Welcome to 2015

Just before 2013 dawned, I heard about a program called OneWord365. Instead of creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions, program participants are encouraged to spend time reflecting on one word over the course of a year. I selected the word grace as my 2013 OneWord. It was bumpy, it was tough, it was crazy… But I learned a lot and had an awesome experience.

For 2014, God hit me in the face with the word discoveryI knew I would be undergoing many changes, such as spending three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand; graduating from college; moving, looking for jobs, and looking for a church/community. There were also many new changes I was not expecting: a new, wonderful, amazing boyfriend (my first); working out my relationships with close friends (including a decision to not move in with them); feeling my heart torn between three cities and three families; finding a friend/mentor in the sweet girl who had my job before I did; starting a new ministry opportunity through her and her husband; and having a new “re-calling” to overseas missions. Much of 2014 is not what I expected. I often feel tossed by the wind, unable to grab hold of anything firm and stable.

But I forget that God is my solid rock. Oh, how I forget that so easily! Maybe 2014 is a transitional year. Maybe it’s supposed to feel out of control… And not a good out-of-control, either, but often a frustrating, disappointing out-of-control. Often, I feel alone. I feel that I have more on my to-do list than hours in a day. Yet, I also occasionally feel bored. I feel dissatisfied. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe God is reminding me that this is not my home. My home is an eternity with Him.

The word I’ve chosen to focus on throughout all the days of 2015 is LOVE.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I know, I know… It’s cliche. Everyone else has picked “love,” too. A couple nights before New Year’s Eve, I literally could not stop thinking about it. It was all I could to go to bed with “love” on the brain. It wasn’t emotional or sexual love, either. It was selfless love… Agape love…

1 Corinthians 13:13 says that faith, hope, and love are the three things that remain when all is said and done, but that love is the greatest of the three. John 3:16 states that the reason we have the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ reconciling us to God is because “God so loved the world…” He LOVED us. That’s why we’re here. We are called to LOVE others, because “by this everyone will know that [we] are [His] disciples” (John 13:35). The word “love” shows up in the NLT Bible 759 times, more times than faith (507) and hope (190) combined.

One reason I’ve chosen love is because it is difficult. People are sinful and selfish and annoying and rude and close-minded. It is difficult to love anyone! In addition, love is not a feeling, but a choice. I have been dating an amazing guy for six months. It has been awesome, difficult, and wonderful. But if I relied solely on my feelings for him, there would be times I would want to give up on this relationship. Feelings change. However, I am learning to rely on what I know to be true instead of what I feel. I know that this guy is after God’s heart. I know that he wants what is best. I know that he has a servant’s heart. I know that consistency is practically his middle name (it’s actually Stephen, but you get my point). I care deeply about him even when he forgets important things or even when we struggle with boundaries because I have chosen to care about him. Love is not a feeling, but a choice. It hopes and perseveres and sees potential. And the cool thing is that he does the same for me.

So, welcome to 2015. I know it will be another year of transitions and changes and moves. I know it will be another crazy year. Too crazy for words. But I know that God is my solid rock on which I find my footing, and I know that I will be intentional about choosing love this year and learning how to love well, as Christ loves the church.

Dissatisfaction: Trusting God in Un-Ideal Circumstances

When I went to buy a Christmas present for a relative today, the cashier asked me to take one of those phone surveys by calling the number at the bottom of my receipt. He seemed quite excited about it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. I dialed the number as I walked out of the store. It seemed as if the automated voice told me over and over again: “Press five for extremely satisfied… Press four for satisfied… Press three for neither satisfied nor dissatisfied…” And so forth. It went on and on.

I realized during the phone survey that I am not satisfied with my current circumstances. Nothing is working out the way I had planned, even the good stuff. Like, for example, the fact that I am teaching six year olds after just graduating with a degree in Secondary Education. I never expected to hold so many hands and stick so many Band-Aids and settle so many disagreements over erasers or line leaders as I have so far this year.

It’s December ninth, almost seven months since I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma alongside a couple hundred of my peers. For many of you, me included, life since graduation has not been exactly what we’d hoped. Some of you haven’t gotten the jobs you expected. A few haven’t gotten any job at all. If you do have job in a field you chose, colleagues or working conditions may not be up to par. If you’ve moved, there’s an added level of finding your way around a new place, locating the good grocery store and a local Bible-believing church. Many of you are in un-ideal living conditions, such as living with your parents if you wanted to move out or living with new roommates you aren’t quite sure you actually like. And then there’s the whole money issue, like when your car needs a new battery the same month you have to go to the doctor and get a prescription filled on top of student loan payments and car loan payments. Awesome.

It is easy at this point to give up. To give up because you are tired, because things are not working out like you’d hoped, because your plans are not coming to fruition. Or, at least, to give up on the inside. You may still go to work because you need the money, but you may give up on being cheerful at your job. You may still cook dinner for your roommates on your assigned day, but you aren’t open to having good, honest conversations with them. You may still go to church, but you aren’t soaking up the lessons from the sermon or connecting with the body. You may show up to your service commitment or help someone out of obligation, but you may not be letting it change you. You may still have fleeting moments of awareness and hope and joy but, in general, life falls flat. Life stinks. A lot.

Let me tell you this, friends: This is only temporary. This spot you’re in right now may not be ideal, but it will not last forever. On one hand, you should be open to and serious about the next step for you, whether that is applying for a new job, enrolling in graduate school, pursuing and officializing a relationship, whatever. On the other hand, keep in mind that there will always been greener pastures. There will always be a next step you are looking towards. Therefore, consider that even though your current circumstances may not be ideal, God is working in them.

The book of Genesis is full of barren women and childless couples who felt like they were in a holding place of un-ideal circumstances. Consider Abraham and Sarah, who didn’t have Isaac until they were ancient… Literally. Also note Isaac and his wife Rebekah in chapter 25: Isaac prayed for Rebekah to have children when he was forty years old. She didn’t give birth to their first children (twins) until he was sixty. That was twenty years of prayer and work and effort and wondering. However, the Bible doesn’t say that Isaac complained and gave up and blamed God for not getting what he wanted. It says that Isaac “pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife” (v. 21). He pleaded; He didn’t doubt. And God did great things. In Isaac and Rebekah’s case, we don’t know what God did in the meantime. However, we do know a lot of Abraham and Sarah’s journey and all the adventures God took them on between calling them away from Abraham’s family and bringing Isaac into their lives.

This quote has stuck with me for a while: Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light. Dear friends, have you gotten to the point where what you knew to be true in more ideal circumstances has fallen by the wayside now that you are in un-ideal circumstances? Go back to what you know. See, God doesn’t change. The way we perceive him changes, but he himself does not change. Not even a smidgen. Therefore, all the truth he revealed to you when you were sitting in chapel service after Bible class after prayer meeting in college is still true. All the truth he revealed to you when you sat by an ocean in a foreign country with your journal and your acoustic guitar is still true. Go back to that. Read your old blog posts or journal entries, Skype with a friend who went overseas with you, or revisit old places where you heard God clearly. Remember that he has not changed… The truth is the truth wherever you are.

Just as a great guy loves his girl and shows that love through his actions and his attitude whether she is near him or far away or whether she is a joy to be around or an emotional wreck… So God loves us (even deeper and more unconditionally). You have already been made holy, righteous, and redeemed before him. He loves you regardless of your current circumstances because your current circumstances do not explain or define his attitude towards you. They are, however, where he has put you for the time being. And he works in them, too, every moment of every day, even when you can’t see him.

What if God chose these un-ideal circumstances for a reason and put you in them for a reason? Sounds a lot like Esther, huh?

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

– Esther 4:14, NLT (emphasis mine)

Feet on the Ground: Eyes to the Sky

Is it ironic to anyone else that we usually spend more time, money, and energy preparing for the next stage of life than living in the current one? Now, I know that’s not always the case, but consider the college years. We take out exorbitant loans in order to pay for an education that should train us for the next few stages of life. We spend (or should spend) hours in classes and lecture halls and libraries, not for the benefit of our college years, but for some future benefit. Some girls pin wedding dresses and bridal ideas to Pinterest before they even have a boyfriend, not to mention an engagement ring. In high school, we long for the freedom of college and spend hours visiting potential schools, applying for scholarships, writing essays, and settling on majors. As single people, we dream of marriage and children. We can’t wait for “real jobs” that somehow magically support a family, put food on the table, and leave a little extra for that dream vacation. Is it just that we aren’t satisfied with our current circumstances and long for the greener grass on the other side?

Yes… I mean… No, there’s more to it.

There is something serious to be said about constantly looking for what’s next. It’s like living as if you’re in a waiting room. God has not called us to passive waiting – he has called us to active, working, living-in-the-moment waiting, a kind of waiting that gets knee deep in the current situation until a tap on the shoulder calls us to what he has for us next. Never get so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that you neglect today and all of its unique joys, trials, discoveries, and adventures. I believe that God has us where he wants us right now for a reason. Even the in-between stages are adventures. As Anne Voskamp once wrote, “Waiting is just a gift of time in disguise — a time to pray wrapped up in a ribbon of patience — because is the Lord ever late?” He has right where he wants us.

However, I would also propose the idea that we need a mindset that is also looking forward to the future. There needs to be a balance. There is reason that we think about the future often and have all kinds of desires for our futures. I believe it would be wrong to ignore those thoughts and desires. So how can we deal with them properly? By using them to prepare ourselves.

I once attended a college group the day they decided to study marriage. A student asked the pastor why we have to study marriage if we aren’t yet married. The pastor responded with something along the lines of: “You’re in college. It’s not going to be long until you are looking to get married. This is the perfect time to be getting ready.”

Many years ago, I began listening to sermons on God’s purposes for marriage, learning healthy communication techniques, reading books on relationships, and observing positive and negative relationships. I did all this before I began dating in order to prepare myself for a relationship ahead of time. The same is true for a career. I knew I wanted to go into the field of education when I was young, so I signed myself up to spend 120+ weeks of my life studying, reading, and learning how to be a teacher, not to mention the various summer activities I participated in that further prepared me for my upcoming role. I feel like my college education has barely scratched the surface, but it was the pathway to becoming a teacher, and I needed to take the time to invest into a four year degree so I could be better prepared for what I believe God has called me to do with my life. I will never be completely ready for what’s next, but I can be a little more prepared by looking ahead.

As Switchfoot sings, “Grow, grow where you are. Anchor your roots underneath.” We should actively wait for what’s next while at the same time being knee-deep in what’s now.


On that note, let me take a moment to change direction. When I talk about stages of life, I’m also talking about identity. We easily find our identities in what we do. It’s the first question many people ask us. It’s in our Twitter pages and our Facebook “About Me” sections. For a long time, I found my identity in my status as a student and as a single person. I wrote blog posts after blog posts (including a three-part series) on singleness. I lived and breathed that identity. Singleness was something God used powerfully to bring about sanctification in my life. Then one day a really awesome guy showed up in my life and chose to pursue me.  I heard God release me from intentional singleness. In four weeks, I went from identifying as a woman comfortable in my singleness (complete with books, tea, and a cat), to trying to find my identity as a dating woman. I welcomed the relationship and I’m beyond excited about it, but it’s difficult to transition like that.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by a woman who had recently moved from a stage of infertility to a stage of having children. Her identity changed to include being a mother in the time it took to take a pregnancy test. In the midst of the realization, she wrote:

How do you say goodbye to a season that [God has] used to make you into who you are?

I resonate with that. My identity has changed, and the circumstances of my life that God uses to mold me may have changed, but the lessons I learned from those circumstances have not changed. God is the same, and his truths and his words are the same. Now God is using a different stage of life (that of a relationship) to bring about my good and his glory. In 2010, God told me he wanted to do great and wonderful things in me and through me before there was a guy in my life. And you know what, he did! I was called to teaching, developed some life-long friendships, took two trips overseas, spent a summer as a camp counselor, graduated college Magna Cum Laude, and landed what I believe will be an awesome job. The mind-blowing thing is that God’s great and wonderful plans don’t end there. He is still doing great and wonderful things, and he orchestrates circumstances to keep bringing them about.

At this moment, as my journey shifts a bit, I find myself overjoyed at God’s ability to work all things together in a way that only He can. I am saying goodbye to one stage only to say hello to another.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of discovery as I strive to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes to the sky.