I think we still need to be generous, despite how it may be received.

I've been wondering why we don't do it more often. Why I don't do it more often.
Aren't you so blessed when a stranger does something selfless for you... for no reason at all? Aren't you so blessed when someone you care about does something for you even when you both know that you don't deserve it? Isn't it astounding? Isn't it baffling? Isn't it humbling? I did no thing to deserve such an act, and yet I'm experiencing grace in real life. Why wouldn't we seek to extend this to every person we encounter every single day?

Lord, I pray that we would have eyes to see the little things... and I pray that we would be quick to respond. Jesus, teach us how to be selfless in our day-to-day interactions with strangers, teach us how to be bold with our words. Jesus, teach us how to be selfless in our day-to-day interactions with those we love, those we don't like...everyone. 

As we're in this season of thankfulness, I really hope we would be willing to consider the weight of what small acts of selflessness on our part might mean for someone we don't know (and those we do). Especially as we shop, as we tip, as we interact with cashiers, as we drive, as we walk into buildings, as we fly... as we live life, may our eyes be opened to the ways that we can simply be a blessing to those around us. Even as you interact with family or close friends... as you make Thanksgiving feasts, clean up after others and feel (perhaps) as though your efforts are overlooked and purposeless... I hope you keep giving.

Be a blessing through generosity.
Live in such a way that places others before you all the time.
Live a life of humility.
Watch as your generosity breeds more generosity...and persevere when it seems your generosity goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

Join me in praying that prayer above more frequently... because, as usual, this is nothing we can do of our own accord.

Father, I beg that we would be a people who bear fruit wherever we go and with whomever we interact with...no matter the response we receive from them. And Lord... I pray that You would be glorified. 

Be a blessing today.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Boots

I bought boots today.
Scratch that... my mom bought me boots today. Yep. It happened. I'm that 28-year-old (one who didn't own boots and one whose mom still buys her clothes). I lived in Texas for over six years and never, ever was tempted with such a purchase. But a move to New England at the beginning of January made it seem like a wise investment.

The problem with the boots, however, is that I feel like a fraud when I wear them. It reminds me of when I started wearing dresses.

Have you experienced this before?

I've probably identified myself as more of a 'Tom Boy' most of my life. My mom was pretty disappointed after having three boys to get a girl who didn't like to wear frills and lace and feminine things. Instead of looking like a girl, I sought to look more like my brothers. I often sported the 'ol two colored Umbros- remember those? They were the best.

There were a few brief stints in junior high and high school were I tried, quite unsuccessfully, to look more like a girl. Mostly it just consisted of bad make-up and terrible fashion sense. Eventually I left my girliness to school dances and formal events.

But, over the years it's changed. Maybe it's been my circle of friends, or the willingness to admit that dresses can actually be comfortable...or maybe just a desire to actually embrace my femininity instead of despise it.

The first few times I wore a dress (outside of a dance/wedding), I felt ridiculous. It felt like everyone in the room could tell I had never worn a dress before and it was written all over my face. I searched for validation in every possible way, eager for people to either tell me I looked great....or simply not notice the monstrosity before them. And while I now realize that no one probably cared or noticed, I know that I was having an internal meltdown as I attempted to parade around in this costume as though it were normal attire.

I like dresses a lot now...even if it took a few... years. I've even graduated from not wearing shorts under them every time I wear one.  I don't wear them all the time, but I don't feel like an awkward duck every time I do. As I move away from camp life into 'real world' life, I realize I can't get away with my Umbros (shoot, if I actually had a pair of these, I'd actually wear them a lot...) and t-shirts. Or my plethora of sweatshirts. I mean, I guess I could... but I don't want to.

I want to step further into my femininity in the way that I dress, but because it's such a foreign land to me... it's terrifying and often makes me feel like a fraud. Sometimes I think this is where you just need to take a plunge, though. Sometimes, no matter how I feel on the inside, it doesn't mean that it's apparent to everyone else...and it wouldn't matter if it was.

I think these changes are hard to make. And while, yes, superficial on some level... I think the way we present ourselves can speak volumes for the way we think about ourselves. I think for so long my inability to dress 'cute' was a direct tie into my inability to see myself as attractive. So I avoided fashion trends and style...because I felt like I could never look as good as the other girls. I didn't have right body, right personality...and the clothes looked stupid/were uncomfortable. I had every reason to not look like girly girls... but I think, on some deep level, I always wished I could.

Maybe it's vanity.
Maybe none of this matters.
Maybe I could walk around for the rest of the life never wearing make-up and dressing myself in sweats and be perfectly fulfilled (ha, I have...). But I think we tap into something deeper when we allow ourselves to become more of who we were created to be, both internally and externally. And I'm not saying that every woman or man will approach this in the same way. I'm simply saying that in me, there's always been this connection in the way I dressed and the way I thought of myself. The past few years have given room for transformation both in how I think of myself and how I then present myself.

Let me be clear- this doesn't mean that in order to embrace your femininity that you must put on make-up, wear dresses or buy boots. There's not a certain dress code for what this means...I think it can look different for each of us. I guess I'm just challenging to consider why you wear the clothes that you do, why you present yourself the way that you do. Is it a direct correlation to how you view yourself? Is it a true representation of who you are...of who you want to be? Is it only a representation of who you want to be and not who you actually are?

I still feel like a fraud when I wear things I'm uncomfortable with or not used to... but, I think, sometimes that's okay. Sometimes it takes time to grow into things. And I think that's true when we change internally, too. That sometimes we have to be willing to be uncomfortable, feel awkward... and maybe we become more of who we were created to be, both internally and externally.

So I bought boots. Tall, leathery boots. The kind of boots you wear with skinny jeans. I don't own skinny jeans. *sigh*

I think this will be a very growing year, after all.


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Monday, November 19, 2012

All Over

My mind feels too all over the place to write these days.

In a given moment, I could be thinking about:

  • What type of job I'll be able to find in January that will give me the hours and the money I need to live while in school. So, I peruse jobs on the Internet. I might be a nanny. 
  • Body image. I used to think I had a very accurate perception of myself, but now I'm wondering how warped it actually it is. 
  • A new life...and new friends. I can't envision this becoming a reality, no matter how hard I try.
  • The plethora of people I need to contact, respond to... love better. 
  • Whether or not I should stop blogging.
  • How much I think/care too much about what other people think of me. 
  • Boys...men? And how being single forever seems pretty realistic. Sometimes I'm lonely, too. 
  • The book I want to write.
  • Family- and being overwhelmed by my thankfulness for them.
  • Why the little cat isn't cuddled up next to me right now.
  • How much I hate spending money...and how much money I've had to spend lately and will continue to spend for the next three years. 
  • Wanting to cut ties with everything I've known and start anew.
  • How I'm glad the little cat finally decided to join me.
  • God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit....Christianity... and 5,000 other things that fall under this. 
  • How to relate to other people in a way that connects with them and inspires them.
  • My upcoming trip to Africa. 

Yes...that's right. I crawled into bed tonight, thankful that I had a bed to crawl into...and knowing that in just a few weeks, the bed I sleep in will probably be much different. I feel like my mind has been so many other places that I haven't been able to really give much thought to what's happening in my immediate future.

I'm going to Africa.
I'm flying to Amsterdam from Boston on November 30 and meeting up with the rest of my team there. We'll catch a flight down to Uganda and remain for 2.5 weeks. We're hanging out with orphans, we're dedicating a children's home, we're putting on a camp. I don't know what other expectations to have beyond this, and so I feel like I have none. I feel unprepared. I have some long skirts and I'm going to get some vaccines tomorrow. But, in less than two weeks I'll board a plane with a carry-on and a passport and fly across the world.

Maybe it's better that way. Maybe it's better to be expectation-free and feeling slightly unprepared.
But it's time to start praying more diligently for this trip.
Maybe you'll join me.
That even beyond prayers for me and my safety and whatever other prayers seem to flow from our mouths when we don't exactly know what to pray when people travel overseas... that we would genuinely just pray for God to be glorified, above all else. Whatever that means.

One of the mistakes I made in going overseas before was making it all about me. Wanting to see God move in ways that were powerful and life-changing... for me. I wanted to see the miracles I had heard about. I wanted to see...so I could believe.

So, while my mind may be jumping from one thing to the next rather quickly...I know that, right now, I need to focus more on this trip. It's something I have to choose to do. To continuously surrender, to pray for my teammates, to pray for those we'll be interacting with in Uganda... to pray that it would never be about me. To pray that I would have eyes to see the needs of others and I would be quick to react. To pray for boldness and courage. To pray that I would not complain for any reason. To pray that I would give...and give...and give. To pray that I would decrease so that He might increase.

Pray with me, if you'd like.

And in the meantime?
Keep sending me over the things that you'd like to read about...'cause sometimes me blogging feels a bit purposeless if it's not beneficial or relatable to you. What do you want to talk about, read about, hear about? Let's get it all out there on the table.

Thankful for you.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tell Me

What do you need?
What feels missing in your life right now? 
What makes you hopeless? 
Why are you broken?
What are you scared of?
What hurts? 

What are you doing about it? 

Tell me. 

It's your turn tonight. 

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Music Speaks

I love music.
Like...love it so much that it might be a requirement for the guy I marry to be musically inclined in some way. Maybe that makes me shallow.

I just think it's powerful.
Music has a way of bringing us back to things, to people... it has a way of penetrating our hearts. It moves us deeply. It leads us into worship. It's a way we can express ourselves when words don't feel like enough. It's motivating, inspiring...it's never-ending. It caters to each of us at different times, in different moods, in different settings.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with my appreciation for music.

Today was one of those days where music brought me back to a moment in time. A memory that I'm not sure I'll ever forget. It was a Wednesday night of camp and campers had just experienced 'The Last Supper' to the Garden of Gethsemane in full. From the Passover Meal, to the washing of feet, to the praying in the garden....each camper, each week walked through this. It included the usual gagging on horseradish and the awkward silence as counselors squeezed their way into tight spaces in order to wash their camper's feet.

The night segued into our open-air Pavilion where all the campers would gather from their individual prayer spots. Each camper had been carrying a small rock with them for two days... a rock that represented their story. They'd each had a chance to share their story with their group. On this night, they were given a chance to surrender their life, their story, to Christ. It was a night to open the door for Christ to intersect, for Him to take over...a reminder that there was so much hope in letting go and giving it all to Him.

Their counselors collected each rock/story in a wooden trough and carried them to the Pavilion with their group trailing behind them. The idea was that they represented Christ in this big metaphor. As each pair of counselors came into the Pavilion, one in front of the trough, one in back... I would direct them to a certain spot. As we waited for them to trickle in, no one spoke...but the music penetrated our souls. By the time all the counselors were present, the shape they were in resembled that of the cross.

It was often a pretty intense night for the campers...but I was too far removed from them to really know all the details of what was going on which each of them. The thing that I vividly remember were MY 'campers' each week: the counselors. They'd come in carrying this uncomfortable trough, sometimes overflowing with 30+ rocks...sometimes scattered with less than ten. Sometimes I'd watch them try to hold back tears, and the unspoken looks exchanged between us told me that something powerful had just happened in their groups with one of their campers.

Sometimes they stood there for a long, long time as we waited for the last of the groups to show up. One night, in particular, seemed especially brutal. Not only was the wait long, meaning the more uncomfortable they got as they bore the weight of these stories...but there was this spiritual heaviness that seemed pressed upon them. As the music played, the words seemed to pour over us. I remember the tears that so many finally let loose, I remember the heaving shoulders, I remember seeing the desperation in their eyes as they looked up... almost as if they were pleading to God. They were prayers I never heard, but I knew they mattered.

I knew they mattered because it was as if in this moment that we all understood the urgency of the message we were presenting that night. It was the only one we could ever share that truly could change a life. It was a message of hope. And in the midst of the tears and the brokenness, there was the cross that made life possible. That makes it possible.

As my iPod randomly shuffled to one of these songs today, I was immediately taken back to this place. I was immediately back to this time where Jesus Christ was all that mattered... and I needed to be reminded of that again. I needed to be reminded that I am carrying His name...'for all of my days, in all of my ways'.

This is the only story that matters: the Gospel.
How does my own story reflect the only one that does...? How does yours?
Jesus, Your name... forever. 
Soak it in for yourself.


How merciful the cross
How powerful the blood

How beautiful Your arms

Open for us

Open for us

No greater love

God's only Son

Jesus, Jesus
No other name
Mighty to save
Jesus, Jesus


By Your wounds we are healed

And You have conquered the grave

And in Your rising, we will rise
To carry Your name
Above every name


I will carry Your name

Carry Your name

Jesus, Your name forever
For all of my days
In all of my ways
Jesus, Your name forever

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