Friday, July 22, 2016

Favorite Things | Summer 2016 Edition

In a matter of days I will be twenty-two years old. TWENTY-TWO PEEPS. You know how most birthdays, another year turns over and it’s exciting and all but ultimately it doesn’t feel that different? Turning twenty-one was pretty awesome because it meant I could purchase alcoholic beverages legally (not that I ever purchased or drank alcohol illegally), but apart from that it didn’t feel very different from twenty. Well this year I’m turning twenty-two and I can already tell this next year is going to be a whole lot of crazy and awesome. Here are a few of my favorite things so far this summer and I might have to share a second installment at the end of this summer because there's no way I'm going to fit everything in here.

>>finishing my twenty-first year of life in style
>>realizing my hair is long enough to braid
>>girls’ day out in the city
>>music stores

>>my first smartphone (not gonna lie)
>>the whole new world of Instagram
>>road trips with my adventuring friend

>>lantern fest
>>magic in fire and light

>>campfires and toasting marshmallows
>>befriending strangers
>>visiting New Orleans, LA

>>basically everything about NOLA
>>witnessing my dear friend's wedding
>>third time a bridesmaid
>>catching the bouquet
(first time!)
>>4th of July festivities
>>live orchestra & fireworks display
>>family & friends
>>decluttering life
>>out with the old, in with the new
>>Joshua Radin, The Script, and Bastian Baker
>>running the trails at dusk

>>cow appreciation day at Chick-fil-A
>>Brigitte’s Blend loose-leaf from Harney & Sons
>>sunshine and swimming outdoors

>>feelin’ twenty-two

Photo by Missy 

What are some of your favorite things about summertime? Favorite summer memories?

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Tonight You're Letting Go

We’ve got just one life
Tonight we’re running all the lights

-Mat Kearney, Runaway

Photo © Sojourn 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

I Am the Struggle

This post was originally published on September 16, 2012. 

I believe it is impossible for us to fully recognize our identity in Christ until we have struggled, until we have tasted the bitter harshness of fighting sin, rooting it out of our lives, and what's more, suffering the effects of the struggles in the lives of our brothers and sisters as they sin and suffer and fight beside us. I remember the time when I finally got over the frequently asked question, “Do I really know God? Or do I just know about Him?” It happened during what I believed were the worst years of my life. I realize these are what most people know as their middle school years. I was home schooled, so I am not sure if I had a legitimate middle school phase of life. But I know there were several years when I was unsure of who I was, unsure whether Jesus loved me or not, and whether my God had ears to hear.

My intellectual ideal of god was abruptly removed and replaced during this time, replaced with Job’s God, the God who gives and takes away. And I was anything but prepared to fall on my face and cry, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” in the face of my struggles. I had little idea what the Christian life was supposed to look like, but I never had imagined that it would look like me suffering, much less me suffering for the sake of anyone else’s sin but my own. To make things worse, God seemed perfectly ignorant toward my pleas for His hand in the harsh situation I was in. Was His eye possibly blind to how dire things really were? How could that be, when I kept explaining it to Him?

I had a lot to learn. During these years, during the doubt and the fighting, a moment in my life continually replayed in my mind. It was from those first weeks during the summer of 2006 when Calvin had just come back from the hospital. I must have been twelve years old at the time. My father was trying to persuade my brother to eat, which was a very trying task. A six-year-old boy cannot understand that he must eat when it hurts him to eat. I cannot remember exactly what my father said, but it was something to the effect of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12, how the power of Christ rests upon us in our weakness, how God's grace abounds within suffering...

In short, my brother had reason to rejoice. Because he would receive an abundance of grace throughout his life and his physical battles, an abundance of grace that very few get to experience in this life. If my brother had an abundance of grace, then it was clear that our entire family shared in that grace, that I was a partaker of it. And this was vaguely comforting.

This moment and these words were imprinted on my mind—I clung to them—but it took years for them to penetrate deep enough and reach my heart and soul. And I have only just come to begin to understand what it means to be a partaker of God’s grace and how abundant it really is. I have got this far, far enough to know that all those years while my entire family was struggling through the chaos of sin and heartache, I had it backwards. I was praying for God to make it stop. I was asking Him, to take it all away, to make us happy and content like we once were. In short, I was praying for Him to stop His grace. My eyes were so fixed on the outpouring of my sufferings, my selfishness making me so shortsighted, that I completely missed the flood of God’s grace that was being poured out on us.

I did not realize what was happening, what God was doing, until the rain stopped, the sun came out, and I, feeling very resigned and foolish, noticed for the first time that a very sturdy ark had carried us all through the storm or maybe it still is carrying us through the storm and we are not quite there yet. I am not sure. But I imagine the disciples of Jesus had a similar sort of humiliation when Jesus awoke and said “Peace” and suddenly the storm ceased before their eyes. Before the struggle I had this misconceived idea that if Jesus was in the boat with me, the waters would be continually tranquil.

If anything, the Christian life is quite the opposite. Every Christian is willing to admit that we as Christians, though we are saved and are being sanctified in Christ, still sin. But I am not sure if we all understand what the consequences of sanctification, of being made Holy, really are. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is described as having a sword for a tongue. In the same book, Jesus says that He is coming to the church, coming to destroy the false gods and idols that are hindering her from loving Jesus. And in the same way, Jesus comes to each of us, to destroy the false gods and idols of our own hearts, and I don't think He plans on using persuasive speech in order to make us let go of our sin. No, I think He intends to use His sword, which means there is pain and suffering involved. He will do what is necessary in order to cut the sin from our lives.

I cannot say the waters are tranquil in my life right now. But I can say this. There is a peace in my heart and soul in knowing the raging waters around and inside of us are a gift of God’s grace. There is contentment in knowing that Jesus loves us enough to make sure we are not happy with anything or in anything but Him. He refuses to let us grow complacent in our self-righteousness. And so I continually pray,

“Don’t Stop the Madness”

This post was originally inspired by the band Tenth Avenue North and their songs "Don't Stop the Madness" and "The Struggle". I wanted to share it again because, praise God, his faithfulness rings true even now and this prayer remains on my lips even today, "don't be afraid to break my heart, just bring me down to my knees." 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Because I'm Single || 4 Misconceptions About Singles

If you are not single right now, chances are you probably were at some point or another in your life. You might have to stretch your brain hard to think back that far (don't rub it in). Your life might be considerably more awesome now that you are un-single, so awesome in fact that you decided to obliterate all of your prior memories as a destitute, meaningless, joyless single from your memories. Still, we all know what it is to be single, whether we enjoyed being single or not. Singleness is a universally human experience and yet there are still so many misconceptions about single people. I am here to debunk a few of them. 

The following may be true for some singles, but they're not true for me and I am sure there are other young or not-so young single adults who can relate. In general we should never generalize or make assumptions about people based on their relationship status. So in celebration of getting to know people as whole, complete individuals whether they have a "better half" or not, here are a few misconceptions you should lay aside the next time you approach me or any single person...

1. I am available 100% of the time. I love babysitting and pet-sitting and house-sitting. I love sitting in general, almost as much as I love running, especially when I'm sitting down to watch Netflix (haha, see what I did there?). I think having a little more flexibility is one of the perks of being a single person and I like filling needs where I can. But this does not mean that I don’t have a life, I don’t make plans, and I don’t know how to spend my time because I’m single. I have a job. I have obligations. I have friends. I have a social life (does Netflix count as a social life?).

2. I can't relate to married couples whatsoever. Because every married couple knows that if you are single, you can’t join the club. Okay, not every married person treats me this way. In fact, I have a lot of married/un-single friends who are great about hanging out with me, talking, and simply being my friend even though our relationship statuses are different. But there are always those adults who talk down to me, over me, and past me because, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t relate to you. I mean, I was never single, was I?”  

3. My life is on hold. Being single is all about sitting around and waiting for someone to marry. And until then, my life doesn’t really amount to much. When my friends and family ask me, “What’s going on in your life? Anything exciting happening?” I know they’re fishing for relationship information. “Has a gallant young man stepped into your life? Oh—no? Okay, I’m bored.” It’s no secret that everyone is disinterested in your existence until you get into a relationship...and then suddenly your personal life is everybody’s business. And I exaggerate here because obviously my friends and family aren't completely disinterested in my existence. But the fact still remains. My life is not on hold simply because I don’t have a boyfriend. If anything, it’s quite the opposite and the plans I make, the things I do, the job I have—those are all still really important and exciting for me.

Here’s a tip for all you un-single people. When you approach your single friends, avoid asking general questions such as, “How’s life? How are you doing?” Instead, ask them specific questions like, “How was work this week? How is that project you’ve been working on? How is your roommate?” Because if you think about it, these are the kinds of questions we ask married couples. “How is your child? How’s your husband? How is the nursery coming along for the baby-on-the-way?” And just because we don’t have husbands, wives, or children, doesn’t mean our commitments, jobs, dreams and various other aspects of our lives are no less important to us.

4. I am hunting for a husband. It is a universally accepted assumption that any young woman who is twenty-one years old and single must be in want of a husband. Rephrase: She is desperate for a husband. Rephrase: She is so desperate for a husband she will snatch up any eligible single man in the near vicinity. Except not. Because a young woman who is twenty-one and decidedly single is probably decidedly single because she has very specific expectations for any potential suitors and she’s not going to settle for anything less than her expectations. And until that someone comes along (if he ever does), she is going to remain blissfully single because life is awesome and being single is awesome.

Do you relate to these misconceptions? Are there any other misconceptions you would add to this list? 

Friday, June 24, 2016

What to Say to Your Grieving Friend

One of the first funerals I attended was the funeral for a dear friend’s grandfather. My friend and I grew up like sisters and since I could remember anything, I remember visits around Christmas time from her and her family, back when my family lived thirty minutes from civilization in the little farmhouse in Illinois.

I never knew my grandfathers, they both died when I was a baby, but I knew my friend’s grandparents and I always thought of her Papa as a surrogate grandfather of sorts. He was funny and nice and always made Thanksgiving dinners jovial and fun. The day of his funeral, as I stood in the receiving line to console our friends, I suddenly got panicked and scared. I turned to my sister Ruth and burst into tears, saying, “I don’t want to talk to them!” 

I had never seen my friends this sad and I was terrified because I was a little child who didn’t understand what was happening. 

And I knew there was nothing I could possibly say to make this better. 

Since then I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

Knowing what to say and do in these situations is never easy. At my brother’s wake, an acquaintance of my family’s and someone I didn’t even really know, came up to me and said, “The good die young, so your brother must have been very, very good.” Yes, my brother was a very good person, but no, that’s not very comforting at all. I smiled diplomatically and said, “thank you” because wakes and funerals aren’t really for the family and loved ones anyway. We had our mourning in our own time. This was for everyone else. 

What do you say at a funeral? What do you say to your grieving friend? How do you comfort and encourage them? 

The sad fact of the matter is there’s nothing you can say that will make the situation better or provide comfort.

“He’s in a better place now.”

“It was his time.”

“Jesus wanted him home.”

“Aren’t you glad you’ll see him again?”

“I understand what you’re going through.”

As true as all the above statements may be, they don’t necessarily help ease the initial shock and pain of loss. The good news is that helping and loving a grieving friend isn’t so much about what you say but what you do and how you treat them.

1. Do something. Actions speak so much louder than words. Make your grieving friend a meal. Clean their house. Pay for their groceries. Help them with the details and logistics of the funeral. Take care of them, because when you're depressed and traumatized, chances are you're not going to do a good job of taking care of yourself. Pray with them and for them. Ask them if there is anything they need help with or anything you can do for them in that moment. If your friend isn't very responsive, chances are they still need help, so look for areas of need and be ready to fill them.

2. Don’t say anything. There’s not really anything you can say or do to help ease the initial shock and pain of a loss, especially if the loss is unexpected, so don’t try to. Even better, admit to your friend that you don’t know what to say. I didn’t mind when my friends told me, “I don’t know what to say” or “I wish there was something I could do.” It’s better to admit that you’re at a loss than to try and make your friend feel better. You don’t have to make your friend feel better. Sometimes all you have to do is be there and hurt with them.

3. Give them space. It’s important to be there for your friends in time of grief, to make sure they know they are not alone in this and that you want to do anything you can to help. At the same time, understand when your friend needs to withdraw and spend time alone. There’s a healthy balance to this because it’s never good for anyone to isolate themselves completely. Make sure your friend doesn’t fall off the face of the earth. Check in with them, see how they’re doing, and be ready to help when and if they need it.

4. Don’t be scared to talk. The thing about consoling statements is that they typically shut down conversations rather than start them. People say, “I’m sorry for your loss” so they can move on having done their duty and because what else can you say? My grandmother told me that after her husband’s death, no one would talk about my grandfather or so much as mention his name around her, and it drove her crazy. Everyone approached her timidly, dancing around the subject of her husband, afraid to talk about him because it made them uncomfortable. 

One of the best things you can do for your grieving friends is to let them know you aren’t afraid to talk about their loss and grief, that you’re available if they need to talk. You’re not going to start to squirm if they cry in front of you or share about all their confusing, painful emotions and memories. Don’t force their hand if they’re not ready to talk, but be patient and persistent in making yourself available, checking up on them, and asking them if they need to talk.

5. Remember the grieving process takes an undetermined amount of time...sometimes a long time. It’s not necessarily over when the funeral is finished. Chances are that’s when it begins. Even so, the grieving process can start as much as a year after the actual loss, maybe even later. The point is it's not necessarily predictable, it takes time, and it's different for everyone, so be patient, and don't assume that just because a year goes by, the funeral is over, that it's all over and done with. Persevere in asking your friend how they are doing and don’t avoid the subject or assume your friend is fine simply because they don’t bring it up. 

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Have you struggled to comfort a grieving friend? Do you have any advice you would add to this?

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