Monday, December 29, 2014

Grasping the Wind

I sit on the couch in my own home. A book in one hand and cinnamon tea in the other. I have a pencil handy for the discoveries in these words. A boy who is supposed to be napping snuggled up beside me. This is home.

Although I have spent a lot of my break longing for school--the people, the atmosphere, the excitement-- I love this place I am in. It is a strange place, one where everything is familiar yet slightly different. Home is where I am comfortable and people know me, but they have gone through four months of change that leave all the familiarity slightly altered so I have to relearn my old environment.

I have gone through changes also. I cannot define exactly how I am different, but I know the joy and pain of the last four months have imprinted themselves into who I am. Yet coming back I feel dangerously the same. My life at college feels like a dream.

This is an uncomfortable space. I feel like I am neither here nor there. Cuddling my nephews and niece are things I desperately missed and love soaking up, but I still ache for my other home.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fasting

Fasting is probably practiced the least among all the spiritual disciplines. After all, we live in a culture of excess where satisfying every impulse and desire is seen as a positive. Yet fasting is promoted in the scripture as we see Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Paul and even Jesus Christ fasting and Jesus teaches how to fast in his Sermon on the Mount. Freed from the law, Christians are not required to fast and the Bible has no direct commands to fast, still it can be a beneficial discipline to draw us closer to God.

We fast because Christ has ascended to heaven and we are awaiting his return. “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt. 9:15). When we abstain from food our physical hunger should point us toward our more serious hunger for Christ to return and our need for God over anything else we may consume.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fun Facts Friday

I think with all the things I am learning and discovering in this crazy place called college I should bring this back.

1. Ed Sheeran, you never cease to amaze me! This is my favorite song from my favorite artist and they are dancing..... Ah!

2. Keeping things in perspective is a really good idea. Usually I don't read thes kinds of articles and I never share them because I often think they are silly and give you too high of expectations or make you feel like you really need a guy. But this one did a good job of keeping everything in perspective, a nice little read... The Kind of Man You Deserve.

3. Track season! I can't believe my first week of collegiate track practice is almost over!
Throwback to the first year me and Bekah ran together at ICA!
4. Just yes. You have to appreciate a good mix of Christmas spirit with grammar snobbery. Apostrophes make a difference! My sister sent me this article earlier this week and I am in love: How to Make Your Last Name Plural This Christmas Season.

5. I get to go to Christmas at Northwestern tomorrow! I love Christmas carols and having them sung by Northwestern's crazy talented choirs backed up by the orchestra just makes it even better :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

1989

Taylor Swift has another hit on her hands with her newest album “1989.” In this album Swift proves she is a grown-up whose learned the ropes of the industry and is taking control of her own love life.


Swift has become one of the biggest pop artists in the world and she proved it when her fifth album debuted at number one in six countries. The country darling who stole the hearts of America eight years ago in her debut self-titled album has grown into a full-blown pop sensation. Her na├»ve tunes about finding Mr. Right have shifted to honest, brave songs wondering if “it's gonna be forever/ Or it's gonna go down in flames.” Her heavy country influence and Tim McGraw references have transformed into what Billboard describes as drum programming, synthesizers, pulsating bass and processed backing vocals. The change is working.

Although Swift is growing into a new sound, her relatability has not disappeared. She is still singing about love and, although it is a more mature and less innocent, her audience can still share in her plight.

In the popular track “Blank Space” Swift acknowledges she is not the innocent girl she was in “Fearless.” She has grown into a successful young woman with a lot of intense, high-profile relationships on her record. This song is a dark acknowledgement that time has turned her hopeful infatuation into an acceptance that love is not going to be a fairytale. However, it also plays on irony shown in the music video where Swift acts like an insane, possessive girlfriend illuminating the exaggeration of the media’s portrayal of her. This song shows that Swift has grown up enough to be self-aware, but also to stand up for herself and be self-defined.


The edginess of “Blank Space” is contrasted by songs on the other end of the spectrum “How You Get the Girl” and “This Love.” In these songs listeners get a reminder of the Swift who still believes in true love, even if it doesn’t come easy. “How You Get the Girl” paints a portrait of what every girl wants: a boy to come to her door and say “I want you for worse or for better/I would wait for ever and ever.” Furthermore, “This Love” is a perfect example of the restless desire for beautiful, imperfect love. The chorus – “This love is good, this love is bad/This love is alive back from the dead/These hands had to let it go free/And this love came back to me”—and the more acoustic sound give listeners the wistful feeling Swift is known for.

Critics may say Swift is straying too far from her country roots or her intimate, sometimes dramatic lyrics are over the top, but these are both things that have made Swift a success. Even in her earliest albums she was not the typical country artist and has been pushing the bounds of the genre. Likewise, “1989” does not fit the pop stereotype with R&B and hip hop influence but has a more 1980s take on pop. It is not country or mainstream pop; it is a brand all its own which is why it appeals so deeply to its audience.

 The appeal can also be attributed to Swift’s honesty on her albums. Her fans love the intimacy with their idol and those who aren’t fans are interested to see what she will reveal next. Although it is her greatest critique, Swift’s honesty and vulnerability keep people talking about her and listening to her. Swift breaks the norm of what is expected of artists in music today in how much of her personal life is public, but this is the very thing that sets her apart and make it impossible for us to let her go. Her unique style is irreplaceable.

Swift and her musical style have reached maturity in “1989.” She has left the country music characteristics behind and blossomed into a pop artist who combines edge with wistfulness to shake up the music industry and make people talk.

There is no stopping Swift as she kicks off her “1989” world tour May 5 in Tokyo. Swift will do three shows at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis in September, tickets went on sale Nov. 21 and can be purchased at TicketMaster.com.


So this is not really a typical post for me... At all. Writing a review was an assignment I had for my Persuasive Writing class I am taking and this is the result! I am posting it here simply because I love Taylor Swift and I worked hard on the assignment so having people read it makes it worthwhile! Thank you for taking a break for my usual content to give me an audience for my assignment :)

Prayer, part 2

When we first begin to pray, we may not always feel like praying. But if we are consistent and pray even when we don't feel like it we will realize how much we really need prayer.

This is how I felt when began my week of intentionally practicing the spiritual discipline of prayer. It was hard and awkward at first, yet I know it will get easier and that it is teaching me so much about trusting God for everything. The two main things I learned were to worship more frequently and offer my worries up to God.

When my mind was pointed toward prayer as a priority I found myself praising God more frequently. Instead of merely thinking, “Oh I like snow!” I would pray, “God thank you for sending this beautiful snow!” I think this helped me to be more aware of how God is working in my life. He is blessing me every day in more ways than I can even recognize, but when I do recognize them my appreciation of them deepens when I acknowledge that they come from a Father who loves me.

Not only has my Father given me blessings, but he also wants to care for my needs and hear my requests. During my week of practicing prayer more intentionally I tried to take note of those needing prayer and raise petitions to God on their behalf. Along with this I also had my own personal requests to God. When I was doing this I understood much better that God is in complete control of circumstances. I began to see everything I experienced as a gift of grace and an answer to prayer. Even if it was not what I had intended, I knew God had heard my plea and he was working in a way that was more than I could have asked for.

Although I learned a lot about worshiping God and giving my worries up to him through my week focused on prayer, I did not do as well as I had hoped of keeping constant dialogue with God and setting apart time for deep prayer. However, what I gleaned from the praying I was able to do showed me that this is a discipline I need to continue practicing.  As I get more comfortable praying I believe it will become easier and I will learn to listen to God’s responses better.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Art that I Want to Emulate

Rose With Thorns- This girl makes me so excited because I get to know her. I get to live across the hall from her and take classes with her. I am inspired not only by her amazing writing and her success and ambition, but her content never ceases to encourage me and inspire me. She writes with terrific honesty and insight. She delves into subjects most people ignore and says the things I never knew I needed to hear, but now I can't imagine how I could live without out them.

Chatting at the Sky- You guys! Emily Freeman e-mailed me! I sent her an e-mail over spring break letting her know her writing has inspired me and I had almost forgotten about it when one day I checked my e-mail and there it was. I stood up and did a happy dance and plan on printing it out as a reminder of how I want to write and who I am serving. There may be critics, I will probably be my worst one, but I am living my art for God, not myself so I cannot give up out of discouragement.

Sarah Katherine- Happy Birthday, friend! I am sooo thankful for having the opportunity to know her! She moved to Des Moines last fall and went to my church helping with youth group and leading a Bible study for the girls. She showed me that even in a brief time, you can make a substantial impact if you make yourself available. She has encouraged me in what I do and taught me so much. She is full of wisdom and willingness to be honest. 


Susan Hunt- I have only read on of her books so far, but I learned so much! I love her commitment to explaining and applying the Word of God. Her writing is one of the main reasons I changed my major to include biblical studies. I have no interest in encouraging or inspiring people if my words are not echoes of what God says and do not point to my readers to the value in their life as it fits into God's story for redeeming the world. She also showed me the dignity in women's ministry. A year ago I was constantly wrestling with the fact that, as a woman, I am limited in who I can address with authority in my writing. But after doing her Becoming a True Woman While You Still Have a Curfew study, I am discovering the beauty and importance of being a female and uncovering a desire for my writing to speak directly to Christian woman. 

I am so thankful for the part these woman have played in my life. I hope on day, by God's grace, I will be able to touch, teach, and inspire others how in the way they have in my life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prayer, part 1

According to U.S. News and Beliefnet, only 68% of Christians say they pray more than once a day. This should be a big concern for believers as prayer is our direct link to God. It is the most powerful tool we have, yet very few Christians utilize it.

1. Pray to know him better.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Northfield 
A main goal of prayer is to know God better. We do this through the very act of praying and also by asking God to reveal himself to us.

As his creation, we have nothing to offer God except our desire to know him and have more of him, so these requests are our best form of worship. It is also a request he promises to fulfill. "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29). Richard Foster says, "Real prayer is life creating and life changing." When we enter into constant conversation with our God, change is bound to occur. Foster explains this best when he says, "In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God's thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills." Prayer is our invitation for God to invade our lives, our thoughts and our hearts to do his will and bring change in us.

Since prayer is just is God pouring into us through our requests, be ok with silence in your prayer. God wants to use those moments of stillness. We rarely take time to pause in our busy lives so prayer is a perfect opportunity to do so. Since prayer is a way to learn to think God's thoughts after him, it is a good idea to pause from our thoughts, even mid-prayer, so we can pick up on what he would have us pray and what he wants to do with our requests.

2. Pray for his blessings to be poured out on ourselves and others.
 Not only should we ask to know God, but knowing him allows us to ask him for other requests. Often times our lack of prayer is a gospel issue because we do not see ourselves as wholly dependent on God for all we want or need. However, we are told in Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Our heavenly Father is overflowing with good gifts, we just need to confidence to ask for them. If our motives are pure and we have aligned ourselves to God's desires, no request is too great.  God delights in our large requests because it shows we believe in his ability to fulfill them. "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

As we make requests, we must not neglect praying for others. Not only does it expand the scope of what we expect God to provide for us, but praying for someone can show our love for them. Foster says, "If we have God-given compassion and concern for others, our faith will grow and strengthen as we pray. In fact, if we genuinely love people, we desire for them far more than it is in our power to give, and that is our cause to pray."

Finally, in all your prayer, be yourself. "God is looking for a relationship with us, not whomever it is that we are trying to act like when we come to him," says Stephen Miller. There is no need to put on a lofty tone or alter your language in prayer. God does not want a fake, over-spiritualized version of you. He wants you. Your desires, your love, your will, your needs, your requests. The greatest blessing we can glean from prayer is a raw, genuine relationship with God.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Meditation, part 2

Last week we had "Sacred Space" in chapel. This is where there is no chapel speaker, no worship team, just a time of quiet reflection and prayer. The only guidance was two different chapters of scripture being read and some prompts for prayer on the projector. I let this time of reflection kick off my week of practicing the discipline of meditation.

The first chapter we were supposed to focus on was Psalm 51. It instantly caught my attention and I focused my meditation for the week on its words.

First, I familiarized myself with the chapter. I read and re-read it. I copied the whole chapter into my journal. Next, I picked out the sections that that stood out to me by underlining words and phrases and writing out specific verses. I discovered I focus on scripture best when I can process it through more than just my thoughts. I need to write it out.

Apart from my daily devotions in the word, I attempted to ponder some of the verses or words during my day. This was definitely the hardest part for me. Part of meditation is disciplining the imagination to be caught captive by the wonders of God. Meditating trains the heart to dwell on God all the time so that the idle thoughts, the typical daydream, the usual flow of ideas all go to Christ. Being aware of where my imagination took my on a daily basis revealed that I need a discipline like meditation to intentionally realign my thoughts each day.

This awareness of my failure to mediate on God's law and works throughout my day soon made me discouraged. I wanted Psalm 51 to dictate my imagination, but it didn't. But I saw something else emerging through my failure. Whenever I realized my thoughts were wandering and were not caught captive by God, I called to him to bring them back. I repented for my lack of discipline, I expressed a desire to know him better and find joy in who he is, and I asked him to take my thoughts. It was a humbling experience to recognize that it is not that I need better control of my thoughts, but I need God to have control of my thoughts.

This is when the words of Psalm 51 really started to have an impact:

 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight...
 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice...
 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit...
 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise...
 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- Excerpts from Psalm 51

Through practicing this discipline I discovered the impact the Word of God can have over time. My initial reading of Psalm 51 was interesting, but the words did not start to transform my thoughts or actions until I had dwelt on them for a week. Meditating on scripture allows you to take it with you to live with it. Just as we do not truly know someone after one conversation with them but by living life with him or her in the daily grind and mountain-top moments, we do not know the Bible from just one reading but by coming back to it day after day gaining new insights and letting the Holy Spirit work it into our hearts and lives.

After my week of practicing meditation, I decided I want to integrate it into my life on a regular basis. Partly for what I gleaned in this week of practicing the discipline, and partly because I realize I need a lot more practice in order to reap the full benefits of what the discipline has to offer and one week is only scratching the surface.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Resolving the Debate on Christian Courtship and Dating

Walking around a Christian college campus, it is easy to spot the couples. They hold hands on their way to class, he puts his arm around her in chapel, and they sit in the campus coffee shop studying their Bibles together. Just glancing at them you can’t tell the difference between those who consider their relationship a courtship and those who would say they were dating, but this was no doubt a weighty decision for them at one point.

There is an ongoing debate among Christians about which is the best way to secure a spouse: courting or dating? Courting is seen as a more conservative option characterized by the guy asking the girl’s father for permission before pursuing her romantically. The whole relationship is closely monitored by chaperones and there are strict rules limiting physical contact. Dating, in contrast, is less restricted. The boy asks the girl out how he pleases, the couple spends one on one time together, and there is less intensity and intentionality. Both have the same goal, marriage.

Christians are becoming increasingly obsessed with marriage. "Conservative Protestants, especially churchgoing conservative Protestants, [are] particularly attached to the married state," reports sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox. There is no doubt courtship, dating, and marriage are all hot topics for Christians today. Katelyn Beaty reports there are 25,000 titles under "Christian marriage" at Amazon.com. We host conferences and plan youth group lesson series on how to court and date as a Christian. At the center of all this discussion is the question of courting versus dating.

Many Christians have adopted courtship as a more intentional alternative to dating. The motive is to respect parents and avoid heartbreak. Advocates of courtship say the inclusion of parents in relationships allows for more accountability for the couple on the physical and emotional level. Also, chaperones serve to shield the couple from temptation. Courtship is designed to protect the couples’ hearts by setting up boundaries and accountability.

However, some Christians are not sold on the courtship idea. In his article “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed,” which received over half a million views and over 100,000 shares on Facebook, blogger Thomas Umstattd said courtship has been unsuccessful in producing marriages. He is not the only person who believes traditional dating more effective than courtship. Many argue it is easier to identify people you may be interested in if the first step is going on a date to get to know each other not entering a relationship leading directly to marriage.

Both relationship styles have their own advocates with different reasoning to back them, but their followers have the common goal of more marriages.

Marriage is an amazing institution which should be protected and treasured; the problem comes when it is our ultimate goal and purpose. Many young Christians can get caught up in the pursuit of a spouse, and they become more focused on themselves and their person of interest than where God fits into the equation. If you are pursuing a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, marriage should be somewhere in the plan, but every Christian’s goal—single or married, young or old, man or woman—should be to glorify God, not to get married. Instead of arguing about whether courting or dating will produce more marriages, we should focus on how we can best glorify God and love one another in courtships and on dates. Including parents in the beginning of the relationship is only a formality, a sign of what you believe about your parents. However, the sign does not make the respect any more valuable.

If we immerse our guy-girl relationships in grace, purity, respect, and selflessness we will find better results in both courting and dating. Those results may not necessarily be more weddings but something more valuable: loving, God-glorifying Christians.

The Bible tells us what healthy marriages look like, how to relate to the opposite sex, and how to respect and love other people. All this can be accomplished in both dating and courting. However you chose to build a relationship, if you let marriage be your goal you are aiming at the wrong target. If you put your hope in God and glorify him in your relationship, you are more likely to build strong personal character and a healthy relationship than if your motive is marriage.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Meditation, part 1

Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name
Earth has no higher bliss.
-Frederick W. Faber


Meditation is a lost art in the Christian life. The practice has been overtaken by Eastern religions seeking to detach themselves from present reality. Yet we have countless calls to meditate in the Bible. The Christian version of meditation is not an emptying of the mind, but it is filling the mind and heart with God's word. One of the greatest passages on mediation is found in Psalm 119 where the psalmist says he meditates “on your precepts” (Psalms 119:15, 78), “on your statutes” (Psalm 119:23; 48), “on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27) and this meditation is his joy. 

Meditation is a sinking into who God is and what He has done. In meditation our main goal is not to know more about God, but to let what we know penetrate the deepest source of our being and draw us into communion with and utter adoration of God. David Mathis describes the goal of meditation as making God’s words "saturate [our lives], give [us] direction, shape [our] mind, form [our] patterns, fuel [our] affections, and inspire [our] actions." Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says that in meditation we are aiming to "think God's thoughts after Him, to delight in His presence, to desire His truth and His way."
So how do we meditate?

The primary tool of meditation is scripture. Meditating on scripture helps us internalize God's word so it is part of our very being and flows out of us whether we are conscious of it or not. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:16).

We must set aside a time for focused meditation. Meditating on the works of God is something that we should be doing 24/7, but it is also important to dedicate a time to more intentional meditation.  Set a time to directly turn your heart and mind to God and allow Him to penetrate it with His word.

Setting a place and posture is also necessary. Foster recommends finding a place you can return to with consistency. You might also choose to meditate somewhere where you can be surrounded by the magnificence of God's creation. Finding a place that stirs your awe and affections  will make your meditation that much sweeter. However, Foster reminds us that "regardless of how [meditation] is done, the aim is to center the attention of the body, the emotions, the mind, and the spirit upon 'the glory of God in the face of Christ'" (2 Cor. 4:6).

As modern Christians bombarded by desires of the flesh everywhere we go, we must not neglect the practice of pausing to let God's word inform our hearts and minds. At the core of meditation is the desire to be closer knit to God. All Christian should crave this closeness to the heart of God and seek it through meditation, for He will not hide Himself from those who  seek Him. "I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver" (Proverbs 8:17-19).

Additional Resources:
Meditating on God's Love

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Are the Disciplines?

(This will be a series from the blog I am making for my Persuasive Writing class. You can  find the weekly posts here or at that site: Disciplined for Adoration)

The purpose of this series is to explore the classical disciplines that have been practiced for centuries and uncover how we can integrate them into our modern Christian lives. The spiritual disciplines call us to move beyond the surface into the depths. The goal is not to perform a series of religious duties; it is to gain a deeper, fuller relationship with God.

Although some may argue that practicing the disciplines is an archaic habit for spiritual giants or the modern Pharisee showing off his or her spirituality, the disciplines actually force us to go beyond the outward attractiveness of our good works. The focus of the disciplines is heart change. For example, the goal of the discipline of worship is not merely to sing more songs, but to have a heart of worship and adoration that matches our outward action.

This focus on the inner heart also helps us turn to God in our heart change. True inner transformation only comes when we submit ourselves to God– a humble cry of longing that the disciplines encourage. The primary requirement to practice these disciplines is a longing after God. To know who He is and how He works.

We need this in the modern Church to become people who engage the culture and challenge it with God’s truth. Practicing the disciplines gives us the courage to declare that there is more than the physical world. However, our deepening of the inner world through the disciplines is not to be compared with the similar post-modern types of meditation or Buddhist customs. When we practice the disciplines we get more than a deep self-understanding or a release from our present reality. On the contrary, we are able to connect with God at the core of our image-bearing being and come in line with the reality He has created.

The disciplines I will look into on this journey will be the twelve recognized by Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. I will look at one discipline every two weeks studying how the discipline has been used over the centuries and how it works to bring the believer closer to God.

Monday, October 6, 2014

into the unknown

 Everyone comes into college with a plan. The first week I was here I got asked the same questions over and over again: "What is your major? What would you like to do with that?" For me, the answers to these two questions always seemed to have a disconnect. My major is Professional Writing (think journalism, business writing, technical writing), but my passion is to write devotionals, books, and articles for young women about how God's grace embraces their lives and what that looks like everyday as we work in every pursuit.

This disconnect combined with my utter love for my Bible class and boredom in my professional writing classes has caused me to seriously consider switching my major to something more suited to my hopes for future vocation.

But what about my terrible blogging record these past few months? If this is really my "passion" shouldn't I be producing a lot more of that kind of writing?

There is a lot of doubt concerning my future in more areas than one. All my plans have been confused and I am discovering passions I hadn't paid attention to before.

It is a weird feeling for a planner to not be able to set up five year goals or even a goal for the end of the week. Yet through my lack of organization, God has taught me the sweetest lesson about trusting Him for each day.

 I don't know what I want to do with my major anymore, I don't even know what my major will be next semester, but I know today my job is to love and minister to everyone I interact with. I am learning to die to myself and trust God. I don't want to leave a legacy, I want Jesus to be magnified so no one else is visible, just Him and His grace.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blessed Beyond Compare

Being here at school I feel like my spiritual growth is on fast forward. I am learning so much every day it is hard to keep up. I don't know if I will ever be able to write out everything I have learned in this first month, but one thing I am certain of for today: we have been blessed beyond compare.


It is getting cold here in Minnesota. Yesterday was in the mid-50s, and today my first steps out of the dorm were frigid. Yet by the time I left chapel, the sun was peaking through the clouds turning the gloomy cold into a stunning display of changing seasons. Fall is on it's way!

I was also able to talk to my cross country coach this morning. First I interviewed him for the school paper, then he interviewed me about how I am doing with my training. I was amazed at how he was able to bring both conversations back to God. Coming into the season I was afraid nothing would be able to compare to my amazing high school sports experience, but God has blessed me with another Christ-centered coach and a team I am proud to be apart of.

My next stop was a breakout chapel with several orientation groups. We looked through Ephesians for evidence of our identity in Christ. I was encouraged to hear my classmates and friends speak passionately about God's love for them.

Some days here are challenging. There have been many times I have questioned my adequacy for dealing with it all. But God has been faithfully reminding me that He is the one who will equip me. And that He will bless me and those around me in ways I couldn't even have asked for.

If it had been cloudy and gloomy today, I would have survived. I would have gone about my work and not complained about the lack of sun. But God blessed me with sunshine. He gifted me even when I didn't ask for it. He is undoubtedly a gracious Father.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Joy


A few days ago, as I was whizzing through Des Moines on the illuminated interstate, my heart suddenly filled with joy. I don't know why I got so excited in that moment, but I rolled with it. I cranked up the volume on the radio and sang like no one was listening.

The next day, I tried to record my experience in my journal. But suddenly I felt guilty for being ok. For being better than ok! I had genuine thankfulness and I couldn't find it in me to admit it. I was scared of offending those who were hurting. How dare I smile and sing and be glad when people are suffering? When there is death, sin, rejection, and abandonment in this world?

Was I forgetting that the Christian life should be characterized by joy?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Time That Adds Up

Today, a couple birthday party invitations just about broke my heart. I was discussing my niece's first birthday with my nephews when they invited me to their parties. I had to explain to them that I wouldn't be around for their birthdays... I don't think either of them were too upset-- mostly just confused-- but I hated the fact that I wouldn't be there for them on their special days.

This summer has just been a series of similar stories of times when I realize I am going to miss out on a lot. I am thrilled for the new memories and relationships I will be making at Northwestern, but it doesn't make leaving my Iowa family and friends any less difficult.

I want every last moment to be meaningful. I want to get together with everyone, give them gifts and thank them for loving me. But time is running out. I only have three weeks left before orientation, and the days are filling up quickly! Will I be able to make them count?

What I don't seem to realize is that the weeks, months, and years that led to today are so much more valuable than the weeks leading to my departure. I may only have three weeks left with my loved ones for a while, but I have spent years with them already. Three weeks is not going to do much to add or take away from that.

Besides, I would take a year of living life together in the daily grind over three weeks of unforgettable last-chance events any day. The lackluster moments have added up, and these are what I will miss when I am at school. I look forward to all the memorable times I have planned before I head off, but I only need and love these moments because of the ones that were just life.









Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Accepted

I have written a lot about rejection. I was rejected and it hurt to the core of my being.

Isn't it supposed to? We are fundamentally relational creatures fashioned in the image of a God who has perfect fellowship within His three beings. He has created us with the purpose of living in harmonious relationships with Him and with each other. So when the desire of our hearts is to be loved, known, and accepted and this is interrupted by rejection... it is meant to hurt. This pain draws our attention to our need to be accepted into a community.


It is ok to have the feeling of rejection. There is nothing wrong with the desire to be united with another human being. However, as Christians, we have to be careful identifying too much as a reject.

"And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord." -- Ephesians 2:17-21

You see, we were indeed rejects at one point, but we have been brought near to be part of a family and kingdom that is growing together for the glory of God. Although we may have real feelings of rejection in our life, we are not the rejected ones.

Despite the failings of human relationships, we are perfectly united to Christ through His death and resurrection.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved-- and raised up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." -- Ephesians 2:4-6

We are as accepted as we ever need to be.

This doesn't mean we need to ignore the feeling of human rejection. In my opinion, it is healthy to feel this pain. However, let it lead you directly to Christ, thanking Him that you are ok because your identity is rooted in Him. Also, stay filled with grace. Remember that you are not only united to Christ, but through Him you are also in the community of believers.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ." -- Galatians 3:28

When someone makes you feel rejected, it is easy to become bitter toward them. Don't. Since our identity as  someone accepted is firm in Christ, we can be brave to forgive, to love, and to accept others knowing full well they may break our hearts.

So don't numb yourself to the pain of rejection-- we are relational. But don't wallow in rejection either. Know you have been accepted and that is your only identity from this day forward. Who calls rejected what God has called accepted?.... Son and Daughter?... Beloved?

(This post was inspired by what I have been learning in the True Discipleship Journal by Susan Hunt. Also, my church's sermon series through Ephesians... Can you tell ;))

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Concealing Beauty

It is hard to believe it is almost summer again! 70 degrees? Yeah, I can roll with that! But that also means I will have to deal with seeing all the super short shorts, skimpy shirts, and bikinis. 

Growing up in a Christian home, I have never struggled too much with staying modest. I have followed all the modesty rules promoted by church camps and youth groups. But, if I am allowed to be honest, my heart has not always been in the right place. Like most girls, I have days where modesty feels more like a burden God forces us to carry than a gift of grace.

 Sometimes I am jealous of the girls on the beach.

There are several reasons I wish I could be them. For one, they look pretty cute sometimes! Some bikinis have polka dots and are downright adorable. They also are probably a whole lot cooler with less material, and comfort is one of my main priorities.

But beyond fashion and beyond comfort, these girls are revealing their bodies and we are hiding ours.

 For a long time I was afraid to dress immodestly. It was not because I feared dishonoring God, but because my body was hazardous. It is in guy's nature to be attracted to women's bodies and sin can turn this into lust. Most girls know that the best way to help our brothers stay as pure as possible is to be modest in our clothing and conduct. Making the simple sacrifice to cover it up is one way we as girls can show love to guys. This is the right thing to do, but it can easily make us ashamed of our bodies because of the sin they can encourage. Soon our bodies and womanhood seem to be only instruments of sin, lust, and shame, so we had better hide them.

But this is not to deny selfish motives for modesty. The majority of women are body conscious, creating a whole new kind of hiding. I have spent a lot of time covering up my body because I hate it. I don't wear looser shirts, longer shorts, and high cut necklines because I think they are more decent  for everyone, but they are definitely right for me. If we wear bikinis, everyone will now we are chubby and the only thing worse than being self-conscious is for people to know you have a reason to be. In our minds our bodies are not only objects of stumbling, but they also produce a lot of emotional discomfort. When we cover the physical aspect of our being, we are able to avoid confrontation with our physical appearance, something most of us truly want.

Hide it. Cover it up.

The mindset of modesty being a kind of hiding welcomes jealousy of girls who didn't have to hide themselves. Instead of seeing them selling their bodies, we see them with freedom and confidence. Two things we desperately desire.

 Most girls don't answer to anyone else when they get dressed (with the exception of the fashion industry of course, but that is a different post entirely). They don't worry who will see them and how their clothes might be affecting others. The outcome of the kind of clothes filling their closets doesn't bother them. I wish I had that freedom with my wardrobe.

Then there is their confidence. Imagine being so exposed and ok with it! The girls on the beach are not concealing very much, but somehow they find a way to allow everyone to see that. No matter how confident I am with my body, I somehow feel less than these girls who can prove it. I want their confidence in vulnerability!

But instead of feeling independent and confident, I only feel ashamed and worthless.

Is this how God designed womanhood to feel? Did he create the uniqueness of the feminine body to be hidden at all costs? Are we meant to hide?

 We do live in a world of sin. A world were responsibilities exist and we are accountable for more than just ourselves. There is a line that needs to be drawn in how we clothe ourselves to be respectful and reflect glory back to God, but I believe everyone can set this modesty standard for themselves-- I want to deal with the heart issue.

Maybe modesty isn't hiding something scandalous, but tucking away something precious. Maybe if we look a little deeper into the eyes of girls who are utterly vulnerable in how they dress themselves we won't see confidence, but an even stronger desire to be good enough. These girls are hiding too, but if they flaunt their bodies, maybe no one will get past the physical to see who they really are. Because physical vulnerability is always less scary than emotional vulnerability.

So it seems we are all hiding either behind a lot of fabric or our distracting sexuality. Let's get rid of all of it. Let's be known.

God knit us together in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139:13-14) and that doesn't just mean our personalities. Our bodies matter. God creates, sustains, and redeems them. Who are we to be ashamed of them? If it is true that God created our bodies and values them, we can be confident in this fact and treasure it. Modesty can be a blessing because God loves every layer of who we are: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Let us be vulnerable to Him, giving Him ownership of all these layers. Our joy in knowing who God is and that He made us with care is the only way we can come out of our hiding places to finally feel free and secure.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Forgiveness

I did a dangerous thing this past week: I listened to this song on repeat. It is a beautiful song to me as it reminds me the cross has given me endless opportunities to repent and be given a "clean slate." God has used it to show me how my mistakes can be forgiven and I can live unashamedly in the love of Christ. But the thing about immersing yourself in the message of forgiveness is that you will tend to extend the gift to others without even realizing it.

That is what I did. After letting this song and the biblical truth it carries become such a big part of my life, I barely noticed myself giving yet another second chance to someone who had unintentionally hurt me deeply. The hope I felt when I let go of this person's past faults was encouraging and invigorating. That was until a tiny breach of trust in another relationship reminded me that second chances run the risk of getting hurt all over again.

I closed up almost instantly. "Oh no," I said to myself, "I will not trust you again, you didn't earn it and I don't want to risk the pain. You have run out of chances."


But, by doing this, I let forgiveness die in my life. Christ died so that I might be forgiven for the wrongdoings I did and have continued to do everyday. Yet He has not and will not disown me for my mistakes. He has forgiven my sins and made me a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) even though I did not deserve it. Who am I to deny the forgiveness I have been granted to any one else (Matthew 6:14-15)? That would be assuming that I did deserve my salvation and forgiveness, which is simply not true.

So how many times must I be willing to forgive? Seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22)! It seems I too am responsible for giving countless second chances at the cross...

But aren't there times when people are too toxic and prone to hurting you that they should be permanently removed from your life? Probably so. But more often than not we must simply trust God to protect our hearts from hurt and continue to love these people unconditionally. Protecting myself from hurt is no excuse to stop loving. It hurt Jesus in the worst possible way when He died on the cross, but it was the greatest story of love ever told. It is a case by case matter, but, in my case, I need to let this person back into my life. No matter how much it hurts, when it is unintentional there needs to be an abundance of grace.

God has a plan for every relationship-- good or bad-- and He can use people in our lives most effectively when we let go of the baggage and erase our records of wrongs. This leaves us extremely vulnerable, but a lot of the time this is exactly where God wants us because it is where we best see Him protecting our hearts and providing the best possible outcomes to draw us nearer to Him.


(Oh! And thanks Mom for providing the conversations to inspire these thoughts :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Is Ought

It is the beginning of February, the time of year when most people are puttering out on their New Year's Resolutions. It is that day when you forgot to go to the gym and 2014 is feeling a lot like 2013. This time of year is hard. It is easy to aim too high when we make resolutions and get discouraged when we fail because our new exciting dreams must be accomplished by our old imperfect selves. This forces us to reckon with the question, "Which is more important: Who I am or who I want to be?" Because I want to be a person who reads her Bible every day, but I am someone who has made the habit of staying up late watching YouTube videos then falls asleep in her Bible. I want to give each person individual attention and a taste of God's love, but I am someone who gets tired and selfishly silent. I want to be led solely by the mission of the cross, but I am often being controlled by my flesh. How do I understand these two identities?

I went to one of my best friend's house and their white board had an illustration of a stick figure who had to learn the lesson of Is vs. Ought. You see, this fellow had an idea to bake a loaf of bread. Unfortunately, the bread did not turn out. The bread ought to have been delicious, but it was burnt. Now Mr. Stick-Man had two choices, he could dwell on his failure, or try the bread again, maybe paying a little closer attention to the recipe.

We are kind of the same. We know how we ought to be-- Loving, kind, productive, efficient, dedicated-- but are also faced with how we are which is often selfish, thoughtless, lazy, inept, and discouraged. As Christians we want to be how we ought, and it is on an even deeper level because we want to be this way in order to advance God's kingdom and bring Him glory. However, we are not perfect. So what do we focus on? Our goal of being a good ambassador for God's kingdom or our imperfections standing in our way?

Like most philosophical either or questions, the answer is a balance of both. We must be aware of what we desire for ourselves. We cannot give up our goals and New Year's resolutions! Desires are a reflection of the heart and motivation for the actions, it is necessary to have goals centered around the glory of God and crave the day sin will reign no longer and there will be absolutely nothing keeping us from seeing God in the entirety of His splendor. However, we cannot take the practical steps to get there without being aware of where we are starting from. Although we are children through the act of justification and cannot add to it, we are in some stage of our sanctification which we should be conscious of so we may grow stronger in Christ. I am by no means trying to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, in fact I think it is all God's grace that we progress! But we must be diligent to dwell in scripture and purge sin so He can work more fully. We do this by God's grace.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Strength

Sometimes my dreams teach me a lot about myself. I don't believe they can be weirdly interpreted, but it is what is subconsciously in my brain so, occasionally, I pay attention. For example, last night I dreamed I was walking down the street ran into Justin Bieber  (VERY likely scenario ;))! I just gave him a quick hug and talked a bit, but, for some reason, the brief exchange deeply inspired him. He was so moved by me that he decided to change his life around and the dream ended with me bidding him farewell as his limousine headed to rehab.

Anyway! Maybe this was just a result of reading too many articles about the pop star's sad decline, but I think it also proved something about me. I really want to save people. I want to be the strong one for people to lean on and I want to be able to conquer the world. After all, who doesn't want to be powerful? Is there anyone who doesn't want a great life that inspires others?

Unfortunately, this "togetherness" is not a reality in my life. The truth is, I am weak in almost every way. I get so upset every time I break down. Why do I have such little control of my life?

Maybe it is cause I'm human? I was reading Mark today and came across the story of a father whose son was possessed by an unclean spirit. The father begs Jesus to save his son who is literally being destroyed by the spirit. The boy has been this way since childhood and no one has been able to cure him; the situation seems out of control. The father has no strength to save his son and Jesus is his last hope. He asked Jesus, if He can, to have compassion and heal the boy. Jesus replies with, "All things are possible for the one who believes."  So the weak father exclaims the famous, "I believe; help my unbelief!" The father has been given his strength: Faith in the power of Christ. Jesus heals the boy. (Mark 9:14-29)


Many of us feel like the father most of the time. We want to make everything better, but we are faced with the reality of our weakness. We look everywhere for help, finally falling before Jesus and begging Him to save us. We would do anything He told us to do if only it would fix it all. But the command Christ gives us is strange: Believe. Even this is hard for us, but we pray God will take our meager faith and do great things. He does. Jesus Christ renews even the most helpless situations, He is our strength in weakness. Our lives will never be so perfect that they will transform others, but luckily, it is not our life we are looking to and Jesus' life does inspire and it does bring change and His new life does save.

"Then they said to Him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"-- John 6:28-29

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sincerely, the Socially Awkward Homeschooler

Dear Naive Society,
Hi! My name is Megan. I am a senior in high school. No, I don't go to the public schools near by, not even the Christian school. I'm homeschooled. Does that surprise you?  When my older sister used to tell people she was homeschooled they would reply with, "But you are so normal!"  When I tell people I am homeschooled they respond more like, "Ohhhh. Now it makes sense!" This is because I am quiet, fairly naive, and often a good dose of awkward among my peers and when people discover I have been homeschooled my whole life, they finally have something to blame it on. After all, how could I have been socialized?

Well, actually, I have been given as many opportunities to socialize as anyone. I go to church, work, sports practices, and youth group on a weekly basis plus a decent amount of just hanging out with friends. I have also reaped social skills in these situations by needing to seek out my friends. I don't get to know people by going to school with them everyday since kindergarten, so I have to ask questions to learn about those around me. Not to mention what I've learned from needing to be intentional about socializing and learning to plan my own events rather than just seeing my friends at school tomorrow or having every weekend filled with school activities. Being homeschooled has not crippled me socially, but caused me to pursue friendships with more intention.

Yet, regardless of my many opportunities and the wealth of social skills that they foster, I would still consider myself a little awkward. This isn't because I was isolated growing up or because I don't have friends, it is because that is just my personality. I am introverted, quiet, quirky, naive, and unstylish. I would be this way if I went to a public school, private school, or sea school! Yes, I am awkward, but blame it on me, not my education.

Sincerely,
The Socially Awkward Homeschooler

P.S. This is not an angry rant by any means! I am not trying to claim homeschoolers have worse or better social skills, but simply calling to mind that they have equal opportunities to socialize as anyone else. I am simply saying that social skills have a lot less to do with where you go to school and a lot more to do with individual personalities. I am not being bitter in the title, just stating a fact that I am awkward and I am homeschooled, but I don't think one flows from the other :)