“I’m So Tired…”

The words “I’m tired” escape my mouth all too often. I don’t know about you, but there always seems to be a part of me that is always exhausted. My whole self: body, mind, soul is rarely running on all cylinders and is usually operating at the expense of the other. To make things worse, we live in a culture that wears busyness as a badge of honor it seems. The busier you are, the more accomplished you seem.

This summer I’ve been in Colorado taking some seminary classes. It’s been a great change of scenery and pace. My favorite class thus far has been a Doctrine class called “Humanity/Christ/Salvation”. For the humanity section, one of the issues we discussed was work. It was fascinating and really changed my perspective and approach to work. I ended up writing a paper on “Overwork and Rest” where I discuss what the Bible has to say about this tension. I wrote it in the context of full-time missions, but I think it applies to any job. So…I thought I’d share my paper with you! 🙂 I would love your thoughts.

       Lori laid her weekly calendar in front of me and my heart sank. As I looked at her ministry schedule, I wondered how she would find time to rest much less find time for relationships, housework, and cooking meals. This scenario is all too common for so many Americans. We value efficiency and productivity at the expense of our well-being. God created work and wants us to “work hard and cheerfully at whatever [we] do, as though [we] were working for the Lord…” (Colossians 3:23, NLT). God also created rest. He himself rested. “On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation” (Genesis 2:2-3, NLT). Through rest and God’s perspective on work, we can come to a more balanced approach to work, even in ministry.

            As I noted earlier, work was introduced by God before the Fall. He tasked Adam with naming all of the living creatures and told him to subdue the earth. After sin entered the picture, work changed. Work itself was cursed. God said, “I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grain. All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day” (Genesis 3:17-19, NLT). Due to sin, we have also made work a source of self-fulfillment rather than glorifying God with our work and using it to love our neighbors.

            Vocational ministry is interesting because overall what we do helps move the Kingdom of God forward and has great eternal significance. I would argue that all work has eternal significance and glorifies God, but in ministry those values are outwardly visible. However, we can still fall into the trap of looking to our work for significance and fulfillment. In a society full of chronic over workers, we often don’t see our manic tendencies until we are burned out and often doing no one any good.

            I think God created rest to help us avoid this trap. Rest forces us to pause and acknowledge God’s rule in our world and in our work. He doesn’t need us, but chooses to involve us in His mission. When we live in a constant state of overwork, we are effectively saying that God cannot accomplish His mission without us, which is false. If the God who created the heavens and the earth took a day of rest, who are we to think that we don’t need it for ourselves? I have often given into the lie in ministry that says, “This is important work…these are people’s lives…students’ eternal destinies are at stake…”. While these may be true, God is sovereign and working in the midst of our work. I wonder how many ministries would flourish if we chose to obey God and model his day of rest and trusted Him with the unfinished details.

            We discussed in class that overworking de-humanizes us and we treat ourselves and one another as machines. God created us uniquely with gifts, passions, skills that can be used for His Kingdom, but He wants us to honor him in our work which includes rest. As a leader, my hope is that I would never make anyone feel used for the sake of the Kingdom, but rather that they feel invited to participate in what God is doing. How I treat those under me greatly reflects how I think of work and our role in it.

           If Lori came to me today with that same schedule, I would gently challenge her to build in rest and have healthy boundaries that allow her ministry to flourish as well as her personally. I would remind her that God invites us to be a part of his work, but it is not completely dependent on us. I would also tell her that work cannot make her feel more complete, but that work is an overflow of what God is doing in us.  Work hard as unto the Lord, not as though it depends on you.

I really hope that I can internalize these truths and apply them for the future. Our work is important and can be fulfilling, but it does not define us. Again, I’d love to hear you thoughts!!!

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Read this again after several months. Encouraged me so so much! New blogs coming soon!!!

Delicious Ambiguity

I try to make a trip out to Indiana a couple of times a year. It’s a great way to see friends, spend time with my extended family, and connect with partners in ministry. I always try and visit my church in Indianapolis while I’m there — I love and miss that community so much. My years there taught me so much about the love of God. The Sunday I happened to be there was the first Sunday of Advent — the weeks leading up to Christmas — in anticipation of celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth. The sermon given was on “hope”. I think I literally laughed out loud — not the funny kind of laugh, but the laugh of unbelief similar to Sarah’s laugh in Genesis 18.

Hope is beautiful, but Proverbs also states that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I was weary of hoping and ready to see things…

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Trust in the Slow Work of God

I try to make a trip out to Indiana a couple of times a year. It’s a great way to see friends, spend time with my extended family, and connect with partners in ministry. I always try and visit my church in Indianapolis while I’m there — I love and miss that community so much. My years there taught me so much about the love of God. The Sunday I happened to be there was the first Sunday of Advent — the weeks leading up to Christmas — in anticipation of celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth. The sermon given was on “hope”. I think I literally laughed out loud — not the funny kind of laugh, but the laugh of unbelief similar to Sarah’s laugh in Genesis 18.

Hope is beautiful, but Proverbs also states that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I was weary of hoping and ready to see things happen. This year of ministry was more exhausting than other years. I’m trying to trust God with those that I’m praying for, longings still unfulfilled, questions unanswered, etc…my heart has been in constant tension it seems. I wasn’t experiencing the peace Jesus had promised. Then, Pastor Randy said these words: “Trust in the slow work of God”. 

I could feel the stress begin to fall away. Peace was creeping into the anxious parts of my heart. Trust in the slow work of God. What is it about time passing that causes doubt, fear, and at times despair? I often wonder what it was like for the Israelites who were waiting for the Messiah. For centuries, they waited…and waited…and hoped. God kept his promise. He sent Jesus. God hasn’t changed…He is true to His word.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Trust in the slow work of God. He is for you. He loves you. He will never leave you. He is at work in the lives of those you love even if you can’t see it. He is changing and transforming me…even when I can’t see the evidence right away. He is healing your broken heart — give it time.

Often the most beautiful stories of redemption take the most time. Trust in the slow work of God. 

Reading Challenge

books

It’s that time of year again…time to review all of the books I got to read in 2016! I set a goal last January to read 15 books….that seemed daunting, but I knew my summer schedule would allow more reading time, so I went for it. Glad to say that I surpassed my goal and read 18 books in 2016!! Here’s a look at what I read…

  1. Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent by Beth Moore — I went through this study with some women in Fayetteville and really loved it. I had not done a study by Beth Moore in years. I love the way she digs into the Scriptures and gives so much historical context to what you’re reading. These Psalms came alive to me in new ways and I learned so much. I highly recommend it!
  2. & 3. An Echo in the Darkness & As Sure as the Dawn (Mark of the Lion Series) by Francine Rivers — Books 2 & 3 of this series. These books were set in the 1st century Roman Empire. They center around a Jewish girl named Hadassah. Book  2 of this series especially spoke to me and gave me hope and strength to keep believing God for our deepest longings. Anything is possible…
  3. Being White: Finding Our Place in a Multiethnic World by Paula Harris — our team read this book together in an attempt to understand white privilege and how to be more understanding, empathetic, and intentional in our relationships with other ethnicities. I hate the title…but the content was pretty good.
  4. Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen — this was a great read. I highly recommend this book to 20-something’s. It’s a great way to think through what you’re passionate about, the gifts God has given you, your story, and how that all works together.
  5. 1984 by George Orwell — One thing I wanted to do was to read more classics. I remember reading this book in high school…but I’ve slept since then. 😉 This is a great read..written during the existence of Communism in the 1950’s , Orwell projects what the year 1984 would look like. I’m grateful he was wrong! Also…I don’t recommend that you read this one right before going to sleep.
  6. Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard — Sigh…I can’t recommend this book enough. God really used this book to bring a lot of healing. It’s an allegory and really walks through a woman’s journey with God throughout her lifetime. It really helped me to see a bigger picture and how eternity is really what we need to focus our eyes on. It’s a beautiful read.
  7. & 8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone & Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling — So…I was a Harry Potter virgin prior to this year. I had never read the books or seen any of the movies. I really wanted some fun and light reading this summer and so I dove in. LOVE LOVE LOVE this series! So much fun. I’m looking forward to seeing the movies once I finish all seven books. 🙂 Great writing.
  8. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E Miller — this book is wonderful! Our team also read through this book together. I don’t think I’ve read any other book on prayer that was as honest and practical as this one. He spoke all of the honest thoughts that I’ve wrestled with about prayer. I’m grateful that I got to read this one and I hope that my prayer life continues to grow.
  9. & 10. The Magician’s Nephew & The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia Series) by C.S. Lewis — It has been years and years since I’ve read these books and I don’t think I’ve ever read through the whole series. I love his writing, imagination, and spiritual connections. The movies are fantastic too!
  10. Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri J. M. Nouwen– this was a small book I read for development for my job. Good truths in here that were so easily applicable to my ministry with Cru. Easy read.
  11. My Imaginary Jesus: The Spiritual Adventures of One Man Searching for the Real God by Matt Mikalatos — This is such a great read! It’s kind of “Monty-Python-like” yet exposed so many misconceptions I’ve had about who Jesus really is. This book probably was one of my favorites of the year — just because it made me really think about what I think and believe. Challenging. Convicting. Hilarious!
  12. Contentment: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback — I didn’t want to read this book. But, I’m so glad I did. These were just short daily devotionals centered on the theme of contentment. What does that look like in a broken world? I believe gratitude leads to real joy and contentment.
  13. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham — I’ve read this book several times and decided to give the audio book a try this year on my long road trip  for Thanksgiving. HILARIOUS!!!! I love this book. The movie “Christmas with the Kranks” came from this book. Please read it. Every year.
  14. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp — Wow, I just loved this book. This book is about gratitude and how to practice this every day. Ann embarks on a journey of recording 1000 gifts she is thankful for. Everything from relationships to jam on toast to snow-covered fields…I love her writing and how she wrestled with this practice of gratitude. This is such a beautiful story and I feel I’m still applying the lessons and reaping the benefits of this read.
  15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey — another classic. This book took me a long time to get through. It’s about a psych ward — also don’t recommend reading this one before bed!!! LOL! Lots of symbolism…kind of a sad read, but I’m glad I read it. I still have yet to see the movie.

I’ve set my goal to read 25 books in 2017. We shall see!!!! Grateful for the gift of reading and learning. Happy Reading!!! 🙂

Choosing to See

Seven months is a long time. Seven months have passed since my last entry. So many thoughts trapped in my head…but I just haven’t had the words to write. It’s difficult sometimes to translate feelings into words.

I remember writing back in January about how I wanted to embrace JOY this year. I don’t know that I’m any closer to discovering the secret to joy, but I do think that it’s a choice. And most of the time, I get in my own way. It’s all about how I see. 

I’m reading a beautiful book by Ann Voskamp called “One Thousand Gifts”. This is her journey of thankfulness and I think discovering joy. Joy comes through gratitude. When we see all of life as a gift: the beautiful fall leaves, the moments of laughter, snuggles with nieces and nephews, memories of loved ones, etc…we can receive these gifts with joy rather than entitlement.

I don’t know about you, but I often view the good things in life as gifts and the painful things of life as burdens that are not meant to be. But, I wonder…how do we really know what’s good and what’s bad? I’m also studying the book of James in the Bible and I ran across this verse: 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

The word “perfect” in it’s original language describes “that which has achieved or reached its goal, objective, purpose.” It doesn’t mean “no pain” or “no flaws”. The perfect gifts God gives us are meant to perfect us. (Beth Moore) 

A good family friend died in a car accident this past weekend. I cannot call this a gift. I don’t feel joy. Everything about a 26 year old boy going so soon feels so wrong. I found myself asking the question today, “God, how do you expect us to consider this joy in the midst of such grief?” I don’t know.

Maybe there are gifts to discover even in grief. I think it depends on what I choose to see.

Scattered

I’ve been thinking all day of what to write for my blog post today. My mind has been going in a million directions this past week. So, I thought I’d just write some of the scattered thoughts that have been on my mind and maybe by the end of this post, it will make sense…or you can pray for me a little extra seeing the craziness. 😉

  • I read this quote the other day and have been thinking about it ever since. “The opposite of joy is not sadness, but hopelessness.” Dang, so good! I am grateful that I don’t have to know hopelessness because of who God is, but rather knowing Him brings joy forever.
  • I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning for the Bridges ministry here on campus for next year. Honestly, it’s been weighing on me too much. I feel so inadequate, yet so excited for the challenge and look forward to all God will do in the years to come.
  • I’m in my first week of “clean eating”. I miss bread.
  • I’m reading Matt Mikalatos’ book “Imaginary Jesus”. This book is hilarious and is seriously messing with my head. I’m a bit disgusted of who the church has made Jesus out to be at times. He didn’t call us to follow Him so that we could hole up with our American life of ease — He called us to lay our lives, our desires, our dreams down for a greater life, one where we see Him meet our deepest desires in miraculous ways, and He becomes the answer to our dreams. Much easier said than lived out.
  • Our stories are powerful. No one can argue with your story. I had the privilege this past week of coaching one of my students who shared her story at our weekly meeting this week. She is so brave. When we can be vulnerable, it allows others to be vulnerable and experience freedom. So much in our culture can isolate us…but we really need each other. Share your story!
  • Patience really is a virtue.
  • Spring is coming…I walked in the sunshine and saw flowers this week. Even though I really missed having a good snow this year, I love spring and the hope it brings. New beginnings, new life, did I mention sunshine??? Here’s to hope and more sunny days…

…told you it was scattered…

 

Cookie Art

I’ve learned over the years that I love being creative. I love cooking, painting, music, coloring, etc…anything where I can create with my hands. About three years ago, my Aunt Dorie introduced our family to the art of decorating cookies. I remember thinking beforehand that I probably wasn’t going to like it…it looked too tedious. But…I was wrong. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of creating these beautiful edible goodies for parties, birthdays, etc… I thought I’d share some of these experiences and the stories behind them.

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The photo above was my first attempt at doing these myself (without my Aunt’s expertise). I invited a couple friends over…one of them is an artist…and we went to work. I made these for my dear friend, Hannah’s birthday. She loves music so I thought I’d do that theme. My favorite were the pages of music. I think she liked them. 🙂

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I sent these to another student for her birthday and was so scared because I shipped them to NYC! However, they made them in one piece. My dear friends Marie and Renae helped me with these. I love the spring colors!

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These are a little more recent. My Aunt came for Thanksgiving this past year so we went to work on some fall themed cookies. The kids loved them too! 🙂

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These! I love how these turned out! My dear friend Kendra came over this past December and we decorated this platter for our Cru Leadership Christmas Party. I did a lot of researching on Pinterest to find ideas for this batch.

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Last but not least…Valentine Cookies! I decided to invite some friends I’ve met who are studying here all the way from India. We had a blast! I love the fun, bright colors and we just had fun being creative and getting to know each other a little better.

Until next time…

Searching for Joy

Joy.

Every January I spend a day or two reflecting. Reflecting on the past year, dreaming about the future, setting goals…stuff like that. This year was no different. As I soaked up the stillness and tried to listen, the word joy kept coming to my mind over and over and over.

Joy.

I don’t know that I have ever really understand joy. I’ve been told that it’s different than being happy. I know that it’s listed as one of the many traits of one who lives according to God’s Spirit. I’ve been told that joy is not contingent on life circumstances. So…basically I knew it was something I was supposed to possess.

A couple weeks later, I was reading in the New Testament and saw a verse that I’ve never noticed before.

“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy…” 2 Corinthians 6:10

GAME CHANGER! “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy…” Wow! For someone who feels like I’ve walked around for a couple of years in a cloud of sadness, this brought me great hope. This kind of set me on a discovery for the meaning of joy. I began researching Scripture and here’s a few things I’ve found so far…

— Righteousness brings joy
— Scripture tells us to have “joy in the God of our salvation…”
— The Holy Spirit gives joy – I can’t muster it up by myself
— Belief in God brings joy (“We believed Him and were filled with joy…”)
— Creation echoes joyful praise to God

Romans 15:13 really summed it up for me. It says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” There it is…we experience joy (along with peace and hope) AS WE TRUST IN GOD. Trusting brings joy.

So my search for joy has really turned into a journey of trust. Do I trust God? Some days, yes and then there are days where I wonder if He sees me at all. Real talk!

My prayer for this year is that I would trust Him more and more and I believe as I draw closer and closer to Him, joy will abound.

Reading Challenge

I have loved reading as far back as I can remember. I love learning and have always been somewhat of a day dreamer. Last year, I wanted to challenge myself to read a total of 10 books. Now, for some this is nothing…but with a full-time job this seemed like a big task. I actually surpassed my goal with a total of 12 books…one per month! So…I thought I’d share with you what I read and thoughts about each title. 🙂

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1. & 2. Books #3 & #4 from the Lowlands of Scotland series by Liz Curtis Higgs. I really enjoy anything in the “historical fiction” category. These books took a familiar story in the Bible of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah and transformed it into a new setting and new era. I loved the series!

3. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp. My staff team read this together last year. This book challenged my thoughts on God and ministry. I have quoted this book several times in this blog! 😉 I loved this read and have recommended it to many.

4. Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. LOL…this book has been on my shelf for many many years and I finally decided to give it a read. Um…it was a little strange because it’s written to men about men, but I found it interesting. I think sometimes the author over-generalized men…I tend to think each man is unique.

5. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I can’t praise this book enough. It’s a children’s Bible….but the simplicity moved me to tears over and over again. The illustrations are gorgeous and it really is just beautiful writing. I’ve used portions of this book in some of my talks. So good.

6. Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist. This book was different than any other book I’ve read. It’s almost written in a blog format. I loved it…it caused me to slow down and take in more of life rather than just react all of the time. There is beauty around us always…we just don’t take the time to see.

7. When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We are Waiting for God…And Joy by John Piper. This was another one that has been on my shelf for years. It was a very short read. Good, simple read. Nothing earth-shattering, but could be helpful for someone walking through a painful season.

8. Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears by Margaret Feinberg. I heard Margaret speak a year ago and had wanted to read this ever since. This was her story documenting her battle with cancer. Powerful story. Powerful woman. Even more powerful God. I would read this again.

9. Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen. This was my second time through this book. Beautiful story of Jennie & her husband Zac’s journey in praying, “God, we’ll do anything…” This time I took a couple of my girls through this book as they are planning for their futures. I’m grateful that I serve an “anything” God!

10. Beauty From Ashes by Eugenia Price. LOL…another one that’s been on my shelf for awhile. It wasn’t until about halfway through I realized it was #3 of a trilogy…and I hadn’t read the first two. That explained some of the confusion! 🙂 Historical fiction set in Georgia during the 1800’s. I doubt I will read it again…but maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the first two books first.

11. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J Foster. I loved loved loved this book. He takes twelve spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, solitude, mediation, simplicity, etc…) and devotes a chapter to each one. I learned so much and really enjoyed growing closer to God through these disciplines. I highly recommend it!

12. A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion, #1) by Francine Rivers. I think I saved the best for last!! 🙂 Oh, this book! The book is set in Rome during the 1st century and centers around a Jewish-Christian girl named Hadassah. It’s beautiful. I wept several times…this one hit some tender places in my heart. Just read it. But, really…go and buy it today. You won’t regret it.

I have raised the bar to 15 books in 2016!!! We shall see what makes the list next year! Happy Reading! 🙂

What I Already Know

Many college students across the country have recently survived (some barely) the dreaded mid-terms! They have studied, crammed, and hoped they were able to regurgitate everything they learned in the six weeks prior to being tested.

I feel as though the past few weeks have been somewhat of a mid-term…testing to see if I’ve really learned all that God has taught me in the last year. I’ve talked A LOT about hope this past year and this was a test to see if I really believe what I say I believe.

Among several blows this past month, one in particular hit really close to home. My sister and her family recently got news that a baby they were hoping and praying to adopt was miscarried. You can read more about their journey here. I remember when I read the text, thinking “Oh no…this is gonna hurt.” We had “prayed big” for this baby for months and months…and they had been waiting to add to their family for years and years.

The next morning I sat in my living room, Bible open, with my “Pray Big” sign staring me in the face. I felt like a fool. “Why did I encourage them to ‘dream big’?” “Why God do you ask us to take steps of faith and yet we are here…left with disappointment?” “Why aren’t you willing to just give them a child that they will love?”

The Lord led me to read a verse in Ecclesiastes that morning.

…for He is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few.

In that moment, I saw myself in a different light. I was like one of those terrible toddlers who didn’t get her way…and making sure He knew it. I was throwing a tantrum. Now…these are hard things to walk through and those questions are understandable, but on a deeper level I was questioning the wisdom of God. I didn’t agree with how God was handling the situation…I didn’t agree with His answer to our prayers. In His grace, God reminded me that I am not God (shocking). I don’t see the whole picture.

I’ve learned so much this past year about the heart of God. He loves us. He is for us and for our good. He gives good gifts. He honors and rewards great faith. He hears our cries. He is near to the brokenhearted. NOTHING is impossible for Him. He desires that NONE perish. He is faithful.

God’s character does not change with our circumstances. He is constant. I now have a choice. Do I choose to question and doubt God because the circumstances are confusing and painful? Or do I choose to believe and put into practice what I already know to be true about God? I want to trust and believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

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