December 31, 2013

Waiting & Staying

A couple of months ago, I read a devotion about the seasons of life - periods of life where you are in the throws of either sowing, growing or harvesting. This devotion came at the same time my husband and I were praying for discernment as to where God was calling us to serve; where to live, where to work, where to make a home. He will be marking his fifth year workiversary in May and I will have been at my job for two years. Everything seemed to make sense to us that if there was anytime to see where God wanted to plant us next, this would be the time.

For the last couple of months, I got caught up in the quick, fast-paced movement of life. Somehow, I developed a "quit if you're not happy because, why not?" attitude on life, partially fueled by many famous authors and subsequent articles/journals/blog posts about quitting if you're not happy, or quitting if you don't feel God working through you at your job/vocation/station in life. I started interpreting periods of silence and idleness as signs of "you've done all you can here, you need to move on" and "time to get movin'! time to travel! time to see the world!", instead of thinking that maybe - just maybe - this was my period/our period of planting and sowing right where we were.

I mean, why not right? My generation is taught to grab life by the horns, have jobs you are only 110% passionate about every waking moment of your life, quit one job to get a bigger/better/higher paying job, "stop waiting for yo' man and start getting out there and finding one" (and conversely "true love waits but God is taking too long so..."), bigger/better/faster/stronger. Our generation is consumed with making sure our our hashtaginstavinechattweet (see what I did there) is refreshed to! the! second! so that we know what everyone else is doing so we can let everyone else know what we're doing too.

Everything's got to be now. Right now.

But it was just Advent season, and for the first time in a long time I realized that the Advent season is all. about. waiting - anticipating patiently! - for what (or rather, Whom) is to come. Coincidence? I think not.

Prior to the birth of Christ, historians place a 400+ year time span between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. 400 years! Of waiting! (I can barely wait 400 seconds for something I want, imagine 400 years!) For four. hundred. years, generations upon generations actively and faitfully chose to believe God, believe His promises, and believe His will for their lives, even though He appeared "silent".

When I began having these stirrings in my heart, I started to pray. I prayed for everything - for our future, for our jobs, for our friendships, for our marriage, and for God to make clear to us what/where He was calling us to do. With "Oceans" pumping through my veins, I poured my heart out in my journal, with specific prayers in all areas, seeking after His heart and His voice to lead us - to a place I thought was not Savannah.

"Yes Lord! Lead me where my trust in You is without borders! But lead me somewhere fun...and Nashville! Or Charleston! Or overseas!" My prayers were all over the place, and quite frankly, very selfish. Why Nashville? Why Charleston? Why overseas? Friends, of course! Cool coffee shops, the stories of great community there, the possibilities of new exciting things to do, why not?, the "grass is always greener" syndrome.

Then came a whisper, a stirring, a realization...what if, instead of away, God was calling us to stay? Back to the start of it all. Back to Savannah. Back to my current job. Back to our church. Back to our little house we have made our home. What if God was calling us to stay right where we were?

At church, sermons were about waiting. In Sunday School, lessons were about waiting. In my small group, we read about Esther and her years of waiting. Suddenly, my eyes were illuminated to my prayers written months ago in my prayer journal and I started seeing God at work the whole time I thought He was silent. Prayers were getting answered. So much so, that I had to start writing down how/when/what prayers were getting answers in the margins.

Now it's the end of 2013 and I looked back to where I was almost year ago, and I am made painfully aware how willing and determined I was to accept this past year of waiting - and in a strange but glorious way - welcomed a year of waiting:
"...if there's anything I'm learning about my God, it's that He is good. All the time. No matter what. And if things aren't 'good', who am I to say otherwise? God is God, He does what He wants, when He wants, how He the most loving, we-wont-understand-because-He's-God-and-we're-not kind of way. I find comfort in knowing that at the end of the day, the world does not revolve around my ability to cross things off my own list of to-dos for life (or the fact that a list of to-do's exists, for that matter). I am loved by a God who beckons me daily to seek after Him, to seek after what He loves, who He loves. Yes, this is good news, good news indeed."
(Post written January 7th, 2013)
What He wants. When He wants. How He wants.
Heard you loud and clear now, God.

Thank you for giving me a year of waiting.

May 20, 2013

The Extraordinary Life Of A Nobody

(I've been mulling over this idea that we're all nobodies - we are all people who don't really mean anything to anyone - until we realize we are made a "somebody" when we acknowledge that Someone put us on this earth to do much more than we could ever imagine...)

It all started when I read this book in one afternoon at the beach. There's something about the stories my friend Bob writes about in his book (I can call him friend - I texted him once and he replied #truestory) that are both absolutely insane and insanely beautiful at the same time. The whole time I read his book my brain was exploding - "who is this guy?!"/"people have lives like that?!?!"/"he's not a fictional character?!?!?!"/"is this real life?!?!?!?!"

Then I was reading along with my community of women a couple of days ago (and men too, I guess, if they're into the truths I've been rediscovering daily through their devotionals) and read about this awesome man named Shallun who lived a long time ago during the 'boring parts of the Old Testament' that was a nobody-turned-somebody when his commitment to the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem put him in a bigger story with Jesus of the New Testament when he didn't even know it. (Spark notes: Nehemiah writes of Shallun repairing the wall of the Pool of Siloam, which is the same place Jesus sends a blind man to wash off mud from his eyes to receive sight in John 9 #thatjusthappened)

And then this thought occurred to me: what if I lived my life like I was a nobody?

It's so easy to be a "somebody" in this day-and-age. We have Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Vine to make us look like we're the biggest 'somebody' anyone could ever meet/have in their life/call bestie. Do we really think we're that important? If we pulled up your Vine videos 20 years from now, would we look back on your short 6-second documentary life and say, "Oh yeah, that's really somebody! Look at all the a-m-a-z-i-n-g things they did with their life in these 6-second clips!"

Would we? Really?

We are so consumed by what people think of us*, because if people don't think good things of us (or worse - if people don't think anything about us), that must mean we're missing something...missing something that makes us special or that we're missing that indescribable 'thing' that we need to make us important in people's lives so that they'll talk about us (in a good way) when we're not with them. We want people to know and feel and believe that we're worth their time, worth their friendship, worth their love, worth their acceptance.

But then there's this thing that I always seem to forget about, and it's kind of a big deal when I start remembering it: there's this story (although after being confronted by Andy Stanley over the word 'story', I don't really mean 'story', more like "there's this historical fact"...) about a God who created every one of us uniquely (uniquely! we have forgotten how awesome this word is...) and a God who loves us so much that He sent his perfect Son to come to our mess and save us from ourselves. Because He thought we were special - back in the garden - and He STILL thinks we're special now (even with our self-absorbed 140 characters and our perfectly-chosen filters of nothing/everything).

If I really think about it, I've already been made a somebody by the only One who is worthy of calling me "somebody". Y'all, I don't know about you but that's reallyreallyreallyreallyREALLY freeing.

The moment I think I'm a somebody, the fear of fitting in or the fear of disappointing sinners will overwhelm me to the point of inaction. When I know that I'm a nobody, the world is literally my oyster (ok not literally, as we all know the Earth is not an oyster...and if this is a new fact for you, you're welcome).  I'll do whatever it takes to show others that I love and care for them, because I'm not bound by the shackles of expectations or my reputation to act on my morals and beliefs. It means that if I see something wrong, I will speak up, even if it makes me unpopular (you can't be a 'somebody' and unpopular at the same time...unless you're the popular unpopular nobody that everyone knows about...). It means that  I might quit my job and say goodbye to my kingdom plan because I have felt and heard God's call to serve Him and His kingdom plan. It means that being a nobody frees me to be the somebody God has called me to be, because I trust in His plan for me, I accept His love for me, and I cling to His thoughts of me.

The world is filled with nobodies. We know about them now because they followed their nobody calling and their nobody calling resulted in an extraordinary thing - but if we had known them then, well, we wouldn't have know about them then. Nobodies like Katie Davis who followed God's call to serve the least of these in Uganda when she was 18 years old and now finds herself the mother to 13 girls. Nobodies like the missionaries I grew up with who serve the people of Northern Thailand, helping them translate the Bible into their native tongue word-for-word. Nobodies like Jim Elliot who did some insane things without fear, whose short life ushered in the amazing power of compassion and forgiveness for a tribe of people and has since impacted Christians to be fearless with their faith. My church is filled with nobodies too. The nobodies who show up to drop off filled backpacks for kids who need school supplies. The nobodies who sew pillowcase dresses to send to foreign countries. The nobodies who serve our church community by reading to elementary school students and helping them with school work.

I hope you're not offended that I've chosen to call these amazing people nobodies. What I'm really trying to say is what Miss Davis said so eloquently when she she said this: "People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people."

Somebodies don't say stuff like that. Somebodies say stuff like this: "It’s what I came here to do. I’m now a legend. I’m also the greatest athlete to live."- Usain Bolt. And stuff like this: ""My best and worst 'Idol' moments? I don't have a worst 'Idol' moment. I've been spectacular. Yes, I am going to toot my own horn. And then my best moment is every single moment. I'll toot it again." - Nicki Minaj. Or stuff like this: "I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me... but I can't help it that I'm so popular." - Gretchen Weiners (ok so she's a fictional character, but I have definitely heard people say this in real life, so I think you get my point).

(Did any of this make any sense? Probably not.) All I have to say is this: The world is filled with too many somebodies. We don't need any more somebodies. We need more nobodies. Nobodies who are fearless and unencumbered by what others think of them or what others know of them. That's when crazy, insane, spectacular things start happening.

I want crazy, insane, and spectacular, don't you?

*I hope you know that whenever I say  "we" and "us" I really mean "I" and "me". Because, let's be honest, I am very guilty of everything I expressed in this post.

March 25, 2013

Spoiler Alert

He lives. Jesus wins. He conquers death.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and for the first time in a long time, I was confronted with the truth about the Gospel and how great this Good News actually is. How triumphant his entry, riding on a donkey with palm branches and tunics lining his path. Crowds shouting "Hosanna!", praising him for who he was and what they heard and saw him do. I can only imagine the crowds that gathered - the who's who of Jerusalem mixed with lepers, beggars, and the healed following the One who breathed in new life in their dead and dying bodies.

But then things changed, and soon Jesus was a man people hated and wanted dead. How did people forget? How did the masses un-see the miracles He performed just days before? How could they not remember what He had already done for them?

It's like that time I watched "The Avengers" for the second time today. I have seen The Avengers once before - in the theater, when it was just released; I know how it ends. I stayed past the credits (twice!) to watch the hidden easter egg at the end (the very end). But, when I was watching it a second time earlier this evening, I was f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g out when Loki descended upon earth with his alien friends (disclaimer to all Marvel comic-enthusiasts out there: I am not one of you so I might get beloved alien names/races or plot lines or Avenger names wrong, so...lo siento). I watched as Loki opened that portal thing on top of Stark towers and watched in horror as (what looks like) the worst swarm of biting gnats to ever descend on the earth started flooding the skies of New York City. And then all the Avengers are trying to fight Loki and these alien dudes and the whole time I'm thinking to myself "where is the Hulk" and then I'm clutching the couch pillow tighter and then I'm shouting "WATCH OUT!" to that archer dude on the top of the building (told you I'm not good at names)...

...and then I realized two things: 1. They get shawarma at the end, and they're definitely all there, and all still alive, and 2. Iron Man 3 is supposed to be released later this summer, which means he's also not dead and most definitely alive. So...all the freaking out I did earlier? Unwarranted.

Do you know what else is unwarranted? Freaking out when life hands you lemons because you forget that Jesus rose from the dead already. Y'all - rose. from. the. dead. Think that's not that big of a deal? Let's take a moment to think about the people you know personally who have died but then came back to life...

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Sometimes there are periods of time in my life where things start going down the crapper, and I start freaking out and start thinking and believing that I am my only saving hope. That only I can do what needs to be done to get me out of the mess I got myself into. It is in those times that I have forgotten that Jesus came, He lived/breathed/walked/talked/slept/ate/loved like I do...but with perfection. And not only did He come and live/breathe/walk/talk/sleep/eat/love, but He also died. For me, wayyyyyyy before I was even a thought in the history books. Because He loves me. And thought of me. And knew my sinfulness. And still chose to save me, by dying on a cross. To forgive me. For my sins...past, present, and future.

v i c t o r i o u s l y 
from the grave.

Christ rose from the dead, trampling over death by death. To give us life. To give us mercy. To give us hope.

When I think about Holy Week - Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday - this is what I think about. I think about how I already KNOW the ending to this beautiful, Good News story, and how I easily forget it all the time. When we celebrate the risen Christ on Sunday, I will be reminded that I know how this story ends, and I know where I am in that story. So the next time life attempts to throw me down the deepest, darkest sinkhole, I will know how the story ends and I will know that I have already been redeemed. And out of my lips I shall adorn Him with praise.

Hosanna in the highest to the One who came to die for us so that we could be saved!

February 20, 2013

Love...and stuff.

It was nice to love on my man this year, now that we're finally in the same place and getting to "celebrate" every day of being together since we've gotten married (ok not every day, but pretty close to it!). We're stayed home and ate delicious barbecue from our favorite local BBQ joint. Mmm, ribs.

But you know, love (and being in love) isn't about loving your main squeeze on one 'super special day' one day of the year. At least, that's not enough for me. This is probably something you've heard already but I think it's worth saying again -- we should try to love people every day. I try to do that...secret: I usually fail at loving people every day, but at least I start every day determined to try!

I read in a commentary somewhere that when Paul wrote about love in 1st Corinthians 13, he described love as it being an action, not an emotion; "love is seen, experienced, and demonstrated". When the oh-so-familiar verses start listing what love is ("Love is patient, love is kind...") there is a sense that 'love' is used in terms of "action, attitude and behavior" (Keith Krell). So, then, it should be assumed that love reveals itself in many beautiful, defying and God-glorifying forms.

On valentines day, love reveals itself as a husband picking up dinner and flowers for his wife.

There are currently 27 million living in slavery Find out more here and here.

On a random Sunday, love reveals itself as a bunch of young people sacrificing time and money for their brothers and sisters around the world. A couple of weeks ago, our 8th graders participated in a Love Walk over the weekend and raised close to $1500 for a local community center...then some returned to church the next day and participated in our "Shine A Light on Slavery" event as our entire youth ministry learned about human trafficking and raised $1,013 (in change - pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters) for the End It Movement to see an end to human trafficking in their lifetime.

Every day, in ordinary (but really not so ordinary) people's lives, love reveals itself as a tireless commitment to someone - through thick and thin - because they know and cling to the fact that they are loved by One who loves them. Ian & Larissa's story tore my heart apart, and challenged me with the question: would I be willing to love my husband this way too? And if I had to care for my husband like Bill cares for his wife Glad, would I have the strength and the joy to do so?

Love is about thinking others more highly than we think of ourselves - through our acts of service. Love is not to be confined between you and the man-candy (or woman-candy) you have in your fleeting life. I am thankful for that reminder this post 'valentines day season', because sometimes the candy hearts and the sweet tarts make love an emotion too easy to get caught up in.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poora nd give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, NIV)

Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13, NLT)


February 6, 2013

An update on the "B" word

There is something about a year ending and another beginning that can sometimes be uncomfortably unpleasant in the money department. There are just too many opportunities for money to do it's magical disappearing trick during the holidays. Between all the traveling to visit family and all the gifts you buy, it can almost undo all the saving and budgeting you've been doing the past 10 months. Thankfully, with some of our money-conscious decisions made early on in our marriage, we were able to survive the holidays without feeling it in the bank.

The last time I discussed the topic of our "B" word (that's budget if you're totally lost) was back in June (here & here), when the hubs and I were young in our marriage and super ecstatic about budgeting and keeping our finances in order. Now that it's February, I thought it might be helpful to look back and what we did and see how far we've come.

First of all, I have to say that I am really glad we had the "money talk" early on in our marriage. That helped prepare us for our shared life together, when things weren't hectic and we had time to set priorities straight. One idea that we stuck to was the earn one, bank one idea. We did that for the months of June - October, from when we were newlyweds and I was unemployed til I got a job and was employed for a couple of months. When we set off to earn one, bank one, we had one goal in mind: to have enough in savings to cover 3-6 months of emergencies, as suggested by money guru Dave Ramsey. I am so glad we decided to do this before I was employed, because let me tell you -- once I got a job, it was really hard putting my paycheck straight into our savings account when I first started. I had to constantly remind myself that this money was money we had discussed to be put away for later, and slowly started realizing that 'saving for later' was a really, really really great idea. Looking back now, there is relief in knowing that if anything were to happen, we have a safety net to fall back on.

We tithe 10%. We still believe we are commanded to do this. We will continue to do this, and hopefully one day, we will increase the percentage in which we tithe, even if we get back on one salary again. Now with two salaries, it brings me great joy knowing that we have the opportunity to give back and are able to do so. Shortly after getting married, I found out that my husband was designating his tithe to a specific line-item in the church budget where he felt he was called to give (I basically fell in love with him all over again when I found out he did that). Now that we're married, I have joined him in supporting that calling, happily giving to our church's emergency fund, which helps individuals in our community cover, well, emergencies! If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, I believe that we need to stand in the gap for them financially and help keep their lights on and their houses warm at night. This idea of portioning your tithe to something specific is not uncommon. My parents tithe to the missions department at their church. People tithe to sponsorship programs that help people in their church go on missions trips. Some tithe to a line-item that helps support church families undergoing the adoption process. Doesn't that give you joy, knowing that your tithe can go specifically towards something that you are passionate about?

The hubs and I continue to be blessed in being debt-free. We do not take this lightly. We are so very thankful that we never had to take student loans for school, nor are we in any credit card debt. Now that the hubs is in grad school, we continue to be blessed to not have to get loans for school. Through our strategic saving and several scholarship opportunities, we are able to pay for his school without the stress of having to pay it off later. Yes, it is a rude wake-up call when chunks of money suddenly 'disappear' when we pay his tuition bill, but I'm glad that we do that comfortably without having to worry about paying it back later. I hope and pray that as bigger things start coming up in our lives, we will continue to watch our steps and do our best to avoid getting into debt (or too much debt, if we have to).

Summer will be here before we know it, so we are starting to tighten things up around here in anticipation for what's coming. Knowing what's coming up helps us plan for what to do right now. We have two weddings that we are planning on attending two weeks apart from each other this summer, and while they seem like lightyears away, we are already talking about saving money for travel expenses and accommodations. Better safe than sorry I always say, or in other words: better saved now and spent later.

So that's what we've been up to in the money department. How about you? What kinds of 'check-ups' do you do to make sure you're on track with your financial spending?

January 22, 2013

I breathe You in

This past weekend the hubs and I got a chance to escape for a quick trip to the family cabin. Little did we know, it would be a refreshing two days where we got to sit and be in the presence of our Creator and our wonderful family. It was also a great reminder that our God is sovereign, and that when we don't understand the world around us, we can choose to put our hope in the One who is and ever shall be.

The presence of the living God
Satisfies the depths of my heart
All of me changed when you came,
I'm made free by Your glory and grace

I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me
You are Good God, for You are good to me

The brightness of Your loves pure light
Pierces through the darkest of nights
Everything is possible now
for God is here and God is good

When I don't understand I'll choose you
When I don't understand I will choose You God
When I don't understand I will choose to Love You God

{I Breathe You In, God - Bryan & Katie Torwalt}

January 7, 2013

New Year, New Me

You guys.
It's 2013.

For some reason I've not been impressed/taken aback by a 2000's year until this year. Something about the 13 staring back at me made me realize 1. how old I'm getting, 2. how young I'm not getting, 3. how fast time flies, and 4. how great God moves + blesses + saves + redeems.

I remember 2000. Y2K. Everyone thought the world was going to end (everyone still thinks the world is going to end - #notmuchhaschanged). My family had just made the move from serving in a third-world country to the United States of crazily blessed Americans. I was my awkward self, but heightened to the nth degree because it was smack-dab in the middle of my middle school years.

I remember 2005. Graduated from high school. Got destroyed by God at our annual Senior Send-Off sermon by my beloved youth pastor. You know those memories you have where you don't really remember content but you remember all the raw emotions? I don't remember much about the sermon, specifically the part about me, but I remember weeping. This was probably the year I realized that I am a unnecessary weeper (kind of like how Kristen Bell describes her emotional reaction to having a baby sloth surprise her on her birthday). If you catch me watching a cheesy Nicholas Sparks movie, or hearing about how someone's friend's uncle's co-worker's grandmother experienced some awful, heart-wrenching trauma of some kind, or if I spend time alone thinking about all the awful things that are happening in the world...I'm probably weeping in the corner.

I remember 2009. Graduated from college. Got rocked by God. Put off grad school for a year. Worked as a youth director. Realized I have been called out of death to live a life of giving Him glory, honor, and praise. Messed up a lot of times. Made myself my own idol - worshipped my own talents, strengths, abilities. Got rocked by God again.


It is only the 7th day of the year, but there's something different about this new year air. It's both heavy and overwhelmingly refreshing. In the months leading up to the end of 2012 (and I'm talking since June), I've heard and/or read an absurd number of sermons/talks/interviews/blog posts about having joy during trials and suffering. At the same time, I've heard and/or read an absurd number of sermons/talks/interviews/blog posts about how the Lord is sovereign, and how He reigns supremely and justly especially during the hard, dark, lonely feels-like-I've-been-deserted times. All of this came together in a resounding crash! when I watched Passion 2013 from the comforts of my couch and computer screen and heard once more that if I'm eager to accept God's blessings, I will have to be eager to accept God's everythings - pain, suffering and sadness included.

And I'm ok with that. Because if there's anything I'm learning about my God, it's that He is good. All the time. No matter what. And if things aren't 'good', who am I to say otherwise? God is God, He does what He wants, when He wants, how He the most loving, we-wont-understand-because-He's-God-and-we're-not kind of way. I find comfort in knowing that at the end of the day, the world does not revolve around my ability to cross things off my own list of to-dos for life (or the fact that a list of to-do's exists, for that matter). I am loved by a God who beckons me daily to seek after Him, to seek after what He loves, who He loves. Yes, this is good news, good news indeed.

Y'all. This is going to be a big year. I can feel it in my dead-but-now-alive bones.