Sunday, December 28, 2008

ode to midnight

i apologize for the lengthy delay since my last post. i've been trying to focus my writing energies on my grad school essays. and then the holidays hit and i was off to Arkansas amidst a flurry of baked goods and multiple Target gift runs.

i hope your Christmas was as blessed as mine was. despite the debilitating, all-day car ride, i was so thankful to spend the holidays at my grandparents' house. they are some of the most kind, welcoming, loving, thoughtful people i have the privilege of knowing--what a joy to spend a whole week in their presence. and it was neat to have so much time around my immediate family. when we weren't driving each other crazy, we were getting along superbly well. stripping everything else away--tv shows, outings with friends, texting (well, mostly)--left only us, and that was good. plus, i finally got my blow-out, full-family holiday celebration. we had over 20 people around the tree on Christmas eve.

now comes the aftermath. i've just started my first load of laundry--though i almost hated to do it! my clothes from this past week smell distinctly of Grandma's house. this is the only time you'll find me deeply sniffing dirty clothes, inhaling that sense memory. it makes me wonder what i smell like to other people--what would your clothes reek of if you spent a week in my room? hopefully something vaguely pleasant. maybe chapstick and book pages and febreeze. as long as it's not my brother's musty old spice scent. i got more than enough of that in the car for 14 hours. boys just smell.

a task far less pleasant than dirty laundry greeted us upon our return home. my sweet cat has gone missing. our two live mostly outside, and never roam far from our back porch, especially at mealtimes. but my Midnight hasn't been seen for several days, according to our pet-sitter. this can't mean anything good. my mom is encouraging a search around the bushes and under the deck--where she thinks he would go to die. i can't imagine anything more horrible than stumbling across my cat's lifeless body. do you remember those Ramona series books? in one of those, the sisters came home to find their cat cold & curled up in his favorite nest. i've been terrified of stumbling upon a similar scene ever since i read that. but at the same time, i want to find him just so we know. so we could bury him.

excuse me for waxing poetic over my four-legged feline, but he was my first real pet. he came to live with us the summer between my fourth and fifth grade years. Midnight was immediately his name--with that black fur coat, a grade-schooler can't be expected to come up with much more. one of his first acts as a member of our family was to eat my hamster. not long after, he had to have emergency surgery after eating a packing peanut. his scar ran across his stomach from his neck to his tail. lest you doubt that he was something of a nuisance, he spent many years peeing on much of our furniture and linens (never on my things, of course). but we sure loved him. i'll spare you many of my silly "pet" names for him (pun very much so intended), but suffice it to say that i'll miss him. my mom had promised that he'd be my companion whenever i strike out on my own. i'll be sad not to have him there next year.

i don't know how to pray for him either. all i could ask was that he was spared pain and fear. otherwise, i was left pondering that movie All Dogs go to Heaven. hmm.

thanks for reading all that, if you did. in happier news, i'm currently enjoying my comfy new pj pants while listening to relient k on my new iPod home stereo. the Panthers won this afternoon! i'm going to visit 4 of my very dearest friends tomorrow, and my 2 former roommates on New Year's. hopefully next weekend i'll be hitting the ski slopes.

here's to the end of a wild and rocky 2008, and the promise of what's to come in '09!

Friday, December 12, 2008

hitting home

the good news: i can now say with confidence that i will be able to visit with all of you who are returning to NC for the holidays, should you so desire my company.

the bad news: i'll have all that time for visiting because i got laid off from my retail job today

the good news: it wasn't due to my work performance or any personality conflicts. sales are down

the bad news: the economy sucks. let's continue to pray for those who have families to support and are out of work. i'll pull through ;)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

who's that baby?

there's been a lot of talk lately in the blog-o-sphere about recapturing the meaning of Christmas. I think this is a yearly task for most of us as each holiday season rolls around. but i have to admit, i've been in a bit of a spiritual funk over the last couple of weeks. now i can blame it on the tree rehearsals, blame it on my Bible study which is stuck in the OT (nothing wrong with that, I love it actually, but I count that reading as my quiet time and don't have enough Jesus in my life), blame it on the style of worship at my current church (as opposed to the loud, boisterous, youthful worship at UNC to which I had grown accustomed)--but it's really just that cycle, isn't it? that cycle of abundance and drought. and that's self-imposed drought, mind you.

but what about people who are learning about Christmas for the very first time--the ones who are first capturing it instead of having to recapture once its flitted away? whether they're new believers, unreached people groups, or, in my case, young children, it's amazing to witness the confusion mixed with wonder over the birth story, the dawning comprehension, the growing recognition.

we're almost through our second week of Christmas with the preschoolers. some of them are finally remembering that the name of the baby is Jesus. when we first asked what Christmas was about, they answered Santa. when we amended the question to ask whose birthday it was on Christmas, they all said, "mine." but now, after multiple encounters with the Christmas story, countless renditions of "ten little angels," and two artistic renderings of the nativity scene, we can point to their scribbled baby Jesus lying in the hay, asking "who's that baby?" and they know the answer.

"baby Jesus"

plus, i get to use a felt board with manger pieces. and what good church kid doesn't love a felt board?

but oh, to recapture that joyful innocence, before all the junk seeps in, the fears, the hurts, the doubts, the misgivings, the theological banter and denominational divisions. before any of that, there was just a baby lying in some hay. a very special baby. my kids are starting to get that--do we?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

non sequitur

i did it! my first singing christmas tree was an absolute blast! the show went super well--i made some great friends, got to ham it up dancing on stage for the first time in three years, and i sang my little heart out :) but, shocker--on Sunday morning at church, after a week of full-time rehearsals for the show, i actually didn't feel like singing. i reached my capacity--never thought i would see the day. now everything is back to normal though and i went right back to humming christmas songs with my kids and singing along with david crowder at the top of my lungs while washing dishes in the empty house.

but speaking of Sunday morning, i just have to tell you what a joy my little Sunday schoolers were this week. i had all girls--4th and 5th grade. 3 out of 5 of them introduced themselves by saying, "my name is so-and-so, and I'm in love with Joe Jonas." the other two responded with, "I'm so-and-so" and I hate the Jonas brothers." ahh, to be young and in love ;) all joking aside though, these kids absolutely blow me away with their depth of understanding and their sincerity. one second they're drawing hearts on their arms around the name 'Joe' and rambling on with some non sequitur story, and the next they're asking questions like, "why do we get presents on Christmas if it's Jesus's birthday?" and "sometimes I just don't know if I can believe everything about God, is that okay?" aren't they awesome? these kids haven't been just coming to Sunday school & doodling on their ditto sheets of Jesus each week, they're actually absorbing some of it, wrestling with it, starting to believe it. isn't it beautiful to see the fruits of ministry?

on a lighter note, my list of pop cultural things to catch up on lengthens: Dora the Explorer for my preschoolers and now the Jonas Brothers for my Sunday schoolers. neither group really talks about much else...

i am caught up on one thing, however. confession: if it were possible to scarf down a novel, i just did it this week with Twilight. I told myself I wouldn't read that book, but I finally got too curious and man, it sucked me in. even better, my sister is going to further indulge me by accompanying me to the movie. so be warned before you open it: it will cost you a few hours of sleep time, $10 for the movie ticket, and God knows how much emotional scarring. As if we weren't having enough trouble finding the perfect man beforehand, now he has to be a vampire... ;)

Monday, December 1, 2008

christmas cheer

well, it's officially that time. advent started yesterday, the christmas tree is up, decorations adorn every flat surface of our home. and my kids are singing christmas music! talk about cute. earlier today i was in the potty, no less, helping one of newly-trained ones finish up, and she launched into the chorus of glorias from "angels we have heard on high." (earlier in the day she had serenaded me with "i have decided to follow Jesus", which went a little more smoothly owing to the lack of Latin text.) once the glorias concluded, she followed smartly with "indian shells and deh-bulls." upon singing back to her the proper pronunciation, I was promptly corrected. if a three-year-old making an attempt at singing Latin isn't giving glory to God in the highest, I'm not sure what it :D

in excelsis Deo!

Friday, November 28, 2008

post script

i want to clarify a frustration i expressed yesterday. right now i am SO excited about my relationship with my sister. i finally feel love and affection for her, and even better, i feel it back from her. a lot of you have prayed for me in this relationship, so i wanted to let you know that God has been so faithful there between us.

no, the frustrations i expressed, the desire to "give up" on certain relationships, those feelings derive mainly from the males in my immediate family. a near-future post will elaborate on this depravity of solid male relationship in my life....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

thanksgiving thoughts

today was rather mundane. i'm sure those of you who spent the day with countless family members, fighting for elbow room at the table and for the last piece of pumpkin pie, might think i'm crazy for saying this, but i crave those big family gatherings because i so rarely experience them. and this was my year at the house where there's no bustle in the kitchen and no traditional family recipes. and there's cursing around the table (and every other second of the day). i know there's families a lot worse off than mine, and there are many people who can't afford a Thanksgiving meal, home-cooked or not, but sometimes my heart breaks within me and other times my anger seethes within me because i'm so uncomfortable and crave something more, er, wholesome, for lack of a better word. wholesome we are not and the whole living-by-example thing is not working for my family. all i ever come off as is the holier-than-thou black sheep. sometimes i just want to pull the plug and give up on these relationships...
i have never once ventured out of the house on black Friday--and tomorrow i have to retail. i'm not scheduled until 10am, thank goodness, but i'm still rather dreading it.
this morning, as is traditional for me personally, i watched the macy's parade, or at least had it on as background noise. the theme for this year, apparently, was 'believe'--as in, believe in Santa Claus. all magical and whimsical and reminiscient of childhood, no? meh. even as one being quite distant from motherhood, i'm conflicted about whether or not to even instigate this deception with my own children. maybe some would argue that it is a great way to build faith in young hearts--but this story ends without a hero. spoiler--santa isn't real. why, why, WHY should we encourage our children to believe in something false? why should we lie and set them up for disappointment? especially when that lie is one of the key offenders in the secularization of Christmas. but i guess today macy's decided that was the message they wanted to send to millions of people--belief in something false. anyone up for making christmas about belief in something Real? i think that may have once been the point...

okay, enough anti-cultural banter here for one holiday. and the generally negative tone of this post. i hope your thanksgiving was blessed.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I will begin this post by quoting my dear, wise friend Kristen:

Shame" says, "there's something innately wrong with me," "I have failed, I have let people down, I have not lived up to their expectations, they must see me as a failure, I am not enough."

What a serendipitous statement to read this afternoon as I've been pondering how to compose a blog post on the same subject. Because, you see, those exact feelings have been haunting me the past several months.

The odd thing is, I made my peace with God about my failure. God spoke to me almost immediately, using what I counted as loss as an example of His unconditional love for me. And that was something I realized, truly realized down in my gut, for the very first time.

But I've been unable to shake the feelings of shame because I believe that my failure let other people down. The expectations I (or they) set for myself? Completely shattered. And yes, perhaps too the fact that my untarnished Christian-girl image has a big smeary blotch right down the front has been hanging over my head.

Unending choruses of "what will they think? what will they say? what will they ask and will my answers be enough?"

you see, this post is not only about failure and shame. it's about demons. i've begun to think that they still exist. we create our own demons out of our idols (which we also create). recently, i picked up this book off the bargain rack at Borders. It's about Mary Magdalene, and the author fictionalized her early life based on the short phrase in Luke 8:2 describing the seven demons which Jesus cast out from her. In this book, Mary first opens herself up to the demons by her possession of a literal idol figurine. As time goes on, she is incapable of destroying the figure, even when it becomes clear that it is the source of her pain and grief.

is this not what we do? a failure or a shortcoming or a flaw becomes a fixation, which becomes an obsession, which takes our attention away from God, and thus it is an idol. and we let it torment us to within inches of our very sanity, at which point we are finally faced with the fact that Jesus Himself, God incarnate, is the only one able to drive those demons away.

how blessed am I that my church offered a healing service yesterday. a chance to be anointed with oil and prayed over by a pastor and group of lay prayer ministers. physical, emotional, and spiritual brokenness was challenged and claimed in the name of the Trinity.

not your typical Sunday morning--I know. but the Spirit of God was truly among us and I believe God was there with me in that moment ready to cast out my demons.

this is what I've realized since then--God is always willing. but I am the one who must let Him free me. how tightly we can hold on to that which hurts us! freedom can be uncomfortable at first, and scary, and different. but it's freedom.

God comes 99% of the way. He has all the power to defeat evil, and He has already triumphed over it once and for all. but I believe He requires of us a small "yes" in order to cast out our demons, smash our idols, and set us on our way in freedom. our fingers must uncurl from what we clutch so tightly so that we may be handed the gift of grace. it comes down to the familiar saying, "let go and let God".

if we are to be people of faith, if I am to be a woman of half the faith I claim, we must know what it means to let...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

like a kid on christmas

last night i found a package on my doorstep that i thought i would have to wait far longer to receive. after doing a little happy dance on the front porch, i shoved the box inside to open later and headed off on my way. what patience--for when i returned i ripped it open and excitedly thumbed through each brand-new, FREE book i received from Zondervon, the Bible publishing company. finally i have a job with perks! for completing a Bible sales training program, i received a hundred dollars of free goodies, plus a free Bible. so, as i was saying, i was as happy as an eight-year-old (or my eighteen-year-old brother even still) on Christmas morning. i was practically salivating over my big, thick, delicious, free NIV Bible dictionary--I may never need wikipedia again.

and in the midst of all the excitement, I thought to myself, "yes, I need to be a seminary student"

if drooling all over a Biblical dictionary doesn't qualify you for div school studies, i'm not sure what does.

fortunately for me, my pastor was willing to meet with me today and discuss a few options for schools, and thoughts about degree tracks and vocational oppourtunties. He was advising the MDiv over the MTS (master of theological studies), advice which I think I will take. More options, more ministry-oriented goals. He also tuned me in to the benefits of one particular city, Boston (KG--here I come?!?) which has a network of eight theological schools. Pretty sweet resources, no? Boston U. is a Methodist institution, so it's definitely worth looking into. And speaking of Boston (which is where he studied), he encouraged me to think about going to school further away, in a exciting big city. Now's the time to do it, and I can settle roots back in NC one day, if that's where I end up. And hey, if that's one more legit reason to put a 'con' on the Dook list, I'm all for it ;)

(I'm going to have to stop making those jokes soon if I apply there...who knows whether admission reps are into checking facebook pages and blogs these days. )

And perhaps the most encouraging thing of all was the fact that my pastor himself entered div school with a completely different career goal in mind. That sure is something that spoke peace to my heart. I think I'm narrowing down my focus a bit more (teaching Bible to secondary schoolers is still high on the list) but who knows what could come out of left field? Maybe God Himself is waiting to speak a clear path to me until I dig into the course work and experience the ministry internships. He certainly spoke in that manner (with a resounding 'no') this summer with my false-start job in KY.

so now the work begins again. admissions essays and reference forms, campus visits and scholarship searches. but I have such peace that God will make things right in His time, and I'm so thankful to be along for the ride!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


the theme for our weekend at regent seemed to run along the lines of listening for God's discerning voice. it makes perfect sense considering that the audience was a group of (mostly) young adults facing serious career decisions. but nonetheless i felt many times as though the speakers were talking directly to me even as they stood in front of a crowded room full of people.

one particularly poignant devotional given at the start of our saturday morning: the speaker was a woman who had an amazing list of credentials (encouraging in and of itself) and the man who introduced her promised that she always preached a timely word. he was right. she began by giving us a list of Biblical methods, if you will, of following God's will in decision-making. These were all based on the book of Acts. Some included direct communication from God (if only we were all so fortunate...or could open our ears and eyes a little wider), the prophetic word, a door opening or a door closing, and so on. I appreciated this list, and hope I can recall it as I move forward.

But her words that really spoke to my heart were not about discerning God's voice, but trusting God's voice. Our speaker pulled out a GPS that she had borrowed from a friend--the kind you stick on your dash in the car. She related a time when she had used the GPS to travel to visit an ailing relative. Not owning one herself, it was the first time she used it. The night before her trip, she felt the need to additionally print out directions from mapquest in order to know each step and where she was going. We all laughed, and as she asked, "who else of you would do the same thing?" I immediately identified with this action and knew I would want the same assurance. She told us how our husband chastised her for not trusting the reliability on the GPS. Instantly, of course, her point became clear: God is our GPS!He knows the whole network of highways and back roads and shortcuts and detours--how to get us to our end destinations and what paths we'll take along the way. And yet I scramble around trying to find directions for each step of the journey, needing to know for myself which way I'm going.

Where is my faith?? Why don't I trust that He knows where He's taking me? He knows the route, He knows the destination, He knows the stops, the detours, and the road blocks (all of which I've already experienced several times). And yet I fail to trust Him. What a convicting word she spoke to my heart!

This is a time of grave importance in my life. A time where God is quietly whispering to my heart, leading me, in His own time, where I need to go next. I took a big fat wrong turn this summer, but I now know it was part of God's roadmap. There was something to learn down that misstep. And now I'm at a crossroads, caught between desperately listening for and seeking out the will of God and still straining to find the directions for myself.

I'm learning, too, that it's okay to outright ask God what He wants of me. He may not answer in the way I'm expected or He may not answer right away. But in Jeremiah 33:3 He promises, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." God alone knows the unsearchable. If only we could fathom the true value of prayer, and meet Him boldly in that place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


as some of you may know, this past weekend i took a big step in contemplating my future. i went to visit the campus of Regent University in Virginia Beach. i discovered this school online while i was searching for a master's program in Christian journalism or something along those lines. what i got was a Christian school offering a MA in Journalism. i have been exceedingly excited about this prospect since i discovered this little gem of a program, but i was somewhat apprehensive about the weekend--what if it just didn't fit? didn't feel right? if that was the case, as far as next year goes, i was afraid i'd be back to square one.

as it turns out, my fears were unfounded. Regent is an absolutely beautiful school with an extremely solid Christian foundation. The campus is only a fraction of the size of UNC, but still evokes a sense of academia and scholarly fellowship. It feels like a college--as opposed to, for instance, my visit to Gordon-Conwell Seminary a year and a half ago. I was super-pumped to visit this school at the time, having heard numerous good things about it. And what could have been a cozy little nook of seminary goodness nestled in the countryside just north of Boston, turned out to be a disappointing, two-building, middle-of-nowhere "campus" that just didn't have that "it" factor for me.

and wow! Regent is a Christian school! not once in my life (if we can discount Sunday School and VBS from the list) have I participated in a faith-based educational institute. i've been a public school kid from kindergarten through undergrad. i wouldn't trade in any of my secular school experiences if i could go back and do it again, but it was really awesome to experience the integration of faith with academics. how radically different from undergrad--my faith practice was strong at Carolina, but it was still a world separate and of it itself. At Regent this weekend, I entered into a room full of people all investigating academic pursuits, and before we settled in for a session of financial aid chatter, we worshiped. together. not just the IVers gathered for Thursday night--but everyone on the campus. Being a part of the secular world is extremely important, but i think i'm ready to experience this kind of Christian-immersion atmosphere, and see where it takes me on my faith journey.

so the pieces are all in place, but i'm hesitant now because of the field of journalism itself. it is ever moving towards the web, towards all things digital. one of the professors told us at an information session, no longer is journalism made up of clark kents, running to the Daily News to file a story. it's all about "interactive media"

but what if I want to be a Clark Kent?

coincidentally, while we were getting ready in our hotel room on the second day of the weekend, the morning news ran a short feature about journalism jobs--and how print journalists just aren't in demand anymore. not too encouraging. or perhaps a nudge from the Lord that this may not be the direction He wants me to move next.

and, after crying out to Him one night last week--speak, Lord! speak, for your servant is listening!--I found a program at CIU that led me to start considering the possibility of teaching Bible at the secondary level. another swerve at the wheel, i know. but the future is still wide open and there's so much out there i could do or explore--so many options to test and eventually discover down which one of those paths my talents and my passions meet and allow me to impact people for the glory of God.

so if you see that road sign, let me know.

while I thank God for providing Regent as a really solid option for next year, still yet I cry out to Him, "speak, for your servant is listening!" Where do I go from here? What's the next step?

ever-listening. ever-trusting. trying to listen better, trying to trust more.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

to be continued...

oh dear, i am so terribly behind and have much to say.

i have about four (yes four!) posts i want to start tonight, all of which will hopefully be filled in by week's end.

much to share, much to ponder, and, as ever, much to thank God for.


Monday, October 27, 2008

contradictory God

this weekend as I was driving up the road to the ineffable Chapel Hill, I realized something more important than football games and Franklin St--I realized something about God, and how He speaks to my heart.

God is paradoxical. He is contradictory. He works in opposites.

Opposites that create incomprehensible harmony and perfection. Sense out of absolute mystery.

this realization hit me when i was listening to a cd in the car. the line of the song (called "Glory" by ROF) reflects nothing deeply theological or doctrinal, but rather a personal encounter with God that reflects the duality of His nature: "You are the thunder in the sky/You are the shelter through the night"

how can one Being be both the power and the protection? i think it's just that: no one but God Himself can encompass such definite opposites, such paradoxical attributes.

there are countless other instances of our contradictory God. this weekend at Bible Church, Pastor Mark made an interesting statement: only God can save you from God. only His salvation can save you from His justice. check out a verse like Joshua 24:20 before heading over to Romans 8:1 to catch my drift.

what is man that You are mindful of Him? (Psalm 8:4) the God who crafted the universe with His hands (Ps. 24:1-2, Ps. 33:9) still cares enough to know our every thought (Psalm 139:13, 16). wretched undeservedness meets undeserved affection.

Jesus makes known this aspect of the divine nature in His teachings--for example, the commonly quoted, "the first will be last and the last will be first" (Luke 13:30, Matt. 19:30, Mark 10:31). even simpler: His love for the ones everyone else expected Him to disdain. prostitues and thieves at the feet of the greatest King the world would ever know. and one of my favorite Bible verses of all encapsulates the character and unique mission of Christ in a beautiful riddle of paradoxes: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9)

And therein lies the greatest contradiction of them all: grace isn't fair--but it's WE who get the benefit of the doubt. Grace isn't fair in our favor. The greatest paradox in the story of our salvation is that a sinless Savior died for the wildly sinful souls of humankind.

open the Bible and look for yourself. what are some other contradictory aspects of our God that make you cry "holy" ? i'd love to know how He touches your heart.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


this year was the first birthday i've experienced without that "i need attention" pressure. it was the first birthday where i was actually called "a baby" (by co-workers, instead of classmates who've always been younger than me). i ate orange cupcakes with bat sprinkles with my preschoolers, and my co-teacher brought me a balloon. the guy at the chick-fil-a window saw my balloon and wished me a happy birthday. when i scanned my card at the Y, my birthdate must have popped up and the staff said happy birthday. then i worked it out at zumba. i talked to two of my best friends on the phone, people who i really needed to hear from and catch up with. my mom made one of my favorite dinners, complete with funfetti cake, and we watched dancing with the stars. low-key yet satisfying.

(and with the promise of chapel hill this weekend, what could be better?)

it's exciting to think that i might finally be past that point where i need extravagant gifts and gobs of attention and a blowout party complete with a pony and a moonbounce and a three-layer cake to feel good on my birthday. don't get me wrong, i don't think i'll ever grow out of the need for people to acknowledge my birthday. but when they do even that, with a simple card or even just a smile, it is more than enough.

birthdays seem to be the easiest days to get down on yourself, to think about how another year has gone by, to remember the things that you haven't yet done or the pieces that haven't quite fallen into place. and when i was groggily rubbing my eyes in the shower at 7:15 that morning, some of those thoughts passed through my mind. only for a second. i chose instead to worship God for the twenty-three years of blessings He's given me and for the the promise of the remaining years He's ordained. it's fun to imagine where the next twenty-three will take me...

...that's to be continued

Sunday, October 19, 2008

concert-going and mind-scanning

hello fall!

it's been a lovely, chilly weekend despite my lingering sniffles and coughies. i've decided that i have to make airbourne a part of my daily regimen, because being constantly sick, at varying levels, for the past 3 weeks is not okay. i love my kids, but they really are like walking snot rags, Lord love them. thankfully i was able to take a sudafed last night, which effectively dried out my nose (and turned my mouth into a wad of cotton) in time for for my birthday concert. for the second year in a row, my favorite band, Rush of Fools, came to town on my birthday weekend. since my dearest K-wood (friend, ex-roomie, and fellow ROF fan and concert-goer) was detained in Chicago with her inner-city ministry and general changing the world goings-on, my mom offered to take me. we had such a blast! since we got lost down the backroads of Indian Trail, NC, we arrived a little late and managed to find a seat in the last pew of the balcony, which ended up being a nice view. the opening act, jason gray, was witty and talented --a combo which led me to buy his cd at intermission. check him out!

then out came Rush of Fools. these guys are such fun and they are genuinely leading worship during their concerts. their songs are scriptural and relevant and sound like the band has spent a lot of time on their faces before God--a place where we all need to be a little more. i loved it, and felt, like last year, that they didn't play long enough :) fortunately we got to meet them (and Big Daddy Weave, the other headlining band) afterward. we came to the autograph table right behind this girl of about 16 or 17. she was gushing on and on to the band and giving them artwork and recording messages for her absentee-friend. i watched on with amusement and couldn't help but see a bit of my middle-school self in her. in fact, if I had ever had the chance to meet Hanson, she would probably look tame compared to me ;) i mention this only because I am thankful that young Christian girls have an amazing group to admire and obsess over, if they must. this band, and others like them, are never going to put out bad lyrics or say offensive things. they're never going to take advantage of their fans. they selflessly wait for the seemingly endless line of fans to file by, with a smile and an autograph and a picture for everyone. that's really a ministry in itself. besides, we looked significantly un-crazy by following the energetic girl through the line, bless her heart. and i think there's something special about being able to personally thank artists whom God has led to touch your own heart and your own walk with Him through their music.

friday was somewhat eventful as well. i finally got my stitches out, thank goodness. all's well there. then i had my second life coaching session. hmmm. i've never done any professional counseling--all my mentoring and discipleship experiences have been, obviously, very personal and relationship-driven. there's been a softness and deep understanding and genuine connection in those relationships. in this coaching setting, i've felt somewhat berated, quite honestly, despite the general pleasantness of the conversation. i'm frustrated because i've only met with this woman a couple times, and i have a hard time with her urging me towards decisive actions when she doesn't understand my personality or motivations or general modus operandi. it's all too in-your-face (quite literally) and superficial. i'm sure this experience will do me some good and help straighten out, to a degree, my directionally-challenged life, but i don't much like it. i'd rather have my girls...kristen, bets, rach--are you free this wednesday???

she did introduce me this week to an interesting personality assessment called mindscan. it's a test that gives you two series of statements, and asks you to rank them from best to worst. the statements, the first set being more general, the second being more "work" focused, range from the obviously good and bad, to items which were a little more vague or more easily variable among people. the way you choose to rank each set produces a "thinking overview" for the world and for the self.

the majority of my results were right on target. i'm highly empathetic and aware of others' feelings. i'm skeptical about absolutes and defining things as black and white. i'm experiencing role frustration (difficulty deciding what i want to do). i have a very strong sense of and dedication to my responsibilities, values, and commitments, and these things are my principal source of internal motivation.

i was happy to hear one result in particular: i tend to put myself below others and disregard my own feelings in comparison to what should be done. my immediate reaction was, 'wow, maybe i am getting a little bit of this Christian lifestyle-thing right!' putting others above myself sounds right-on with many of Christ's teachings, though i'm hardly claiming to do this all the time! but my coach thought this was the one area I need to "work on." i understand that failing to find time for yourself and ignoring your "unique personhood" isn't an all-the-time good thing. and i have had more than enough "me" time in these last few months. but i have never been one to over-appreciate myself. i have a hard time mentioning or even acknowledging all of my accomplishments thus far, some of which are pretty impressive. i hate talking about myself like that. i'm proud of what i've done, but it's not about me. it never has been and never will be. Christ not only calls us to be humble, but He calls us to die to ourselves. whatever good or great things i've achieved, it is a stepping stone on the path of serving Him for His glory. i'm a reflection of God--i don't want to spend the time talking about myself or praising myself, but talking about Him and praising Him.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4.

i'm trying.

Monday, October 13, 2008

free flyin'

yesterday afternoon, after a disappointing couple of hours spent watching the Panthers lose, i decided it was time to dust off (quite literally) my sister's old bike that has been sitting in our garage. i've been eying it for a while, and finally decided yesterday was too much of a perfect day to wait any longer. and though it took quite a bit of work to get it up and running, i was eventually able to coast down the greenway near my house. not long after i pedaled off, i experienced one of those moments of inexpressible joy, which i haven't felt much of lately. it's that kind of joy that wells up in your chest to the point where you have to give a little giggle or shout to let it back out into the world. it was such a beautiful day with the perfect weather, the wind blowing in my hair, tree leaves beginning to change, families strolling up and down the sidewalk, jars of clay playing in my ipod. simply lovely.

and that free feeling came at the perfect time, after a not-so-successful church visit left me sad & angry about having my college life & friends snatched out from under me. but as long as i don't have to work next weekend, as i requested, i will be coming to visit many of you in CH!! so save me an hour or two in your weekend...and maybe a spot on your couch :D

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

seeking: church

i hate the phrase "church shopping," and other ways in which people equate their church experience with levels of customer satisfaction--needing to find a church that fits one's specific needs, wants, comfort level, etc to the point where you could just as easily be searching for a new car or a pair of nice jeans.

i also think i'm afraid of church shopping. like virtually every church, mine has been through it's share of lows. i've watched seemingly committed families uproot their children when things get tough. i've noticed the gradual disappearance of people who used to attend regularly. i've been angry that people would cop out over a pastor or worship leader leaving, or over a budget issue, or something else non-essential. God doesn't check out when the pastor makes a mistake (no matter how big or small), so neither should we.

because of these experiences, and the fact that i feel such an affinity towards my current church, i have been locked into the plan of continuing to attend this church throughout my stopover year back home in Charlotte. it will probably be only for a year, i say to myself, so why go through the trouble of finding somewhere new when this is where i've always gone with my mom, this is where my faith first started to blossom, this is where i have the committment and the joy of serving within the children's ministry.

but i've been scared to admit that this church is no longer the right place for me. i've been scared to say that aloud, even to myself, because it feels like a betrayal. it feels like i'd be cheating on my home church in search of "something better," in search of a church that "meets my needs".

and as much as those phrases still make me cringe, i've come to the realization that when your faith is in a point of stagnation, God will probably be the chief encourager of seeking a new church. a new place to worship. i feel like i haven't worshiped God corporately, in earnest, in quite some time. now this is where i hit another block, because how much of that is due to the restrictions i'm placing on myself, and how much of that is due to the worship environment and community? i know the answer to that question--but i'm still ready to seek a new place where i can escape myself and my surroundings and fully come before God in worship.

i finally made the decision to take this step when last night on the radio i heard, of all things, a stephen curtis chapman song. here's the chorus:

I want to make much of You, Jesus
I want to make much of Your love
I want to live today to give You the praise
That You alone are so worthy of
I want to make much of Your mercy
I want to make much of Your cross
I give You my life
Take it and let it be used
To make much of You

those are the desires i feel so deeply in my heart. right now, i am not living them out. so i am ready. i am ready to again make my life one of praise, to take seriously the Gospell of Christ and His call on my life. i miss Jesus. right now, He and I are like friends who have fallen out of touch. we haven't been in a fight, i'm not angry at Him or doubting His affections. i'm just on a self-imposed hiatus that I never meant to begin. and i'm ready for it to be over so I can make much of all He is.

i also am sick to my stomach for lack of fellowship. you could count the number of young adults at my current church on one hand. i thought i would be okay with that. but i'm not. i would give anything for a small group of people my age, a Sunday school class where I can talk about Scripture with people who see things from a similar generational perspective, a group of people to hang out with, to be a fraction of the community network I had at Carolina in IV.

i think the thing that pushed this decision forward was talking, albeit briefly, with my mom about the fact that our church is not functioning at a capacity to serve a community of people my age. and there's nothing wrong with that--we're a small community that simply doesn't have a young adult population. so i'm off in search of one. i hope to find a place where i can worship on Saturday or Sunday night, so that I won't abandon my volunteer opportunities or just completely detatch myself from this community in which I've become so ingrained. a couple of years ago I attended Sunday night services at this great church called Mosaic that met in a bar, had really loud, soul-consuming worship, and a pastor who was raised a Muslim in the Middle East, which I thought was just really awesome. i might check that out again, at least this weekend while i'm still in the early stages of searching, but it's a bit of a drive.

so if anyone out there is in the charlotte area and knows of a great church that would welcome me in, i'd love to hear about it! i'm also hoping to check out charlotte one when i'm done with choir rehearsals in december, if anyone would like to join!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


apologies for the lack of posts this week. i haven't been terribly busy--just lazy & mildly uninteresting. several things of note did happen this week, however:

  • I signed up for the GRE! This feels like a big step. I'm strongly considering this grad school in VA I mentioned, so here's step one in the process. I'm thankful to have the time to prepare & hope to do well. And the five-year score window will help me keep my options open.
  • I met with a life coach this week! God granted me this opportunity to work through some of my thoughts about my life & the future with a woman still in school for this profession. In exchange for being her "guinea pig," I get to experience this for free!
  • I had my skin cancer spot cut out yesterday. The procedure itself wasn't too bad, but now I'm feeling like someone karate-chopped my shoulder. Boo. But I am proud of myself for having my first set of stitches :) It was funny yesterday how the doctor warned me several times how this procedure was going to leave a scar on my shoulder--funny both because he was telling me despite the fact he was going to do it anyway, and funny because I genuinely don't care to the slightest degree about having a new mark on my back. It really doesn't bother me--I even think it will add character, more bragging rights in a game of scar stories. But then I started thinking if he found me odd, since I have spent years of my life coming to see him concerning the appearance on my face. Weird that I care so very much about the one instance and not about the other. Food for thought I suppose.
Okay, enough for now. I'd like to write about some thoughts I've been having about the church, and my church experience in general. Hopefully I'll get that up on Monday because I am out of school with my kiddies!

Friday, September 26, 2008

from the choir loft

i want to start collecting quotes and tips from my preschool classroom to share with everyone (imagine, the comedy!) but for tonight i'll start you off with a couple zingers from my choir director during our rehearsal tonight (equally amusing--but perhaps more so for the musically inclined):

on a dissonant chord:" really dig into that because it sounds like the good kind of pain feels--like when you get to itch your poison ivy"

on reaching the high point of a (Christmas) song: "imagine that you're riding horseback down the beach naked--that's what this should sound like"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

skin--and those who burn it

last week at the dermatologist, almost as an afterthought, i had a little bump removed from my shoulder. it's been there for several years, most of the time remaining pretty inconspicuous, but every now and then, it would become irritated, bleed, and scab up. i pretty much just considered it to be a undying pimple/bug-bite and never had it on my mind when i went to the doc. but i finally asked about it and my doctor's reaction was to immediately take it off and check it out.

the results came back today & it was cancerous. MILDLY so, thank God. considering my fair skin and my tendency to sunburn, it really isn't too much of a surprise. all i have to do is return next week to get a little more skin sliced out, then i should be a-okay (though i will be tempted to implore the doctor to scan every surface of my skin for any additional anomolies).

i write this to ask for your prayers, and also to realize with me how precious our bodies and our healths truly are. i am extremely fair-skinned and never have truly tanned--only sunburned. when i was a child, my parents monitored me in the sun (though i loathed wearing a tshirt over my swimsuit in the beach pool), but as a teenager i bought into the impression than tan skin was a requirement for being beautiful. thankfully, i've wised-up since then, in large part due to a comment i received from a young mother at my church, maybe about 5 years ago. she noticed a sunburned patch of my skin, then warned me that she had similar skin & already had an instance of skin cancer herself. since then, i've been better about embracing the nature of my skin and avoiding prolonged sun exposure--but there's always those accidental burns and unavoidable conditions. now, of course, i will be even more precautious. go ahead and just call me White-y Whitney from here on out ;) i'm okay with that--hey, if i'd just lived a few centuries earlier, this translucence would be the hottest look on the street....

it would seem that my skin is the bane of my existence these days--i also started taking accutane this week (my third go-round). but the operative words there are 'it would seem.' having the nurse's (and wikipedia's) multiple assurances that this spot on my shoulder is extremely mild and non-threatening reminds me that God truly is sovereign in my life. sure, i struggle with a less-than-perfect complexion, and my irresponsibility in the sun has caught up with me, but i am one healthy woman because my God sustains me. He created me, He ordains my days, He traces my path before me.

cancer is a scary word to hear no matter what. but I thank God that mine can be removed with one quick outpatient procedure--and my prayers are with those who have a greater struggle before them.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

a lingering question

oh, patriarchy, what have you done to us?

forgive me the dramatic opening line (if you must), but it seems that the Bible, despite its good (no, perfect) intentions, often doubles as a tool for promoting all sorts of inequalities and injustices--ever since it fell into our grimy little hands.

no new news here, unfortunately. but i had begun to believe that perhaps we were living in a time (we have votes! we have college education! we have pants!) when the ill-used Biblical passages regarding women would finally begin to regenerate into something positive--or at least something equal.

but then something slips in there that sadly reminds me that we women are still fighting an uphill battle. meaning that men don't have to be intentionally sexist to promote a continued system of patriarchy.

let me finally explain to you what i'm talking about.

i'm reading a book called The Search for Significance with my discipleship mentor. The author is Robert McGee. We're only two chapters in, and I think the content is going to be extremely insightful for this season of my life.

and then he quoted 1 Timothy 2.

yes ladies, you may well know this delightful little passage--voted 'most likely to be edited out if the council of nicaea was reconvened' (before you cry heresy, i'm only being charmingly facetious). especially if your name is rachel and/or you were a member of the women's life group led by said rachel and i, you know this passage. you know the depth of Christian character it takes to read this passage and still like Paul, to read this passage and still believe there is a place for women in ministry outside of sunday school teaching (as much as i love it) and bake-sale organizing.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. will be savedBut women through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (vv. 11-15)

and the Lord knows (along with my discipleship group ladies) that I have begun to make peace with what Paul is saying here, to understand that he is not blatantly attacking womankind...but it still makes my blood boil a bit when it is quoted freely out of context, without any supplementary explanations by the alluding author.

in his book, mr. mcgee was attempting to explain (as Donald Miller did in Searching) how the Fall is the root of humanity's self-worth problems. before the Fall, Adam & Eve were defined solely by God's opinion of them, which of course was an opinion of unconditional love. after the Fall, we look to one another for self-definition, and because we are all imperfect people, our sense of self-worth is skewed. thus, mr. mcgee was generally discussing the Fall and chose to quote 1 timothy, stating that Adam, unlike Eve, was not deceived by the serpent. cue steam pouring from my ears and flashes of red. as it turns out, upon closer examination (by which i mean my actually reading the rest of the paragraph), his point was that Adam sinned deliberately, which may well have been worse than Eve's sin in ignorance. fair enough--they both sinned (hello romans 3:23), whichever way you look it at.

once i calmed down after this initial uproar, i continued onto the workbook section of the book. it was here that the subconcious patriarchy hit the fan. a set of the workbook questions was based on the ending verses of genesis 1. which, as all you biblical scholars will note, is the creation source that does not distinguish between adam and eve, instead stating that "male and female" were created in God's image. but still yet, each and every question which referred to that specific passage and no other asked "what did God command Adam?", "why would Adam do this?", Adam, Adam, Adam. and yet, the name Adam was not breathed in the passage. only male and female--one unit.

i was so angry that i scratched out every instance of "Adam" and replaced it with "humankind." the sad thing is, i may well not have noticed this had it not been for the fact that we recently discussed these passages in my disciple Bible study group and pointed out the source distinction. and likewise, when i voiced (huffed?) these concerns, my mentor gently reminded me that it was likely not an intentional slight on the part of the author--with which i agree. but that's what so bad, right? it's just assumed that Adam was first in charge, the commanding officer, running the show, receiving the commands. but he wasn't necessarily, and certainly not in this version that the author specifically quoted. but it's how mr. mcgee naturally thought--the general patriarchal mindset undermines his thinking.

okay, i know i'm getting a bit out of control, but i think it's these small slights that perpetuate a system where women (in any context) are still second in stature to men. and i want to use my voice to speak against that. to remember that male and female were together created in His image, to remember that Paul said there is neither male nor female for we are one in Christ Jesus (gal. 3:28). to know that 1 timothy 2 is holy scripture and has something invaluable to say to men and women that is NOT sexist.

ps--rach, i dreamed about you after this episode. it's no small wonder why--you are forever linked to this passage in my mind :) much like the monster mash...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

worn out and fabulous

i suddenly remember what it is to be tired. not only sleepy-tired, but that lower back pain that plagued me during my brief waitressing stint--it has returned. (shudder) but i'd much rather be on my feet for the sake of retail than for the sake of waitressing--i far

and despite the fact that i squeezed in a two-hour outdoor zumba-thon in between two five-hour shifts at Lifeway, and despite the fact that my kiddies have already shared a few of their cooties with me, i feel quite good about things! i've already become reasonably competent on the cash register at the bookstore, my schedule is going to be busy but quite manageable, i keep having exciting thoughts about the possibility of a journalistic future, my bad haircut is starting to grow out a bit, and the tar heels won by a LOT this week.

imagine how i'll feel when i finally get a pay check again!

the only bad news--i'm not going to be able to make it to chapel hill next weekend :( it looks like i'll be working a lot of fridays & saturdays, and as much as i wanted to see everyone, i hardly think asking off on my second week would be in my best interest. hope to see y'all for late night in october--which coincidentally falls a few days after my 23rd birthday :) maybe in a month or so i will have earned enough brownie points to ask off. until then, all my love & prayers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

working woman (alternate title: christmas comes early)

three days in and i'm still going to call them my little angels. i have preschool baby loves! we have one tantrum thrower, a couple of hitters, and plenty of snotty noses, but so far i love being around these little darlings.

monday and today (wed) we had seven kids. tuesday there were only two little girls (should be more next week!) i actually enjoy the more hectic activity. i've been singing silly made up songs, washing hands, changing dress up clothes, and eating fake food.

there have been multiple moments where it's felt just like babysitting. but today was a really good day. and i listen to them sing the little blessing i taught them on their own. i hear a parent tell me that his little two year old girl remembered my name at home after one day. i have one little boy make a beeline for my lap when he's eyes got droopy. and i know it's a ministry, that i'm getting to shape little ones. and gosh, i just love to be around them :)

sad news though--the lead teacher i'm working with was offered a full-time job elsewhere (in another career) so she'll be leaving after next week. i feel like we worked well together so i'll be sad to see her go. another change. i guess it just proves that old adage that the only constant thing is change. i'm learning to handle it.

monday was a long day since i went to the bookstore after preschool. it was a uneventful first day--i spent most of it reading a training manual. i'm looking forward to this weekend when i'll get a bit more training in. i hate that initial adjustment phase of learning how everything works and being the question-asker, but i think it will be a great work environment once i settle in.

and finally, christmas had indeed come early this year! last night was my first rehearsal with Carolina Voices, the community choir i decided to join. it was fabulous to sing again! i have this huge delicious folder of christmas music to learn, and gosh i haven't sang choral christmas pieces since high school (still love ya women's glee) and it's going to be fabulous! i also haven't memorized music since high school, which hopefully be like riding a bike--but we've got a lot to do. oooh and we're going to open the program with "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"--the lights gradually rising. when i was a high school freshman, our chamber choir did that and it was so haunting and beautiful and mesmerizing to watch that i've always wanted to open a concert with those deep sounds echoing in the darkness, then slowly growing warmer and lighter. by the time i made it to chamber in high school, that was off the program, but now it all works out anyway! (if you're still reading this senseless rambling, you truly are a friend :) the program will close with a simplistic version of "Silent Night." we closed our rehearsal with it last night, with everyone standing in a circle, listening to the harmonies, singing softly. we weren't even using the lyrics, but i noticed that they were not the traditional ones. i think that will let people really stop and listen to what the song is saying, and send them off with a reminder that the birth of Christ is what all the celebrating is for.

and with that aim in mind, i might let it slide that these alternate lyrics include a Euro-centric reference to baby Jesus's "golden" locks...riiiiight.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

thoughts i've been thinking

some things i figured out this week:

--i'm not sure if a job within a church is where i see myself long-term (which is not ruling out ministry in every capacity)

--i don't think i want to go to grad school or seminary for any type of educational ministry degree

--combining the above two realizations, i think my place within children's ministry in the future will continue to be volunteer-based.

Those were helpful things to realize. They aren't set in stone, but just things I needed to admit to myself as I think about where I'm headed

Also found a Christian grad school in Virginia Beach with a masters in journalism. In case you haven't been able to keep tabs on my multiple career-path changes over the last four years, I entered Carolina as a journalism major--and it's still an interest of mine. It's actually been haunting me over the last month or so (as the job-deprived hysteria set in) that I let go of such a practical major, one in which I had talent and experience, and coming from such a prestigious School of Journalism as Carolina's. No looking back though. Still, I'd love to write as a career, ideally I'd love to work for a Christian publication or publishing company. If I could COMMIT to a career path, earn this degree and hone a specific skill for a specific field, I think I'd be able to get a job that I could excel in and improve in and use my talents to serve the Lord. Again, it's definitely just an option at this point. Obviously I'd have to think about GRE prep and applications before too long, but I don't want to jump the gun. This is something floating around out there as a next-step possibility, something to ponder and pray about.

By the way--the school is Regent College. Anyone know anything about it?

Both of my for-right-now jobs get under way tomorrow! Wow--my first full day in awhile! I'm anticipating things will get a little busier in the weeks to come, but I also feel pretty confident that my life won't regress to the schedule of a Carolina student--as in, full speed ahead from sunup to well past sundown everyday. And I want to use this (relative) downtime to its full benefit. Thinking, praying. Growing closer to God & learning more about myself. Then, when I am ready to move on to what's next, maybe for the first time in a long time I can really trust & know that I'm headed in the right direction.

I'll let you know how my kiddies are, and how things go at the bookstore!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

out of the lifeboat

so today--despite the fact that i have a mysterious insect bite the size of a saucer on the back of my leg, and ignoring the awkward near-encounter with my tenth grade chem teacher at the gym-- today has been rather nice for a thursday. in fact, the latter part of my whole week has had a rather sunny disposition. i thank Donald Miller.

Searching for God Knows What has this great orientating concept (if i can define such a thing when i still have yet to finish it) called the lifeboat theory. in a nutshell, Miller states that human beings were created to get their worth from a source outside themselves. before the Fall, this came solely from God. but since only two people lived before the Fall, the rest of us, broken as we are, have filled this need for outside approval and respect and love with the opinions of our fellow human beings. thing is, we all feel threatened by one another, as if we're all in a competition to see who can gain the most approval from others, and those who lose that competition are the social outcasts. if humanity was contained within one lifeboat, and there wasn't enough room for everyone to stay aboard, those who have the least peer-apportioned approval would be shark bait. and so we keep clawing for approval, for someone else to say that we're doing okay & we're cool enough (rich enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc) to stay in the lifeboat. this becomes our identity, this becomes the basis for all we do.

BUT, the freaking sweet thing is that it doesn't have to be this way. which is what i realized this week. as much as so many of you have built me up, nothing anyone says, positive or negative, makes a difference. because God still defines my worth, and if i can stop listening to the static around me, i have been given the freedom, through Christ, to revel in that God-saturated identity.

so a bit of that truth finally sunk in this week. it's amazing how thick our skulls can be. especially when we're vulnerable. when we're hurting and in the greatest need of a love we can't understand. somehow, it's then that we forget that Jesus has rescued us & again we start pawing around the boat, trying to reassure ourselves that there are others as bad off as we are, maybe some who are worse, all the while trying to avoid eye contact with our 'betters', lest they consider heaving us out without so much as a "man overboard."

and of course by 'we' in that last paragraph--i mean me. but i reckon i might not be the only one...


today i spent my last morning at preschool sans children--i'm ready for them to fill our classroom with their dear little two-year-old selves! (and how many diaper changes will it take for me to recant that statement...?) actually, yesterday we had our little open house. only 5 of our kiddies came, but they were awesome kids! one girl in particular, she was enamored with the little basket of instruments. she grabbed two maracas (which she did in fact know how to pronounce!) and proceeded to shake & dance her little heart out. love it.


i've been thinking alot lately about how God wired us for relationship. first and foremost for relationship with Him, but He also created us for relationship with one another (see Gen. 1:18). and we talked about that incessantly in InterVarsity, and I agreed that loneliness was a plague on our campus and did my best to be welcoming to new faces on Thursday nights and tried to be a good small group leader who followed up with people and genuinely experienced the power of intentional relationship within discipleship groups. and i totally got it that experiencing God is not just about one-on-one time with Jesus, but it's about community.

now i'm in a place for the first time in at least four years that i'm starved for community. i crave relationship. and i'm hoping that wall posts and emails and messages and phone calls will sustain me until i can at least visit CH or until i begin building new relationships here. or until i begin trusting the community infrastructure i have in place within my family, within my church here--even though it looks different than IV, than Carolina.


little brother is home from college for the weekend & already has tales of ramen noodle mishaps & gripes of too much reading. ahh youth. this week i was talking to katie, a dear friend in her junior year at Carolina, and could hear voices in the background while we were chatting. when i asked her where she was sitting, her reply of "the Pit" literally almost made me choke up. oooh to sit in the Pit and read the DTH and watch people walk by and have friend after friend stop by...what divine days those were. and apparently i am in a state of UNC-specific withdrawal which is little more signifcant that i realized. and we always thought that the hard stuff was over on graduation day...

Monday, September 1, 2008

world travel, Donald Miller, and (re)learning how to swim

important question one:
would anyone be interested in traveling with me sometime next summer? across Europe? or somewhere crazy and random like Turkey or China? or even across the western US? it's that time in our lives, you know, where we could still technically just pick up & go without worrying about who's going to watch the kids for a month, etc. i'm asking seriously, though. i'd really like to go. but we'd have to start saving now, of course :) so give me a shout!

important question two:
what does the weekend of sept. 19-21 look like for a chapel hill visit? if you are reading this--this means you! will you be around? is that a good or bad weekend as far as chapel hill goings-on? let me know, i miss y'all like you miss breathing when you're underwater!

in other news, hmmm let's see...

i (almost) officially have a job at the Christian bookstore. yay! it sounds like i will start training this week & dive right in. one really cool thing that the store manager mentioned while we were talking at my interview--there is a possibility for store employees to eventually go to work at the store's corporate headquarters in Nashville. Now, I've never particularly envisioned myself in retail as a long-term career, but THEN the manager was talking about someone he knew who went from a sales employee on the floor to a position in Nashville writing children's material for the company. Hello!Three things I would love to combine in my life's work: writing, children, and Jesus. Wow, if an opportunity like that could come out of this job, it would be a million times better than I was even expecting! Okay, right now it's a long shot and an off-hand comment, but you never know....

getting excited to meet my two's and three's at preschool this week! i must admit, i owe SOMETHING to the school of ed at UNC (shocking, i know...sorry, feel free to disregard any further jaded comments)--we had to rearrange/set-up our classrooms from a pile of toys and a few tables into a multi-center, kid-friendly learning environment. strikingly similar to our first project in the SOE. see, that year of my life wasn't wasted after all.

i auditioned for the charlotte community choir this week. it was exciting! i haven't auditioned for anything in quite some time, so it was exhilirating to go in there & perform pretty well, and even manage to stumble through some sightreading without too many bumps & bruises. i also met a really awesome girl who currently works at UNCC but is planning to shift careers into college/young adult ministry. she was so nice & friendly & i'm looking forward to meeting more people like her within this choir (and to be honest, it was a relief to see right away that there will be other young people in this group!). and i can't wait to start singing again!

i decided to give my long-neglected copy of Searching for God Knows What another go. poor Donald Miller. it's such a good book, and i made it through 2/3 of the chapters earlier this summer, but that was before my life exploded so now i'm starting over. i think it would be neat to read all books this way--twice through without too much time in between readings. gives you a chance to really soak up what the author is saying. of course, i'd say hardly any of us have the time to read for leisure at all, never mind reading one book twice over. so Don, you join my heralded list of books worthy of multi-reads, alongside such greats at the Chronicles of Narnia, Jane Eyre, and Harry Potter. You're in good company, my friend. and i really appreciate a writer who writes in such a way that it makes me want to sit down and write something too. that's a gift--I think he's using it well.

I've been doing Zumba. A lot. It really just feels good to shake it sometimes.

i'm not entirely sure what's going on between God & me right now. maybe I'm avoiding Him after the awkwardness of the Kentucky failure, though I feel at peace about what happened and trust in what God may have wanted to teach me through that . But I'm tentative, tip-toeing around the edges of things because it doesn't feel the same as it once did. It's like I had to come up for air after a deep swim in the expanse of the knowledge of God that I encountered during my four years at UNC. On the way to ministry this summer, I dove in too quickly, head-first, and hit rock bottom. Now I'm shuffling around on the dock, afraid to get back in because it might be too cold, or too deep, or too choppy, or too unfamiliar. Or I might sink again. Or step on a pointy rock. So instead of letting His waves and breakers wash over me (psalm 42), I have done nothing more than to test the temperature and make a few splashes. I don't like being out here--I want to be back in there, where I know how to swim.

i'm starting an intensive Bible study group this week called Disciple. i'm hoping this will allow me to get back into a rhythm and relationship with God, even if it's just going through the motions for the first little bit.

the cool thing is that God says He'll never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31, Joshua 1:5). never. He didn't say, 'I'll never leave you as long as you hold up your end of the deal. as long as you read your Bible everyday and love your neighbor and pray for those who persecute you, as long as you do exactly what I tell you even when it's hard, as long as you repent & really mean it every time, as long as you have your life together if you're going to claim to be My child--THEN I will never leave you or forsake you.' NO! we stand on grace. thank God. as my dear Rachel put it so astutely: we may put God on hold...but He's not going to hang up on us, despite the annoying muzak loops and seemingly endless wait.

i hope you are enjoying your not-so-laborious day. many blessings!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

job update!

hello friends!

well, after weathering an emotionally-draining storm of despair this weekend, i'm on a bit of an upswing. in one day i went from zero jobs to two! okay, well only one of them is official, but still! after a month of nothing much, i am very much encouraged!

the official job is this--the half-day pre-school. for awhile i was considering not taking this job (if it was offered) since it was only part-time & sounded like as much babysitting as teaching (more to come on what that ratio actually will be....). but then i decided that beggars (even those with college degrees) can't be choosers, and in all honesty, if i'm headed towards a career in children's ministry, working with children at a church will be good experience. and i already know that i thrive when i work with kids, so i think it will be enjoyable and rewarding. also, i don't expect to fall heavily under a lot of mental strain from this position, so it won't leave my life consumed by job-related stress (hopefully) and i'll have time to ponder my future and pursue God's heart.

i have two days of training at the church this week, then we have an open house next week, and "class" starts in two weeks. i am with older twos/younger threes :)

the second job is working at the Christian bookstore. this weekend i decided that i would call the store on Monday because i submitted an application awhile back & hadn't heard anything. so i call & talk to the manager, who said i didn't receive a call from him because i indicated on my app. that i was looking for full-time work. so after explaining to him that i was starting this other half-day job, he said that they'd probably be hiring within the next month & he would give me a call in the next couple of weeks.

last night when i left the YMCA i had 3 missed calls, 2 of which were from the bookstore number...but no message. hmmm, odd. then, at precisely 5:51 am this morning, my phone jangles and i groggily pick it up. it tells me i have a "new" voicemail (it must be on reverse Beijing time or something?! the Olympics are over, little pink phone!), which was from the store manager. he said that he talked with his assistant manager, and they'll be able to offer me a position right now after all! so i'm going in on Friday morning for an interview :)

God is faithful. these jobs aren't world-changing, but they're both at least vaguely ministry-related, and will give me purposeful work for the next 6 months to a year while i figure out my next step.

now that the unemployment weight has been lifted, the only ache that still lies on my heart is the notable absence of my Carolina community. all my beloveds and the school itself. that, i know, will not be a problem solved in one day like seemingly the job situation was. but i'm hoping these two work environments and hopefully the choir i'm auditioning to join (tomorrow night!) will provide my first dose of post-college friendships.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


a poem given to me by my mentor, that has given me a good deal of encouragement:

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.

I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
and the Master so gently said, "Wait."

"Wait? You say wait?"
my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is Your hand shortened?
Or have You not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming Your word.
My future and all to which I relate
hangs in the balance,
and You tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes,' a go-ahead sign.
Or even a 'no,' to which I'll resign.
You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
we need but to ask and we shall receive.
Lord, I've been asking and this is my cry,
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
as my Master replied again, "wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
and grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting..for what?"

He seemed then to kneel and His eyes met with mine,
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.

You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
you'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
when darkness and silence are all you can see.
You'd never experience the fullness of love
when the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
but you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
The glow of My comfort late into the night,
the faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
from an infinite God who makes what you have last.
You'd never know should your pain quickly flee,
what it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
but, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.
So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
that the greatest of gifts is to truly know Me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still 'wait.'
--Russell Kelfer

"Herein lies the battle of faith--to hold on and keep believing God despite what our natural senses tell us" --Jim Cymbala

Into marvelous light I'm running...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

no niche

i am all out of sorts. this life-after-college thing is hard, especially since i "don't know what to do with my life." how did i get here? and where, oh where, am i going next?

yesterday i traveled to App State with my mom to get my brother settled into his dorm room for his first year of college. my heart was rather heavy just walking around the campus, sensing the familiar sights and sounds of college life. i am excited for what the next four years hold for my brother, but it was an ample reminder that my four years are up. i get kind of sad when i think about carolina. about how nostalgic i would feel even now, a couple months out, walking across campus. about how other people are living in my dorm rooms and filling my leadership roles and taking my favorite classes.

i think it was easier to define myself at unc. i am a senior, i am a religious studies major, i sing in the women's glee club, i co-lead a small group with Intervarsity, i live in Ram Village, i am a basketball fan, i am a Tar Heel.

now? okay, i am a college grad, i am a 22 (rapidly closing in on 23) year-old, and i am wandering rather aimlessly through life right now. and though i know it's not true in the deepest sense, i have no direction and no purpose.

in the words of John Mayer and my dear friend Ann, this is one heck of a quarter-life crisis.

it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. and i'm letting myself slip away from God when i know i need Him most. as if it's His fault i'm in this mess. as if He's discarded me and left me to stifle so I won't give Him the time of day.

i'm ready to do something. and it's frustrating as i realize that my major isn't too terribly practical (unlike the two i switched out of--journalism and education). it's frustrating when even the silly jobs won't call you back. (is this a symptom of the job market or my own shortcomings?) it's frustrating when the one lead you have isn't so much "teaching" as it is babysitting four mornings a week for only a few hours.

it's frustrating when you can only talk to friends over gmail chat or facebook wall posts or even phone calls instead of over dinner or on the couch, face-to-face.

i'm in a slump and i want to know desperately who i am and what i am doing here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the smallest blessings

okay, honesty check. i've been feeling pretty down on myself lately. half of it is stupid superficial stuff--after spending the weekend at the beach with four beautiful girls, my body image has been on the way low down, being the acne-ridden, pasty skin, still-holding-onto-that-freshmen-10 person that i am. it has been so stinkin hard for me to love myself since my acne came back. but today God told me that part of my understanding His great love is to love myself. prayers for that please. it's not easy.

the other part of my down-in-the-dumps feelings are, of course, coming from the series of days i've spent doing pretty much nothing. all those big "what are you doing with your life" kind of questions swirling around at breakneck speed while I check my email every other hour to see if I've gotten an email back about a job. and should i be doing something more in a career-oriented direction? and where is mr. right? and UGH, i'm not moving back to Chapel Hill this weekend with all those lucky ones who still have more time at Carolina.

on top of all this, of course, i decide to take a few days off from hanging out with God in His Word. which somehow i inevitably do when i need His guidance the most. back at it this morning though after a weird dream--after praying last night for the strength to draw near to Him. not the first time i believe God has communicated something to me through a dream. hmmm. thoughts?

so i returned to my morning meeting with the Lord, and read in 2 Peter 1: "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" Okay, so the grace and peace part is nothing out of the ordinary. But I stopped short at the second half of the verse. The very knowledge of God and His salvation act in Christ our Lord should so fill us with grace and peace that we are full to bursting.

Lately, I hardly think I've been tapping into this abundance. Peace is the last thing on my mind when I feel so ill at ease over the aforementioned aspects of my life. So then who the heck am I? Certainly not one who has been touched by the very hand of God. Or not living like one, anyways.

Perhaps now is my time to learn how to live each day in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Even a life lived simply can be a witness for the Lord--no great and earth-shattering ministry is required for others to see the Lord's work in me. But what must be evident always is the effect of the Gospel on my everyday life--the effect of God's love, grace, peace, and hope.

and so i thank Him for the smallest blessings, the traces of the very hand of God on my life. the fact that I'm enjoying precious time with my siblings, laughing & enjoying their company before they head off to college. the opportunity to lead a small group of middle school girls at my church, with hopefully many more venues to serve to follow. a job interview on monday! the chance to do Disciple Bible study this year. the motivation to encourage spiritual growth within a very important, close relationship. the assurance that being back here was the right thing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

the scenic route

it's been an eventful last few days. i just returned from the beach and, for quite possibly the first time ever, i did not get sunburned! it was a lovely last weekend with one of my dearest friends before she jet-sets halfway across the country to Chicago for an immersion experience in inner-city ministry. and for the second time, i had to say goodbye to her.

i also spent the end of last week catching up with some old friends. wednesday night was a carolina grad get-together. i felt utterly grown-up as we grilled ice cube beef patties (read: beef nuggets) and talked about the "old days" in college. i lost grandly at scattergories, though i managed to successfully draw 'tokyo' in pictionary.

thursday night i went to a little concert that an old friend put on. he shared a handful of songs he has written on piano and guitar, and they were all really quite good. a lot of his spiritual songs seemed to revolve around issues that i am facing--seeking the Lord's will and trying to find a path and a purpose at this crucial juncture in life. one song in particular developed around the idea of God being the driver of our lives as long road trips. in the back seat, too often we yell "are we there yet?" and, as we get older, we try to take the wheel. and then you're swerved off-course, taking what is affectionately referred to as "the scenic route". aka--I'm lost!

i thought that was a pretty good description of what my life has been like over the last few years. a longer, out-of-the-way route that may involve a few more twists and turns, but is it ever worth it to learn from the sights along the way! and i trust that the destination remains the same.

a poignant moment of God's sovereignty: this past week the youth minister at my church in Charlotte was let go due to budgeting constraints. clearly, however, the need for youth ministry does not go away with her. in the upcoming months, a new infrastructure of volunteers will be established to help the existing staff cover the responsibilities of effectively ministering to the youth. i'd like to be a part of that team. it seems to be a clear opportunity to serve my church community and my God. one of the many reasons i believe He has brought me home for such a time as this.

job update! this morning i got a call from a Christian preschool (where I'd submitted a resume) to come in and fill out an application. the church is close to where I live & certainly my previous experience supports a position such as this one. they'll be calling soon for an interview and the job would start at the end of the month. but also, last night i was doing some more hunting online and came across some openings at the Charlotte History Museum. Being the dork that I am, I think that would be really neat! I sent in a resume...I'm not sure how qualified a person they're looking for, so we'll see! I think I'd be good at it :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

life (still) imperfect

an addendum to my previous post:

i have always been baffled by the paradox presented by Hebrews 10:14--
For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy
there is this gap between justifying grace & sanctifying grace. we are described as both having been made perfect AND in the process of being made holy. though we are made perfect through Christ our intercessor in the eyes of God, He is still working in us to sanctify our lives & make us more like Himself.

God saves us and then, by the immeasurable vastness of His love, He displays patience and sacrifice enough to walk with us as we seek to become more holy. to let Him work His sanctifying power. to become more Christlike.

amidst this, we stumble. we sin. we mess up. royally. often.

and is this not the very place where we are called to humble ourselves before our Lord? painfully aware of the difference between our desire and our actualization to be Christlike--here we are knocked over by the constancy of His grace, the depths of His love, the expanse of His faithfulness. here we reckon with Him face-to-face, as He shows us the marks of our sin etched into His hands and then stoops to kiss us on the forehead, dusts us off, and sets us on our way with a reminder that living up to His calling is not an obligation but a act of worship.

brokenness meets repair. sin meets redemption. imperfection meets holiness.

and how very personal this juncture should be. God and His child. God and His beloved.

recently that personal conversation with God regarding my continued failure to live in a Christlike manner (and His utter acceptance of that) was interrupted. i was sent reeling in a state of confusion over why someone i thought i could trust would presume upon my own, very personal reckoning with the Lord in this emotionally delicate period of my life. in this period where my first colossal failure was beginning to show me that God really means unconditional when He says "I love you. "

i feel betrayed. and confused. and thankful for the Christian community that has nurtured me in trust, compassion, and intentionality to which this stands against by contrast. a community that understands how often each of us fails to be Christlike and urges an intimate encounter with God in those places of imperfection & failure. encourages those moments as periods of monumental personal growth and understanding of God's character.

but mostly i feel hurt and saddened. hurt by the image of my own imperfections reflected for me to see, distorted and magnified, as if i hadn't already been staring at them myself. hurt by the need to itemize wrongdoings and angered by my own impulse to retaliate.

saddened that where Christ seeks to heal, make whole, and soften imperfections, we, as ever, get in the way.

Monday, August 4, 2008

life imperfect

the wedding this weekend was absolutely lovely. the bride was stunning, the service was poignant, the company was delightful, and the dancing was a blast.

the one qualm several of us had with the service: the minister made a comment about the bride and groom being two practically perfect people coming together from two perfect families. i think his intention was to complement the character of both the couple and their families, but that choice of wording caught me off guard. made me sit up and think how imperfect i am by contrast. how imperfect my family is. how unlikely it is that i will meet a guy with a perfect family.

let me qualify all this by saying that in no way do i believe the bride & groom consider themselves perfect and walk around flaunting it in everyone else's faces. they have simply been blessed with one another and with families that are uniquely whole.

but i hardly think perfection is something to strive for. i would prefer the minister at my wedding to stand up and say, "look at these two, how gratingly imperfect they are. let's praise God together that they have found one another & will be able to walk through this life imitating the love our perfect Father has for each one of His imperfect children--forgiving faults, pruning unfruitful branches, embracing necessary confrontation, and picking up after each other's slips and stumbles." and my imperfect family will still be there to celebrate with me, rifts, scars, black sheep, and all.

that's all well & good to imagine, but despite this acknowledgment that perfection isn't something to be attained, still i strive for it. i always have--that's probably a big part of why i got into Carolina. and there i met many more people who were likewise striving towards an impossible goal. thankfully, i met many of these perfectionists within a Christian community that started to show us how deeply God loves us despite our imperfections. that the world may sometimes clamor for us to be perfect, but God never will. He made one perfect Being, and the holiness and perfection of Christ is enough to cover the rest of us.

last year i was sitting on the quad studying with a friend when we were approached by two young women. they introduced themselves as staff workers for campus crusade, and after asking for a few minutes of our time, they proceeded to lead us through an exercise that was designed to help them gauge attitudes on campus and open conversations about spirituality and God. they had a set of postcard-sized images, and asked us to select the images that best represented certain things--our present life, our hope for the future, our understanding of God, etc. when i was searching for an image that best represented my understanding of God, i was struck by one that was extremely unlikely. amid pictures of nature, of human faces, of symbols for love and hope, there was this image of a dusty, broken, antique bicycle sitting disheveled in a forgotten and dark corner. immediately i chose it and said, this is who God is to me. this is who God is because He came down to the broken, dirty place we call earth and He went to those dark corners and dusted off the old and the misused. the worn and the tired. it is there where we see God's incomprehensible love for us. the first part of accepting the Gospel is the acknowledgment that our lives are like that broken bicycle. only then can we fully rejoice in the great measures our God takes to redeem us.

in light of that, i think it has begun to slowly creep into my head that God accepts me, faults and all, and there is nothing i can do to make Him love me more or love me less. perfection isn't going to win me God's love. but still there is something within me that makes me a perfectionist--perhaps a desire to please others, a prideful drive, or a need for self-esteem.

coming home from Kentucky has certainly been an instance of my failing to be perfect--not completing a task, taking one giant step in the wrong direction and having to back up and redirect. that's one reason i can discern for this episode in my life--a glorious opportunity to mess up & find that God (and in my blessed case, my friends and family) did not turn His back to me because i didn't achieve much, didn't impress anyone, didn't accomplish everything. it awes and excites me to get to know more of this real love of God.

something i want to share with everyone that relates to this, and i don't think it's healthy for this to continue to be a silent struggle: after two or three years of glorious clear skin, my rather severe acne has come back, unwelcomed and unexpectedly. this is a part of my self image that right now is far from perfect, and it is something i can't control. i can't eat less or exercise more to become skinnier, i can't go shopping for new clothes to look more fashionable, i can't get a new haircut to look trendier--i just have to deal with it. it's an imperfection i can't control. it's one i hate and feel cursed with and often times i find that it controls me. and i struggle with what it means for God to have made this a part of my life (on and off) for the past 10 years. this go-round i think it's God trying to affirm in me the knowledge that I am one of His created, made in Him image, unendingly beautiful in His eyes regardless of how I look to myself or to others. to urge me to stop comparing myself to friends with china-doll skin and understanding that He made them, yes, but He also made me just as I am. but talking about this in light of the perfectionism discussion helps me see that perhaps this acne is also a way for me to let go of control and perfection and rest in His love. not in the affirmation of others, not in the pleasing of myself, but in Him.