Monday, February 25, 2013

Going West

It’s official. I’ve accepted.  

The infamous question of, “What are you doing next year?” finally has an answer. I thought this day would never come. 

Starting August 27, 2013 I will be a year-long intern at Young Life’s Crooked Creek Ranch in Fraser, Colorado. 

My heart just skipped a little beat. I am so excited. 

The process of figuring out post-graduation plans is an interesting one. Some days it’s exhilarating and exciting. Then other days it’s exhausting and stressful. There were days where the options seemed limitless and then other days where it seemed like there would be no options. Some days I would sit around with Jen making lists of all our hopes and dreams and then other days where I just cried because nothing made sense. I prayed and prayed to God to give me guidance and then some days I got mad at God because things were not happening as I expected. Doors were shut and new doors unexpectedly opened. 

The list that Jen and I sent our parents as our "plan."

And at the end of it all, I am sure that Crooked Creek Ranch is where God wants me

I kind of laughed the other day while working on the Patriarch Bible study by Beth Moore when I learned that the children of Israel “had to move west to dwell in the fulfillment of God’s promises.” Scholars point out that in Scripture there are parallels of eastward movement with results in greater distance from God’s fellowship. So moving westward is associated with moving towards a deeper intimacy with God. Now really this shouldn’t be taken too literally because we live on a round planet and we’re all east or west of somewhere, but…

This southern belle really is going west. 

I am moving west to Colorado and am moving in hopes of finding deeper intimacy with the Heavenly Father. 

I cannot wait to see all that this internship will hold. I know there will be good days and there will be bad days. I know sometimes I will be eager to serve the Lord while working and then other days I will have to force myself to have a positive attitude. 

But all the while, my prayer and my deepest desire is to know the Lord more, and then too, for every person who steps on Crooked Creek’s property to know the immense love the Father has for them. 

Come August, it’s really happening. 

Sarah, Anna, and I visited CCR in October while in CO with no clue that I would be there within the year.

I will be leaving my southern comfort zone. Thank you, Brad Paisley, for this perfect song (Anna, don’t cry). And thank you, Patagonia, for a ski jacket called the “Snowbelle,” you are just what I need. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Funtastic Friend Friday: Amanda Stephens

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” -C.S. Lewis

The summer that Amanda Stephens and I first met breathed life into C.S. Lewis' idea of friendship for me. We first interned together at Timber Wolf Lake the summer of 2011. It is crazy to think that I have known Amanda less than two years. After that summer, I had a best friend that lived in Indiana, 600 miles away. Since we have known one another, Amanda has challenged me, loved me, and encouraged me more than I could have ever imagined. I have been beyond blessed by a friendship of hours of phone conversations, letters, surprise visits, Skype dates, Michigan summers, and random trips. I have learned so much from Amanda and from our friendship. She has a heart for Jesus and for social justice that I admire and am daily inspired by. I cannot wait to see all of the places that the Lord takes her in the coming years.

 I am beyond excited that Amanda is the one writing a guest post this week. She is one of the most important people in my life and so it is only fitting that she get to share about herself personally. Her words are real and they are raw, but they are so incredibly beautiful and life-giving. I love getting to experience life with her, even 600 miles apart, and seeing all the ways that the Lord is showering her with His love.


Hello all!

My name is Amanda Vivian Stephens, a proud Indiana native, currently in my last semester at Taylor University. One of my most proud facts (and essential to this story) is that my name means “worthy of love” and “full of life.” My claim to fame on this day is that Jordan Abourjilie is my best friend. And today she has asked me to share a little about my life as of late. Ready, set, go.

I met Jordan almost two years ago. I had arrived at Timber Wolf Lake, my home for the summer, and in the rush that only Young Life can create, was convinced to try out the camp’s new water slide. It was only fifty degrees outside, quite windy and I was wearing the clothes I had arrived in. But fifteen minutes later, I stood shivering and wet at the bottom of a hill, when a smiling southern girl approached me, told me her name was Jordan and a beautiful friendship began.

Just a couple months after that introduction, our intern crew arrived in Traverse City, Michigan with big plans. All eighteen interns stood in a tiny tattoo parlor, as five of us made a few changes to the bodies God gave us. I walked out that day with the word ‘loved’ tattooed on the inside of my left ring finger. Five touch-ups and a lot of fading later, it means more to my story now than I had ever thought then.

In Isaiah 49:16, the Lord says, “See? I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” I am continually, consistently, and constantly overwhelmed by this fact.

God, you did WHAT? You wrote my name on your hands?

Yes, Amanda Vivian [worthy of love. full of life], your name is on my hands. And it’s not just written, it’s engraved. I etched it in with a knife. It is tattooed with ink. It is there to stay.

My ‘pain in my side’ [2 Cor. 12:7] has much to do with my identity. So often I struggle with what other people think of me, if I am loved, popular, wanted. And some of my darkest days are when I believe that I am unloved, that I am not good enough, that the people in my life are unhappy with me. Relationships to me are, so often, a give and take. They are an equation. I earn your trust, your forgiveness and your love, over the course of time and a friendship, just as you earn mine. But this isn’t true of the Lord.

The Lord declares that he loved me first, before I ever loved him. [1 John 4:19] And he loves me unconditionally. Regardless of how many times I forget him, refuse him, or disregard him. I didn’t understand this in July of 2011 when I chose to get my tattoo. But every single day I wanted to be reminded that I am loved, not for what I do or who I am, but simply because the Lord chose to love me. Even in marriage, the ring goes on second, because the Lord loved me first. My identity is in his love for me.

In February of 2013, I still don’t understand it. I am graduating from Taylor University in 85 days. This place has forced me to learn more about my identity than any other, as I have daily struggled to balance my desire for others’ love with my desire to be rooted in my Savior’s love [Eph. 3:17-18]. But I pray to know it, just as I pray it out over each of you.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from who every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, will have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God." [Ephesians 3:14-19]

God, fill us up. Oh God, fill us up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The One Who Is Infinite

"I am convinced that the totality of everything God has told us about Himself in His Word and in nature is little more than a hint."

I read this just the other day in my Beth Moore study of the Patriarchs from Genesis and I was struck... I was in awe.

The God we get to worship is an infinite being.

His totality cannot be fathomed because He is infinite... He is infinitely mysterious and infinitely majestic and infinitely magnificent.

I stand in awe of the God who created us, who created this world, and who loves us with an unfailing love.

There is delight to be found in the One who is infinite.

I never want to stop delighting in God or stop being mesmerized by His being and His creation.

God is a master of surprise, or love, and of beauty. He is everywhere and in everything.

When looking through those images I am in awe of the God who crafted those beings, those moments, and those pieces of creation. He is nothing short of creative. 

My prayer is that we can become so enamored with the infinite God that we never stop looking for Him and never stop learning about Him. I pray that we daily fall in the love with God as we experience Him in new places and in new ways and I pray that we never become bored with the infinite God who is calling us by name.

God is infinite. 

He is ... 
eternal ... magical ... the Prince of Peace ... the Great I AM ... just ... good ... faithful ... everlasting ... the One who sees me ... Wonderful Counselor ... creator of Heaven and earth ... sovereign ... true ... beautiful ... omniscient ... Holy One ... a friend ... righteous ... forever ... almighty ... God Most High ... savior ... Lord ... gracious ... compassionate ... slow to anger ... abounding in love ... the King ... crowned with honor ... exalted ... worthy ... powerful ... strong ... perfect ... infinite ...

Be amazed. Stand in awe. Never stop seeing more of God.

"Dominion and awe belong to God" - Job 25:2

Friday, February 15, 2013

Funtastic Friend Friday: Megan Kennedy

I am so excited the beginning of Funtastic Friend Friday. I am even more excited that the first guest post is coming from my dearest friend Megan Kennedy. I have known Megan since my freshman year of college. We both did College Life as freshmen and have been in a Bible Study together since our sophomore year. Megan loves adventure and she is a true lover of life. This past year Megan and I have grown closer as we have spent time processing all that the Lord is teaching one another and all that the Lord is putting on our hearts for next year. I admire her passion for the world and her ability to love people so well. Megan will be leaving in July for an 11 country, 11 month mission trip around the world. I am beyond excited for her and all that the Lord is going to teach her. Follow her World Race blog to see all that the Lord does in Megan's life in the next year and half. 

Megan's post is one that is very dear to my heart. She writes from an extremely vulnerable place about struggling with doubt. I love her commitment to bringing light to the struggle with doubt and I have seen the need for that in my life and in the lives of many of my closest friends. I am so thankful for her honesty and rawness.


I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a good friend of mine that I hadn’t caught up with in way too long. After our usual exchanges about school and post-graduation plans, we began to discuss our relationships with God and how they’ve changed over the past year.

My friend shifted uncomfortably, and with downcast eyes admitted, “I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been dealing with a lot of doubt.”
Doubt isn’t something that we really discuss much and when we do, it’s usually to point out that someone else is “struggling with doubt” but never that we ourselves are struggling.

I was refreshed by my friend’s honesty, and could completely relate to her experience, as doubt has definitely been a reality in my life. Last year I went through a period of extreme doubt. But unlike my friend, it wasn’t something I admitted when I was going through it. I just trudged along, pretending like everything was okay. I refused to admit that I was struggling with hard questions, questions like:

Is God really good?
Is this even true?
Does God really care about me?
How could God love me with a past like mine?

But beyond my attempts to hide my doubt from those around me  I couldn’t even admit my doubt to the One to who knows me intimately, the One who created me.

I felt as if admitting my own doubts to God would somehow make them true--that admitting these lies might have the power to transform God’s character.

I acted as if admitting my doubts to God would surprise or disappoint Him.

I failed to see that my doubts didn’t for one-second limit the power of God or His character.

I thought that God couldn’t handle my doubts.

But I was just plain wrong.

God could handle them.  God can handle them. God knows our doubts before we even realize we’re doubting.

God doesn’t want us to keep our doubts bottled up inside, growing larger each day. Because when we keep them hidden, they have no chance of being exposed to the light and changed. When we keep them hidden, we don’t invite God in to work through these doubts with us and show us that our doubts will NEVER limit His love for us.

When Jesus walked on water during a vicious storm, He called Peter to get out of the boat and come to Jesus. Peter stepped out, at first with great confidence and walked towards Jesus. But then he got scared. Peter doubted that Jesus would protect him, that Jesus was who he said he was, and the waves and wind surrounding Peter began to swallow him.

But Jesus didn’t respond by letting him continue to drown.

No, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.

We need to stop believing the lie that when we doubt we can’t admit this to God. Just like Peter, as we begin to doubt, we need to shout out “Lord save me.”

And just like the all-powerful God that He is, He reaches out his hand and pulls us into His loving embrace.