2015 in review

2015 wrap up is so exciting. Although I am not a mommy blogger, I’m not even a mommy.. and I’m not insta-famous my blog has been viewed in 57 countries and that is progress! Thank you readers for giving me so much life.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

More Grace, We Ask for More Grace

“Adele has the kind of music that makes you miss that person you made eye contact with on the subway 7 years ago.”

Someone posted this meme this week when her new album 25 dropped. She has incredible ability to put into words how so many people feel when they deal with loss.

This fall has been one of mourning, and thanking; loving new things, old things, people, places and everything in between for all they are worth. Some people say goodbye by starting to pull away before they’ve left. Some people ignore the goodbye and pretend its not there. Some people cry, and some people hide.

When I was leaving Lebanon this last summer I tried to make the very most of all it had to offer. There were friendships I made at the very end that are closer to my heart now than friendships I had all year that died with the wave goodbye.

The first 30 days home were not numb, but they were certainly not embracing each moment for all it was worth. The first month home was “what now?” despite knowing what was next. I didn’t know how to feel, how to fit back in again. This last 30 days have been some of the most concentrated growth I’ve had since trusting Christ 6 years ago. I wish I had the energy to spill my guts and tell you the whole story but honestly, I’m exhausted. This last month has allowed me to see the the brokenness of our inability to act upon anything but the past. A few years ago a friend told me in midst of relational struggle, “We ask for more grace. Grace upon grace.” That has been something I’ve clung to many times since but tonight it is even more real as I repent in mourning over my inability to see past the feelings of the moment. Who can blame me, I can’t act upon an experience of the future, I’m not there yet.

This last 30 days have shown me more about loving and losing than I imagined possible. Like the changing seasons, things will always come and go. I crave the day I wake up in heaven and everyone is fully loved, fully known and there are no goodbyes.  I look forward to the environment where eI’m not stiff armed, held back from or let go but embraced in pure intimacy. I’m so worn out from trying to read between the lines and attempting to convey what I want people to know without having to say it. Life is not a film where everyone knows how everyone feels, because none of us are watching life go by, separated from the tensions.

I wish I could pour love out without having to take time to be filled. I wish I could give more than I have. I so often forget that my value comes from whose image I was created in. I forget that I’m not inexhaustible; I’m mortal, and finite. I so easily become depleted of what I have been given, and without filling from the one who never ends, I will never be able to continue.

Tomorrow when I wake up I have to actively choose to see whats around me as a gift. As a grace from the God of heaven who gave His son in my place. Tomorrow I wake up and say yes to the Lord so I can continue to give from His overflow, instead of my own futile efforts. I will not be satisfied in anything else. Papa, help me to chose you. Papa, help us to see we cannot run to each other. Help us to embrace one another without idolizing the idea of heaven before we are there.

Jesus help us to feel deeply when we want to shut off the pain from being shut out, from being disappointed and unsatisfied. Help us Lord Jesus to ask for more grace.

 

I’m in love.

When I moved the summer of 2013 into the basement of a lake house near Northwestern the semester before I graduated, i stole something; sort of.

 

The girl who lived there before me left a gigantic collage on the wall in the bathroom of images and quotes. One particular piece caught my eye.  It was written on a torn-out page of a novel:

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“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” I tore it off the wall and saved it. Its been hanging in my room ever since. When I would read it, i prayed that the Lord would start softening the hearts of the people in the city that I would end up living in overseas. Little did I realize how true that quote would become to me in the coming years.


I’ve now been home for almost 4 months. Beirut you have an unbelievably deep place in my heart.  I miss it as much as I did when the tears rolled down my cheeks staring out the window of the airplane while the sun rose over the dimly lit city. Leaving Lebanon with no definite return date was heart breaking for a long three weeks before departure, but even more real as we got higher and farther from the city. I had just spent an incalculable amount of myself building a life the previous ten months so far from anything I’ve ever known because the Lord worked in my heart through countless prayers for years prior.

When I got back to America, my neighbor asked how it had been and after telling him he said that he could tell how much I loved it. That my joy showed through my smile and that it was evident it was where I was meant to be. He said he was so glad I found a place where I could feel that.

A few weeks ago I met with a pastor at my church who said, “I just don’t get why you love it so much. Its so clear how passionate you are.” It was encouraging to me that my love for the Middle East and what had happened in the last year was so evident to people around me. What an incredible answered prayer to be given the opportunity to not just tell others but show them how God works in our hearts. 4 and a half years ago I had no desire to go anywhere outside of America but one little girl changed everything for me.

Tonight as I read the quote hanging on my wall, tears roll down my cheeks again, baffled at how much has happened in a year. I think I finally understand what Paul means when he wrote:

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. Rom 1:11-13

I feel this tension of being so far from where I want to be, yet obedient to God’s call to stay right where he has me. I am excited and expectant to where God will lead me in this journey, how he will use me and I try to pray this same quote to effect me in Huntington for the next year and a half like it did in Lebanon.

Dependence, “I Need Thee Every Hour”

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This last month has been one filled with trials and temptations. I have experienced lows in new ways that I have not in the last 25 years of my life.

Over a year ago, during our church’s prayer week my pastor shared about how he set an alarm on his phone for every hour to play “oh how I need thee, Every hour I need thee” you know the song? I was so encouraged that I have not forgotten that Sunday. This last month more than ever have I felt the need to be dependent on God every hour. When you are in the season of developing a ministry team and raising support, you are smiling ear to ear one hour with excitement and crying the next. I’m pretty sure last week there was a day when I experienced all 18 emotions on my feelings chart. Its a testing, trying and rewarding season of depending on the Lord for grace, for love, for boldness, and learning to live each moment for its most.

We are not promised tomorrow, but how much of how we live is based on the next event, party, weekend, job, semester, paycheck, etc.? I struggle with longing for the next season, especially now when I am working toward being on campus full time in the Spring. I am so, so, so excited to be at Marshall University but I’m not promised life until February. What if this week was all I had? I want to make sure I am living this moment to the full. I cannot wait to see how God meets me in new ways each day that I wake up with breath in my lungs and a heart that continues to beat.

This morning I woke up ready to see people, call people and enjoy the moments in front of me which is a miracle after going through a month of struggling to get out of bed, having little motivation to do much of anything, let alone my job. I woke up today ready to eat well, get exercise, spend time with Jesus, do my arabic homework and cast my vision so that people will invest deeper into this ever expanding kingdom.

Early this week I asked the Lord to bring me to a new place of trusting him and instead of a trial this week, like I expected to face, I’ve had new joy, new hope and an excitement that can only be from him. He is so good to us. Do not forget to thank him for sustaining us each moment. We really are hanging off a cliff, but we act like we are walking through corn fields in the middle of Iowa instructing those around us to bend as we ask them. The lord brings us to a place where he shows us that we need him, and oh what a place that is.

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I’m Never Growing up

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My roommate has a friend back home who is taking 6 months off from regular life to hike the Appalachian Trail, his girlfriend however is not to trilled about this cell-service free adventure in which she won’t be able to communicate with her love.

Sometimes I get lost in what I think is the valley of sanctification but sanctification is never a valley. Sanctification is not the points of this guys adventure where he doesn’t have cell service, sunlight and ability to see up ahead and far behind. Sanctification is definitely part of those, but sanctification is also during the sunlight, during the adventure where you can see ahead, and where you can see how far you’ve come over the treetops.

Sanctification is a constant process, it comes and goes at different rates, speeds, weights and emotion. Sanctification is constant but never in the same degree or amount.

There was a night a couple of months ago that I posted on Facebook about never wanting to grow up. That night, I had this overwhelming sense of wanting to escape the weight of understanding how life works. The older I get, the more foolish I realize so many of my previous decisions have been, how fickle my heart is, and how heavy the seriousness of hurt is in this world. I see how painful death and war are, how much anxiety comes with not being able to provide for a family, or even yourself. I continually feel like I’m on this learning process that I can’t ever get right. As soon as I see progress, I see failure somewhere else.

This growing up is never an achieved state, I’ve been convinced. Growing up is most often associated with a dream job. Growing up can also be thought of as desired freedoms, marriage and with having ownership of new things, but when do you ever reach it? This… “grown up” age is only when you have someone who looks to you as it? My little sister is 10 years younger than I am… she has thought of me as grown up since she was in kindergarden; I was only 15. When you hit 18? 18 in America is classified as an adult but 18 in Lebanon is when you start practicing driving and can get a job.. I’d hardly call that grown up. How about when you’re married? I have friends who are married who still spend every weekend being babied by their parents. When you have kids? Maybe… but I’m not sure it makes a difference, some of my mommy friends call their moms in panick because their infant won’t stop screaming.. they still don’t know what to do in difficult situations. So is being grown up able to handle yourself ok? The people who say they “can handle their own” are the people everyone else snicker at behind their backs while rolling their eyes. Are grown ups those who don’t need advice? So… having the highest known knowledge about a given subject, without anyone older or wiser to look to? Is that what people would have said about Jonathan Edwards when he preached in churches as a teenager? The list could go on..

Teenagers, college students and adults have been caught with the Neverland fever of saying “I don’t want to grow up.” The model that the movie Peter Pan leaves people with initially is this desire for childlike carelessness despite the ending that gives a question of whether or not curious imagination is trapped in the minds of children.

I think we are all aware that imagination comes in new forms for adults, whether that be in the form of writing novels, state-of-the-art architecture, advancement of Nike textiles, or new teaching methods but is our desire for freedom and greater responsibility really what we want? What we are looking for when we “grow up”? When we are caught thinking: “when I grow up…” are we merely buying time to acquire the things we desire?

When I say ‘I swear I’ll never grow up’ I certainly don’t mean the rejection of those desired things or progress and moving into new seasons of life. I want to get married and have a family of my own someday, just as much as the next girl. I’m not trying to shy away from accepting my past mistakes, or this growth into a state of imagination block most adults claim only kids escape.

I recognize that we all want more time, another chance, and plenty of do-overs despite the so-called “holy” answer “I don’t regret anything, because everything that’s happened to me, or I’ve chosen makes me who I am today.” I’m not talking about this crave for more creativity or chances to start anything over, and I’m certainly not talking about a gain for wisdom but precisely attempting to run from it. I am talking about a need for shifted perspective, which comes from wisdom, not the lack of it. I wish I could convince myself of that.

When I was in my first two years of college I looked at those who were on staff with the campus ministry I was apart of as having reached this level of holiness. It seemed like no matter what sins they confessed publicly, they still had it all wrapped in a nice box that made it seem like it was hardly a dent in their pride to admit how selfish, foolish, angry, or jealous they were last week, yesterday or even this morning.

To me, it seemed like they always had their sin managed in lunch tupperware with everything in its own separate clean section. I wished so badly I could talk about my sin without being embarrassed, feeling guilty and even more than that, I wished I could share it in a way that made me feel as good as they looked.

How foolish am I to believe any of those things? Sin should never be taken lightly and should never be wrapped in a pretty box. I can’t speak to how any of those women felt in sharing about their sin but now that I’m in a place where I spend time counseling women in college I’ve found how silly it was that I thought those things about the women I held up so highly. I’m no holier than I was 5 & 6 years ago when I so badly wished I could look like those women sounded. My sin is just as much in my face now as it was then but the one thing I do have is a greater understanding of the grace in which we have through Jesus Christ.

God becoming man, walking on this earth perfectly and then dying in my place 2000 years ago is an absolutely unreal grace. Despite what the women felt, I’m sure their intent in sharing their brokenness was to insure that I saw Jesus as more beautiful. Their desire is for me to take my guilt, shame, embarrassment and brokenness to the cross in order to make me whole again, righteous and free from the slavery to opinions other than God Himself. This sanctification never stops, and neither does the acquirement of knowledge unless unless you lock yourself in a white walled room for the rest of your existence and even then I’m not so sure.

The process of God making you more like Jesus is painful, messy and hard but it is full of joy knowing you are being made like the greatest love of our lives.

This process is life long journey and adventure that allows you to keep going through the dark times, through pain and through moments of utter despair. When we don’t understand we can still look to the God of life to carry us through. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us and to be with us all of our days.

Sometimes I still get caught with this desire to run away from the life I’m living, the pain I’m feeling or the darkness I see all around me but I know that with the knowledge of hurt, pain and suffering all around the world, I also can grow in understanding the majesty of the King of Kings. He is always our comforter, our provision, and our sustenance. Today, as I continue to grow up, I chose Jesus. I chose to move toward the author of life as the world swirls around me, I chose to ask the God of the universe to give me grace in time of need and to continue to reveal Himself to me. I’m never growing up, but I am growing in understanding of the God who IS good, IS near and is always able despite my understanding, fear and doubt.

Healing at Home

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I’ve been home for 2 months now and have days that are up and down. My most standard response to “are you glad to be home?” is most certainly, “I’m learning to take one day at a time” while smiling softly and nodding my head.

I’ve heard countless times from my step dad the bible verse in Matthew that says “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.” I’ve been told not to get ahead of myself being a dreamer of the future, an easily excitable event planner and one who almost always has a 10-year plan. That 10-year plan was to be in the Middle East. I thought that I loved it there after an 8 week visit in 2011 but little did I know how much my heart could grow for such a place in as little as 10 more months this last school year.

In my future being changed, I have learned more than ever to hold my hands open to the Lord’s ways of sanctification and change. I’ve never had a more unclear future. I do have the next 2 years or so mapped out for me, but still so much is unknown and there is a lot to learn and grow from.

When I lived in Lebanon I didn’t realize how the unwritten cultural standard for marriage being so much greater, both in financial stability, age, wisdom, and provision was as big of a difference from my private Christian school culture of young marriages, that is, until I arrived back home. I had forgotten what it was like to be around married couples my age. In Lebanon I spent a year with singles who didn’t talk about marriage like it was anything to be grasped in the near future. It was like being in High school again, marriage wasn’t even a question until “after college”. When I arrived home and came back to small group, a group that 3 years ago was all singles, and when I left, was 80% singles had turned into mostly marrieds, engaged couples and serious dating couples. Where had my free friends gone?

It has made me feel so much more lonely than I expected to feel in the community I had loved and missed so much while abroad. It was tempting to pull away while wallowing in this difference; a group that I no longer felt apart of in the same way. I have to fight the urge to believe the lie that this is not God’s best for me.

I’m learning this summer that its okay to need people, its okay to be an extreme extrovert and be energized by being around others. Its okay to not want to be alone and for the need to schedule time around people or go to coffee shops, target or the library just to avoid being alone. I fall into thinking that God should be enough. King David cried out in the Psalms, “whom have I in heaven but you God?” I have clung to that verse in despair, convincing myself that I don’t need anyone else, that God alone should be enough. God created Adam out of an overflow of Love and Adam lived in a garden of perfection, without sin and without pain of longing. God said it was not good for him to be alone. Its okay to need people.

I stopped watching TV regularly when I was a sophomore in high school because my schedule and homework was too much to be consistent for one show. Ever since then, I wasn’t really a TV watcher but I started watching a show online in Lebanon that was really addicting. I downloaded the second and third seasons alongside the first season of a sister show for my time back here in America. When I came home I started filling my nights with these shows. I realized this week that I had been believing the lie that I could be alone for countless hours and still be “energized”. I tried to convince myself that I was becoming more introverted because “introverts don’t need people” and thats what I thought I wanted. I wanted not to need people, that I could be self sufficient. I wanted to believe that I didn’t have to hurt anymore from missing certain people. If I don’t need people, then I don’t have to get close enough to miss anyone. The emotional draw to the characters in this show, watching their stories unfold gave me a false sense of being with people. I was investing energy and emotions into this plot that isn’t real. Sure, I processed some things about the way people think, the way they hurt, how they deal with conflict and see the world but the nights I didn’t immediately pass out from exhaustion after turning it off, I would lay awake and feel completely empty.

TV can give you a very false sense of love, acceptance, and belonging. I’m finding myself stuck in a rut of trying to be satisfied in fiction. Reading can do the same thing, you can invest yourself in a story, feel alongside the main character and get wrapped into a fake world that distracts you from the hurt, and pain of real life.

You E/i N/S T’s out there are reading this shaking your heads at my ability to be emotionally attached to something so illogical but being a feeler is not a weakness. Being able to empathize and sympathize in ways that thinkers typically don’t is a gift despite my best efforts to wish away my feelings when I want them to disappear. I am not ashamed of my ability to feel, but I do wish things were a little more black and white. I wish I could find the best possible solution to the problems at hand and step by step work towards a solution but my brain and heart do not always work that way. I am becoming something greater, a vessel of God’s love in ways that need to be controlled. I struggle with controlling the things around me and one way I am learning to channel that desire is over my mind and over my feelings. Sometimes it is sheer chaos inside me but God is faithful and I am learning that I need him every hour. He is teaching me to take one baby step at a time.

**introverts do need people, please do not mistake the monologue of my faulty thought process for misinformation.

for more information on personality profiling here is a page on feeling vs thinking. Here is a page on Introverts vs extroverts.