Tuesday, April 8, 2014


"Whatever is in first place, if it isn't Christ alone, it is in the wrong place" (Chuck Swindoll, Dear Graduate, 12).
"Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control" (Proverbs 25:28).
"If some corporate position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility.  If your career, however, is simply a part of God's plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle a demotion just as well as you can handle a promotion" (Swindoll 10).  This was the page I opened to yesterday and again today from the book one of my sisters gifted me for graduation.  And boy, were these past few days ever needed for me to regain a proper perspective on my life.

See, here in Monteverde I had started growing used to the work life, the day-to-day, do-what you-gotta-do, eat-and-sleep-only-when-you-can life.  Work, boyfriend, academic success, sense of what option I have after this fellowship, occasional contact with family, a couple friends I see if I have time...what more could I have asked for?  But it took a crisis-esque situation at my work and an exhausting weekend to finally prepare my heart between Sunday, Monday, and today for the word that I was to receive: You are falling into the temporary comfort trap.  Moreover, your have lost your self-discipline and lowered your standards for yourself.  Stop settling.  Stop compromising.  I know what's best for you, your body, your career, your love life, your health, your sanity, your relationships with others.  Control yourself and seek more from ME and from everything in your life.  You cannot do this alone by any means, but you need to do it, and you need to start doing it now.

The need to push through and fix many things that I had carelessly let slip by in my attempt to work through a certain process at work, in addition to continuing to try to keep up with my volunteer work on the side in other non-profits that I love, wore me out last week.  As exhausted as my boy looked when he came on Sunday to vote and spend a short hour with his family and with me, was how exhausted I felt internally.  It took constant fatherly words from God in my heart and the encouragement of different family members at my boy's house to bring to my attention two things:
  1. I have physical needs: food, water, sleep, exercise, affection.
  2. I am capable of exerting self-control over any of these areas, to grant myself more or less of them.
I cannot work well and glorify God through my work if I am tired from having stayed up late the previous night.  I cannot maintain a pure and safe relationship with my boyfriend and glorify God through our relationship if I am not exerting caution over my thought-life, both when I am with him and when I am away from him.  I cannot take care of my body and glorify God through exercise if I am not waking up early enough to do so, and if I am not managing how much and what kind of food and drink I place into my body this is made even more difficult.  These are priorities beneath one grand priority: honoring God.  All that I am to do is to glorify the One who gave, and continues to give, His all for me.

If putting Christ in first place in our lives isn't a priority, what is?  Is that really how it's supposed to be, how we want it to be, dear Reader?  What are we doing to change that?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ramblings and reflections on New Year's Eve

Well, it's that time again: that day out of the year when the Earth finally completes its orbit around the sun another full time, a day we give more meaning to than perhaps it merits.  A day that, in spite of its less-than-stellar origins, has come to bear significance as a time of reflection on the past 364 full rotations of the earth and what we have spent our lives doing during those rotations.  And as cynical as I try to be about the celebration of a day that frankly is just like any other, here I am anyways writing a long blog post on a dusty blog that I haven't written in for a good few months that only you, Reader, might end up reading.

I'm okay with that.

Because I've definitely come to face this interesting scenario multiple times where I idealistically want to view something one way and realistically, sometimes cynically, come back from a different angle and counter that vision.  It happens in all areas of my life, and occasionally this odd dialectic causes the original vision I have for a certain area of my life to dull in color, not because I've obtained a more realistic or more idealistic understanding of the vision, but rather because I've allowed the train of the vision to derail.

So here's to being okay with viewing life with all of its complications.

Here's to making mistakes and learning from past mistakes and still being faced with the temptation to recommit those mistakes, because change is never a passive process and it often involves a conscious shift in our decisions, our actions and reactions, that occurs in the moments we know we want to end differently.

Here's to finding friends only to lose some of them while making new friends along the way, because each and every single person had some purpose in crossing our path, whether big or small, and the glory of it all is that those people are every bit as messed up and beautiful as us.

Here's to attempted and failed romance as well as success in relationships, because from these experiences we learn what we find attractive in people, what we don't, how to be supportive, how to love, how to be persistent, when to stay silent and when to speak, how to share burdens, and how to trust.  Most importantly, we learn more about ourselves.

Here's to never-ending change, because not only is it a necessary facet of life (an unknown author once said that without change, there would be no butterflies), but it's also what keeps life interesting.  It keeps us on our toes, keeps us from getting too comfortable, keeps us growing.

Here's to the inevitable closing of certain chapters of our lives and opening of new ones, because the pages that we wrote are achingly beautiful and the ones that are yet to be written eagerly anticipate the putting of ink pen to white paper.

Here's to late nights spent writing papers, late nights spent with friends, late nights doing a combination of the two, and late nights blowing both of them off, because odds are we had a reason and excuse for each one, whether valid or not, and by the time we wiped the sleep out of our eyes the next morning we came to understand that that night is now woven into the big tapestry of our lives.

Here's to dancing warm nights away to bachata, to watching as one by ones your friends and acquaintances fall in love and get engaged and get married and have kids, to jumping into Lake Michigan at the end of a semester when it's cold still just because you can, to nervous breakdowns and panic attacks that you eventually learn to handle or at least cope with (this too shall pass), to delicious food shared with amazing company, to conversations where you allow yourself to be vulnerable for once, to discovering wild new places and stumbling upon incredible details of nature, to late-night walks shared with that friend you could never do life without while sharing deep and emotional conversation, to finally taking classes that you actually enjoy and actually attending most of them because you truly care about the department, to catching and identifying enormous insects that would probably scare the living daylights out of most of the people you know, to climbing the enormous snow piles that the plows make in parking lots, and to laughing so hard while reading a friend's message that you cry or you choke on your hot chocolate (or both).  Here's to surviving.  Here's to living.

And here's to you, dear Reader.  Because you are weird.  And complex.  And special.  And loved.

So, where does this bring me to in the next orbit that the Earth is about to embark upon?

I'm going to leave the country again, this time for a longer while than I'm used to (you can follow me on this tumblr if you're interested in updates, it's empty now but will start being written in towards mid-January).

I'm going to walk in the commencement ceremony, because I'm actually graduated (whaaaat).

I'm going to keep getting used to living life not quite knowing what's going to happen next but having at least a general direction and vision, even if that vision is subjected to constant questioning and internal discussion.

I'm going to let old chains be broken by the Chainbreaker.  See one of my most recent blog posts.

I'm going to make more time for reading and writing in my day-to-day life, because now that I've had a few weeks where I've had the opportunity to do so, I've realized that I've been missing it and how much it helps me be a more educated, literate, and creative person.

And I'm going to be open and willing to accept opportunities for other adventures that I cannot imagine at this moment, without fearfully working myself up about "what-if".

Happy near-completion of the Earth's orbit around the sun once more.  May you experience many more of Earth's rotations about its axis and orbits around that flaming 5,778 Kelvin ball of hydrogen and helium.  And may each of those days hold more meaning than you ever thought possible.  May each of those days hold something, big or small, that causes you to fall asleep at the end of that day thinking that it was special in its very own way.  May you love stronger than you ever thought possible.  May you live.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
(2 Cor. 3:17) #nomoreshackles

That was the text message I received nearly a week ago from a good friend of mine that I honestly do an awful job at keeping in touch with since I transferred colleges three years ago.  "Well, that's nice," I thought to myself, "but hardly applicable right now..."  See, I've been struggling to strengthen my relationship with God since recently, quite frankly, I've been doing as terrible at communicating with Him as with the same friend that sent me this text message.  That one thing I swore I'd never let settle into my heart happened: indifference.  Indifference because as I struggled with the various difficult internal things that started popping up in my life more and more, I started relying less on God and more on my own strength to try to get me through.  My train of thought was something along the following lines:

"I'm just too far gone at this point.  I need to get myself right first before I can come back to God...if He decides to even let me back in, anyways."  (Sitting here now in a somewhat-better state of mind, I can tell you straight-up that this line of thinking is exactly what God does NOT advocate.  See Isaiah 1:18, Joel 2:32, and John 8:2-11, for example, and you'll begin to see that the Gospel is NOT a gospel of works but rather a gospel of grace).

Fast forward a couple of days.  I'm sitting in church with my dad listening to a sermon that Dr. Henry Cloud was giving...a sermon that was really was just his personal story, his personal testimony, a tribute to the saving power of Jesus when it comes to pulling people up out of the deepest pits.  And I'm sitting there listening to the story of his screwed-up childhood and adolescence and early adulthood, and I begin thinking to myself... "You know, surely Jesus is trying to reach me, too, if He was trying to get through to someone like Cloud."  And then came the closing remarks from our campus pastor regarding the "life loop" that he drew on the large teaching pad: "If you're in this downward-sloping, crisis part of the loop, you need to know you're not alone.  Share crisis in community."  And so on with the other parts of the loop.

Fast forward to that evening.  Scene: Young adults ministry evening bible study, blankets and ice cream, Would Your Rather icebreakers that inevitably led to raucous peals of laughter that filled the warm, sunset-lit air.  Contrasting the light and silly games was a heavy study of Romans 9 that ended with a time of prayer requests, some of which were even heavier.  And I was surprised at the vulnerability with which the others were sharing their hearts, and finally just before everyone was about to pray I decided to take a leap and share my need for a softened heart, to come back into a closer relationship with God, to seek Him before all else even as I graduate and am sent abroad.  A girl I had been wanting to know prays for me and I feel a deep still calm move over my heart.  And I am reminded while trying to fall asleep that we were talking earlier during the study about the Wednesday service by Shauna Niequist about changing the story, and how I was trying to stream it a couple of days prior and it wasn't working, and I decide I need to watch it.

So I do it the next day, obviously, and the questions stuck: What stories am I telling about myself, the world, and God that I picked up on my own from one source or another and not from God?  What stories do I need to leave behind so that God has room to put new stories into my life?  And what words, if I believed them, would radically change how I perceive myself and everything else, would radically change my life and my story?

Fast forward to nighttime.  I'm lying wide-awake in my bed trying to sleep and not succeeding as I sift through a million thoughts: Who needs to hear these words...what do I need to hear...what do I need to let go of...but can I ever let go of this story, when this story is going to pursue me for the rest of my life?  Aren't I an exception?  Maybe not, things are better than they have been, things feel easier...And I think about the animal that is chained to a wall who, each time people approach it to try to help it, ends up being backed into the wall and then attacks the person who draws near out of fear and self-defense, because when flight isn't an option you have to fight...and then I think about Jesus who frees us of our chains, frees us and allows us choices and changes our stories.  Jesus, the Chainbreaker.

No more shackles.