Monday, September 22, 2014

The One Year Anniversary!

My dear friends, it has officially been a year. One year ago today I moved to middle-of-nowhere Arizona full of hope and excitement. I knew that this year was going to change me. Little did I know how much this year would transform my life. 

As I look back I am absolutely amazed at what God has done.

One year ago our team was a little less than friendly to one another. Today we are praying for each other, connected as family with a love that overcomes our differences. When people are around us they remark without fail, "You guys really love each other, don't you?" And the answer is 100% glory to God.

We are the epitome of iron sharpens iron.

We have seen the best and the worst of each other and yet we are better people because of the ways in which we have been challenged. I have to say that I am so immensely grateful for the place this team has in my life. They have transformed who I am and I wouldn't trade in any of this past year, the good or the bad.

This past year has also been more challenging than I could have imagined. I have lost hope and regained it. I have cried and cried again over the struggles of my students and my helplessness to change it. I have made mistakes and I have had moments of great accomplishment. Most surprisingly, I spent the year continuing to question God's place in the midst of it all. I reached low points, where God's goodness was hidden from my eyes, and I reached high points as those around me stuck with me through it. I was blessed by a patient God and people who were willing to be my eyes, to see His goodness and remind me of His truth. 

So I enter into this next year as a much different person than when I arrived. My faith has been tested and made stronger. My relationships have fallen and been rebuilt. Though I still do not have the answers I now have the faith that God is insanely in love with these students. I have the confidence that He is in control, and I can see His goodness in every moment our team works together with these students. I see His glory and His grace, and there is no place else I would rather be.

Praise God for continually challenging us. Praise Him for surrounding us with people who make us better. Praise Him for His provision even amidst our unfaithfulness.

What a year of ministry it has been. What a joy it will be to see what He has in store next. 

The very first team picture ever taken!

So glad that hiking has been such a huge part of this year. 

So grateful for the joy that is present in my life! 

A happy home has been such a blessing. 
This is the life my friends. What an absolute joy. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Covering the Fear of Failure

I woke up this morning to a frantic student. As we emailed back and forth I told her I could not help her. She angrily told me I was out of her life.

The words stung a bit but I knew, like in any parent/child relationship, kids will say things when they are angry that they do not really mean. And I also knew that if someone does not want the help you are offering then we have no choice but to turn away. After all, the amount of students on this reservation is numerable and there are others that desire the help we do offer.

As my mentor so smartly put it, we simply cannot always rescue students (or people) in the way that they wish to be rescued.

But something kept stinging my mind as I considered this morning's interaction. It is a worry that sneaks in at moments like these. It is the deep-seeded fear that I am not doing things in a way that will please God. As we deal with these most unusual circumstances and I do my best to be/do as God wills, I am so worried that He will not be pleased. I fear arriving at God's feet to hear Him say, "Why did you not love them better? Why did you leave them there or not help them out here?" It is a worry that sits quietly on the edge of my mind as I do my best but perhaps do not do enough or do it right. It becomes crippling to have the pressure of making my Father proud beating down upon me as I am so hard on myself trying to do what He would do in these situations.

Yet as I write this post I look down at my fingers that type, and there on my right hand is a ring with two words engraved upon it: revealing grace. It has been the theme of my life since I started this blog. It reminds me to have grace on others and in this moment it reminds me to have grace for myself. Because God Himself pours His grace upon my life. I must remember that He does not require me to be perfect or flawless, but to try my best to be faithful to His calling, to try my best to do as He would have me do. And I will make so many mistakes. Goodness, look at the disciples! Jesus loved them and they made so many mistakes. Therefore I must rest in that grace. I must cover the stinging fear of failure with the all-covering power of grace. 

So I will try (imperfectly of course) to rely on the promise that I wear on my finger each day. I will cling to the promise that God is pleased with the work we are doing here and that He has grace for our mistakes. And I will, as any parent would, place the lives of these students in God's hands, knowing that He can care for them so much better than I.

I must trust, I must believe, and I must rely on the truth. God help me to rest in Your truth. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Heading into Portlandia

Tomorrow I head out to a city I have always wanted to visit: Portland, Oregon. If that weren't exciting enough, I am heading there to participate in the wedding of a most precious friend. Some people don't like weddings. I love them. Adore them really. I fall in love with all of the romance and pretty flowers. I'm hopeless. 

Seeing as this is the 8th wedding that I have been a part of (there is a phrase my mother sometimes says involving the words "always" and "never" that we will refrain from using here), I have a plethora of great memories involving my friends marrying the love of their life. 

I'm reminded of returning from Spain to a Georgia that had completely changed while I was gone as I (the tallest in the wedding party) walked with the smallest in the wedding party down the aisle. I am brought back to the first time I became BFF with my Great-Aunt Ruth (she is a legend) and the time I got to solve all the problems of the day simply by having pockets. I am reminded of the dance parties and the late nights and the chance meetings with John Travolta (for real, that happened). And mostly I am left thankful for so many wonderful people in my life and for the joys that I have gotten to be a part of. 

What a joy it is to witness the joy of others. 

So for the next few days I am forgetting the worries of the world and my job and my life and I am going to pretend that the worries of this wedding are the only things of importance. I am going to cheer my most amazing and accomplished friend down the aisle as we rejoice in God's immense and incredible love. And I am going to wear a pretty dress and twirl around and it is going to be the most wonderful wedding Portland has ever seen. 

So there you have it. 

That is my plan. So world, I will see you on Monday, when I return to the potential of lactose-intolerance and other worrying uncertainties (seriously, all I eat is cheese and chocolate so if this is a thing in my life, my world will be crushed. Crushed!). 

Until then, enjoy all the beauty within your lives and soak up all the good you find around you! God is always good. :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Shawarma and Singleness

The other day I thought I was a genius. 

As I got out of the car in Flagstaff I had the all-too-common problem of not wanting to leave my half-eaten gyro in the car, but also not wanting to eat it or throw it away. Dilemmas, am I right? So after a brief moment of consideration, I tied the plastic bag with the food in it around the strap of my purse and let it hang by my side as I perused Barnes and Noble. Genius. So there I go, walking casually around Barnes and Noble in Flagstaff, filling my arms with more books than I could possibly take home to live with me, and my half-eaten gyro is flopping by my side. I swear I smelled like some serious onions and taziki. It wasn’t until the 8th or 9th weird look that I looked down and realized how absurd it was to have a plastic bag of chicken and pita hanging off of my purse.

In that moment I concluded that if I were a hermit I would be crazy. I’m telling you, if you guys think I am a little weird now, you cannot even imagine what I would be like without social norms to attend to.

So of course this moment of weird solitude got me thinking about being a hermit and being alone and eventually downslide into the pool of understanding singleness (threads of thought run rampant when I hang out by myself). And I decided a few things. 

I decided that I don’t think anyone- the church, the world, society- deals with singleness correctly. My whole life I have been told that I am waiting for the right man. I have been taught to anticipate the blessing of marriage, to believe that it is part of what I am striving for. But no one ever sat me down and told me the truth.

Truth #1: Being single is awesome

 No one ever prepared me for growing up by saying,

“Hey. I want you to know that being single is fantastic. It is a seriously fun season so enjoy every minute. Go hike mountains, take random road trips, hang out with people and travel the world. Make the most of every minute because this season will not last forever.” 

Why in the world do we not glorify singleness? Why in the world do I have to feel inadequate if I am not married at 25? This season has been the most blessed season I could imagine. God has been able to move and work in me, improving me each year and teaching me through a variety of experiences. In addition, I have gotten to walk alongside so many marriages, learning from the struggles and joys of my friends. I have become much better prepared for the next season because I have used these years of singleness to the fullest. 

Truth #2:  Single people can be friends with married people. 

My married friends are awesome, and I don’t mind at all when they cook me dinner or let me watch a movie with them. It rocks. And we all learn a lot in the process. So don't be afraid to mingle with the marrieds. Marriage is as awesome as singleness. 

Truth #3 Neither singleness nor marriage is a fairy tale, nor are they a death sentence. 

I will be honest, I am definitely looking forward to the next season. I believe that someday I am going to meet someone who is going to be the greatest of blessings and I will enter into a new and exciting chapter. And I really do hope that it is coming sooner rather than later.  

But for now I get to work a dream job every day. I get to travel and explore and sleep in a tent in my living room. And this season of singleness is not filled with sadness and longing for the future, it is filled with joy for what is now. It is filled with so much good that I know I will look back and see that these years were not wasted. God was alive and good the whole time. And it is a blessing of my life that I want other people to see and understand (although I will take any recommendations on any men you might know, preferably tall and on the West Coast who are looking for a shwarma/book-loving girl with spunk…i.e. me….). 

I guess my hope is that every young girl and guy can begin to see the fullness of life that is within singleness as well as marriage, and perhaps we as adults can begin to change our tune as we talk with younger people. Singleness is awesome. Marriage is awesome. Let us rejoice in both. 

And if, by chance, you are ever walking around a bookshop and smell some greek food amidst the literature, go ahead and look for me. I will living up my weirdness in the fiction aisle and I would love for you to join me. :)