Winning & Losing

You can’t win every day; some days you’re just going to lose.

I remember saying that to one of my roommates while I was in Thailand for student teaching. We were struggling through culture shock and adaptation and we came face to face with the reality that mistakes and disappointments were bound to happen. That vocabulary stayed with me as I moved and changed jobs and living situations. Last summer, I started referring to experiences or even entire days as “winning” or “losing.” It was a humorous way to document the initial struggles of real life after college graduation.

I’ve been learning that life is composed of both “winning” days and “losing” days. At my current stage of life, winning days are comprised of finding extra coupons, developing superb navigational skills, and getting ahead on work. Losing days might resemble the bills being due before the paycheck, experiencing crazy coworkers, or making stupid mistakes.

When we experience the phenomenon known as “winning” and “losing,” we are experiencing real life. Perhaps we have days or weeks or even months of “losing,” and that’s normal. Usually, however, winning and losing days are interspersed with regular quality days, which is also normal. I would caution that months and months of feeling like you’re losing might be an indication that good Christian counseling could be a good next step for you.

I feel strongly that there are at least two reasons we should not let “winning” or “losing” days define us.

Losing Days Do Not a “Loser” Make

When was the last time you called yourself a failure? Remember it. Well, let that be the last time.

See, a problem we often face (and I have seen this in my life and in the lives of others) is when we take the winning and losing days as indications of who we are. One week I experienced “a week of Mondays” in which every day was bad enough to be a Monday. I took that experience and said to myself something along these lines: “I am a failure. I can’t do this. I can’t be a teacher. Nothing is working right. No one understands me. I’m not good enough.” And then I took that different work at work and applied it to my other roles in life: “I’m failing as a daughter, a friend, a sister, a girlfriend…”

Okay, before you give me heat, think about the times you’ve said something similar to yourself. Negative self-talk is a beast. And listening to Satan is a death sentence. Give that guy a foothold, and you’re done for.

None of what I told myself was true. I was doubting in the dark what God had told me in the light. God has already made it very clear that I’m supposed to be a teacher. He has already proven his goodness and graciousness to me. I know it’s difficult to move from college to the “real world,” but God has already told me that he is with me and will be with me through anything. In fact, I may have been struggling that week, but it did not change who I was.

Everyone Has Them

The end of Matthew chapter five tells us to love our enemies. God gives to them even the general grace he gives to us. Similarly, God allows the general pain to befall both believers and the enemies of believers. In the NIV, Matthew 5:45 reads…

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Everyone gets the sunshine and the rain. One reason I think God gives us all both sunshine and rain is because his desire is that all people come to know him. By using the sun and rain to provide for everyone’s needs for food and to show Himself through creation, he is giving those who do not know him even more opportunities to see him and his power and goodness.

Therefore, our response to losing days should not be self-pity (“Why am I such a loser?”) but acknowledgement of the pain that sin has caused and an awareness that maybe God might just use the losing days to bring about something great. He’s in the habit of redeeming and restoring things like that. I’ve seen God take horrific circumstances and turn them into great and wonderful expressions of his love and rescue and power. (I have been writing about redemption and restoration for a while now. Ironically, I tend to write most about those themes in the month of April!)

When unbelievers see us responding to difficult circumstances and “losing days” with gratitude and hope in God’s providence and provision, they’ll know that something is up, and they just might start asking questions.


I’m writing this post as I’m working through Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts. She compares learning the language of gratitude to learning a second language. In the book, she explains that she is writing down a list of things she is grateful for, adding to the list each day, as if she were copying vocabulary in a second language.

As a English as a Second Language teacher who has spent time with Spanish, Cantonese, Lao, and Thai, I connect with that comparison. What if gratitude is a language we must practice using in order to get better at it? What if we must practice listening to, reading, speaking, and writing gratefulness before it will stick? Perhaps being thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18) is something that must be learned, Ann writes.

To this end, my challenge now becomes: What if we were thankful on “losing” days, too? It’s easy to be thankful on “winning” days, especially if our attitudes are in the right place. But we are not called to be grateful only in some circumstances. We are actually specifically called to be grateful even in troubles.

I have a sneaky feeling that if we named specific things, whether tangible or otherwise, and thanked God for them, even on “losing” days, we would feel less and less like “losers” and more and more like the children of God we really are. See, we aren’t “losers.” God didn’t give us that name when he called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. God calls us chosenset apartholybelonging to GodGod’s delight, and God’s bride (2 Peter 2:9, Psalm 18:19, Isaiah 62:4).

We will have losing days. We will have winning days. Do not let either day define you. Let gratitude for who God is and what God has done for you be your definition. Circumstances will change, but God does not.

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Love is Kind

In the summer of 2013, I worked at a summer camp for girls in the mountains of northeast Alabama. It was an incredible experience and I did many things I considered impossible for me, such as lead a troop of 11-14 year olds, teach six year olds how to knit, or work a ropes course.

I struggled with many of the ropes course tasks because, for one, my hand-eye coordination is not as high as some people’s. I never was good at kickball or basketball or football or P.E. in general, for that matter. Another reason is that while heights are thrilling for me mentally and emotionally, my muscles tend to shut down that high up. My hands would get all sweaty and my fingers would lock up. My arms would go numb. My legs would stop holding me up. It was nasty. Needless to say, they eventually resigned me to the on-ground positions, like belaying climbers up a rock wall or helping little girls off the V-swing. Sometimes I got up in the air on break times just to keep on top of my game, which was always fun.

Of course, even though I was usually assigned to the ground, I had to be trained on all the elements, even the up high ones. This mean hours of training, running the same elements multiple times as both a facilitator and a participant, which always led to uncomfortable wedgies. On one of these days, one of the trainers (a girl named Ali), remarked on my ability to stay calm and patient during the stressful parts. She said, “You’re really patient with yourself.” I think back to that experience quite a bit, and I resonate with her words. That experience was how ropes taught me patience. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that patience is the first characteristic of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

This morning at church, it hit me that I am in the midst of learning the second characteristic from that passage: love is kind.

If you’re like me, you may have had a difficult experience (or several) in your formative years or even since then that has affected how you view yourself. Many times we don’t acknowledge or deal with these experiences – we just know that we are affected in some way, even if we don’t know how. Other times, a counselor, a traumatic event, or a faithful community brings these issues to light and we have to work them out in God’s timing. I once worked with a lady whose uncle told her she had ugly knees and since then she has always worn pants, even decades later. It may be a slightly humorous example, but it was extremely painful for this woman nonetheless.

Often, a situation has affected us for years. Maybe divorce; death of a loved one; abusive elder, peer, or romantic interest; absent parent; constant bullying; lifelong and/or mishandled medical condition; mental illness in ourselves or those around us; unfaithful friend; moving many times as a young child… There are any number of issues, and each person responds to these issues in a different way. A cross-country move may be a traumatic event in one child’s life, while his or her sibling may enjoy the move and make new friends easily. It doesn’t matter what the situation is… What matters is how it affects us. When we struggle with issues today, we may not realize that they are often directly linked to a difficult situation from earlier.

Personally, I struggle with negative self talk. There are a variety of places it could have come from, and I believe it was a combination of all of them. To deal with this struggle, I sought out the only thing I could that made it seem better… Accolades. I figured out by high school that I could take on responsibilities and lead or co-lead something and enter my writing pieces into contests and make A’s in all my classes, and I could run off those accolades like gas in a car. When I felt my self-esteem dropping, I would just remember that my teachers and peers (no more P.E. classes by this point, thankfully) and parents thought I was smart and good at what I did, and I would reign that negative self talk back in. Yeah, sometimes it got to me, and fluctuating teenage hormones did not help a bit, but I was able to be in control enough to be a happy and busy person. I was constantly busy. In college, it was the same way: busyness, good grades, ministry of various types, part-time job, leading and co-leading, staying up late and waking up early. Listen: There is nothing wrong with any of those things. Those are very good things. But when we use them to gain the approval of others, we are neglecting the God who has already given us His approval. I lived on the accolades and approval of others. I also lived for the feelings of success when I accomplished something – sometimes not as pride in a job well done, but as a more haughty, looking-down-on-people-who-couldn’t-do-it pride. Of course, I would have never said that back then, but I began to realize that’s the way it was when I got into the “real world” and people were not constantly giving me accolades and approval. Professors loved me in college, but my boss in the “real world” thought I was okay. And there’s nothing wrong with that… With time, I will get better at what I do, but I’m still learning. It’s okay that I’m okay. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it that way at the beginning of this “real world” adventure.

When the feelings of not measuring up and not meeting standards took its toll on me (from new my job, my new dating relationship, my new living arrangement… see a new pattern here?), I let that negative self talk have its way. It was not pretty. I’ll just sum it up by saying that almost a week ago, I had a horrible night. I was crying nonstop, I couldn’t sleep, my stomach ached, and I could not stop the demeaning thoughts. If it wasn’t spiritual warfare, it was pretty darn close. I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t remember or read Scripture, and I couldn’t calm down enough to think rationally. The negative thoughts had had their way with me. I had listened to them for months now and I could not take it any longer.

But grace found me and I eventually fell asleep. A few good talks with godly people, worship music, and a restful breakfast date with God later, and I am doing much better.

The point I’m making is that I have a propensity for negative self talk and low self-esteem due partially to difficult experiences when I was younger and partially to being a hormonal young woman in multiple new situations at the same time. Regardless, I was faced with the reality that I wasn’t loving myself when I let that negative self-talk into my head. Love is kind, and I was not being kind to myself. When Paul talks about taking every thought captive, he means more than staying away from sexually impure thoughts – he also means avoiding thoughts that put yourself down. You are a child of the Most High God, created in his image to do the good things he has prepared in advance for you to do. Why would you ever put yourself down? Later, in Philippians 4:8, Paul urges us to “fix your thoughts” on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Can you focus on those things while at the same time telling yourself that you are worthless and inadequate over and over again? Can you focus on true, lovely, and honorable things while dismissing your God-given gifts and dwelling on your human weaknesses? Can you focus on right and excellent things while ignoring God’s strength and staying in a place of self-deprecation?

As Christians, we are called to love, and I believe that this command extends even to ourselves. How can we love others if we don’t love ourselves? It’s a difficult balance to find, as we don’t want to become inflated and prideful, either. However, I believe that a positive understanding of God’s sacrifice and grace for us combined with an appropriate conceptual grasp of our teeny-tiny but nevertheless significant roles in his grand plan will help us to find that balance.

In fact, as C.S. Lewis wrote: “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves. It is thinking of ourselves less.” Self-hatred and self-pride are both examples of selfishness, as they are both thinking of ourselves more often than thinking of others.

There is a beautiful place in the middle there where we are at peace with our identities in Christ and we can humbly love others without hidden agendas. It may take an entire lifetime to get to a point of consistently walking in that place. In the mean time, we must deal with our own difficult memories and painful issues in order to love ourselves well. And we must keep loving others, and extending to them the same things we are extending to ourselves, especially when it is difficult.

Love is patient, love is kind… I wonder what God will show me next? (Read 1 Corinthians 13 to find out!)


 

P.S. Let me just stick a postscript in right here… Even as I’m learning about this incredibly important aspect of agape love, I’m realizing that I very often treat those around me with a lack of kindness, even people I claim to love. Why is it so easy to treat those close to us (family, significant others, close friends) with the least love? For this, I apologize, and want to remind those closest to me that this is a learning process for all of us. Thank you for your forgiveness and acceptance, even when my words, thoughts, and actions do not convey love.

It’s Not About Me

The other day, I read a particularly poignant article that explained that the Gospel is worth the difficulties of missions, especially overseas missions, in which extended families are often separated. It was exactly what I needed at that point. It reminded me that no matter what God has me doing today, tomorrow, next year, or next decade, it is worth it. Following Him is worth it. And then God hit me in the face with a two-by-four of a different kind.

its-not-about-me

I realized that this is not about me. My job is not about me. My living situation is not about me. My financial situation is not about me. My friendships are not about me. My family is not about me. My future is not about me! My goals and dreams and passions are not about me. And know what?

My relationship is not about me.

I’m dating an amazing guy. He surprises me, takes me on sweet dates, spends time talking with me and listening to me, gives me super thoughtful gifts, and demonstrates strength and grace and forgiveness and gentleness and bravery in our relationship. He is funny, loves kids, has never met a stranger, and cares deeply for orphans and widows.

But it is easy for me to see my relationship with him in terms of “me.” It’s easy for me to incessantly worry about being a good girlfriend. It’s easy for me to unnecessarily doubt God’s (proven) direction in bringing us together. It’s easy for me to be afraid of being too much or not enough. It’s easy for me to constantly think about how he affects me or why he isn’t listening to me or why he doesn’t meet all 47,589.5 expectations I have for every moment. But it’s not about me. I’m thinking of myself too much.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

– C.S. Lewis

The opposite of C.S. Lewis’s statement is likewise true. It is not humble to constantly think negative of yourself. That is selfishness in another form. And if negative self-talk, unrealistic self-expectations, and the like are a part of your daily life, ditch those patterns and begin to form new ones. A Christian counselor can help tremendously with that.

Anyway, my relationship is not about me. Here’s the shocker: It’s not about him, either. And it’s not even about “us.”

Lecrae sings (raps?) two lines that resonate deeply with me:

Your money, your singleness, marriage, talent, your time
They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine

When I was not dating, I found those lines to be a call to embrace and appreciate my singleness and to use it for good. I traveled freely in ways I would not have done if I was otherwise attached, including spending three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand for my student teaching. I also spent my time in a much more free way (which allowed me to do more things or have a more flexible schedule) than if I had been attached and would have needed to spend time on my relationship. I did things for the Kingdom of God that I could best accomplish as a single person.

Now that I’m dating (and in the future, when I hope to be married), I have a call to embrace and appreciate my relationship and use it for good. I am called to glorify God and build up his Kingdom in ways that I could not do as (or ways I could do differently than) an unattached person. A simple example: I prefer to have someone with me when I’m helping a man, particularly a homeless man, because I am a young woman and I need to be careful. When I was single, a group of friends and I offered to go in together to buy a meal for a homeless man outside a Panera Bread (he didn’t take us up on the offer), but it wasn’t something I would have done alone. My boyfriend and I came across a homeless man downtown and we offered to buy him a drink, also something I would not have felt comfortable doing if I were alone. He did take us up the offer and we were able to give him a little hope that day.

I know that’s a simple example, and many women have no qualms about helping homeless men… But the point still stands: There are some things God can use us to accomplish that are best accomplished in certain stages of life. We are challenged, by those lines from Lecrae, to use our current stages of life, whatever they are, as a means to serve others and thereby serve God.

See, when I read the article from the first paragraph that explained that a family deciding to move overseas was not about the family or the extended family, but solely about God and His directives to “go therefore into all the nations,” I couldn’t argue. I knew that when a family makes that decision, it is not about them. The same is true for me when my boyfriend and I began our relationship: it wasn’t and isn’t about us. It’s about building a relationship together so we can in turn bless those around us as representatives of God.

What makes marriage worth having is that you, your spouse, and those around you see more of God and his love for us in Jesus. If you’re not experiencing that with your boyfriend, break up with him.

– Marshall Segal

Those two sentences hit me in the face every time I read them, because ultimately, all of this boils down to love (which “just happens” to be my OneWord for 2015).

Last night, I spent time wrestling with a disagreement I faced yesterday. Just like how my relationship is not about me, the disagreement wasn’t about me either, and I knew it. I struggled with it and ended up spending some time in prayer for this person instead of getting defensive or feeling rejected over the disagreement. I was able to experience love for this person by considering their needs and circumstances instead of solely focusing on me and my concerns.

This is not about me, because while God is using me in a crazy way in his grand narrative of a plan, I am only a tinier than miniscule part of what he’s doing. I am called to take a step outside my frame of reference and see my circumstances from another perspective.

What in your life is not actually about you? How can you demonstrate love in those circumstances?

Dissatisfaction: Trusting God in Un-Ideal Circumstances

When I went to buy a Christmas present for a relative today, the cashier asked me to take one of those phone surveys by calling the number at the bottom of my receipt. He seemed quite excited about it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. I dialed the number as I walked out of the store. It seemed as if the automated voice told me over and over again: “Press five for extremely satisfied… Press four for satisfied… Press three for neither satisfied nor dissatisfied…” And so forth. It went on and on.

I realized during the phone survey that I am not satisfied with my current circumstances. Nothing is working out the way I had planned, even the good stuff. Like, for example, the fact that I am teaching six year olds after just graduating with a degree in Secondary Education. I never expected to hold so many hands and stick so many Band-Aids and settle so many disagreements over erasers or line leaders as I have so far this year.

It’s December ninth, almost seven months since I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma alongside a couple hundred of my peers. For many of you, me included, life since graduation has not been exactly what we’d hoped. Some of you haven’t gotten the jobs you expected. A few haven’t gotten any job at all. If you do have job in a field you chose, colleagues or working conditions may not be up to par. If you’ve moved, there’s an added level of finding your way around a new place, locating the good grocery store and a local Bible-believing church. Many of you are in un-ideal living conditions, such as living with your parents if you wanted to move out or living with new roommates you aren’t quite sure you actually like. And then there’s the whole money issue, like when your car needs a new battery the same month you have to go to the doctor and get a prescription filled on top of student loan payments and car loan payments. Awesome.

It is easy at this point to give up. To give up because you are tired, because things are not working out like you’d hoped, because your plans are not coming to fruition. Or, at least, to give up on the inside. You may still go to work because you need the money, but you may give up on being cheerful at your job. You may still cook dinner for your roommates on your assigned day, but you aren’t open to having good, honest conversations with them. You may still go to church, but you aren’t soaking up the lessons from the sermon or connecting with the body. You may show up to your service commitment or help someone out of obligation, but you may not be letting it change you. You may still have fleeting moments of awareness and hope and joy but, in general, life falls flat. Life stinks. A lot.

Let me tell you this, friends: This is only temporary. This spot you’re in right now may not be ideal, but it will not last forever. On one hand, you should be open to and serious about the next step for you, whether that is applying for a new job, enrolling in graduate school, pursuing and officializing a relationship, whatever. On the other hand, keep in mind that there will always been greener pastures. There will always be a next step you are looking towards. Therefore, consider that even though your current circumstances may not be ideal, God is working in them.

The book of Genesis is full of barren women and childless couples who felt like they were in a holding place of un-ideal circumstances. Consider Abraham and Sarah, who didn’t have Isaac until they were ancient… Literally. Also note Isaac and his wife Rebekah in chapter 25: Isaac prayed for Rebekah to have children when he was forty years old. She didn’t give birth to their first children (twins) until he was sixty. That was twenty years of prayer and work and effort and wondering. However, the Bible doesn’t say that Isaac complained and gave up and blamed God for not getting what he wanted. It says that Isaac “pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife” (v. 21). He pleaded; He didn’t doubt. And God did great things. In Isaac and Rebekah’s case, we don’t know what God did in the meantime. However, we do know a lot of Abraham and Sarah’s journey and all the adventures God took them on between calling them away from Abraham’s family and bringing Isaac into their lives.

This quote has stuck with me for a while: Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light. Dear friends, have you gotten to the point where what you knew to be true in more ideal circumstances has fallen by the wayside now that you are in un-ideal circumstances? Go back to what you know. See, God doesn’t change. The way we perceive him changes, but he himself does not change. Not even a smidgen. Therefore, all the truth he revealed to you when you were sitting in chapel service after Bible class after prayer meeting in college is still true. All the truth he revealed to you when you sat by an ocean in a foreign country with your journal and your acoustic guitar is still true. Go back to that. Read your old blog posts or journal entries, Skype with a friend who went overseas with you, or revisit old places where you heard God clearly. Remember that he has not changed… The truth is the truth wherever you are.

Just as a great guy loves his girl and shows that love through his actions and his attitude whether she is near him or far away or whether she is a joy to be around or an emotional wreck… So God loves us (even deeper and more unconditionally). You have already been made holy, righteous, and redeemed before him. He loves you regardless of your current circumstances because your current circumstances do not explain or define his attitude towards you. They are, however, where he has put you for the time being. And he works in them, too, every moment of every day, even when you can’t see him.

What if God chose these un-ideal circumstances for a reason and put you in them for a reason? Sounds a lot like Esther, huh?

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

– Esther 4:14, NLT (emphasis mine)

Feet on the Ground: Eyes to the Sky

Is it ironic to anyone else that we usually spend more time, money, and energy preparing for the next stage of life than living in the current one? Now, I know that’s not always the case, but consider the college years. We take out exorbitant loans in order to pay for an education that should train us for the next few stages of life. We spend (or should spend) hours in classes and lecture halls and libraries, not for the benefit of our college years, but for some future benefit. Some girls pin wedding dresses and bridal ideas to Pinterest before they even have a boyfriend, not to mention an engagement ring. In high school, we long for the freedom of college and spend hours visiting potential schools, applying for scholarships, writing essays, and settling on majors. As single people, we dream of marriage and children. We can’t wait for “real jobs” that somehow magically support a family, put food on the table, and leave a little extra for that dream vacation. Is it just that we aren’t satisfied with our current circumstances and long for the greener grass on the other side?

Yes… I mean… No, there’s more to it.

There is something serious to be said about constantly looking for what’s next. It’s like living as if you’re in a waiting room. God has not called us to passive waiting – he has called us to active, working, living-in-the-moment waiting, a kind of waiting that gets knee deep in the current situation until a tap on the shoulder calls us to what he has for us next. Never get so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that you neglect today and all of its unique joys, trials, discoveries, and adventures. I believe that God has us where he wants us right now for a reason. Even the in-between stages are adventures. As Anne Voskamp once wrote, “Waiting is just a gift of time in disguise — a time to pray wrapped up in a ribbon of patience — because is the Lord ever late?” He has right where he wants us.

However, I would also propose the idea that we need a mindset that is also looking forward to the future. There needs to be a balance. There is reason that we think about the future often and have all kinds of desires for our futures. I believe it would be wrong to ignore those thoughts and desires. So how can we deal with them properly? By using them to prepare ourselves.

I once attended a college group the day they decided to study marriage. A student asked the pastor why we have to study marriage if we aren’t yet married. The pastor responded with something along the lines of: “You’re in college. It’s not going to be long until you are looking to get married. This is the perfect time to be getting ready.”

Many years ago, I began listening to sermons on God’s purposes for marriage, learning healthy communication techniques, reading books on relationships, and observing positive and negative relationships. I did all this before I began dating in order to prepare myself for a relationship ahead of time. The same is true for a career. I knew I wanted to go into the field of education when I was young, so I signed myself up to spend 120+ weeks of my life studying, reading, and learning how to be a teacher, not to mention the various summer activities I participated in that further prepared me for my upcoming role. I feel like my college education has barely scratched the surface, but it was the pathway to becoming a teacher, and I needed to take the time to invest into a four year degree so I could be better prepared for what I believe God has called me to do with my life. I will never be completely ready for what’s next, but I can be a little more prepared by looking ahead.

As Switchfoot sings, “Grow, grow where you are. Anchor your roots underneath.” We should actively wait for what’s next while at the same time being knee-deep in what’s now.


On that note, let me take a moment to change direction. When I talk about stages of life, I’m also talking about identity. We easily find our identities in what we do. It’s the first question many people ask us. It’s in our Twitter pages and our Facebook “About Me” sections. For a long time, I found my identity in my status as a student and as a single person. I wrote blog posts after blog posts (including a three-part series) on singleness. I lived and breathed that identity. Singleness was something God used powerfully to bring about sanctification in my life. Then one day a really awesome guy showed up in my life and chose to pursue me.  I heard God release me from intentional singleness. In four weeks, I went from identifying as a woman comfortable in my singleness (complete with books, tea, and a cat), to trying to find my identity as a dating woman. I welcomed the relationship and I’m beyond excited about it, but it’s difficult to transition like that.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by a woman who had recently moved from a stage of infertility to a stage of having children. Her identity changed to include being a mother in the time it took to take a pregnancy test. In the midst of the realization, she wrote:

How do you say goodbye to a season that [God has] used to make you into who you are?

I resonate with that. My identity has changed, and the circumstances of my life that God uses to mold me may have changed, but the lessons I learned from those circumstances have not changed. God is the same, and his truths and his words are the same. Now God is using a different stage of life (that of a relationship) to bring about my good and his glory. In 2010, God told me he wanted to do great and wonderful things in me and through me before there was a guy in my life. And you know what, he did! I was called to teaching, developed some life-long friendships, took two trips overseas, spent a summer as a camp counselor, graduated college Magna Cum Laude, and landed what I believe will be an awesome job. The mind-blowing thing is that God’s great and wonderful plans don’t end there. He is still doing great and wonderful things, and he orchestrates circumstances to keep bringing them about.

At this moment, as my journey shifts a bit, I find myself overjoyed at God’s ability to work all things together in a way that only He can. I am saying goodbye to one stage only to say hello to another.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of discovery as I strive to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes to the sky.

The Adventures In Between

I realized today that even the “boring” stages of life are adventures.

I have really been struggling with the concept of growing up and being on my own. I think part of this struggle comes from feeling alone. I mean, even though I am blessed with friends who are making his journey with me and family members who are caring and supportive, sometimes I still feel like I’m doing this on my own. I must have the internal motivation to succeed. I must make choices that are right for me. I have to send out my own job applications and schedule my own interviews. I have to decide what time I’m going to bed and when I’ll wake up. I make the decision whether to have ice cream and coffee cake for dinner or to eat actual food (sometimes the ice cream wins out), but I’m making that decision myself. No one else will make it for me.

In that moment, realizing I’m free and yet somehow bound to my own limitations, I find myself fearful of what lies ahead. I was panicked at one time last month. I was incredibly anxious with all of my student teaching work to complete and with planning my next step. I fed my stress with junk food and lack of exercise (which, of course, is a completely healthy and mature way to deal with my problems).

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When I went to Thailand, I bought the audiobook version of Love Does by Bob Goff. If anyone is qualified to speak on adventure, it’s Bob Goff. Having just written resumes myself, I can’t begin to describe Bob’s resume. You can view his website here, but before I go any farther, you should know that Bob is a diplomat to Uganda, a lawyer who found an interesting way into law school, a hitchhiker (in his younger days), a father desiring to make his children’s dreams come true, a hiker and biker, the founder of a non-profit, a world traveler, a man engaged in life and whimsy, and an adventurer. He loves God and has a passionate for people and for showing people the God who loves them, too.

Listening to the audiobook version of Love Does reminded me of adventure. It is easy to “live the adventure”  when you’re dreaming of plane flights and rattling off new languages and hiking exotic waterfalls. But when you’re living with your parents and spending your time between job applications, running errands, and helping with yard work, it doesn’t really feel like an adventure anymore. How can I be adventurous at this stage in my life? Nothing stopped Bob Goff from being adventurous, even in the boring stuff. He sat outside the office of the law school dean for several days waiting and willing to be accepted to the school. When his Jeep was totaled, he rode a skateboard to work and asked his family and friends for rides to the airport and grocery store. Things that would stop me somehow didn’t stop him. He was still an adventurer regardless. Even if he failed, the failure was an adventure.

A writer at Deeper Story wrote that her “white picket fence… looks like safety but feels like adventure.” The thing is, my current adventures are not super adventurous. They look like safety. I few months ago, I was obtaining visas, buying tickets, flying halfway around the world, and living and working in a country I had never been to before for three months. That felt like an adventure because everyone knew it was an adventure. I had sent out prayer cards and made a blog and raised some money. I needed a passport, a visa, and plane tickets. It was good and bad and fantastic and difficult and beautiful all in one. (Adventures are not perfect every day.)

The same is true for adventures that seem somewhat less adventurous. I don’t need a passport for my immediate after graduation circumstances. I don’t need plane tickets. I’m not raising money (although that’s not a bad idea!). Regardless, my after-graduation adventures are still adventures. They may be less initially mind-blowing (moving to Thailand for three months was a little crazy to many people), but they are still adventures. I still find the whole “after-graduation”/”on my own” thing really crazy. And I believe that whatever the next days, months, and years hold will be good, bad, fantastic, difficult, and beautiful all at the same time, just like my student teaching in Thailand. God is calling me to adventures, even adventures of living in one of my dad and stepmom’s extra bedrooms and job hunting for a few months.

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Because you know what? This stage of life is just as valuable as the three and a half months I spent in Thailand. This stage of life feels like an “in-between” moment that I would like to skip over, but it is actually important. I didn’t graduate college after a few months of fun-filled partying with my best friends. I spent four years, most of them engaged in hard work, in order to graduate. The same is true about this part of my life. It may be weird and uncomfortable and hard and boring sometimes, but it matters in the grand scheme of things.


Let us not forget two things:

  1. Wherever you are right now, it is not a waiting room. As Anne Voskamp says, “Real Life is Happening. Right Now.” God is working right now. Use the time you’re given right now.
  2. Bob Goff writes, “You don’t need to know everything when you’re with someone you trust.” I think that because we can’t see God and we usually don’t hear Him audibly, we have difficulty trusting Him, but we are called to trust him and rely on Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He knows what the people around us are doing. He’s got a plan, so it’s okay to trust Him even when we don’t know exactly what’s going on. In the end, God is good, and He works everything together for His glory and our good.

Even the adventures in between.

The Process of Discovery: First Half of 2014 in Review

In two days, it will be June, halfway through 2014 as we know it. I have spent the last five months in a whirlwind of settling and resettling, excitement and tumult, joy and tears, entry and re-entry, leaving and arriving, movement and rest.

So far, 2014 has seen me setting foot in four countries and three states. I’ve flown in eight airplanes and taken at least nine other types of transportation. By next week, I will have packed up and moved (in various capacities) over ten times. I have been a teacher and student (and graduate), traveler and homebody, leader and follower, roommate, housemate, friend, sister, daughter, volunteer, packer, organizer, and writer.

(I know I’ve been slacking on the “writer” part!)

Last December, I chose to make Discover my OneWord for 2014. While I am enjoying spending some time focusing on discover, I find that the word hasn’t hit me the same way grace hit me in 2013. Believe me, discover showed up in Thailand, both in print as I arrived and in my daily interactions of discovery, as I did those very things I thought I could not do.

Maybe, unlike grace‘s consistent appearance in songs, books, and conversations, discovery is showing up more in my attitude. Maybe instead of hitting me over the head like gracediscover is being embodied and grown inside me. Maybe it’s a gentle process of discovery… imagine that!

My next adventure, and one that I am loving so far, is leading an 8-week online Bible study group with Good Morning Girls as part of their “You are Loved” study. (Enrollment ends tonight, if you are interested in joining!) As I gear up for the study with the 14 or so ladies who are joining me online, I am praying for discovery. I am praying that these ladies and I would discover more about God than we knew before the study. I pray that what we discover would shape our lives and our interactions with others for the better.

Also before me is the adventure of moving to the city where my dad and stepmom live with two good friends. We are living in their home for a while, looking for jobs, and settling in post-graduation life, whatever that is supposed to be! Thanks for your prayers, everyone.

You Know You’re “Growing Up” When…

  • You can justify spending less time in the junior’s section and more time in the women’s section. Unfortunately,  the junior’s section is too scandalous and the women’s too dreary.
  • You have to figure out what size you are in women’s clothes, like pant suits and fancy dresses.
  • You’re not sure whether to shop in the “teen fiction” or the “fiction” section at Barnes and Noble, but you can’t find what you’re looking for in either place.
  • “We’ll let you know by the end of the week either way” turns into “You might be lucky to get a letter in the next week or two.”
  • You have to buy your own food, even at home (if the family is not going out or if you don’t want to eat your brother’s Beefaroni).
  • You choose to eat the Beefaroni anyway.
  • You have to cook your own breakfast at your grandma’s house, but thankfully, you can use her Keurig machine for free.
  • You are mildly obsessed with money, getting a job, and affording things like a car and an apartment, but you are entirely unmotivated to apply for jobs.

Keep on keeping on, fellow graduates! We can do this.

During Freshman orientation, a speaker once told us to take a deep breath, relax, and say to ourselves: “This is a good idea.” By the time classes started, we were repeating: “Relax… This is a good idea!” After graduation, a friend’s Facebook status recalled this moment and reminded us that four years of college were, in fact, a good idea. We discovered, by the end of our college years, that God had been providing for us all this time. As we begin the next stage and move on to a new chapter, I say it again:

Relax… this is a good idea.