Changing Slowly…

Lately I have been taking time to reflect on where I am internally compared to where I was almost five months ago.

Throughout each year, there are markers that serve as points to pause, reflect and compare to a year ago… Yet, this time, rather than reflecting on a year ago, I find myself processing how much has happened inside of me since July of this year. I went into Uganda struggling very much internally, but not even really in a place to recognize it because of how hard and hectic May and June had been in every regard.

Before we left, I had begun asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and to restore hope where I had lost it… Then I closed that box of my heart, and got on a plane and launched myself to another continent.

Twice on the flight over I was asked how my heart was doing because people who know me, are aware of how much I struggle and have to actively work to link my head and heart well. I have had a habit of locking my heart up and setting it aside, especially if I am uncertain or overwhelmed by what I’m feeling.

Perfectly timed, around that same time before we left for Uganda, I also began asking God to help me navigate my head and heart well together. I had started to realize that Grace and Truth as well as Head and Heart are the balance of the Holy Spirit. God is perfectly both sides in unison, and in order to be more like Him, and more sensitive to His guidance, I too needed to start learning how to balance these things rather than setting one aside.

I was not prepared for the answer God was going to give me, nor the longevity of what it would mean to get the answers to these prayers.

I actually think if I had known how long and hard this all would be, I would have peaced out and quit right from the beginning. I am fairly confident I  would have shut my heart down and opted out of the process to protect my heart had I known the pain and struggle involved. Yet, one of the many graces in this whole journey has actually been my lack of knowing God’s timing. – I struggle with it all the time (as in allllll the time), but not knowing has also created a reliance on Him that I simply did not have before. Not knowing God’s timing has been so good too because I was unaware of the depths of intensity it would take to fix and heal certain areas of my heart, and just what it would mean to restore the trust and hope in God that I had lost. – Back in July it was as though my prayer for help balancing my head and heart caused God to lock my heart in the open position; it has been exhausting and overwhelming almost every single day since.

Even still, almost five months later, I regularly feel overwhelmed by how I am feeling, the ways I am changing, and how far I still have to grow. About once a week I have a late night meltdown over how exhausted and weary I feel internally due to actively processing every day. I am given the option to choose to grow and learn more about who I am supposed to be in Christ, and to face the ways in which I lack in trust/faith/fruit of the spirit (throw a dart at some character trait and I’m probably working on that too)… I assure you, it is Not. Easy. Nor. Fun.

But, God does not force me, He allows me the freedom to choose to face these things or quit… However, because of who God has made me, I will not give up, and I will choose to daily engage in this process of growth and change.

My journal of prayers is getting record use (literally). The current one (each one is 40 sheets/80 pages) is my 4th one in just about four months…

But so that there is no patting me on the back with congratulations: My prayer journal just makes me look like a crazy person.

Seriously, going back and reading the day-to-day prayers, they just swing widely back and forth, it’s embarrassing, but also they are incredibly intimate and real. These prayers reflect my struggle, my anxiety, my fears, my heart wide open and effort that it all takes, but also the ever so slow changes that are taking place, and just about every emotion possible finds its way into my prayers.

These journals are very how I am choosing to press closer to God and processing all of my tension, thoughts, and emotions.. But, in all honesty, they just really make me look like a wackadoodle. I wish I could share about how sweet the prayers are, but no. The sheer level of back and forth my prayers exhibit is ridiculous; the overwhelming emotions, the joy, thankfulness, the over analyzing things, the confusion and uncertainty, the copied scripture trying to help me grasp onto solid truth amidst the chaos of feelings, the waffling ebb and flow with how I feel vs what my head knows… EXHAUSTING.

Yet, I am also currently reading through the book of Psalms: I feel like my journal looks a bit like David’s prayers and hymns.

Some are so sweet, loving, encouraging, full of thanksgiving, while others are all raging and demanding that God do something (usually an overreaction to an emotion or situation). Some are declarations of praise, faith, love, and hope, while others are full of anger, sorrow, and despair. – This could literally be the description of my prayer journals AND the book of Psalms… So, I guess that is comforting?

At the end of every journal (about every six weeks currently), I go back and review it. I re-read things I have prayed for, asked God about, passages of scripture I copied, and then compare them to my calendar and remember what was going on that day. Every few weeks I am amazed at all that the Lord has done, how I feel about those days after the fact or in light of things that happened a few days later. I marvel and thank God again for answers to prayers, and for His continued patience, grace, and tenderness as I try to press in, learn, and grow.

But, let’s be honest: It. Is. So. Hard.

Several months ago I felt like God told me three things:
Hold Steadfast.
Persevere.
Be Obedient.

Then about a month ago I felt like God added Faith, Hope, Love.

As I review my journals, I am amazed at what it looks like to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient, and how these three things play out (and don’t). Previously I never would have been able to accurately identify what it truly looks like to hold steadfast and persevere, because I struggle each day with them. – Before all of this, I would have felt as though the level of my struggle daily would clearly indicate I was not in fact holding steadfast; yet as I go back over my prayer journals, I realize in the long haul it absolutely does. Holding steadfast and persevering doesn’t mean a lack of experiencing emotions or struggle, it means turning to God with every single little bit of it, and remaining there with Him.

I have learned that holding steadfast and persevering throughout scripture leads to faith, hope and love… but also proven character. It is in the journey, the long haul, the process that we refine, create, and prove who we are at our foundational core. But, let’s not dismiss how much proving character takes time, and is incredibly difficult and oh so awkward of an imperfect process.

In the last couple of months I have begun to see the transformation, and just how much I am changed forever because of the time pressing into the Holy Spirit and expressing all the things to God. Choosing to return back to Him with every little thing has changed the way in which I handle joy, hope, failures or despair on a daily basis. Because of the difficulty of modifying who I am on the inside, there has been an increase in desire to spend dedicated time every day with God; I am not entirely sure I can name any period of time in my entire life that I felt this way for months on end… I am so incredibly grateful (and hope it continues, recognizing seasons of life and all).

I long for connection with God, I need time to tell Him how I am, ask for what I want, and process everything that I’m struggling with. Every day there is a nuance to the areas He is work on growing in me, and whatever is heavy on my heart or mulling around in my head that day also gets some much-needed time laid before Him.

Now months into this whole process, I realized this week, on one particularly intense and emotional day full of stress, frustration, anxiety etc.. I still had the clarity and presence of mind to actively choose my responses. I was not swept away in any explosion of emotion and even the intensity with which I experienced my feelings was still there just like before, but despite it all, I found myself able to actively chose grace and patience. – Well that’s new… and not easy.

I have started to realize over the last couple of weeks that the force with which I feel and experience my emotions has not changed at all. God has not lessened who I am or the passion and intensity that I process, feel or express things; instead, He has changed my ability to see perspective, have understanding, and respond in grace and love. It is as though the spring that feeds into my heart-well is different, and therefore what is coming out is also distinctively changed, but that I am who I have always been in many ways, just a better version of that person.

A couple small excerpts from one of my prayers at the end of a particularly difficult day recently:
Thank you for being with me and giving me the extra measure of grace, patience, and presence of mind to choose my responses…
Help me to follow your leading better tomorrow. Give me more wisdom and understanding, and bless me with a greater capacity to love well…
Forgive me for the things I said and did today that did not line up with you. Forgive me for the things I missed…
Show me how to trust you more and be confident in your faithfulness more…

It has been an interesting experience reading through my prayers over the last few months, I would never have chosen this ahead of time had I known how hard it would be. I also have realized that I would never have been able to predict beforehand the ways in which I would respond (good or bad) to how God would grow and make me new. Yet, through it all, I am starting to recognize the small ways He has shown up and proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. But, above all, recognizing this gaining familiarity with Him as I spend more time communicating with Him. His presence and “voice” feel different to me now than they did in July (or previous to that).

My daily struggle to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient is still going strong.
Learning how to love well is not easy.
Finding and growing my faith and hope feels ambiguous, but slowly I am realizing that it is creating a foundation I did not have previously.
Making decisions against my own insecurities, and choosing to share my heart rather than shut it down and set it aside is still incredibly hard.

I am not the same person I was a few months ago.
My heart has changed. I have changed.

It has been a slow sometimes arduous process, and it certainly is nowhere near complete, but I am also incredibly grateful… and exhausted.

I am learning that the process and journey is full of challenges and pain (there are good and joyful times too, but let’s be honest, we don’t need people to identify with our good times as much), but it is worth it to become more of who God intends for you to be.

Choose to face it all head on, experience every emotion, and sift through them with the creator of your heart; it will change you forever and it will be so good.

Wisdom and Foolishness

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
– James 1:5

“The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.”
– Proverbs 19:3

Since I was a child, literally 11 years old, I can remember praying for two things for and over myself: Wisdom and Understanding. – If that gives any insight into the type of child and person I am! haha I realize and love that I’m a bit of a weirdo haha

I remember, and continue to feel like if only I have more wisdom and understanding, then I can and will do better at life. I will handle situations better, I will see people differently, I can assess and respond to various things that I encounter more effectively, I can keep the best and most important things in perspective… But, ultimately, I can just love others well.

Occasionally, I will also swap into my prayer mix, clarity and knowledge for myself before the Lord.

The opposite side of wisdom is foolishness, so it is no surprise that I want to perpetually stay as far away from that as possible.
One of the big things I process and struggle through before making decisions is wanting as much information and perspective as I can get to ensure that I do not make a foolish decision. – I don’t want to ever look back and feel like I had been foolish, hasty, thoughtless, or stupid in my decisions or actions.

So, given the way the Lord and I are working through things lately, Foolishness was the theme a few days ago, and Wisdom was soon to follow… As in, the next day.

I was amazed to realize that when you look up “foolish” in scripture, and when you read through the passages one right after another; it is actually very clear about who is considered foolish and what is considered foolish! And then, because God has a sense of humor, there’s one section of verses that throw a little wrench into what man considers wise vs foolish and what God does. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Just so we are all on the same page, other descriptors of foolishness are: thoughtless, senseless, stupid, mindless, unwise or incautious actions… The level with which I do not want to be or ever be described as these things is intense within me.

So, I began to dig deeper in scripture to get a handle on what it means, and compare myself authentically to see if I am foolish.

Here are some of the things I learned reading through the 88 passages that talk about foolishness in scripture:
Those who are foolish don’t even try to understand or seek wise counsel.
Foolish people are quick-tempered.
The Foolish have eyes but do not see, ears but do not year, and they do not honor or give thanks to God even though they know him.
Foolish people speculate futilely knowing it will lead to arguments and strife.
The foolish seek riches, fame.
Foolish people, who do not believe and follow Christ are actually enslaved to their evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, sensuality, adulteries, envy, slander, and pride… They are even described as having qualities that are evil and proceed from within them.
Foolishness is something that comes from within, it produces actions that harm ourselves or others, and entirely disregard the Lord.
Foolish people operate in pride and don’t even attempt to see or care about what is right, nor do they give thanks to the Lord and honor him in any way.

But also, interestingly enough, believers and followers of Christ are described as righteous, and that they previously were foolish but are no more…

However, I find it interesting that Paul won’t let believers sidestep people who are foolish. We must seek after them with love too. He says that we are actually under obligation to both Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and foolish. We must love and follow hard after our Lord making disciples of all people and all nations.

(You can read more about where I’m getting this information from here.)

One of my favorite things about the really hard, and honestly exhausting season that the Lord and I are currently in together right now is that I spend all day every day mulling and praying through things that He is teaching me. I feel as though in my head, in conversations, in my prayers, and journaling, in my seeking, in my rising and laying down I am working out my salvation with the God of the Universe. That, while He has already saved me, He is taking this season, and making me new. On a foundational level we are re-evaluating things and removing lies and insecurities, and also replacing and building new hope and faith in the process. – It is draining in every possible sense of the word, but it is intensely good and rich.

I feel like daily I am consumed by this season. I spend every spare moment reading and digging deeper. Exhausting.

As I get my Theme’s of the day and begin to dig deeper and try to wrap my mind around them, I have realized there are a lot of thoughts and assumptions that I have that are not actually described in scripture… or better yet, other things that are incredibly clearly defined that I was totally ignorant of!

There was so much internal sigh of relief when I realized that while I certainly have plenty of foolish moments and have done foolish things, *I* am not foolish by any stretch of the imagination.

This whole internal process of mulling and praying my way through this topic was sparked because I have been trying to figure out whether it is considered foolish to hope and pray for things that are more just “wishful thinking” when I do not know if it falls within the will of God.

My everyday struggle is that, I want intensely to do things well in the eyes of the Lord. I want to follow the Lord, and pursue Him with everything I am. I desire for my prayers and actions to be in alignment with him.

So, what did I find out as I dug deeper into wisdom and foolishness?

No, it is not foolish in the slightest to hope and pray for things that we don’t know whether they are or aren’t in the will of God… There is actually nowhere in scripture that foolishness even comes close to touching praying and hoping for things in the Lord. – Instead, it is actually the opposite, wisdom and understanding slide up right next to hoping and praying for things we want. It honors God when we go to Him, foolish people do not give Him honor, nor do they care about the things of His kingdom.

Throughout scripture, wisdom and understanding are intimately acquainted with every type of communication between us and the Lord.

In fact, the more we press in, the more we seek and ask for wisdom, the more we are actually changed by the Spirit. We find ourselves in alignment with Him as part of the process, and even if we don’t get what we want, we are content and continue to hope and build our faith throughout the journey.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom… But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
– James 3:13 & 17

I do not know that I’ll every consider myself “wise” but, the more I learn about wisdom, the more I want to pursue it and also just find it fascinating. I seek the Spirit of Wisdom that is talked about throughout scripture. I want the blessings that come with having knowledge and understanding that is only given from the Creator of the Universe.

I also find it interesting that wisdom is given a gender, and that gender is female.
I also find it interesting that wisdom is ranked above coral, crystal, silver, gold, and any other riches or desirable things cannot compare.

Also, I very much am drawn to the fact that the righteous utter wisdom and their tongue speaks justice.

If your mouth speaks wisdom, then the meditations of your heart will be understanding.

Fearing the Lord is the start of wisdom, and it is pleasant to the soul within you.

Did you know that in scripture, wisdom is better than weapons of war?

And, just when I didn’t think it could get any better, the wise make the most of every day and every opportunity, especially with people who are not believers of who Christ is.

So, what is the biggest key marker between wisdom and foolishness? One seeks the Lord, the other does not care in the slightest.

My loves, be wise in all that you do.

#TourDeChurches for First Impressions

Passion City Church “Welcome to Church” Shipping Container

A few weeks ago, I went on my own “conference” of sorts and plotted and planned to visit as many churches as I could in a week’s time. I have finally caught up enough and processed enough that I feel I can begin to share what I learned along the way! There will be many posts likely coming from this, but this is a good place to start the processing and conversation!

I am so thankful that my boss came up with the idea, and pushed me to make it as large and encompassing as I could manage!

I deemed my trip Tour-De-Churches.

It was the best, most refreshing, but also entirely overwhelming experience I have had in quite a long time!

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To help you follow along, and also create a space for networking for you as well, I went to:
Crosspoint in Nashville, TN (Talked with Kylie)
Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL (Talked with Janah and Amy)
Passion City, Atlanta (Talked with Stephanie)
Northpoint, Atlanta (Talked with several staff members)
Newspring, South Carolina (Was hosted by Sarah, but met with SO many staff members/teams)
Elevation, North Carolina (Talked with Stephen)

Also, when I was at Northpoint, I attended their NP Lead Labs one day conference, which was awesome and a great (inexpensive) learning conference for churches to help them engage non-believers! But, it was also SUCH an amazing way to network with other churches. – I met some amazing people doing really cool things and had great discussions because of this!

One of the unexpected positives from my #Tourdechurches is that it is just nice sometimes to be around other people who are doing church ministry, and realize in solidarity how difficult it can be. It is intensely draining on you mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally and you must be careful to hit the reset button and refresh.

Here are some of the highlights that I learned:

Guest Relations,

Guest Services,

and First Impressions looks different EVERYWHERE you go. 

Cultivating a first impressions experience for guests is different for church. The strategy of every church I visited had vastly different goals. – Each of them the purpose crafted the experiences to be very different.

Every Church that I met wants to learn as much as they can from others. – #Sameteam

If your church does not have money/budget to spend on first impressions things: Every church I met with agreed, THE best way to create a friendly environment is how your volunteer teams are trained and are greeting and welcoming your guests.

If you are on a church staff: One of the most valuable things I have learned, be certain and clear about your goal each Sunday morning in regards to First Impressions, volunteers, and the guest experience. – Communicate it clearly and often.

Love. On. Your. Volunteers. – This was the biggest thing I saw globally at each church. They love on their volunteers well; the best ones create amazing community among serving teams and go above and beyond to take care of them.
Also, feed your volunteers! – Snacks, lunch, something, feed them as much as possible! haha

A great litmus test I learned: Take a few of your key staple pieces of materials, and ask someone who is not in your church (maybe is not even a believer), and see if it is clear, makes sense, do they understand it?… Test to see if you are using the right language.

If you think it is clear, it probably isn’t. The thing I think stood out to me the most is that there is a huge lack of clarity on the part of new guests. If you think something is clear, they are probably too confused to notice.

Smile and step into awkwardness. You must be ever-conscious of your face – Smile. Smile. Smile. But also, if you do not recognize or know someone, it IS your job (and that of your volunteers) to go say hello and introduce yourself.

Training. It is crucial; literally the life-blood of your teams to train them well. But, not just train them HOW to do their jobs, but also WHY what they do is important. – Also, simple piece of advice, never stop learning yourself.

I have a few additional blog posts here, here and here about this if you want to learn more! (with many more to come)

To Be Continued…

More to come.. I have a whole list of resources to share from these churches. That is coming next blog post! (I’ll back-post a link to this post once it’s up!)
I also plan on sharing some (attributed to anonymous) stories of people who had good or bad experiences, and talking through what I have learned in and through these situations…. Basically, stay tuned, there is so much more coming!

Have questions? Post in the comments!

Hospitality To Strangers…

I have this fantastically challenging job that has forced me to dig deep to figure out what scripture says about Hospitality, welcoming, and loving those who are not like us…

Simply put, as believers and followers of Christ, “How do we care for everyone else?”

Because I have gotten so many people asking me what I have learned and discovered, this post is the basic scratching the surface of the information I have gathered for you to explore. This is by no means the end of my thoughts nor the information I have gathered, but it is a start.

Throughout the process of figuring out how to do Hospitality and Connections well, I have taken a few steps back and decided to base much of my beliefs and approach on scripture; not a new concept, but compared to what I can find in materials currently out there, this is not a topic explored much.

As I have connected with other churches working through this same topic, here are the thoughts and questions I keep coming up to:
“Anyone can do hospitality.” – (Theoretically, but not practically.)
“If you don’t know where to serve, join the hospitality team” – (This is a poor way to help people step into their giftings)
“Why does a church need to pay attention to ‘first impressions’?” – (Because God cares about it, cultures are based around it, and you funnel every decision you make through it.)
“Is there any scripture backing up hospitality?” – (Yes. Loads and loads of information.)
“Hospitality and connections always seems like such a fun feel good ministry.” – (It absolutely IS a fun ministry, but it carries the weight significantly more than a feel good ministry.)

Each encounter and discussion has created more questions, but more than that, a resolution to understand all facets of this ministry.

God HAS to care what the hospitality of His people looks like and how they act.

I found cute little google sayings about how you should show hospitality to everyone, because you may just be entertaining angels.
It is so cute.
It’s also scripture. 

So, then, we have to back up and find where the concept of Christian hospitality actually comes from and what does it mean? Only when we truly understand how we should approach hospitality as a church community can we begin to move towards healing relationships we have broken.

I started the only place I knew to when researching scripture, my dad.

The word “hospitality” is directly descended from the Latin “hospitalitas”
Meaning, “to be friendly or kind to strangers or guests.”

The Greek words φιλονεξία and φιλόξενος are translated “hospitality” in scripture,
Literally mean, “to show love to strangers.”

Both words derive from two Greek words, “philia,” which means, “love,”
and “xenos” which means, “foreigner, stranger or guest.”

So, that’s a start.

Straight up, hospitality means at the root, to show love to strangers.
This gets deep and complicated quickly from here on in.

Then I shifted my searching to BibleGateway.com.

I prefer the NASB translation, although I looked up all the same words in the NIV knowing that it is quite popular as well, and some words appear more or less in various translations.

80 Bible results for “Doorway” NASB – (16 in the NIV)
73 Bible results for “Entrance” NASB – (147 in the NIV)
25 Bible results for “Threshold” NASB – (18 in the NIV
24 Bible results for “Greeting” NASB – (46 in the NIV)
14 Bible results for “Doorpost” NASB – (7 in the NIV)
12 Bible results for “Welcome” NASB – (40 in the NIV)
6 Bible results for “Welcomed” NASB – (18 in the NIV)
3 Bible results for “Hospitality” NASB – (7 in the NIV)
3 Bible results for “Hospitable” NASB – (2 in the NIV)
2 Bible results for “Welcoming” NASB – (0 in the NIV)
269 Total Bible Results in the NASB – (301 in the NIV)

(Not every single reference is applicable to this topic, sometimes it’s merely a spacial reference)

So, why did I look up so many different words if hospitality or welcoming is really what I was aiming at? Because, I think there are elements to the physical setting prepared ahead of time that create a feeling of comfort and welcome.

I liken it to this, when I invite people over to my house, I clean, I prepare food, I ensure there is seating, the lighting is inviting and warm. I do as much as I can to be prepared well ahead of their arrival so that when they knock on my door, I am ready with my full attention, smiles, hugs, and the preparations already completed.

My entire goal is to make them feel comfortable, loved, cared about, and welcome in my home.

While we are under new blood because of what Jesus did on the Cross, I do not believe that God no longer cares about presentation. No portion of any culture does not still currently care about presentation. Where I think the shift has happened is that God has transitioned to the importance no longer with His physical tabernacle, Holy of Holies, but to us, his people.

You see, hundreds of references to the doorway, doorpost, and entrance to his temple are in the old testament. Right down to the decoration, carvings, colors, timing of and what sacrifices were to be done at the entrance. And then, if things were done incorrectly, he could choose to kill you on the spot.. Instant death.

In Egypt, the doorway/doorpost was where the angel of death decided if the first-born would die or be passed over.

There is no way that something so important simply ceases to be important, it just shifts to being applied differently.

Then, you get to the New Testament, and there is reinforcement of what happened in the Old Testament. There is a shift in the focus of ministry, we are told repeatedly to love our neighbors, which in some parables were people entirely different and disliked by us, including those who persecute us, it even goes so far as to say be hospitable without complaint.

484 Bible results for “Love” – NASB (686 in the NIV)

I am working through researching the trail that in order to show Hospitality to strangers, we must first submit ourselves entirely to love them without rules or stipulations. It is assumed that the stranger is not a believer, which means we have no space for comments or judgement on their life.
Instead, we are to love them wholly, completely, and in the process we create space for a relationship, which then gives way to sharing where our Hope comes from, and then we have the opportunity to show them Jesus, and then Jesus changes them from the inside outward.

The place I have started my search is through the intersection of love and hospitality is 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but do not have love,
I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy,
and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor,
and if I surrender my body to be burned,
but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient,
Love is kind and is not jealous;
Love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never fails;
but if there are gifts of prophecy,
they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child;
when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now faith,
hope,
love,
abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Hospitality and Love cross completely in Hebrews 13:

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is merely the beginning, but because people have begun to ask what I have found, I thought I would compile some of my findings and thoughts. Soon I hope to continue to share what I find as I grow and learn.

To Be Continued…

Looking Ahead: 2015

So, I do a year in review every year, and it is my favorite blog post to do annually because it forces me to pause and reflect on where I have been, what I have done, and the people and things that have changed me. I also have found that taking time to remember tends to cause and overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for all the things He has done and ways that He has once again proven his faithfulness. You can read about the 2014 review here, 2013 here, and 2012 here.. Beyond that, if you’re still interested you can look in my December archives for each year 🙂

My second favorite post of the year is the one where I look ahead, make goals, resolutions, plans, and share the things I can see (or not see) coming, as well as any thoughts or insights into what it feels like God is up to in my life.

This year I turn 30!

I am stoked.

It may seem odd that I am so excited, but for some reason I am.
I am looking forward to starting a new decade of my life.
I am looking forward to feeling like there is less pressure at 30 to prove yourself.
I am looking forward to enjoying life in a new way.

  1. The year I was 29 was incredibly difficult, but it has only caused me to resolve to create healthy habits across every aspect of my life.
  2. This year I am excited about starting a new job and continuing my consulting work, learning, growing, experiencing, helping others, and leading well.
  3. I want to read like crazy this year. I want to learn from other people’s experiences and then figure out how to apply them to what I am doing.
  4. I need to get new running shoes (my other one’s are broken), but, as soon as I do I want to get back to running and weight lifting.
  5. I want to eat healthy and properly hydrate myself. I feel like I made significant progress over the last six months, but I still need make better choices moving forward, so I plan on it.
  6. I am looking forward to walking. I am within walking distance of work, have a dog who needs exercise, and live in a highly active city.. I want to experience and take full advantage.
  7. I want to dance often. I miss Salsa dancing (or latin dancing in general) immensely whenever I do not get to do it regularly… So, now that I have returned to a city that has a great dancing scene, I plan on jumping back in regularly!
  8. I want to be better at mailing letters and cards. I plan on making it a weekly habit to mail at least one letter or card, whether long or short… (That being said.. send me your address if you would like to get added to my list!)
  9. I need to get back in the habit of praying regularly and for extended periods of time for friends, family, and situations of others… So, my mirror 3×5 cards are going back up!
  10. I took a significant break from blogging many times throughout last year. I just felt like I had nothing of value to share, so I said nothing at all. But, I missed it, a lot. So, regularly weekly blogs are getting put back into the rotation of schedule.
  11. I want so badly to travel internationally this year!
  12. I have 5 years to pay off a stupid ridiculous amount of debt, but I am determined to keep my focus there. Even if I do not attain my goal (which, at this stage, I’m not sure how I would) focusing on it will ensure that I am being diligent and making wise choices.
  13. I want to put money in savings!
  14. I want to add to and cross things off my before I die bucket list year!
  15. I need to carve out space in my schedule to read and actually study scripture.
  16. I am going to keep a jar full of daily things that were blessings, positives, good moments, things I was thankful for that day. — I did this for about 5 months of last year, this year I aim for the whole year.

I think this year is going to be jam-packed and I am so excited about it. I cannot wait to look back at the year and marvel at how many things I crammed into each week.
I feel as though this year I am going to be trying to drink out of a firehose all year. I am looking forward to the laughter and ridiculousness of things that are surely going to happen in the process of trying to absorb it all.
I have a feeling that I will get really good this year at owning up to mistakes and apologizing for the things I dropped the ball on.

As I start 2015, I am at a place of marvel and wonder. I am totally amazed at where I find myself after having moments of wondering if the difficult and painful things would ever end.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the marvel and wonder won’t go away for a while, and I’m totally ok with that.

 

All of The Emotions in a Rainbow…

Sometimes, I find myself with (lots of) things to say, but a lack of desire to dig deep and flesh out the thoughts and feelings. I think that has been my biggest reason behind the almost two month absence from blogging. I have so many things I want to say and share, but a pretty distinct lack of willingness to dig it out for others to partake in. Despite the fact that I truly enjoy blogging and allowing others to see things that I am working through in my life, sometimes I want to avoid it in order to not actually have to work through them myself.

Then, a person particularly close to my heart, mentioned that they were journaling, and I was reminded of how much I do actually love blogging and sharing my thoughts.

So, here I am, blogging again.
Unfortunately, there is a swirling chaos of thoughts and emotions, so this post is a smattering of it all:

I got a full-time job!
It will take me back to DC soon, and I am stoked. As in, beyond excited because I absolutely love the place I will be working. I am so excited to get started, and to move back, but I am working not to be frustrated at the slower pace of the hiring process… Especially due to the holidays. (For those that have been asking, no, I do not have an official start date yet.)

Also, people have been asking about my consulting work. I still love consulting work! I will continue to do it even after I start my full-time job. I weighed it all out, and realized that I truly love consulting work, and I enjoy working with the clients I have right now. Plus, what I am doing now is entirely manageable with a full-time job. So, true to form, I am doing both.. And, could not be more excited about it!

I am however pretty stressed because of money and figuring out how to make the move work… Going for little or no income for a year and a half to moving is a pretty big feat. But, I find myself constantly pushing back to focusing on how God has carried me through, and is taking me back to a place I love.. How could He abandon me now? He will not.. It will however add to my crazy story thus far.

Whenever I find myself faced with some exciting possibility, I also have to struggle to not temper my feelings “just in case it all falls through.” I hate it, but I do not want to let myself be too disappointed, so I find it safer to reserve some of my excitement… While at the same time trying to seem appropriately excited. I have had to take control of my wandering mind and re-orient it, reminding myself that God has carried me through, and despite the feeling that “things could always go wrong”, the risk is worth it all. I know that on the other side, I will feel the familiar rush of relief that everything went through and it all happened exactly as it was supposed to… But, until then, prayer is where I am turning for relief.

I find myself really struggling to restrain the antsy feelings. It is a bit like trying to control muscle spasms.. I want to be done with the holding pattern that has been the last year and a half. I want to be busy, because I flourish most when I have more things to accomplish than I have time for… The less I have to do, the more I slip into laziness and apathy; I despise those two things about myself.

My sister and I are writing a book series together, and I am really enjoying the whole process with her. She is so much fun and we find ourselves laughing all the time! Talking through the various aspects of our story, the characters, progression, writing scenes, brainstorming, adding random hints and bits of humor… The whole process has been so much fun!

IMG_0502Also, on an entirely different note, I colored my hair for the first time since my birthday (10 months ago). I am back to red/fuchsia, and I love it, feels like me to have ridiculous hair again.

Precious Friends…

I know I say it often, but I have the most amazing friends.

I feel that I should tout as often as possible just how much my friends impact and change my life. Sometimes I am blown away by the huge and significant ways my friends love me, but also because sometimes it is in the small things they do that change my heart.

God has been wrecking my heart lately… In the very best of ways (I suppose), but still, it has been painful, which has left my heart feeling exposed, raw, and fragile. And, when I am feeling less than in control of my emotions, I naturally pull together and work to project security and confidence in order to give myself space to figure things out.

However, this time it is different, and I know that a lot of the process that God and I are going through right now is dealing with, healing from, and making new so that we can move forward restored.

So, repeatedly I have chosen not to sidestep what God is doing deep in my heart, and decided to sit in it and allow things in my heart to be dealt with. — Not particularly one of my favorite things, I prefer to be strong and capable, but in this instance I think it is important.

I have had several conversations recently with different friends, and each time, I chose to tell them what was going on with my heart instead of bypassing with a standard response. Despite my desire to just offer a quick response, I shared how much I was struggling and how vulnerable I felt, then I held my breath, and waited for them to respond.

IMG_0100Like cold refreshing water or salve to a burn, their tenderness, compassion, support, and prayers left me feeling encouraged and comforted.

I have been amazed and so grateful for their love, tenderness, grace, mercy, understanding, wisdom, insight, perspective, prayers, and of course their hugs… And really, so much more..

I simply do not have words to accurately describe how thankful I am for my friends; they impact my life in profound ways and make me a better person every day.