Resisting Babylon

Well, well, well..look who decided to hop back on the blogging train (that would be me). Sorry to leave you, readers! You understand how life gets. And, frankly, it’s pretty silly that it gets that way. A part of my delay in creating another post is that some topics wear people out – be it wedding talk or desperate I-just-want-to-slow-down-and-take-life-in posts.

I did, however want to provide you with a little peek inside the bible study I began a few weeks ago with a very special group of ladies at Christian Student Fellowship. We’re diving into Beth Moore’s study of Daniel. It’s a twelve-week study, and the first half of the book of Daniel discusses his life in Babylon – a place of glamour and overindulgence that carries many parallels to America, as Beth elaborates upon. The second half prophecies about end times and Christ’s return. I haven’t done much study on this topic, or Revelation, as I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the imagery and symbolism within it.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a wonderful combination of genuinely learning about history and already-fulfilled prophecy (crazy cool) and examining myself in how I live day to day. For example, the theme of the study is integrity. In chapter 3, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant statue and commands the people of Babylon to bow down to it (punishment if one resists: being thrown into a furnace. Sheesh). Similar to King Neb, we, too, like feeling significant and being in the company of important people in order to make ourselves better. And two semesters away from graduating college, this mentality is seriously shoved down our little, pre-career, we-don’t-know-where-we’re-going throats (I’m digging hyphenated sequences tonight, no?).

So the challenge is to resist Babylon. To resist making more of me and building up my image, and instead live a life of integrity. Being the same person I am in the day as I am in the night. A helpful thought for me as I enter into Lent.

May you, friend, feel empowered to let yourself  become less.

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Still remembering Cape Town..

Much.

If there’s ever a time where five plus parties/events/get-togethers occur all in the same week, it would be December. Seems like the celebratory bug gets a hold of everyone – Christmas does that to people (i.e. me). Here is a little sampling of what I’ve been up to lately.

photo copyThis is my ministry at school, Christian Student Fellowship. I just love the strung up lights and how full the room is. Wednesday night we had a Christmas Communion service, where we read scripture and sang Christmas songs the whole time. Then on Saturday, we hosted the Haiti Compassion Gallery, a silent art auction to raise money for a young Haitian girl named Markilene. We raised over $800 that will go to building her a new house! And I got two new pieces of art for my future apartment/house (thanks Em and Erin!)

photoThis was my setup for my 31 Bits House Party on Friday!  31 Bits is a jewelry business that provides women crafters in Uganda with a sustainable income. All the pieces are hand made with beads of recycled paper. Beautiful and fair trade. I have been really fascinated with these kinds of socially minded companies lately, so hosting a party for my friends and sharing their story was super fun.

photo copy 2And this is a mediocre (no one to blame but myself) picture of some of my youth group caroling to the church’s shut-ins. They sang beautifully! I only had one high school student come along (who provided an excellent bass), but the rest were my middle schoolers. So energetic and fun. We’re busy nearly every Sunday in December, but they seem to be the most well-attended events. I’m really enjoying myself this year, and I think the kids are more acquainted with me now. I always said that if I was going to be a teacher, no way could I teach middle school. This group makes me rethink that. I love them.

Finals this week, then a break for three. I’m eager for Christmas, eager to give gifts and perhaps begin a wedding registry… :)

More to come.

Meditation

“May your weekend be filled with desire, not for the things you think you want but for the unseen things of God. May your best efforts fall flat and your small idea of success crumble in your hands if it means your weakness will pave the way for His unshakable strength. May you remember you were made for more and may you never be content to settle for less.”

-Author and blogger Emily Freeman

 

Not necessarily related to the excerpt above, but they’re just wonderful.

Enjoy :)

Fragility

This semester has been a bit nuttier than others in the past.

Not because I’m barely staying afloat in my classes. They’re going fine. Not because I’m antsy about moving out of this square room. It smells of my Autumn Harvest candle and gives me access to a second closet full of cute clothes. Thanks, rooms ;)

I’m juggling, here. A full class load, my jobs as youth director and journalism intern, my identities as daughter, sister, fiancée, friend. I’m completely aware that I’m not the only one experiencing this, and it’s likely to happen many times in my future. But I’m also aware that sometimes my obligations interfere with what I believe to be true about myself.

I become a victim of the productivity monster. I see my to-do list with so many uncrossed items, and I simultaneously want to complete everything without stopping and throw it out the window. But I wouldn’t dare. I fall into the trap of thinking that my identity is built on this productivity, on writing the perfect story every week, on doing things in a way that pleases others, which pleases myself. With writing, in particular, I fight continual, unwelcome daily thoughts about how I’m not doing well, or enough.

And then I’m faced with the reality that this is not who I am.

This is not what defines me. And the day I forget that is the day I forget who I belong to, the God who reassures me that my very existence brings Him glory.

So I also encourage you to not feel bogged down by unrealistic expectations – not somebody else’s and certainly not your own. God made you and thinks you’re good. Shouldn’t we be trusting of that?

This beautiful fall day.

Graceful

About every other day, I receive updates from author Emily Freeman’s blog “Chatting at the Sky.” I’m reading her book Grace for the Good Girl right now, which discusses this idea of grace and our constant attempts to earn what’s already given to us. In one of her most recent posts, she talks about writer’s block and an exercise she does to help get the words flowing again. She challenged her readers to free-write for five minutes in response to the word “Graceful.” Here’s what I came up with. And no, I don’t frequently share what I write, so it’s a little challenging to expose it. Here we go. Maybe you can try it next?

“What I’m always trying to be. It’s about my appearance, physically monitoring myself to look good. But more than that, if I’m graceful, I’m generous, I’m loving, I’m the girl everyone likes. The glory of the gracefulness goes to me. That is so twisted. God says “Let me be graceful. Let me be the one giving love, so you can pass it on. I Am the strength and the glory and where ‘graceful’ comes from.” That’s powerful. It’s humbling. And also terrifying because it means my purposes and motives are wrong. But remember? God is graceful. He doesn’t let me fall from my mistakes because the price is paid. I’m forgiven before I even sin. Maybe the most important thing I can do then is to acknowledge that my sins are not hidden from Him. He knows. So therefore I don’t have to hide from Him, but take refuge in Him. And for that, He’s graceful.”

 

This and That

These last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind, trying to get in the swing of school again. I moved in last Sunday to the same dorm as last year. Shannon and I (roommates 3 years and going strong) considered switching things up in terms of layout of the room, but we agreed that last year’s arrangement was tops. So we kept all furniture situated the same except closet space, which caused some confusion manifesting in me opening her underwear drawer at least three times instead of my own. Ha.

Display above my bed. Simply printed images on dollar store frames. Thanks Danae for the inspiration!

I feel that I just tried to blow through my two previous years in college…like it was simply a bridge to something greater–a space in which I didn’t belong because I could not accept the phrase “This is the best four years of your life” (though now I’m beginning to understand what Dad said about this being the time of greatest freedom with the least responsibility…). I realized that as a Christian, I wasn’t enjoying the responsibility entrusted to me to represent Christ and be intentional in my relationships with friends and classmates. I was simply trying to get by. I was concerned with me. And for the record, I still am. I think that’s our instinctual focus, but it’s kind of refreshing to stretch that. For me that’s meant inviting freshman girls on my floor to CSF and just taking the time to talk to them and enjoy their company. Sometimes, though, it’s easiest to keep my door shut. I like my quiet.

So, in the latest news, I FOUND MY WEDDING DRESS! Bout time. It was only the second place I seriously looked, but I felt like I tried on a jillion dresses and didn’t know what was wrong with me because I wasn’t getting excited over any of them. I actually tried the gem on early in my round of dresses and came back to it at the end. There were no fireworks or flashing directional signs, only a bit of giddiness and the slightest tug that said I’d be coming back for it. I didn’t want to make any quick decisions, so I looked at the pictures and waited a week, then went back for it. I asked my sister how in the world she picked the very first dress she tried on, and her answer fascinated me. She said that things are different now, with all the television shows making dress shopping a life-changing event. Megan’s thoughts on making her decision? “It was pretty and fit nicely.” The beauty in her practical answer is that “the dress” didn’t overtake the truth: marrying her man was infinitely more important. I really don’t believe that the dress I got was created exactly for me and I could never love any other dress. But whew, this one is pretty :) I can’t wait to wear it for an entire day.

Here’s to the long weekend, hoping your grass becomes greener. The Lord knows we need it.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

As I’m sure most of you reading this already know, Thomas and I had the most wonderful time in Cape Town, South Africa! We returned home a week ago today, and it has been a busy week of reflecting on the trip and purging all the stories and information onto our families and friends. Spending five weeks in a different country was so good for us in a number of ways. Speaking for me, personally, this mission trip helped me become “un-stuck” from my comfortable and non-risky style of living here in the States. Believe me when I say I absolutely love America and am so blessed to have my home in the security of Riley. But I almost felt frustrated with myself for how I’ve rarely allowed myself to do something “out there” or adventurous. Instead, for some reason, I made myself bound to responsibility and being dependable, constant. Not whimsical or risk-taking. But on this trip, for the first time in a long time, I felt brave. I completely had to trust that God would provide the funds to get over there, I was thrown into a situation where I had virtually no control over my schedule, and I even went cage diving with sharks! It was the perfect kind of liberation from my own self that I needed.

We also met a ton of neat people, including the Campus Crusade “stinters,” who are living in Cape Town for the remainder of the year to launch ministries on university campuses. We learned much from them and their example of faith, as well as the South Africans we worked with, who were so energetic and passionate. Our group also talked to many students on campus, some who called themselves Christians and some who did not. It was so cool to see God work in the conversations. Many students admitted they began questioning their faith just that week, and talking with them provided some clarity they needed. Just many instances of perfect timing.

Another thing Thomas and I realized was that while we were busy making plans for ourselves, we weren’t being diligent about inviting God into those plans. Talking with the Crusade interns and staff gave us some more interesting opportunities to consider that we haven’t thought about before. We’ll be praying for direction as graduation draws closer.

As I reminisce on the summer I spent in Cape Town, I’m also very excited for this coming school year and what the future holds beyond that. In addition to a class schedule that I think I’ll love (hello, Children’s Literature), I’m also beginning my new job as a writer for World on Campus, an online Christian magazine for college students. The best part is that I work from my laptop, so I can decide where and when I want to sit down and write. It will definitely be interesting to see how I manage that, as well as my second year as youth director at church. Now that my feet are wet, I’m eager to be with my middle and high schoolers for another round.

And while all this is happening, I’ll be planning the wedding, getting in some much-needed cooking practice and continuing to vehemently believe that Thomas and I will be home DIY-ers by the time we’re in our first apartment. Ha :)

If you still haven’t gotten your fill, feel free to view all my South Africa pictures on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

 

TIA (This Is Africa)

Greetings from South Africa! Right now we are sitting outside a McDonalds and for the first time have access to internet. We only really have time for a quick recap, so here we go. We arrived in Dallas and flew 14 hours to Dubai. After an awkward 15 hour layover, we flew 9 hours to Cape Town, and by that time our bodies’ clocks were a little out of wack.

We settled into apartments quickly and got to work right away. Sunday morning consisted of cultural training and visiting the township of Scottsdene to promote their holiday clubs this week (similar to VBS). We completely stood out in a place of poverty, but the kids seemed to be really excited to see us.

Today was the first day of the clubs. Though most everything was spoken in Afrikaans, many of the kids have grown up with English too. I work with the 6th and 7th grades and Thomas i

Continue reading “TIA (This Is Africa)”

Away We Go

It’s the title of a hilariously awkward movie, provokes the image of being lifted high in a balloon and represents the adventure that Thomas and I will embark on tomorrow (technically today). Over the next six-ish weeks, this blog will host everything Africa. Those who are new to this space, welcome! It is here that we will both will try to provide you a picture of everyday life in Cape Town.

At this point, we are both excited, but a little nervous too, not knowing what to expect. Yet we know this is what we’re meant to do. We’re not expecting a walk in the park every day, but we are expecting change to take place within the community centers and campuses that we serve. We also anticipate being radically changed ourselves.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey. Though we will have access to internet cafés, we aren’t sure how frequently that will be. Bear with us, and by the end you’ll probably be sick of our tales. Or, perhaps, not :) In which case we’ll continue to talk more. Prayers for safe travel and trust in Him would be much appreciated throughout this trip.

T-8 hours. Away we go..

 

 

Meet-a-Need

I was able to participate in a pretty neat experience tonight. The ministry I’m involved with here on campus, Christian Student Fellowship, has a girls and guys Bible study on Tuesday nights. An alumni of the ministry donated $100 to each study to “meet a need.” Any need that we see fit. The girls decided to break up the amount into 20’s and go to the Locust Street IGA to help people pay for their groceries. Enthusiasm filled the van, to say the least.

After spending some time in prayer, we entered the store in pairs and practiced some nonchalant stalking. My partner, Erin, and I decided to approach a woman who’s name was Marita, as we found out. Saying we were from a campus ministry and had some extra money to give away, she was skeptical, but obliged. We asked how we could be praying for her, which she also seemed surprised to hear. All of the girls’ stories were a bit different, and it was so interesting to listen to each other and share our thoughts.

A few things stuck out to me about this experience. First, most everyone we talked to exhibited some form of skepticism: why would random strangers want to pay for their groceries? But then that got me thinking…what if we lived in a world where generosity was not questioned, where acts of giving and financial assistance were commonplace? The idealist emerges again…

Also, I felt no personal loss giving that money away because it wasn’t mine to begin with. But what if it was? Would I have been as generous? Seeing Marita and hearing the other girls’ stories made money–the oil to our machine of a nation–seem so small. So irrelevant compared to the gift of helping another person. Good lessons to keep in mind as I continue to make the green. Even Jesus didn’t help everyone he came in contact with, but being aware of the need is a good place to start.

Not in any relation to this post, here is an irresistibly-cute picture of two of my favorite boys enjoying Easter outside..

 

:)