Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Year of Youth

I can't believe it is already almost 2011. I know that as I get older, the years will seemingly go by quicker and quicker, but this year just zoomed. I think I’ve mentioned before how working with the youth group makes me all the more aware of how fast time flys by. It’s almost been two years that I’ve been a leader and it seems like yesterday that I started- sitting in a room of girls that I hardly knew.

We had our youth group Christmas party last night and it was so overwhelming to look back at the year and see what God has done. On the topic of One Thousand Gifts, the youth group provides so many of those.

6. At our Christmas party last year, we had 3 kids from our church. This year we had 13 (and even had to borrow someone else’s vehicle so we could fit them all. Last year we all fit in one car.)

7. We’ve had not one, not two, but THREE girls nights. I love seeing the girls get excited to hang out with each other and play games and swim and eat and be silly. I praise the Lord that they are growing in their relationships with each other, and that the girls who are new to our group feel welcomed and get plugged in so easily. Such a gift.

8. Our summer trip was a huge sign of God’s provision. We rented a boat and jet skis and hung out at the Lake all day for two full days, and there was not one injury. 26 teenagers, two jet skis, and a boat. How does that NOT equal an injury? There were none. Not even a scrape. God was so good to us this trip. Not only did He provide physically, but to be in God’s creation for six days just echoed His majesty, and I know the kids felt it.

9. I had to say goodbye to one of my girls that graduated. Ok, that’s a little dramatic. I still see her all the time, but it’s hard when you get used to having someone in your group once a week and then all of the sudden they aren’t there. It really showed to me how every single girl plays such a different role in our group. It surprised me how sad I was to see her move on, but we honestly watched this girl grow into a woman who is seeking God and what more can you really ask for? I know there are a lot more hard “goodbyes” coming my way, but it makes me value the time I have with them more.

10. Last and MOST IMPORTANT, their hearts are changing. They are talking openly and honestly about their faith. They are praying together. They are seeking wisdom and God’s guidance. They are desiring God’s will for their lives. God is working in them in ways that I could never do. Over and over again I’m realizing that I am so powerless to change anything. By God’s grace, I am not able to open their hearts. That’s too big of a responsibility. More than anything, I’ve learned that all we can do as leaders is wholly lean on the One who loves us so much that he came to die for us. When I think about the love that I have for these kids, and the desires that I have for them, multiply that by infinity and that’s how much their Savior loves them. What a peaceful revelation.

May this Christmas remind you of all of your One Thousand Gifts, and also point you to the greatest gift of all…a Savior.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.-Luke 2:11

Monday, November 15, 2010

One Thousand Gifts

Today I was driving to an appointment I was late for, after leaving a bank that I got lost trying to find, and I got stopped at yet another red light. "How is it not even 9 AM and so many unfortunate things have already happened?" was the first thought that came to my head.

As I'm reflecting on the happenings of the morning, I glance over to the sidewalk and see a woman sitting there with her back to me. She's staring off into the distance, and I can tell by the look on her face that she's tired, weary, worn-down. Clearly this woman is in true need, and has true troubles.

My mind replays the morning in a new light as I'm staring at this woman, tears welling up in my eyes.

I am running late to an appointment to see a Doctor that I'm not going to have to pay for because I have a job with health care benefits. I'm late because I couldn't decide what outfit out of a billion choices I was going to wear. I'm grumpy because I had to stop at a bank to deposit money into my account. I am irritated because the directions on my iPhone caused me to go a few minutes in the wrong direction and now I'm not going to have time to stop at Starbucks for coffee. Even reliving the morning in writing makes me disgusted with myself- the same shameful feeling I had at that light, staring at a woman who was far less fortunate.

For a while now, I've wanted to follow in Ann Voskamp's footsteps in her blog series called One Thousand Gifts. She writes on how gratitude can change your life and how it already has changed hers, and how to notice the plethora of gifts surrounding us- from obvious things like a house, car, food, and so on... to the things that go less appreciated like how it smells after rain, or hearing a bird chirp outside. No thing is too big or too small to be thankful for. It's encouraging to read others' lists and see that everyone sees God and gives thanks to Him in different parts of their day. Everything we have is of Him and for Him.

As much as I hate seeing the ugliest parts of me, like how inattentive I am to the grace that abounds, it reminds me of how ugly I am when I come to the Father, and how perfect I am in His sight because of the righteousness his Son died to wrap me in.

So, with only a few minutes of today's ingratitude exposed in this post, I continue it with the beginning of my list of One Thousand Gifts:

1. I am thankful for the needy woman on the corner, staring off into nothing, with thoughts and concerns I'll never know of running through her head...her presence symbolically showing me my true self.

2. The time in the day to sit at my computer and process my thoughts onto a blank screen, with no distractions, calm music in the background.

3. The first, shocking bite of cold air every morning when I take my first step outside, showing that winter is indeed upon us.

4. Google.

5. Strawberries, because they are not in season but they are still everywhere. And I love them. Even though they sometimes give me hives.

One thousand gifts...and that's only scratching the surface. Join me?

And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.-1 Chronicles 29:13

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New "Season"...

I'm usually not the type of person that describes different stages of life as "seasons"'s just not the way I word things (although I have friends that I love dearly who use this term in every other sentence and it just works for them, so no judgement if you say it a lot!)...but as I was journaling today, I realized how this literal change of season (from summer to fall) seems so different than when spring was turning into summer, for my life personally.

I'm constantly amazed at how fast the time is flying by. Working with the youth group really speeds up time in that regard- it seems like they were JUST getting out of school and we were so pumped for summer and now they have been back in school for a MONTH. Yikes!

This summer was definitely a summer of growth for me. In some ways it was really hard in the mere fact that I kept seeing myself, again and again, for who I really am- a SINNER who is constantly in battle against my flesh, my desires, my circumstances, my nature. And in some ways it was really sweet because I am LOVED by the greatest lover of all, Jesus Christ.

So, bidding the summer a fond ado (it truly was great in many regards)...and welcoming the are a few of my hopes for the rest of 2010:

1) To desire and seek God more. To learn more about who He is and to truly know the love He has for me. To stop making my life so busy and loud that His majesty is drowned in my head and heart.

"How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure....that He would give His only son, to make a wretch His treasure."

2) To pray, openly and honestly, without ceasing, for whatever is on my heart, because being in consistent communication with my Savior is imperative to our healthy relationship.

We are reading A Praying Life in our Life Together Groups this semester and I'm loving it so far. It is so practical and real and honest, while outlining how important it is to PRAY. So as this new season begins, I deeply desire to be a more consistent and intentional prayer- to be a woman who honestly trusts and relies on prayers. I love love love hearing one of the youth girls pray when we are in our small groups, and so I can only imagine the delight of the Father when we, His beloved sons and daughters, converse with Him.

3) To cast away idols that distract and deter me from living fully for the Lord. Such an easy thought to have...such an endless road to be on.

"Lord I want to yearn for you, I want to burn with passion over You and only You"- Yearn, by Shane and Shane

So here's to a new season...literally and figuratively!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.-Psalm 51:10

Saturday, April 17, 2010

And when...?

It's hard to pick a favorite verse of the Bible. I think they should all be my favorite; after all, it's the Word of God...we should be inundated with it always.

Still, there are those verses that resound in my head at the most opportune times and far be it for me to say it's anything but divine intervention.

The verse that has been resounding in my head off and on for over a year is Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God."

Ok, I know how to "be still"...and I know how to acknowledge that you "are God"...but putting them together is a challenge for me.

Be still and know that I am God. So even when I had my life perfectly planned out in my head (with dates and everything-- I'm a planner), and those things didn't're still God.

Be still and know that I am God. And when I feel like you're not there because I'm too busy to notice your presence, to acknowledge your creation, to feel your're still God.

Be still and know that I am God. And when anxiety and fear creep into my heart because I don't know how I'm ever going to accomplish the things I want to accomplish or how I'll ever have time to do and see all the things that this vapor of a life has to're still God.

Be still and know that I am God. And when I'm overwhelmed with the daily life that I live, that is smothered in your mercy and love, and I choose to feel bad for myself and console myself in anything other than stillness and reverence that you are're still God.

Thank you, Lord, for being a perfect, holy, and loving God who is God, even when I am not still enough to honor it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Humble Before the Lord

"Sometimes fear in ministry can be a sign of your own insecurities."

I never thought I'd be involved in ministry to any degree. I grew up in a big church and *everyone else* did the work. Being at a smaller church has been a continual blessing in my spiritual life and has been pertinent to my growth. I've realized that all Christians are called to ministry...not just the Pastor and the leaders. I am constantly reminded that change doesn't begin or end with the words I say or what I do. Sometimes I feel like I can talk and talk until my voice gives out and it won't change anything. And I'm right.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."- John 15:5

Lord, keep my spirit humble and my lips proclaiming your goodness.