Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013.

At the end of every year, I've made it a tradition to reflect where I've been and the major life happenings. This year is definitely one to go down in the books as one of the busiest, and probably most eventful.

2013 began as I transitioned from being a full-time college student to a full-time employee at Carthage. I continued working with some of my favorite people in the Financial Aid office, but knew I couldn't stay there forever...
it was a bittersweet goodbye. 

And then I met one of the best families I know and fell in love with these three kids. Nannying was exhilarating and exhausting. It taught me to have patience, grace and find joy in the smallest of things...


Eventually May rolled around... graduation month. First the big brother graduated from UW-Oshkosh...

And then it was my turn to make my departure from Carthage official. Friends gathered to embrace the last bit of time we had and reminisce on the gifts we were given during our four years together. We laughed, we cried, and we said good-bye...
we did it!  
so long carthage. 

A week after graduation I moved out of my college house and headed to the mitten. The month of June I was reunited with one of my best friends and we worked together at Michindoh. We fell in love with small town Hillsdale and embraced a new sort of Young Life camping. 
oh the places you'll find in a small town.
Michindoh dream team. 

2013 was also the year of turning twenty-two. I was blessed by a birthday celebration complete with best friends, fireworks, and sparkling candles.

The celebrations continued as dear friends tied the knot and we danced the night away. 


These couples are true examples of what it means to love whole-heartedly and have unshakable 
commitment. 


And then it was the end of August and I was fitting my entire life in the back of the jeep. My dreams to move west to Colorado and work full-time at a Young Life camp became a reality. 


Colorado has led to meeting so many new people that I now call my intern family... climbing a mountain... and taking up skiing. 




 A lot has changed in 2013. It's been a year of change, growth, and trying new things. It's been a year of saying goodbye, learning forgiveness, and savoring the sweet moments. It's been a year of independence, raw emotions, adventure, and celebration. It has been a year. 

But if there was one over-arching thing I want to remember from the year it would be to embrace the moments and allow for grace. Moments can pass by too easily. All of these memories from above happened in the blink of an eye. But there's beauty in breathing them in slowly, in embracing the emotions that are attached, and in thanking the Lord for the joy they bring. And when the days get hard and embracing the moment seems impossible, allow for grace. After all it is your first year out of college. You're not required to have it all together or know how to handle every situation. The Lord will guide you and never leave your side. 


"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, 
it is the gift of God."
                                                                                                {Ephesians 2:8}      

"Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honor."
                                                                                                {Proverbs 21:21}  




Monday, December 23, 2013

this Christmas.

This Christmas is different in many ways. I've spent the majority of the Christmas season in the Fraser valley, a place very different than where I call home.  The valley did a nice job of decorating main street, and placing a beautiful Christmas tree at the base of Winter Park. Beyond that, it was hard to tell the Christmas season was upon us. Faces were still downcast. "Merry Christmas" was rarely in the vocabulary. And stores didn't change much (stores mostly meaning the grocery store). The valley didn't invite a lot of celebration.

And then I found myself in the Denver International Airport which eventually led me back to Green Bay, Wisconsin. This city has exploded with Christmas. Many department stores are extending their hours or not closing at all until Christmas Eve. The sound of the Salvation Army bells are everywhere. And Christmas lights illuminate neighborhoods. 

To be honest, it's very easy to fit in to one of these "attitudes" of Christmas. We can put up a few decorations and let the season pass slowly, or we can go all out and indulge in the expectations of Christmas.  But I think there's more than that. There's more to the season of Christmas. 


This Christmas I've been more mindful of the holiday we put so much energy into. I pondered the reasons we celebrate and what it means for our lives. And I realized this is no small miracle. I think of the way life must have been then. For 400 years God was silent. All his people left to figure life out on their own. No comfort. No love. No grace. And then an angel comes to Mary to tell her she is going to give birth to the Savior of the world. The Comforter. Prince of Peace. God with us. He has not forgotten! He is coming to save!

A few months later Mary and Joseph, like so many others, are traveling to Bethlehem. They're tired, worn out and frustrated they didn't make it to the inn before it was full. They settle for a barn down the way because Mary can't go any more. And in the middle of the night, Jesus is born. In an instant, everything changes. Light has come. Hope has arrived. But everyone is too busy to notice the miracle. Everyone except the shepherds. Awake and alert, an angel went to them and delivered the good news. They listened. They went. And they praised God.  

It's easy to overlook the miracle. The innkeeper did as he tended to the needs of his guests. The merchants did it as they restocked their shelves. And I do it as I hurry through the mall. But what if we didn't overlook the miracle this Christmas? What if we hung lights with hope, remembering the hope we have in the light of the world? What if we wrapped presents with love, remembering the gifts the wise men brought to their Savior? And what if we gathered with the ones we love with joy, remembering the gathering of the shepherds? How would this Christmas look different? 


My prayer this Christmas is that we wouldn't just let Christmas pass or that we would indulge in the expectations of Christmas. But I pray we would be like the shepherds... aware of the miracles all around us, whether it be a child born, family returning home, an unexpected gift under the tree, or a soft snow falling on the trees.  These miracles are just simple reminders of the greatest miracle of all. A Savior born unto us. 


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given, 
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
                                                  {Isaiah 9:6}

Thursday, December 12, 2013

the war is already won.

A few weeks ago my sweet friend Amy was here to visit and we decided to get much needed massages. It was an absolutely wonderful experience feeling so pampered in such a beautiful place. Mary was my masseuse and I told her about my scoliosis before she started working on my back. She was quite intrigued by the structure of my spine and the way it effected the rest of my body. At one point she said to me, "You plant your feet, don't you?" I was slightly caught off guard and responded with a questioning yes. With which she responded, "You're constantly in fight position. You need to let loose a little bit." Who is this woman, I thought, and what is she talking about?

About a week later, I listened to a sermon titled "Peace Child" because well, I was feeling like I could use a little peace these days. The pastor, Louie Giglio, briefly touched on peace, but brought up a handful of other topics as well. At the end he shared a story about a soldier from World War II that was instructed to not stop fighting until his commander came to get him. When the war ended pamphlets were sent to this soldier and the three other men with him, but they didn't believe what it said. They thought it was one of the enemy's tactics. As the years passed, two soldiers fled on different occasions and one died. The original soldier was still in fight mode thirty years later when his commander finally came to rescue him. For thirty years he was fighting a war that was over. 

Sometimes our lives look a lot like this soldier's. Even though the war is over, we continue to fight. We continue to fight ourselves and the world around us.


And if I'm being honest, Mary the masseuse was correct. I'm constantly in fight mode. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what it is that I'm fighting. And I've found that I'm fighting the world. I'm fighting to not let anyone or anything distract me from knowing Christ. I'm fighting to remain faithful to the One who has called me. I'm fighting against every little thing that can so easily tear me apart. Every day I put up my shield and fight. 

But as Christians, as people who follow Christ, we are not called to live a life of war. In the Old Testament there was a guy named Jehoshaphat who was the king of Judah. One day some people came to him and said there was a vast army coming against him. He was frightened and asked God what to do, saying "For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." {2 Chronicles 20:12}. God responded to him saying, 
"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For this battle is not yours, but God's... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you."                       {2 Chronicles 20:15,17}
And the next day Jehoshaphat went out with his small army only to find the enemy's army lying dead on the desert floor. No one had escaped the hand of God.

I believe these words weren't just meant for Jehoshaphat about to enter a physical battle, but also for us. Every day the Lord tells us "this battle is not yours... I will fight for you." And instead of fighting we are called to stand firm... to stand firm in the character of God, knowing he is faithful, powerful, and just... and to stand firm in the truth of his word.

This world is a really hard place. Most days it feels like if I don't raise my shield, the war will be lost. But the truth is, the war is already won. Jesus took our sin upon himself, died on the cross and proclaimed, "It is finished."

My prayer is that we would not be the soldier who fought a war for thirty years before realizing it was already over, but that we would be a people proclaiming "it is finished" every single day. The war is over, victory is won, and we no longer need to fight. What a gift that is.