When Content in Discontentment

Just bring it to the Lord.

These are the words I’ve had to repeat to myself far too often lately. I can’t do it all on my own, and boy, do I need grace. That’s been made very apparent to me in this season of life. But here I still sit in a spiritual desert, content and unmoved from my fatigue and discontentment. Socially acceptable sins really sneak up on me in that desert. I’m overworking myself, so I’ll take a break and turn on Netflix for five hours. I’m stressed, so I’ll eat an extra three cupcakes. I’ll sleep in a little longer instead of waking up and spending time in prayer because I need the rest. These little things don’t seem like much, but before I know it, I’ve made it an entire two weeks without bringing a single burden to the Lord because I’m busying my mind and finding comfort and rest in things that won’t give me what I’m looking for. When that happens, those little tiny burdens start to pile up. Suddenly I’m Atlas trying to carry the whole world on my shoulders.

Just bring it to the Lord.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to be anxious, but to bring all our anxieties to the Lord. But have you ever started a conversation with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while? It’s strange. You’re not really sure how to actually approach it. We said our hellos, but now it’s been silent for so long. Are they comfortable with this silence? Maybe I should just keep it going. No, say something. What do I talk about? The weather? Too small. Your deepest, darkest sin? Whoa, way too big. How do I start to open up? That’s how it feels in the spiritual desert. When I find myself here is when I most need to approach the throne, but it’s when I least want to. When I dig deep and think about it, I’m too scared to take a step.

Scared? Well, alright. What on earth could I be afraid of? What could possibly happen when I do approach the throne that could be any worse than living life apart from my Savior? Nothing. Life apart from God is literally hell – it is not at all the life we were meant to live. For some reason, though, that starts to sound a little appealing when the fear of taking a step kicks in. But what could possibly happen when I approach the throne that could be worse than hell? Nothing.

Just bring it to the Lord.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. He is absolutely enthralled by you and me. He traded everything to have us and call us His children. He wants so badly to be in a relationship with us that he wrote a 66-book long love letter. He misses us when we’re in the desert. He just wants to talk to us. He’s patient enough to wait for you at the other end of the desert, but He wants you to make it through quickly even more than you do.

Guys, talking to a friend you haven’t seen in a while is daunting. Believe me. But have you ever reconnected with a best friend and it feels like you were never even apart? The love of your life is waiting for you. What are you afraid of? Wherever you’re at, whether you’ve never prayed or it’s simply been too long, just bring it to the Lord, already.

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Good Friends are Good

I’ve heard it said a few times before that if you were to see yourself exactly as you are on the street, you wouldn’t recognize that it was you because your perception of who you are and what you look and act like is so skewed. How you see yourself when you look in a mirror is not how others see you. The qualities you see in yourself are nothing like what others see in you. Dove, the health and beauty product company, has a campaign which proves just that.

We all believe a lot of lies about ourselves. That I am not enough – I am not pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough, kind enough, good enough. That I am not loving – I am quick to anger and quick to notice flaws. That I’m bad at what I do. I see the best in others and compare myself to that. It’s so easy to see the flaws in ourselves, and we have this horrible tendency to magnify our own flaws when we tell ourselves who we are.

I’m a first year teacher, and it’s really really hard. Sure, it’s more work than I was expecting, but so far it’s been a totally different kind of hard than that. It’s emotionally draining to spend all day around kids, and I make it so much harder on myself.

I am not an amazing teacher yet. Nobody is their first year, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re surrounded by people who have been teaching for so long and who are amazing at it. Maybe I’m doing better than a lot of first year teachers, and maybe I actually am doing a terrible job. I definitely have a long list of mistakes I’ve made and can learn from. I am yet to give myself grace for those mistakes; instead, I sulk in the fact that I made a mistake at all.

That’s when I start to believe the most dangerous lie of all – that I need to be alone and I need to think through it on my own.

Our flaws are beautiful, and they give the Lord an opportunity to work in our lives, but they also open a door for the Enemy to creep into your thoughts. He’s the one who holds a magnifying glass to your flaws and convinces you that you are not enough because of them. He’s the one who convinces me that I need time alone away from people so I can sulk in my weakness. In those moments when I am beaten down, the Enemy convinces me to isolate myself, but the Lord makes me aware of my need for community. Sometimes you reach the point of tears and your roommate has to lovingly remind you, “You are not who that high school boy says you are,” after you’ve been dwelling on it all day. Sometimes you’re overwhelmed to the point of anxiety attacks and, at just the right time, you get to spend a weekend with 20 women who know you and love you and remind you that you are loved, you are enough, and you do have strengths. Sometimes you find a scrapbook that 30 of your friends made for you that constantly reminds you of how God’s grace has worked in your life. My roommate, those women, and my friends are all the people who see who I really am. The Enemy is hard at work in your mind convincing you to believe the lies that make you unrecognizable to yourself; good community sees who you really are and squashes the lies under their feet.

My Ordinary Adventure

I am a girl who longs for adventure. I dream of mountains to climb and cities to explore. Every acquaintance is an opportunity to make a new friend and every forest has mysteries waiting to be discovered. I am 22, fresh out of college, and terrified ready to take on the world. My story is just beginning. Now is the time when I can keep filling the pages by writing down dreams, or I can start chasing them.

I am a girl who longs for adventure at a time bursting with opportunities. So why am I surrounded by boxes of my things I’m preparing to move to an apartment only one block away? Because that’s where my next big adventure will start.

Adventurers can look like a lot of things. Most think of explorers discovering new lands, scientists risking their lives in the field, or great athletes training for a big moment. But from the outside, the greatest adventurers can look like ordinary people. Particularly in Christian culture, the “real” adventurers are the ones with work visas and stamps on their passports from third world countries. These people are seen as superstar missionaries (although, don’t get me wrong, they definitely are not in it for the superstar Christian status). We Christians get into this mindset that missionaries are only found overseas; we humans get into this mindset that real adventure is only found anywhere but here. But you and me, the people who haven’t explored a foreign country or served in an impoverished land, or maybe haven’t even invested in a passport (me), we can still be missionaries; we can still be adventurers.

When you climb a mountain or step foot onto “superstar missionary” soil, you never really know what the next step has in store. When you go into a new season of life, even in the same place with the same community, you only have a vague idea of what lies ahead. There is no telling exactly what your next day might look like. It takes a great deal of courage to wake up and go into each new day when it is filled with mystery. There are challenges ahead of you, whether you are climbing a mountain, serving refugees, or starting a new job unsure what your next year might look like.

I may be moving around the corner and living in the same place I’ve spent the past four years, but I am definitely nearing uncharted territory. I have to start caring about things like health insurance, credit scores, and 401Ks. I am a real adult now, and I have no idea how to be that. I’m well-versed in being a student, but now I find myself on the other side of the desk, and no matter how well my classes and field experiences prepared me, I know there is more learning and growth ahead of me than I can fathom. I’m diving into a new kind of ministry that the Lord has so clearly called me to, but I have no idea what that looks like.

One reason Tina Fey is where she is today – aside from being brilliant and hilarious – is she tells herself, “Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” Life is a series of yes-es, and adventure comes with the figuring-it-out-afterwards, and that’s where I find myself today.

It often feels like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know where I am, who I’m with, and for whose sake I’m doing it all. I’ve said yes, and now I’m figuring out the rest. That’s my ordinary adventure. What’s yours?

What is home?

My parents officially moved out of our house today. I thought it would be a lot harder for me to handle than it was, but maybe that’s just because it’s been so drawn out that I’m numb to it or something. I don’t know, but it was still an off day for me today.

But something awesome happened. But it was the love-the-little-things kind of awesome that happens every day. So I was planning for the bible study that I started to lead this summer and to prepare, I was skimming through all my old journals, one of which I used for the creative writing class I took Senior year of high school – we were given a prompt at the beginning of every class and we had a five minute free writing period to follow that prompt or write what was on our hearts. After I finished planning the bible study, I decided to read through all of my essays and one of them was just what I needed to read.

What is home? Home is a warm fire burning deep in your heart. Home is freshly baked chocolate chip cookies made just for you. Home is a shelter from the coming storm. Home is a handmade handkerchief on a weepy day. Home is the perfect hiding spot in a world-wide game of hide-and-seek. Home is where you laugh the most. Home is a big bear hug when you really need one. Home is freshly brewed chili with cinnamon rolls when it’s cold. Home is an ice cream sundae with whipped cream when it’s hot. Home is your favorite sappy movie on a rainy fall afternoon. Home is a picnic in the grass at the first sight of spring. Home is cuddling with a dog when you really need a friend. Home is a friendly smile when all you wear is a frown. Home is staying up late together watching Youtube for hours. Home is a candid photo capturing every personality. Home is more than a house. Home is love.

Thanks, 17 year-old Maggie.

Spontaneity

Let me tell you about my day on Sunday, July 28, 2013. Because it’s an unexpectedly special one. And that’s the best kind of special day.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early, had a cup of coffee, and drove to church with my dear friend, Justina. It was just an average Sunday morning. As excellent as the sermon was, nothing outstanding really happened at church. Just the usual amount of fellowship, worship, and free coffee. After church, we went “home”, half-argued with the other YL leaders about when, where, and how to have Campaigners that afternoon, and cleaned the house for an impending surprise party. After cleaning, we came to the conclusion that instead of Campaigners, we would head to our church’s baptism service to witness one of our soon-to-be-Senior Campaigner kids get baptized. Boy, am I a sucker for baptisms. I’ll take any excuse to cry happy tears.

So we got to the church and I popped a squat next to one of my high school friends. Before the service started, she asked me when I got baptized, probably out of curiosity. I’d imagine she was thinking about getting baptized herself and wanted to know my experience. If that’s the truth, I’m sure she was momentarily disappointed, as I had never been baptized as an adult. She then responded saying that she hadn’t been either, but wanted to soon. I had been thinking about getting baptized for a while (and by “a while” I mean “a ridiculously long time”), so I suggested that we both get baptized the next time they have a service. She cheerfully agreed, then we stood up for worship, tucking that thought in the back of our minds.

Three people had been baptized, which was half of the people who had planned on it, when one of the pastors gave an intriguing offer. He pointed out that they had more towels than they needed and extra time, so anyone who would like could come up and be baptized. Maddi, the high school girl next to me, immediately turned to me, grabbed my arm, and said “Let’s do it.” I thought my brain was going to explode. I simultaneously wanted nothing more than to run up there and cannonball into the baptismal to come out a new woman and wanted to hide in a corner and incessantly plan where, when, how, and with whom I really should get baptized – which would inevitably lead to me chickening out when it actually came time to apply. In a milisecond, I went back and forth about taking up the offer about twelve times. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit won the tug-of-war in my heart against my sinful, type-A, overly-prepared personality, and I was baptized.

I have spent my whole life trying to clean myself up. Prior to understanding the weight of what Jesus did for me, I tried my hardest to let my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds to earn my way into heaven. Even after I realized how wrong that notion was, I made sure I appeared to be the perfect Christian to the outside world. I put off getting baptized for four years because I subconsciously felt like I wasn’t a good enough Christian to do so yet. But in that spontaneous moment, I realized my brokenness. I realized how messy my life was. I realized that Jesus died because of that and what I was about to do was a symbol of accepting that I am made clean by what Jesus did and how much He loves me.

One of the other women who was baptized saw me after the service and we talked for a while. When I told her how I felt before going up to the stage, she said to me, “If you wait until you’re 100% ready, you’ll never end up doing it.” Spontaneity is amazing for that reason. When I take the opportunity to quickly say “Yes,” I don’t have time to over-think; I don’t have time to over-prepare; I just have time to enjoy life and bask in the wholeness God offers me.

Spontaneity is my new favorite thing, especially in the face of our great Savior.

What I love about stories

There’s a phenomenon when you read a book in public that I think most nerds can relate to. All good books have a way of dragging you into their world and making you a part of it. Because of that, you feel the things the characters feel. You go through everything they go through and more. There comes a moment in the story when things get too intense; things get too big. You just have to put the book down to fully process the emotional turmoil you’ve just gone through. When you’re in public in that moment, you suddenly remember that you are not actually a part of that world in the story – you are, in fact, in a world kindly going about its day as if that emotional turmoil didn’t happen at all. You see cars driving by with the windows rolled down and their passengers without a care in the world. You see children laughing and playing. You see the faces of those around you and notice that nobody shares your thought of What in the hell just happened?! You realize that nobody can answer your question because nothing did happen. The events are fictional. But, by George, the feelings are real. You take with you the things you learned while immersed in that story. Reading books, watching movies, and just experiencing stories allow you to live a life you never could while learning more than simply going through life would make possible. You can live your own life more fully, imaginatively, and wisely by living the lives of the characters in books and stories. I’ll just leave you with the words of George R.R. Martin:

My Life as a 1,000 Piece Puzzle

My life has been through quite a lot of uncertainty in the last four months. In fact, when I did the math in order to be accurate on that fact, it’s incredibly difficult to believe it’s only been four months. It all started with a little idea at leadership one uneventful Monday night in January. None of us leaders had planned for what would happen during the summer – it was January, we just wanted to survive the harsh winter at that point – but one of our committee members encouraged us to do so. She said that we should think about living in the area for the summer so we could be close to the school where we do ministry and we could continue to build relationships with kids when the kids (and we, the leaders, too) would be bored. When she mentioned it, something sparked in me, and I thought, Well, that’d be a cool thing to do… but I’m not really one for change, so I tucked that away way in the back of my mind.

Until about a month later when my parents called me with some bittersweet news. See, my dad had been looking for a new job for a while because he’d about had enough where he was. Understandable. So my parents called me – which was strange because usually we just text – and gleefully exclaimed that my dad had found a new job. In the middle of my celebration, they added one tiny detail. That the new job was in Delaware. And not the town about a 1.5-hour drive from where I was. The state. That’s a 9-hour drive from where I currently was. And my dad would be moving out there a month later. So I had some life rearranging to get done. My life was beginning to look like the beginning of a 1,000 piece puzzle of blue sky – a giant pile of pieces and almost no plan of action.

But that thought that I neatly tucked away in the back of my mind started to creep back. Did I really want to move all the way out to Delaware only to live there for three months of the year or did I want to take a leap and start really living more independently? Maybe I should take that opportunity and live in Northwest Ohio so I can keep up with the relationships I was building in Young Life. Maybe I should get a job around here so I could pay for my house next year.

I found the four corners, but now I was still left with a pile of pieces and less direction than I had before. Where would I live? Where could I work? The farther I went into the semester, the less I seemed to know about my summer. I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t have a job, I had no plan except that I was going to be here. By the middle of April, I had made zero progress on my puzzle. With only two weeks left until summer, my life really needed to fall together or it would spiral downward. But I gotta tell ya, God provides.

Right when the summer subleases were all taken and I was left unsure of what to do, I was asked to babysit for one of our committee families who happened to have an extra room. I sat watching an episode of Lab Rats or ANT Farm or some other cheesy Disney Channel show when I thought What about here? Take a chance. Ask if you could stay here. It’s just for a few months. You won’t be that much of a burden… So I did just that. I took a chance, and they graciously let me occupy the empty bed.

I was finding matches here and there and making small progress on my life puzzle. But after applying for Lord only knows how many jobs and hearing back from only a few – most being rejections – it still wasn’t looking great. On my last day living on campus right after I had taken my first trip out to my new temporary home, I got a call from a campus number. I debated answering it because I didn’t want to have to deal with the bursar or something, but I decided to answer, and I got a job out of it. I was offered a job as event staff at our athletic facility, which I think will be a lot of fun.

And just like that, it all came together. My puzzle is at the point that I just had to search the floor and double check the box for little, unimportant pieces before it can totally be finished and be a masterpiece. Matthew 6:25-34 has always been a bit of a struggle for me to really live.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I am a planner and a worrier. Every once in a while, I’m a major type-A personality and therefore have a lot of trouble really trusting the Lord with my life. But God provides and it all comes together. Maybe you’re at a place in your life when you feel like you’re staring at a pile of pieces, but they’ll fit together. You won’t see how just yet, but the Holy Spirit will guide you and it will come together. It might take longer than you’d like, but it is beautiful when it all falls in line. It’s a masterpiece.

It’s a small (but seriously awesome) world

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything in a while, but a lot of weird stuff has been happening in my life lately. One of those things is that I got rear-ended on the way home from Young Life Club. The trunk of my car is smashed in and the taillights are both busted. Everyone’s OK, but I can’t say the same about my car. But you know what? It lead to something really awesome.

I’ve been really annoyed with how unnecessary dealing with the insurance has been. I set up a meeting to have an estimate done by an insurance adjuster and I was a little upset that I had to be awake at 7:30 in the morning. I haven’t woken up before the sunrise in two years. So I waited for the insurance guy to come and we looked at my car. While he was waiting for a price on some part of my car or something (I have no idea what was going on) he asked me about the Young Life sticker on my car, saying he knew it was something of a Christian organization. So I explained kind of what I do as a leader, and he asked me where I went to church up at school. He told me he knew someone who goes to my church and it turns out it’s my friends fiance. I love how small the world is. But wait, it gets better. He asked me more about Young Life and we ended up sharing our testimonies. My insurance claim took an hour and a half, but we were talking about Jesus, so I didn’t mind. He gave me some tips on ministry and it was all really encouraging.

As someone who generally sees the bright side in every situation, I had a lot of trouble finding it in this one. But I think I just did.

A Single Girl’s Valentine’s Day

Who needs just one Valentine? The ladies of Wood County Young Life have the greatest fellowship of men a girl could ask for. The fellas nonchalantly invited everyone over for pizza and movies. When we arrived, they asked us ladies to stay in the living room. An awkward start to an evening fostering friendship, but we obliged. We were sitting and chatting when they came into the living room, one holding a pile of papers and another holding a bouquet of yellow roses. I can’t speak for the other ladies, but I was worried about what was happening next. I’m not sure why. I can’t think of a time in my life when someone holding a bouquet of roses ended badly, but who’s to say? So they came out and told us that the “pizza and movies” was a front for them to give us some valentines and cook us dinner. We each got an inspiring card and a rose and proceeded to eat a lovely spaghetti dinner. I have to say, it was the best Valentine’s Day I think anyone has ever spent while single.

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On A Whim

coloredpantsYesterday, my roommates (and a visitor) had some fun.

Vicki has a friend, her name is Lindsey, and she’s just like Vicki. One of the first things they did when she came to visit was argue about what color Lindsey’s pants were. It got heated. Upon deciding that they were purple, they decided to dye a chunk of their hair purple. They did so and wanted to take pictures by the railroad tracks (because what else are you going to do with purple hair and purple pants?) This is the result of our fantastical whimsy.

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