Sunday, December 29, 2013

Keep Waiting

It's kind of been a crazy year.
Move to Boston.
Move to New Mexico.
Get engaged.

Yes, it happened. I have this sparkly, heavy thing on my finger and while it seems perfectly simultaneously seems impossible. How did I get here?

After the most perfect engagement with the most perfect sunset with the most perfect man for me, I was soon surrounded by close friends and family to celebrate. They asked how we met, how it happened, different things in order to get to know him better (since he's virtually a stranger to a lot of my friends/family)...and then the question was asked of me, "Debbie, what's your favorite thing about him?"

Obviously I couldn't stop with one, but as I explained how this man had weaseled his way into the depths of my heart...I couldn't help but offer a thanks to the people who surrounded us. They were many people who had prayed for me and with me, cried with me, listened to me, challenged me, encouraged me and loved me as I struggled through the loneliness of I stood broken hearted through unrequited love or uncomfortable break-ups. And as I made phone calls and sent texts, I was reminded of the many others who had offered the hope of what could be as I often sat in the cynicisms of how love could never be what I wanted it to be.

I wish I had listened.
I wish I had believed.
And so, with tears in my eyes, my heart aches to tell the masses of how wonderful it truly is. How it's worth the wait. How hopeful it can be, even when there seem to be no prospects at all. How it's better than anything I could have ever wanted or imagined.

I wish you could listen.
I wish you would believe.
I wish, no matter how hopeless it can feel, that you might believe that someday it could happen for you. That you wouldn't settle for less than what it's supposed to be. Because it's supposed to be good. It's supposed to be a relationship that always points you back toward Jesus. It's supposed to be something that makes you feel like you could do anything. It's supposed to encourage, support, make you know the love of the Lord in a way that's often unbelievable. It's supposed to make you want to sacrifice, do things outside of yourself, to be someone better.

No, it's not perfect and it's not always easy...but it's about something infinitely bigger than us...and so it's better.

I feel blessed. Truly blessed.
Not just to have "finally"met The One, but to have met him exactly when I did. I have these years behind me filled with adventures, filled with opportunities for discipleship and ministry that I may not have had if I had met him any earlier. I have these passions and skills that have been developed and explored and I know more about who I am and who I want to be and what I want to do because I've had time to figure it out. I've had time to walk into it. I love that.

I love that the Lord is so good and knows me so much better than I know myself.
I love that He is so faithful and kind.
I love that He can take a broken, pessimistic, unbelieving heart and turn into it one that is more whole, more optimistic and more full of belief of who He is through His love.

I want that for you.
I want that for women and men who often feel discouraged in their singleness. I want, more than anything, for them to know that obedience to the Lord and following Him fully matters so much more than finding a spouse. And that, oftentimes, along the way, the Lord is going to bring about someone so much greater than all the relationships that we try to force upon ourselves. And, even if He doesn't, it's because He's got something better for us.

My life is drastically different than it was a year ago.
I'm still fumbling through things, trying to love Jesus more and others more through the way I live... but now I have someone to journey with. Sometimes that will make things easier and sometimes that will make things harder.

It's exciting.
And terrifying.
I can't even begin to imagine the bazillion changes in my life that are about to take place, but I never want to lose sight of the Lord, the one thing that's always mattered most in this world. My priority with that can't and won't change.

Keep waiting.
Keep running after the Lord, letting nothing deter you. Keep being honest and real about your frustrations and confusions and disappointment when it comes to relationships (whether you're in one or not)...but don't let it ever cause you to pause in your pursuit of Christ, in your quest to change the world because of what He has done for us.

Because He is a good God.
And He has changed my cynical, stone heart and has replaced it with love.

(Don't worry, I'll post another blog soon about how it all went down!)

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I Belong

Writing has been hard.
I've been distracted, busy, sick, uninspired or Internet-less... and so it just hasn't happened.

Excuses, right?
"Go chase your dreams!" has been my mantra, and then I've failed to pursue them myself the past several weeks.

What I've probably meant to say is, "Go pursue dreams as long as it's convenient and doesn't interfere with your life and only if it's easy and only if you're constantly excited about the long road ahead of you... and if those things aren't in place, just stop while you can..."

Just kidding.
If people did that, we wouldn't be anywhere.
But, it's kind of where I've been sitting lately.

And now it's Christmas.
My first Christmas to spend with another family.
I'm no stranger to random Christmas services or being in an unfamiliar place during the holidays... but I am quite the stranger to receiving gifts from people without having given them anything in return, especially people I've only just met...and, friends, it's hard.

I sat in a room with another family and cringed as I was handed gift after gift. I don't deserve these, I wanted to cry. You barely know me, my heart screamed. I didn't get you can I take this from you? I felt awkward. Uncomfortable.

But... I felt loved. I felt wanted. I felt like I was being invited into something good. And so I held back the rebuttals (as much as I could, anyway... I think a few, 'Guys... this is too much!' slipped in a time or two) and received the gifts.

I don't deserve them.
I don't deserve to be welcomed into another's family and given to and lavished upon constantly. It's overwhelming. But it's overwhelmingly good... because it paints a clear picture of the Gospel for me. Entering into a place of such humility where one is just loved, cared for, encouraged, given to... for no good reason, by nothing I did or didn't do.

I don't deserve Jesus.
I don't deserve salvation.
I don't deserve to be welcomed into the family.
I haven't done anything. I haven't given anything.
But yet I am chosen. Invited. Welcomed. Part of.

And now one of the biggest questions is what I'm going to do with the gift. Is it enough to just receive it? Or am I called to more than that? Is it enough to just acknowledge that I'm now a part of this family, despite the fact that I don't deserve it....and to take and take and take?

I want to utilize the gift. To share the gift. To tell others about it. To invite others into it. I want the gift to extend beyond me. I want others to have what I have. To have it to the fullest.

So what am I doing about it?

It's Christmas.
This radically crazy, miraculous time where we celebrate the birth of the King, the Savior... but do we remember what it means? Do we care? Have we grown numb? Have we just come to expect expect expect to get what we want? Have we forgotten that we never deserved it all in the first place?

For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

This is what matters.
Abundantly more than anything else.
It's Good News.

I belong.
Because of Jesus, I belong.
I am loved, given to excessively, welcomed in, part of.
I am His and He is mine.

No matter what.
I hope you find that security today. In the midst of all the holiday chaos, changes, moments where things may not go the way we want or expect, reminders of what we have lost/what we don't have...I pray that you'd be reminded of that one truth and it would cover everything else in joy, in peace, in goodness. I pray that it would, somehow, prevail over all else.

Because it's Good News.
You're invited in, welcomed in, given to, able to be part of.
You belong.

Today I'm humbled.

I belong.
To something deeply beautiful and far beyond my own understanding...and I'm thankful for the earthly things that remind me of such wonderful truths.

Merry Christmas, friends.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Put Me in Coach

I used to think that playing sports with boys for the first time was somehow different from playing sports with anyone for the first time.

While confident in my own ability to catch a frisbee, hit a ball, run somewhat adequately...there's always this fear that comes with having to prove myself able. Because, you don't just walk onto a field or court and have everyone just know that you're going to be useful to them as a teammate. You have to earn it. 

Playing sports with boys for the first time quiets my soul, especially when I don't really know 'said' boys. Warm-ups are crucial because in those first ten minutes, I must show them that I'm not entirely incompetent. My game-face is on. I don't want to be that girl who runs around on the field, waving her hands for a pass and somehow gets completely neglected every time. I don't want to be that girl on the volleyball court who has guys diving in front of her to get balls because they're scared when I touch it, it'll soar the wrong direction. I don't want to be a benchwarmer.

Perhaps it's pride. 
But part of it is just that I love playing sports and when I'm playing with people who trust me to, ultimately, do a good job even when I mess up from time to time (because who is perfect?)...I feel empowered, I feel enabled. There's a joy, an excitement, a pressing on to becoming a better player. My teammates encourage me when they throw me a pass, believing that I might score...that I might bring success to our team. To know that I'm on a team where I had a part (no matter how small) of the victory...there's not a lot that can replace that feeling. I want in that game. 

I recently attended a conference and one of the seminars I went to was on women in ministry. Women leaders in ministry, specifically. I began to hear the chorus of women who struggled to find their place among men...whether that was a self-doubt brought on by lies and insecurities, or whether they actually met external opposition from the men they worked with...not one of us could fully admit that being a woman in a leadership position had come without any sort of tension. Whether single, married, assistants, directors, program people, administrative people, old, young...there was a common thread of figuring out how to weave our gifts and passions into a traditionally male-dominated culture with balance, grace and humility.  

And so here's where the sports parallel comes in. 
As much as I like to think playing sports with guys feels different than playing sports with girls, it doesn't always. In fact, it's the playing sports with new people that'll get you. Because, you don't know how they're going to play. Joining up with an indoor league of female volleyball players can be just as intimidating as jumping into a soccer match with a bunch of males. 

I think the key is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and being able to act accordingly. While I know I won't ever be as a fast as 90% of the guys on the field, I know that if I'm thrown the frisbee, I'll usually be able to do something good with it. I know that while I'm never going to be a spiking and blocking queen, I can assist in setting and attempting to hustle. 

I guess I think that my role in ministry doesn't have to be much different. As a woman playing sports, I can acknowledge weaknesses (and strengths...) I might possess because I'm a woman in the arena, but it doesn't mean that I can't play. It doesn't mean that I can't compete. It doesn't mean that I don't have something good to offer to the team. I have to be confident, I have to be willing to put myself out there, I have to be willing to call for the frisbee, to go for the ball... and I have to be willing to screw up every so often. I have to know my limitations and plan accordingly. I have to earn the trust of my peers, my teammates. I have to prove that I'm capable. It doesn't matter if my teammates are all males, all females, or comprised of both. Who I am going into the game doesn't change. The things I'm good at, the things that I'm bad at, the things that I need to work on... they remain the same. How I can better utilize those things can change based on my teammates, though.

As a woman in ministry, it's easy to feel intimidated, inadequate, to allow the fears of what others may be thinking of you to interfere with your ability to play. It's easy to assume that no one wants you on their team because you're a girl and don't have anything good to offer. Sometimes, unfortunately, the assumptions may even be correct. But, I think that as women, we're in a place of being able to prove ourselves to people. We can show that we have what it takes. That we can work hard. That we are competent. That we do have something good to offer.

We get to choose.
We get to be women who get to decide if we're going to play or just run around aimlessly hoping someone will throw us the ball (and, if they don't... are we going to be women who go out of our way and hustle to make sure we get the ball?).

I think when we really go all out and prove ourselves able, we are going to find ourselves supported and backed by our teammates. We are going to feel enabled. We are going to feel empowered. People will start to believe in us...truly believe in us.

And the best part of all of this is that you don't have to be athletic to prove yourself adequate. You just have to know your gifts and strengths within the ministry you are in and make sure you are living out of them to the fullest. Make sure you are reliable when you get thrown the ball, make sure you do something good with it...and make sure you enable your teammates to be successful, too (don't be a ball-hog).

It's a cool opportunity.
Always filled with room for fears, hesitations, possible limitations and intimidating responsibilities... but it doesn't mean that we ever have to be stuck in those.

Believe in yourself.
Believe in the place that the Lord has you in right now.
Believe that He has given you gifts, passions, dreams and that you can utilize those wherever you are.

Catch the frisbee.
Dive for the ball.
Be invested in a team that is doing something you believe in... a team that is making waves in eternity... and do your part in it.

It's the body of Christ.
Function like it.

And yes, maybe in a perfect world people would always just throw us the ball and give us opportunity regardless of our gender, our age, our known abilities... but, in my experience, it doesn't always work out like that. In knowing that sometimes things aren't always ideal, I still want to be used to the fullest... I still want all of us to press harder into being a part of the team. A valuable part. A necessary part.

Let's get off the bench.
Let's get ready to play.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Use It

Reading the Bible is still hard for me.

After of many years of forcing myself to pick it up every day, I had quite the hiatus and the last year has proven to be difficult in resuming such discipline in my life. It's hard to read it with a fresh perspective, to not scan through the text quickly as though I already know everything it says. It's hard to not skim over familiar Bible stories, to tune out when I get to a verse that I know by heart. It's hard to sit. To be focused. To absorb. To want more.

But, I know it's good. I know it's true. And I know that I want the Word written all over my heart and I'll never get there if I refuse to try. I need it. And I can't act like I don't.

And so, the other day, I flipped through the pages of Isaiah, quickly eyeing the things I've underlined in the past...recognizing that I didn't have nearly enough time to even begin to dive into the depth of each passage. I decided Paul was a better choice for the moment and found myself in Romans. Romans 12.

I forgot that sometimes when I read Scripture (even Scripture I've read hundreds of times) new things can leap out at me. That sometimes it can be fresh. Sometimes (usually always, if I'm willing) it can transform my outlook for the day...and even for my life. I like it, especially, when it backs my own thoughts...and I'm often reminded that my thoughts have been rooted in and shaped by Scripture.

Lately I've been an advocate of doing what you're passionate advocate of following dreams... of living large. Too often I think we get lazy, we get discouraged, we get fearful, we feel hopeless. Too often I think we allow life to seize us and when things get hard, it's easier to stay within the confines that we know we can handle. Too often we take jobs for security, convenience... too often we stay in relationships for comfort...too often we stay close to home because leaving feels too hard.

But I read this yesterday:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
If you're like me, you've probably read this Scripture quite a few times in your life. In fact (if you're like me), you probably just skimmed over it because you knew what it said.

But, this time, I'm struck by the simplicity of it.
Basically, I feel like Paul is saying, "Hey... if you have a gift that you've been given, use it". If you know how to serve, serve. If you can teach? Teach. If you're great at encouragement, give anyone and everyone encouragement. If you love to give, give and give and give.

And I just wonder how many of us are doing what we're good at? How many of us are using the gifts that we've been given in ways that truly matter? How many of us are doing whatever it takes, being diligent in our strengths, giving ourselves wholly to the developing of we can be the best we can possibly be to glorify the Lord with our entirety?

I want that.
I want that for me.
I want that for the ministry I work in.
I want that for believers all over.
I want that for the church.

That we would be a people who can recognize that we've each been given different gifts...and then that we might use them. Fully. With everything we are. That we wouldn't allow any excuse to get in the way of doing whatever it takes to be better, to excel, to thrive... to simply do good things with what we've been given.

Can it be simple?
Can we just do?
Can we stop making it all so complicated and walk confidently in who we are created to be? In the things that we are good at? Can we focus on ways that we might allow our different gifts to have an eternal impact in this short lifetime here that we are given?

Maybe it means stepping out of our comfort zone, doing something risky, leaving something behind... maybe it means spending more money, maybe it means putting yourself out there, maybe it means facing possible rejection. Maybe it means a lot of things that you don't love the idea of...

But what if we trusted the Lord with the gifts that have been bestowed to us and then walk fully into them, confident that He who we serve is faithful and good?

Let's be bold with our gifts.
Let's let it be simple.
Whatever you've been given, use it.
It's time.
You were made to thrive so that He might be more glorified.

Let's thrive.

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