Thursday, December 24, 2009
My sister and I grabbed hands and spun around in circles until we fell over. I remember lying on the floor, breathing hard, just taking the whole scene in. The whole moment seemed magically perfect.
But now I’m 21 and my sister is 18. We both came home from college and are practically living out of our suitcases for the next few weeks. We don’t get new nightgowns every Christmas Eve, nor do we dance to Christmas music when the Christmas tree lights are on. We no longer pretend that we’re in the angel choir announcing the Savior’s birth. And, we definitely don’t wake up early on Christmas morning to open presents anymore.
The wonder and awe of Christmas is still more or less the same though. The excitement of seeing lights, singing Christmas carols, reading the Christmas story, decorating the tree, building gingerbread houses…yeah, it’s still there, just expressed differently. The reality of it all has changed.
The Christmas Eve service at Cedar Grove was as wonderful as always. I played guitar and from my corner of the stage I could see the whole sanctuary. The decorations, the candles on the walls, the families, all the emotions… When I’m on stage, I usually try to make eye contact with a few people. It’s the same few people I always try to find…but they weren’t there tonight. Neither was my family. Everything is just a little different this year…
The house is quiet and I’m sitting alone on the floor wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace gazing at the tree. And I’m still wearing my outfit from the church service. Something in me wants to wake up my sister and twirl around to Christmas music in the living room by the tree. I miss those moments…
I’m feeling joyful, but there’s a hint of sorrow that goes with it. I’m older now. I’ve traveled around the world and have seen people in desperate situations and living in poverty. I’ve held children in a third world country who are no longer living because they did not get the simple medical care they needed. How about the oppressed and marginalized people in America? The kids and broken families in Cabrini Green and other Housing Projects…what about them? My view of “it’s all good” has been tainted. My heart is heavy and light.
There’s a strong desire to go back in time and experience life and Christmas like a child…but we can’t go back. We’ll never be children again.
My “cheerful Christmas blog” turned a little depressing…so I’ll end it on a good note.
Hope. That’s what Christmas is. We may live in a filthy and dying world, but that’s why Jesus came – to save us – to bring us the gift of hope.
“And I, I celebrate the day that You were born to die so I could one day pray for You to save my life.” – I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
Written with Love,
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
During a pause in the conversation, I remember looking up at the stars, wishing I could reach out and touch one. The dark night sky was so vast and overwhelming and I felt so small and insignificant sitting on the bench of the swing. Trying to take it all in was impossible; my mind couldn’t fathom the endlessness of it all. Especially the realization that I was only able to see a small piece of the sky. The challenges that arise, the fear that overtakes, the pain that isn’t quickly healed, it’s all so devastating but at the same time, so temporary. The view of our lives is just like the view we have of the sky – incomplete. Unanswered questions about the challenges we go through will always be around. We can make guesses about our questions, educated ones at that, but we don’t know for sure how the outcome will be until it’s happened.
Back to stargazing…a more serious conversation ended the evening and, as expected, left a few more unanswered questions and things to wonder and dream about. And maybe a few things to hope for : )
Now I’m in Chicago, struggling to see the stars through all the skyscrapers, lights, and clouds. But I know in full confidence that they’re still up in the sky somewhere. Holding on to the memories of summer, I close my eyes and can see the stars shining and twinkling through the trellis top of the swing…
“When I look at the stars, the stars, I feel like myself.” ~Switchfoot
Friday, October 9, 2009
I threw my Bible and journal down at the foot of my bed before throwing myself down next to them. I woke up a few hours later with a clearer realization of how the next few weeks were going to play out: a lot of sleep and little concentration or accomplishment.
It's not often that I find myself at a loss for words, either written or spoken. When verbal communication fails, written almost undoubtedly will always pull through. I can write for hours to tease out ideas, thoughts, and feelings... However, finding out that I had mono four weeks into my third year of college rendered me silent. Mononucleosis can take over ten weeks to recover from; ten weeks puts me at the end of this semester. That’s a lot of time spent in my dorm room asleep. A lot of time I was planning on using for classes, studying, my little sister from Cabrini, planning BroSis events, Ministry Team, working, playing guitar, late at night phone calls, time with friends…just being a college student.
There have been so many times in the past month when I couldn’t find the words to describe what I was thinking or feeling. I’ve been overwhelmed with decisions, filled with joy to the point where I could only smile, speechless from anger or confusion, or so exhausted I couldn’t seem to form a coherent sentence. (Some of my ‘non-coherent’ sentences have been fairly entertaining though…)
The one thing that has consistently left me speechless these weeks, and I guess my entire life, is God’s faithfulness through everything. I don’t know why what’s going on is going on, but I do know that can’t go through it on my own. And I don’t have to. Sometimes I just need to be quiet and remember that.
Stay With Me
Hope is getting through this night
And life is not dying in this fight
Begging You to deliver me
Confused why You won’t take this pain from me
My steps never felt so hard
The end never looked so far
But if You won’t take me out, then please take me through this
Stay with me so I won’t leave
And make me see that this is not forever
Cause all I need is Your love pulling me through
What is the reason for this night?
Is hope found in moments with no light?
Does strength grow in our greatest fears?
God I pray something good will come from this pain
With You here I know I don’t go alone
I am Yours and so through the fire I go
I feel like I’m being told to, “Be still and silent during this trial. Rest. Take this opportunity to draw closer to Me. The sickness won’t last forever. You’re My daughter and you’ll be just fine.”
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Not exactly the words I was expecting to hear come out of his mouth. What happened to being encouraging? I knew the advice wasn’t going come in the form of compliments or praise, and that’s not what I wanted, but I was expecting something a little more helpful than that! With a shocked expression and tears about to slip down my face, I took a step back and was going to walk away. Lucky for him he started explaining…
"We can’t be good enough on our own, because then we wouldn’t need God. Our imperfectness leaves lots of room for God to work in our lives."
It’s so simple. We need God. We are nothing without Him. Our lives surrendered to Him gives immeasurable value and a future.
“You’re not good enough. And that’s exactly how it should be.”
Monday, May 25, 2009
Some days it seems like we run around aimlessly like chickens with our heads cutoff trying to get everything done. At the end of those days, feelings of anger and annoyance take over because not enough was accomplished. While other days laziness kicks in and nothing gets done. Those days also end in anger and annoyance because, once again, not enough gets done. We try too hard or we just give up – no balance, nothing in the middle.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to study a passage in Ephesians. In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul’s main instruction for the people is for them to acknowledge the need to “walk wisely”. This seems like a simple thing to do; however, sometimes the most seemingly easiest things turn out to be the most challenging. He is telling them to be deliberate and to not do things on a whim. Make good decisions, follow directions, plan ahead, and don’t break the rules…easy, right? It also means thinking through situations and consequences before acting. Hmmm, not always so easy…
One of the little girls I babysit went through a phase where she would run around with her eyes closed. It was fine when she was at her house because she knew where everything was and, for the most part, there was nothing to trip over. However, she would do this same thing other places, too. One afternoon we went to the park and she did her same routine of running with her eyes closed. She got into the playground area and took off running. She tripped into a tunnel slide and ended up with a massive bruise on her arm and a black eye, all because she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going. She wasn’t walking, or running, wisely.
In 1st Timothy, Paul gives another warning to “watch your life and doctrine closely”. Instead of running through life with our eyes closed, and suffering the consequences, we need to be alert and living with a purpose. It’s all a crazy balance of being deliberate and using all of our 86,400 seconds each day.
“We live, we love. We forgive and never give up. ‘Cause the days we are given are gifts from above so today we remember to live and to love.”
-Chorus of “We Live” by Superchic[k]
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
5:25am – headed out to the lake to watch the sunrise
5:44am – arrived at Lake Michigan
5:55am – Laura read the Resurrection account out of Mark
6:00am – I played “Jesus Paid it All” on guitar and we sang
6:05am – we decided to sing without the guitar because my fingers were freezing
6:10am – the sun rose
6:15am – we sang more songs and talked
6:35am – after taking lots of pictures, we packed up our stuff and walked back to school
7:00am – we got back to school
7:10am – after defrosting, I got ready for church
7:55am – Dawn and I went down to breakfast
8:00am – I ate oatmeal with raisins
8:05am – the other girls came down to the SDR and we were all very giggly
8:15am – Sarah, Allie, and I walked down to Moody Church
8:25am – we met Father John because we stopped to look in a Greek Orthodox Church
8:40am – we got to church and were late to our Sunday school class
9:35am – the main service at Moody started
11:45am – the service ended and we went back to school
12:30pm – lunch time
1:00pm – 4:00pm – laundry, cleaning, homework, email
4:00pm – Cheesecake Factory, here we come!
4:05pm – we walked to the bus stop and took pictures while we waited
4:15pm – the bus finally came
4:45pm – Allie and I decided to split an omelet
5:05pm – Allie and I got bored waiting and went outside to take pictures
5:15pm – our dinner came
5:40pm – Allie and I had a photography adventure in the cool bathroom
6:00pm – we walked through a chocolate store and got samples
6:10pm – we waited for the bus
6:15pm – the bus came and we went back to school
6:30pm – back at school and ready to do homework
6:35pm – Allie wanted to take more pictures
7:05pm – I got cold and left
7:15pm – I’m in the kitchen with Mindy
7:20pm – Mindy took her cake out of the oven and won’t let me near it
7:30pm – I got my stuff out of Mindy’s room. Our sleepover is over. Kayleigh is coming back
7:40pm – Mindy and I are studying in the kitchen with tea
7:45pm – New Testament paper time
7:55pm – Mindy’s homework is done, mine is not. Mindy decides to eat a grapefruit
10:30pm – Good Night!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I was simply satisfied silly!
Music has such a special place in my life, therefore, playing guitar and occasionally singing on worship team is also very special. Especially the Sunday mornings when the stage doesn’t seem like a stage – the mornings that smiling comes naturally. I had that experience a few weeks ago. And it had nothing to do with me, the pretty instrument I was playing, the people singing, the musicians, the songs, the cute outfit, the stage, the friendly atmosphere, or the congregation. It was all about God, specifically, being satisfied with Him.
It all started about a week earlier…
Saturday was the official reuniting of two best friends. Alicia and I hadn’t seen each other since the end of summer when we both went away to school. Our reunion was a loud and chaotic event that only we could pull off… After the screaming ended, we got in my car and were off on another adventure. Our adventures typically follow the same general plan: lots of talking and giggling, getting lost, trying on strange clothes, taking pictures, and singing. This outing was no different, but the giggling was at an all time high. On our way back home, we decided that it would probably be good if we practiced our song for Sunday. We rocked out to BarlowGirl’s “Psalm 73” numerous times and fell in love with it more each time. Our normal routine of getting lost on the way home took longer than usual, which was fine. After all, we had a song to learn!
Practice on Tuesday night was full of giggling, second thoughts, strange communication methods, explanations, and smiles. Along with microphones, electric guitars, powerful lyrics, and challenging harmonies. The third time we ran through our song was when it melded into place. The intensity behind the music and the power behind the words caught me off guard. I sang the last three words solo, “enough for me”, and something started sinking in, but I didn’t know what. I closed my eyes and took a step back from the microphone trying to understand the thoughts sprinting through my head somehow connecting to my heart. All too quickly the moment was over so I traded the electric for an acoustic and poured all I had into practice. When we were done, I packed up my stuff and waited patiently for Rusty to be ready to go to our cars. Chatting and laughing on the way out to the parking lot was such a normal routine…a much cherished and missed time. It’s little and simple things that I love and seem to hold on to.
Sunday morning was full of mixed emotions. The stressful moments from the week weren’t supposed to linger throughout the weekend, but they did. I was ready and confident, but very distracted. I couldn’t focus on God or worshiping Him. Our morning run through of the songs went as planned and we had a few minutes of “backstage time” before the service started.
After a silly discussion (well, an all out debate) on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we were ready to go! With a smile, I walked up to the front corner of the stage, picked up the Fender, and stepped up to the microphone. I looked back at Jacob for the stick count in, took a step back, and started playing. Any nervousness I had melted away when I looked and saw Trina waving to me. And, at some point during all of that, Alicia and I made eye contact…
“I’ve had enough of living life for only me...”
I love that moment in worship where preparation meets passion. All the time spent singing through harmonies and learning new chords was paying off…my focus was shifting from me to God.
“Who have I in heaven but You? Nothing I desire on earth but You. My heart may fail but not You. You are mine forever.”
You are mine forever. Eric was supposed to sing that alone, but I jumped in and sang it, too. I’ll never fully comprehend what “You are mine forever” means, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s special. Forever is a long time.
“My God’s enough for me; this world has nothing I need. In this whole life I’ve seen my God’s enough, enough for me.”
I don’t know how many times I had listened to that song in the past few months, but the words finally broke through and saturated my heart. And I realize now that the events leading up to the few minutes singing this song all played into the importance of it…all the giggling, late night conversations, strange emotions, hours of practicing…
This world has nothing I need. My God’s enough for me.
His Beloved Child,
Thursday, April 2, 2009
In the grace of a perfect design
Stepping out of the dark and into the glow
And the whole world will see when you shine
You can shine
Yesterday Trina wanted to dance, but her toys were all over the floor. I asked if we should clean them up before we danced. Her answer was “No. We’ll dance around them, A.” So we tried to dance around and over them. More then a few times we stepped on them, and it hurt. It’s an awesome picture of how life is. Our goal is to keep trusting and following God through the mess and painful things...to dance through life. We did our best to avoid all the toys while dancing, but we tripped over some of them. It’s ok to step on a toy; we learn from our mistakes, and know not to step there again. And it’s ok to cry when it hurts. As we stepped on toys we moved them out of our way and put them away. It’s like getting rid of the sin and temptation in our lives so we can focus on God without distractions, so we can keep dancing. The more we danced, the easier it was. We remembered where the toys were, and for the most part, we did a good job avoiding them. A few times we tripped and landed on a toy that wasn’t completely put away, and it hurt us again, so we moved it further away. Only when we danced outside of the “safe” area, did we get hurt. The farther away we move from God, the easier it is for us to trip over a toy. When we’re close to Him, we can see His face and to hear His voice more clearly.
Psalm 143:8, 10 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift my soul. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.