Thursday, April 24, 2014

I can't.

It's almost here.

A year ago I was in the thick of finals, papers, presentations....and it felt pretty easy. My responsibilities consisted of making sure that I was well-prepared, studying enough, giving enough time to thoroughly research and then regurgitate all of my research. If I didn't do well enough, it only really affected me. And then it was summer...a free summer!

It was a breath of fresh air after a decade of intense summers and lots of responsibility.

And then I stepped back into camping ministry.
And summer means something entirely different than it did a year ago.

Now I'm in the thick of hiring, planning, scheduling, creating, programming, communicating...and it feels pretty daunting. My responsibilities (and my success or failure of executing them) seem to only affect others. My co-workers, the staff we're hiring, the programs we're developing, the campers that are coming, the guests we're serving. Everything is contingent upon something else... and sometimes it feels overwhelming. Terrifying, even.

I can't do this.
My brain screams at me as a I try to fall asleep at night.
There's still this, and that, and... oh, what will we do about that? Or this? Or....
It can go on for hours, if I let it.

Even outside the projects, the construction, the activities that are still yet to be built, the programming, the scheduling, the staffing... even outside of all of that feeling incomplete, my biggest burden lies in deeply longing for Truth to be presented clearly and accurately. That all things would point back to Jesus, to what He has done for us, to why that absolutely changes everything.

Sometimes I think that if we're doing that, everything will be okay. More than okay, even.

It's in that hope alone that I can put to rest my people-pleasing addiction.
Am I doing everything I can to please the Lord? Have I made that my goal--the thing I aim for?

Too often I get honed in, fixated on all there is to do....fixated on a fear of failure...fixated on disappointing others.

And then Jesus reminds me that it is in my weakness that He can be strong. He reminds me that His grace is sufficient. He reminds me that He is the goal. He reminds me of the bigger picture. He reminds me that I wasn't made for this world. He reminds me to choose Him, to choose eternity every time.

When I decided to take this job last summer, I remember knowing that we could never be successful without the Lord paving the way, without Him guiding, without us trusting in Him constantly.

A new summer is upon us.
A summer of unknowns.
A summer of over 10,000 guests to serve.
A summer of Christ being made known.
This is happening.

And, I do believe, that as long as we are making it our goal to please Him in all things... everything else will be okay.

I can't do it.
And I'm so thankful.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfect Leaders

My fiance and I have started reading through some marriage books together.

Sometimes I want to gag, as they drone on and on about the same 'ol stuff. Sometimes I think they'd be more beneficial for us to read a year after we're married and are actually having the everyday complications that arise from living/doing life together. But, sometimes they say good things. Good things that are applicable outside of marriage, even.

One book reminded us that I can trust, no matter what my future husband might say or what his attitude might be, that he deeply loves me. Perhaps a situation or an action might suggest otherwise, but I have to choose that fact to be true. I have to remind myself that, even though he messes up, he loves me. He wants good for me. He wants good for us. He isn't out to get me, to hurt me, to harm me--that isn't the desire of his heart... and I've been thinking about that concept in a greater scope of our lives.

Sometimes when we are a part of organizations, or churches, or teams....we have leaders that aren't perfect (okay, all the time they're not perfect). But, sometimes we allow this to be a reason that we leave, quit, run, move on to something different. We forget about grace and we forget about grace in the midst of imperfection.

We hold them to impossibly high standards and when they don't meet them (or exceed them), we peace out. We have no time for mistakes. Our hearts are too soft, our pasts are too jaded. We need people we can trust. People who are dependable. People who can do no wrong. People we can always rely on.

But, I've been wondering what might happen if we considered the heart of the leader. What if we considered the motivation? What if we asked ourselves: Are they really out to get us? Is the core of who they are malicious and evil...or did they just mess up? Did they miscommunicate? Are they juggling a lot of things right now? Do they even know how their actions might have affected us? And, if they did know, are they someone who is going to do something to try to change it?

Do we trust our leadership?
And even we trust them, can we allow them to be imperfect? Can we allow them to figure things out and for it to, sometimes, look messy in the process?

I remember church hunting up in the Boston area, checking out different ministries and seeing where I might fit in best. I remember being all too aware that I was picky, that I had high expectations, that I wanted my own version of perfection to exist somewhere, somehow. Worship had to be just right, the speaking had to be relevant and accurate, the people had to be kind and welcoming. I jumped in different friend's cars on a weekly basis to try to find the church of my dreams, and found myself disappointed. I wound up often attending the church that my brother was an intern at and moving up in quickly. Not because I always loved the worship, or the teaching, or the community... but because my brother was in leadership and I trusted my brother's heart. Even if he gave a sermon that I didn't 100% agree with, it wasn't a make it or break it deal...

Because we're all seeking. We're all figuring life out.
I believe that our Christian leaders are often given the impossible task of being perfect, of doing no wrong.... I believe it because I've done it to people (usually without realizing it) and I've also had it done to me. But we're all people in need of grace.

I can promise you that I will mess up often.
I can promise you that I won't always make you feel like I love you or care about you on a personal deep level. I can promise you that I will probably let you down. I will make poor decisions. I will mess up. It's inevitable.

But could you maybe believe that my heart is for good? For Jesus? For making things better? That even in the times where I screw up and let you down and suck at communicating... that I do care? Could you choose to believe that people intend good, even when it comes across the wrong way?

I think when we're able to take ourselves out of the need for perfection and remind ourselves that people are people, that we can follow our leaders more wholeheartedly. That we can see the vision, that we can trust the vision...because we believe, at the core, that they intend good. They may not always execute it perfectly and that's where community and honesty is vital as we sharpen and refine each other, as we lean on each other for different gifting and strengths.

But, I pray that we wouldn't be too quick to give up on our leaders because they've disappointed us. I pray we wouldn't be too quick to gossip, to complain, to quit, to run. I pray that we'd be willing to look at the heart. To remember that no one is perfect, not even one. To ask yourselves if, at the core, you really think they intend evil, that they intend to hurt you, that they want to see you fail.

I think you might be surprised when you allow yourself to go there.
When you allow grace to invade.
When you allow yourself to admit the many ways they might be trying and seeking to do things better, to do things right, to tend to everyone's different needs/hopes/expectations.

Do you trust their heart?
Do you trust that they intend good?

If you do, I generally think that's a good reason to stick around, to keep following, to keep giving of yourself. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. But we're moving forward, striving for better, placing our hope in the only One who is.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, April 14, 2014


Can I fix it?

When I know that something I'm involved with isn't perfect, I want to do whatever I can to make it better.

Can I fix you?

Whenever someone I know has something troubling going on, I want to do whatever I can to make them better.

Is there something I can do? Something I can say? Something that will make it better? Has there been a miscommunication? Have your feelings been hurt? Do you feel like you haven't been heard? Do you feel like you don't matter?

I want to assure you that you do.
And I want my assurance to mean enough that you believe it.
I want to have the words that soothe, the words that reassure, the words that are able to change perspectives and attitudes.

I want my actions to always be such that they are moving things and people toward repair and reconciliation. Actions that build up and do not tear down.

Unfortunately I suck at these things.
I can't often fix it.
I can't often fix you.

Too often I speak out of emotions, selfishness, fears, and insecurities. Too often I live out of my own worldview of what I think is "fair" and "right" without considering how that might be different from your own version of "fair" and "right".

I'm so limited.
And I hate it.
Sometimes my limitations are agonizing, oftentimes they are debilitating. I can't think about anything else....because something in my life feels broken. It feels off. It feels like it's not how it should be.

The Truth, unfortunately, sometimes feels like mere platitudes... trite, meaningless statements in effort to quickly fix the tears and holes in our lives. But I wish we'd let it sink in and change us. I wish we'd let it change our hearts, our attitudes, our perspectives...

Because there's more than this. Than this life that we're living. Than the things that frustrate us, than the things that don't seem fair. There's often a bigger picture that we've forgotten about it... and we've allowed ourselves to be consumed by only what we see. It's the stuff that makes all of this worth it...

Because, on this side of eternity, things are going to be broken. Nothing is going to be exactly the way it was intended to be. No one is going to be exactly the way they were created to be all of the time. We'll have glimmers of it... we have hope for it. But, it's not going to be completely 100% fixed... not yet. We're not going to be 100% healed...not yet.

We're limited.
But it doesn't mean that we have to operate out of limitations. It doesn't mean that they have to define us. I can't always fix things, and I can't always fix others...but I know that my hope is found in the One who can. The only one who gives us hope and reminds us that this life isn't how it wasn't intended to be. This life isn't the fulfillment of the promises given to us. That no matter how limited we are, no matter how unfair, how wrong, how broken things are around us...there's much to hope in.

Because this life isn't it.
I want those words to sink in.
For us to live for more than what's right in front of our faces. To remember that while our present circumstances may be less than ideal, that we have a greater purpose. To be people that will gladly walk through anything so that He may be more glorified. That we'd remember how much it's not about us....and we'd be willing to know the extent of what it means to be a living sacrifice.

I want to fix it.
I want to fix you.
But I can't.
I am limited.
I know the One who can.
And I know that there must be more than this.

I have to live accordingly.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I'm Fine...

I called my fiance last night and was insulted that he only gave me 14 minutes of his time.

14 whole minutes.

I should probably admit that I called him around 1:00 a.m. his time and he that answered from a dead sleep, asked about my evening, shared briefly about his day, told me he loved me, double-checked a few times to make sure I was okay...and finally said goodnight and hung up when he realized I wasn't going to give him more than 'I'm fine'.

I'm fine.
I insisted.
I'm fine, but actually, if I told you how I really felt, I'd be in tears...and it's late, and I'm irrational, and it's unfair for me to call you so late and expect you to have an hour long conversation with me... so, I'm fine.

He knows me well enough to know that I'll eventually tell him what's going on, and I did. A day later with apology ringing in my voice as I continued to try to swallow my irrationality...

Because aren't we too often fine?

The truth is that I walked to work yesterday morning, suddenly very aware of my loneliness. So, later that night, after processing and dwelling, when I said I'm fine... I probably meant to say, I'm lonely. Only, that doesn't sound as nice. That isn't as conducive to a short conversation in the middle of the night when you're just trying to touch base.

But I couldn't hide the dissatisfaction in my tone.
I wasn't fine.
And he knew it.

We use fine when we want to get others off our back. Sometimes we use fine when we really want others to pry and find out what's really going on. Sometimes we use it because we can recognize that our reason for being upset/disappointed is irrational and so we're really just trying to convince ourselves that we're fine.

We hide behind fine.
We choose to run from others, to block them out... by insisting that we're fine.

But sometimes we're not.
And sometimes it's okay.
And sometimes we need to let people in.
Sometimes we need to seek them out.
Sometimes we have to step out from behind fine and expose whatever it is that's weighing on us.

Sometimes we're fine because we're too often telling others that we're fine. So then they stop asking, stop caring, stop trying... and quickly our fine is hiding much more hurt as people slip out of our lives.

There's wisdom in honesty, in letting others know us, in admitting when we're not fine.

Would you choose to believe that when someone asks, they might want to know more about how you are than fine? Would you tell them? Would you stop hiding? Would you stop damaging relationships and running from the people who care about you the most because you keep insisting that you're fine?

No more excuses.
It just isn't worth it.
Because sometimes, we just aren't fine.
And it's o.k.a.y.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Relationship

Describe your current relationship with the Lord...

It's a question we often ask while we interview, and the other day I couldn't help but wonder what I would say if someone asked me the same question.

Because... what are we looking for?
What's sufficient?
What's 'good enough'?
One girl confessed that hers wasn't perfect, almost shamefully. I had to refrain from judging and lashing out at her: Not perfect?! Why would we ever consider you to work for a Christian ministry if your relationship with the Lord isn't perfect?!  (kidding...)

Then again, what's perfect?
Can it ever be perfect?
Are we ever satisfied?
Can't we always be people who pray more, love others better, read our Bibles more consistently?

I don't want to be a person who ever breeds guilt in other believer's lives as they pursue Jesus. I never want to be the person who shakes my head, tsking when people tell me that they're struggling in one of these disciplines. I just imagine this nasal-y, condescending voice that quickly tells others to read more, pray more, do more. The voice that constantly makes us feel like where we're at will never be good enough, no matter how far we've come.

But when I think about a relationship with the Lord, when I ask the question about where someone is at spiritually, I really just want to know that it matters to them. That they're seeking. That they're allowing Scripture to transform them (and that doesn't necessarily mean that they're reading it for 10 minutes on schedule each day). That the truth of the Gospel permeates them to the core and doesn't allow them to be complacent. That they desire to be obedient to the Word, that they desire to be close to the Lord...and that they're striving to live a life of hope, joy and love.

Because if someone asked me?
I pray sporadically throughout the day.
I sometimes journal.
I try to love others.
I sometimes read the Bible or other books.
I have conversations and talk about Jesus as I do work and as it comes up in various relationships.

So, do I pass?
Is my answer sufficient?
Am I doing "enough"?
Is my relationship with the Lord good enough, thriving enough, for your definition?
Should I be doing more...?

Maybe I should.
But I lived that way for a better portion of my life and instead of freedom, I often encountered the guilt and shame that too easily accompanies legalism.

And so, instead of adopting a lifestyle where I'm confined by rules, I've found so much joy in simple obedience. In seeking to know the Lord more... through Scripture, through His creation, through people, through prayer, through music, through writing.  It looks different each day, but it matters. Above all things.

I'm not looking for a specific routine or for you to convince me that because you read a devotional that you love the Lord...
I'm wanting to know that the Gospel has changed your life and is continuing to change your life. I'm wanting to know that each day you remember that we've been saved from eternal damnation and that we've been given to abundantly because of Christ. I want to know that you are seeking obedience, seeking a life of surrender, a life of sacrifice. I want to know that your heart belongs to the Lord and He is who you will serve for all the days of your life. I want to know that you bear fruit because you abide in Him.

A relationship with the Lord goes deeper than the lists we create to feel as though we're accomplishing something. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how much you read your Bible... are you really allowing the truth of it to change your life? Are you letting it sink in? Are you different every day because of it?

I hope so.
No matter what we're doing to pursue a relationship with Jesus...I hope, at the end of the day, that it changes us on a daily basis. That we're brighter reflections of Him as we are refined and made into more of His image.

Because it matters.
Even if it's never 'perfect', it matters.
More than any other relationship.
All I ask is that we treat it as such.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It Takes Guts.

It doesn't have to be so hard. 

I remember being in a past relationship and telling myself that, even though it was so hard, it was still okay. Because, relationships are hard... right? I was determined to push through, to make it work, to fight for our relationship because, at the end of the day, I thought it was worth it.

But it was hard.
I cried a lot.
I felt insecure.
I blamed him.
He never felt like he was good enough.
He blamed me.
Our conversations always turned back into a heated discussion about the same thing. Over and over again. It was repetitive, consuming, and exhausting.

I had convinced myself that relationships, by nature, are hard... and so this was okay. This was just what every other couple is dealing with and, because of that, I just had to keep going. I convinced myself that our relationship was all about sanctification... all about growing, becoming more like Jesus, putting someone else above myself. Being in a hard relationship made us better. It never occurred to me that it might be unhealthy, that it might be harder than was necessary.

I had reached a point where I felt like I would rather be in this hard relationship than alone for the rest of my life. I never thought any relationship could be easier than what I was currently experiencing. This is just what relationships are like.

I couldn't bring myself to end that relationship because I was so committed to making it work. But, he was wiser and more bold than me. He ended it one summer night.... and I had never felt so free. Walking away from that relationship felt easy and light and right. I remember, a week later, thanking him for having the guts to do what I couldn't do.

I'm scared that we, sometimes, stay in relationships that are too hard. That we're willing to put up with much because we've convinced ourselves that sticking with it is better than letting go. I'm scared that we find ourselves in unhealthy relationships because we're terrified of being alone. I'm scared that we walk forward into a life of constant fighting, bickering, disagreeing because we're scared that no one better for us will ever come along. I fear that in our quest to be with someone, we find ourselves more lonely than ever before...

And I want to say:
It doesn't have to be so hard.

Yes, there will be times when it's hard. There might be seasons when you feel like you can't do anything right or that every conversation turns into the same argument... but it shouldn't be what's defining of your entire relationship.

If you're in a dating relationship and it's just always hard? I'd seriously ask you to consider getting out. To ask wise, trusted people in your life their honest opinion of your relationship and then be willing to listen. You may not like what you hear, but it may be exactly what you need to hear. Sometimes, walking away from these relationships (no matter how much we wanted it work and believed that it might) can be the most freeing, healing thing for our souls. Stop trying to convince yourself and others, stop trying to rationalize.

If you're married and you're going through a hard season that feels eternal? Or maybe you went straight from a hard dating relationship into marriage? I'd encourage you to seek professional help. Get someone to help mediate, someone who is for marriage working out. I do believe it's possible and that once you've entered into a marriage covenant that the Lord is always on the side of reconciliation. I do believe that when He is on that side, anything is possible, no matter how hopeless it feels. People can change, relationships can change.

Sometimes, while dating, I clung to that hope. That the Lord could and would change him and me. That it would work. But it wasn't meant to be. We hadn't entered into that covenant together, and I now see how the Lord had clearly orchestrated us breaking up. I had to let go. And it was good.

It doesn't have to be so hard.
You don't have to fight so hard all the time.
Yes, relationships are hard....but that shouldn't be the most defining aspect of your relationship. Mutually encourage each other. Sharpen each other. Point each other back to Jesus in all things. But don't destroy each other. Be couples who are life-giving, who can laugh together, who are more yourselves together than you are apart.

Be people who love.
I once told a man I loved him and quickly realized how I was doing the opposite of everything that defined love. I was rarely patient or kind, was constantly jealous, rude and prideful. I insisted on my own way, was irritable, and kept a tally of all the wrongs done to me by him. I didn't know what love was in that capacity.... but oh, how I wanted to. And how quickly willing I was to cling to any shred of hope or goodness that might allow me to stay exactly where I was.

It doesn't have to be so hard.

Do you believe me yet?
Are you listening?
Let go.
Walk away.
There's something better than this.
There's freedom from the agony, the pain, the misery.
There's hope.

Have the guts.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, April 7, 2014

What is a "Date"?

A few months back, I overhead some speculation about what a "date" is.

It would seem that people have varying opinions on the matter and that there can easily be some confusion over the subject. 
What is a date?

A guy and a girl alone, hanging out?
A guy buying a girl dinner? 
A situation in which a guy and a girl are intentionally spending time alone together with an expressed romantic interest? 

If we go by the first definition, a lot of us have been on "dates" without ever thinking of them as such. In fact, these are the times when confusion probably most ensues. Perhaps one party thinks of the hang-out as a date, and the other thinks of it as a hang-out. Friends...nothing more. Perhaps one feels as though they've been very clear with their motivation for hanging out in such an isolated setting, or perhaps they think it's clear by the very nature of hanging alone. It's probably not clear, in case you were wondering. 

A guy buying a girl dinner? Perhaps this used to help establish intentions, but I don't think so anymore. Plus, in some scenarios, this can't even happen for a while (like, if you're long distance or work in the middle-of-nowhere or something like that). Dinner isn't required to begin a romantic relationship. Can it be something that causes one to wonder? Sure. Mostly because we're awesome at reading into things when it suits our interests. And, sometimes guys are just chivalrous by nature. I had one guy friend who I'd frequently hang out with who would often offer to buy me coffee, or food. I immediately wondered if it meant we were on a date or not... because, doesn't it? I figured out over time that it, most definitely, did not. 

I suppose I think the only way we can be sure if we're on a date is if it's been stated as such. Maybe it happens prior to the date, during it, or after... but, I think there has to be some establishing it as romantic in nature. Good 'ole Webster has defined it as such: 
an appointment to meet at a specified time; especially : a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character
So maybe it's not explicitly stated, and maybe he didn't "ask you out" in a way that made it obvious....but maybe he holds your hand and kisses you goodnight. It was probably a date. Maybe he didn't feel the need to dive into a conversation about the future and how many kids you both want to have, but he's interested in getting to know you better. Maybe that's all it needs to be for now.

Sometimes, as women, we're quick to want to define things. We're quick to want to know what something is, what it means, and how it might change our lives. We want to know if what just happened was a date so we can let our hearts rest for a moment. We let ourselves get anxious, confused, and weigh every possible option for where things could go from here. Because if it was a date then that means so.many.things.

But sometimes, we just need to chill out.
Sometimes we need to let it be whatever it is. Sometimes we have to trust that while a guy may or may not have romantic intentions with your hang-outs and with the dinner he just bought you, he'll eventually make it known. If it WAS a date, it shouldn't be long before he expresses that interest in you (especially if he's already taken the initiative to take you out or wants to keep hanging out frequently). If it WASN'T, then I think you'll get the hint. And, if after some time it's still unclear? Just ask. You may be dealing with a man who just loves spending time with you and thinks you're on the same page of friendship. Get the clarification you need so you can live your life in peace.

If your "social engagement" is clearly of a romantic nature (you know he likes you because he told you directly or he's very physically into you), it's probably safe to assume it's a date. If it's not clear (maybe he tells you that you're beautiful, buys you dinner, opens your doors, gives you a hug), it's probably safe to not assume anything just yet. Give it a little bit of time...and if there's nothing directly communicated to you, feel the freedom to ask. You don't need to spend months or years of your life having your heart dragged along, always wondering. Chances are, if he hasn't said anything after that long...he's probably not interested in you romantically.

And, don't be the girl who assumes that since he's physically into you that it means he's also emotionally into you. Because he kisses you every time you hang-out doesn't mean it's a date...especially if it's been a while. At this point, he is probably just taking advantage of you. Don't be quick to give any part of you away on these 'maybe' dates. Make sure you know his intentions and commitment levels before you go making decisions you'll most likely regret.

"Dates" are fairly ambiguous these days.
I think that's okay... at least initially. Give yourselves time to get to know each other without having to worry about all nitty-gritty details of what it means. And then, when it's time, be willing to have open, honest, necessary conversation.

Your entries will remain anonymous