small steps

small steps

Friday, July 4, 2014

Freedom

I have found solo road trips to be a great time for reflection. Sitting at a stand still in traffic jams also graces me the opportunity to think about things I may not often take the time to think about during my normally busy day to day ministry schedule.

My road trip to Lookout Mountain, Georgia yesterday gave me the opportunity for lots of thinking time. As I passed sign after sign for "Fireworks for Sale" and "Firework Mega Warehouse", I began thinking about what it was we really celebrate on the 4th of July.

Freedom.

I attended a college where this was an important part of the heart of the Hillsdale core curriculum. To understand how our country began, I was required to take a United States Constitution course in order to graduate. At the time, I did not appreciate it as well as I do today. I can now quote pieces of it to myself after hours of studying note cards.

After learning it & studying it, it has become etched in me in a small way. What the freedom we hold in this special country is all about. That freedom has held more significance to me as I have traveled and served in other parts of the world over the past 4 years. Places where education, health care, and basic daily needs are a struggle and not very available. I'm aware these are a continual struggle for us here in the US in ways too but we do have the freedom to pursue those rights.

As I was driving, the song I'm claiming for my next year of life appeared on my play list, it's by my favorite worship band, All Sons & Daughters, Your Glory. The words of this song speak to where the stage of my heart has landed and it gives me hope. As I heard my voice sing along yesterday, I realized its words speak of the greatest freedom. The freedom found in a life surrendered to Jesus. That all heaviness of our sin and failures were taken from us in the sacrifice of Christ and through Him we have eternal freedom.

My favorite line in the song says: And the heartbeat of my life is to worship in your light. 

It makes me wonder what kind of impact I could have on this broken world full of heartache and struggle to be free, if I lived out those words in total freedom. If I truly allowed the heartbeat of my life to be a focus of worship in the light of my King. What revival could explode in our churches and how could we the body of Christ change our torn communities and neighborhoods if we allowed that freedom to truly transform our ministries and day to day mission.

I wonder what would happen to church politics and the disagreements we sometimes share as believers if our heart beat was truly to allow our freedom in Christ to guide our steps. 

It's a lot to process and think about for my own heart. I'm thankful for another long drive in a few days to keep working on it and praying over what it means for me...because that's where freedom begins, right? Within each of our own hearts and our own lives. The personal decision to decide how we allow the gift of this freedom to transform how we approach each day we're gifted.

Happy 4th of July! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Day Before.

This is a post I've been writing, saving and re-writing for months. It's been a struggle to find the words as I deal with my own heart and self.

And then, just like most things I over analyze...all of a sudden it's here. The day before I leave the decade of my 20's behind. Tomorrow, I will be 30.

I've dreaded this day ever since last July 2 when I hit the 29. Honestly, for most of this year I have been debbie downer about leaving my 20's. As, I've shared many times before on this blog and in life, change is a hard one for me.

For months now, I have thought over and over about what it will mean to cross into this new territory. I have also over analyzed all the ways I feel that I have missed the boat in my 20's. All the plans that I had for myself that seem unaccomplished...there is no house with a white picket fence, there is no "Mrs." in front of my name and there are no babies with my green eyes & strawberry blonde hair. That was also the plan for my 20's. To check off the things I felt everyone else around me in their 20's was checking off.

For over a year now we have been talking to our students about the word, identity. It began in our teaching last summer over our mission trips and has carried all the way into our discipleship model for our student ministry over this past school year and even into this current summer. Over and over, we have been talking to our students about what identifies your life, and that ultimately, when we surrender our identity to Christ, that's what others see in us. It's clear to me now why this has been our focus this year. It's always kind of humbling and amazing to me, how God always seems to use the material we are teaching to teens to remind me that I have to be real and begin with that same truth for my own heart and life.

My identity MUST be found in Him. My Savior. My Sustainer. The one who holds every piece of His plan for my life. And it's not mine...it's His. It's by His sweet grace and mercy I can live to walk another day with a Father who loves me perfectly, even when my crazy heart is wrapped up in the worry that I don't have it all together, that I haven't made enough check marks off my "20's list."

The truth is, God knows those dreams and desires of my heart. He knew the list I wrote for myself without consulting Him and continues to love me anyways. The truth also is that He knows what's best for me. God knew that I needed this decade of my life to be exactly what it has been...friends, student ministry, living in 3 different states in 3 very different communities, doing ministry life and ministry with best friends, realizing my need to be near my family, opening the door to my heart through international mission opportunities, finding a love and outlet in running, learning from mistakes, learning so much about independence and what it means to love myself, heartache, grace, embracing change, and the honor of watching teenagers fall in love with Jesus.

The list of blessings from my 20's outweighs the list in my head I feel I haven't accomplished and ultimately I have to let that unaccomplished list go. I am thankful that I have people who pour wisdom and truth into my life. My co-director, Joe has often reminded me that my identity will never be found in a house or a husband or even children of my own. My identity can only come from continually surrendering to the One who continues to walk with me through it all.

So, bring it on, 30...I mean, tomorrow...I'm okay with one more day at 29.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Gift

Lately my heart has been extra sensitive to a date creeping up on the calendar. I've been praying about it & writing in my prayer journal a lot about how thankful I am for the celebration and meaning that comes with Mother's Day. I've been wrestling with Mother's Day too.

Let me start with the celebration part. Mothers are a gift. My life is covered with that reminder in the joy that is my own mother. For my 29 years one of the greatest constants of my life has been the unconditional love from my mother and the knowledge of how much she treasures being my mom. I try with all my heart not to take this for granted. My mom always let us know what a gift we have been to her. My brother and I have such a soft spot for our sweet mom and I know this comes from what she has poured over us since our first cry on the days we were born. She is worth celebrating every day of my life...but of course on Mother's Day too.

One of the other celebrations of my stage in life is witnessing my dearest friends cross over into motherhood. How precious it has been for me to witness my beautiful friends enter the journey in such grace filled and loving ways. To know their babies, to watch them grow, and to witness God molding these women I'm so honored to call my friends into mothers has been an amazing gift. This will only continue in the years to come...what a joy.

This Mother's Day, I celebrate an even more precious soon to be mother in my life in my dear sister in law. Anyone who has been in my path these past few months knows my excitement and utter joy in the news that this summer my sweet niece will enter the world. Sharing these months with my brother and sister in law and our family have meant the world to me. I'm celebrating the joy that comes with watching my siblings become parents and that I have the honor of taking on the role of Auntie. What a gift.

So my heart is full of these glorious mothers and abundance blessings from God to celebrate and be thankful. However, if I'm really honest with ya'll...there's still something a little raw for me about this special day.

My heart and mind wanders to those who are reminded of the loss when it comes to Mother's Day. The loss of children or babies or their mothers. There's an ache that comes for those who have longed and waited for pregnancy test sticks to turn from negative to positive and never see the result they have longed for. There's an understanding I have in my own heart for those who always thought their 20's or 30's or 40's would mean babies and a husband and those years have come and gone. As much as there is to celebrate with the joy and the gift that is motherhood, it can also be a hard day for some.

My own mother, always reminded me of that reality as I was growing when she would share the story of the first 10 years of my parent's marriage before I even came along. That she waited and hoped and prayed and sometimes it was really difficult but she knew that God had a plan.

The peace that comes from trust in God's plan for our lives no matter what that may be is the gift to celebrate on special days like Mother's Days and all the ones in between. There is peace that comes in that surrender and trust. Peace made available to us through the gift of Jesus. My prayer for this coming Sunday is that no matter where your celebration or heart falls this Mother's Day that the gift of this peace would be sustaining in the moments of joy, the moments of loss and all the ones in between. It's truly worth celebrating.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be  thankful.  Colossians 3:15

Friday, April 25, 2014

Moments of Grace

It all can be such a whirlwind. Ministry. Life. The days of the calendar and the hours of each day filled to the brim. When I look at my calendar, there's nothing I really dread in the days and weeks to come. It's all good...but it's full.

Sometimes in the fullness, in the constant going and doing and serving and loving...hard stuff and situations and unexpected changes of plans are thrown in the mix and twisted in the midst of all the fullness. I've felt that a lot lately. That even though I have a calendar filled with plans and agendas I can't always control the twists and turns that creep into the fullness of it all.

What I'm realizing is how defining those moments really are--that in the moments where I have the least amount of control over any given situation is where I have the greatest opportunity to reflect who I really am, that I have the chance and the opportunity in the hard and full moments to reflect a greatness that is far beyond myself.

Those are the grace filled moments. The moments when I want to give up or run away or make it ALL about me. It seems easier to turn to all of that in a quick instant instead of rising above it, right? Maybe I'm alone in this and that extends my need for these grace filled moments even more.

God nudged my heart this past Easter. He nudged it in a way that made me wonder how long I've been ignoring His gentle pull. He has been covering my life with dozens of grace filled moments over the past few weeks--moments where a hug or a prayer or a text message came at just the right time. Moments of singing "Let it Go" with a group of my girls on a retreat and watching the sweet faces of my students filled with tears of joy after saying yes to Jesus for the first time. Phone calls where I am just able to sob into the phone and know I'm loved on the receiving end. A hair straightener being shipped to me in the mail by my best friend after mine breaks...again. A Tuesday night Bible study with friends who are eager to grow in God's Word together. A small group leader sending me a text about reaching a student who has been hard to reach. The list goes on and on.

All these grace filled moments, raining down on me with love have been used by God in my life for the purpose of getting to that nudging point on Easter Sunday. That the truth and joy in the Resurrection is more than a one morning celebration. It must re-define the full calendars and the whirl wind and the busy seasons of ministry and life because it is the only sure thing we have to cling too.

When the whirl wind takes over like it often does, all glory and honor to the One who provides the moments of grace that draw us back. The sweet glimpses that remind me that His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Glow

I walked into the tiny apartment and immediately stepped into dog feces. When I pulled up my car to the front door to begin unloading bags and boxes of the baby gear I had come to deliver, I was beyond excited to share all this goodness on my sweet girl and the baby growing in her stomach and in my eagerness to get inside I was instantly reminded through that first step the reality of what I had just walked into.

Before we sat down together to begin sorting the onesies and chatting over the cute factor of baby clothes, I noticed she took the time to brush away the clutter of the tiny apartment and light a small candle. I had to begin fighting tears at that very moment because I realized that this act of love and hospitality on her end was a gesture of doing all she could to make the smell...the situation...the moment...warmer and better.

The glow of that tiny candle brought light into the darkness of the room and it allowed me to watch her expressions of love and joy all the while with one hand resting gently on her pregnant stomach. In that moment I could see the mother that she has become and silently prayed over her for the years and journey that lie ahead. In that moment, I could see the glow from her heart.

I love  moments that stand still in our memories. I know this will be one of those visits that remains in my heart in that light--a mixture between bittersweet and heartache and joy all rolled into one. As I wrapped my arms around her and her pregnant stomach to tell her goodbye, she whispered her prayer to me and prayed for her baby to know Jesus. That's when I was reminded yet again, of the light, the glow that always lives in our hearts once we say Yes. All it takes is saying Yes...just once.

Sometimes darkness creeps in...sometimes we walk a different road or follow a different voice but the greatness of our Savior is that He doesn't stop glowing. He continues to live within us and allows us the grace to turn to Him again for warmth, for depth, for the light we need because He is the light of the World. We sometimes make choices and decisions that run us empty and dry but He does not run out of what we need. He does not die inside of us even when we chose to look away from Him.

I'm extra thankful for the glow of that tiny candle & for the powerful light found in a King that is holding us always...even in the darkest moments in hard situations and even in beautiful ones. The glow of His love remains in us, all it takes is simply saying Yes.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Being Still


At just the point in the student ministry calendar when life tends to hit the really busy season...keep in mind really busy in student ministries is just a step before the summer months which tend to blow into the category of crazy busy. Let me also clarify, that I LOVE the busy life that is full time student ministries. I love the weekend retreats, the weekend game nights & filling car loads full of teens to attend a sporting events or a concert. I love the confirmation season where our students going through the process have consistent programming together for nearly 12 weeks. I love the summers filled with packing vans & sleeping on air mattresses. This is by no means is a blog post complaining about the busy life that is student ministries. I thrive off of the busy.

This is more of a post on the reminder that comes from my Father in the midst of the busy. Just as I begin to see the light of no more snow days and winter nights of canceled ministry events due to snow and ice my initial feeling is to crank up the busy; and then Lent creeps in and with it the reminder to just be still with Him.

I open up my old school day planner and read the words, Ash Wednesday. Once again, I stand amazed that my Father knows this is exactly the moment I need the reminder of what these next 40 days are all about. That just as my own instinct is to allow myself to dive deep into crazy busy mode--that there is something greater in the midst of the busy. That there is a stillness my heart craves far more than all the busy I could ever try to cram into each day.

My best friend blessed me with a four day visit last week and I couldn't help but fight back the tears when she pulled out this framed scripture art for me from her duffel bag with the words of Psalm 46:10. Exactly the truth my heart and day planner needed for this season, before this next wonderful round of really busy ministry.

I want to strive to imprint this verse on my life for these next 40 days. I know the busy will sneak in more than I should let it at times which makes me even more thankful for the grace that comes through this season, through Christ's sacrifice for us. For me and for you. A grace and love to be celebrated through all the busy and non-busy seasons but I sure am thankful for these 40 days where being still is exactly what this busy ol' heart of mine needs.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Seed Planters

I needed paper towels. The whole purpose of my late night trip to Target last night was because I was out of paper towels. You can't get to the paper towel aisle without passing the baby aisle. So, I found myself, cart halted, in the midst of the diapers and baby shampoo. My eyes scanning up and down the shelves and my mind remembering the baby showers of my friends and all the wonderful stuff they have received and the joy and love surrounding the entrance of their sweet babies into this world.

And then, the tears started streaming down my face as the heaviness I had been carrying on my heart all day became too much for me to hold in. While skimming through Facebook earlier in the day, I found myself on the page of a former student. A student who I began my journey in student ministry with 8 years ago. I remember the night she accepted Jesus into her heart and I also remember the night that the police called me to let me know about the meth bust that was about to take place at her home. Years have passed since this sweet girl has been a part of my every day ministry life--and here I was looking at her Facebook page and a picture of her pregnant belly..and the heaviness set in on my heart. As I took in all the baby products last night I was overwhelmed by the feeling of unfairness for her situation.

The night, she turned to Jesus I remember listening to her speak in awe of a loving Father. This was foreign to her. I remember stroking her hair and covering her with words that I prayed would point her towards the truth that she would only find in her loving Savior. I remember the hope I had for her that night--that she could rise above the cycle of brokenness that was the world she was born into. I remember they joy in her face when she spoke of the new found freedom she had found in Jesus.

As I started to fill my cart with diapers and onesies and baby shampoo to send to her last night I tried to allow myself to push back the tears and remember the joy. It's hard to swallow the reality that her sweet baby will be born in the same cycle...the same house...the same situation. When I got home, I started organizing the baby items into a gift bag and I had to stop and open my Bible instead.

I found myself reading Paul's words in 1 Corinthians, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor." 

God makes it grow. God is faithful to the seeds planted. God is holding this situation---this sweet girl and her baby. I can't stop thinking about Pinterest baby showers and a beautiful baby nursery. How she won't have this for her baby, we messaged on Facebook this morning and she told me she's invited some family to a local restaurant for a baby shower...all I could think of is how she's throwing herself a baby shower. And, I know, baby showers are not the most important thing, but my heart breaks. So, I'll make another trip to Target later today to find a few more things for the care package I'm sending...not because it's super significant but because the seed is planted and I want to remind her of that. I want to do all I can to cover her with love so she'll remember the joy she found when she gave her heart to Jesus & then all I can do is surrender her in prayer, knowing that God is faithful. God allows seeds to grow even in the most broken of situations. I'm clinging to His perfect love and praying for a world...for students who have forgotten...may they be reminded through prayers lifting them up, gift bags of diapers and from the seed planters.