Monday, April 29, 2013

A Bittersweet Season

I have never really liked the word "bittersweet." To me, it's a word thrown around when people don't know how they feel and things are changing... things are always just bittersweet.

What does that even mean? 

In my black and white, reduce everything to a formula, and "let's call it like it is" mantra, things should be either bitter or sweet. Never both.

And if things are going to be bittersweet, for me it's going to look a lot more like this: bitterSWEET.

Highlight the sweetness, and hope that the bitterness just disappears.

The past few weeks have been full of sweetness. Spring semester is made for sweetness and being a senior is made for sweetness. It's in the blooming flowers, the welcoming of shorts weather, the senior events, and the ushering in of summer.


Delighting in the small and beautiful things has been easy recently. There have been... dinner parties ... coffee dates ... house photo shoots ... nightly walks around campus ... car jam sessions with the windows down ... concerts ... twinkle lights ... bonfires ... lake trips ... pancake nights ... climbing the bell tower ... ice cream adventures ... arboretum relaxing ... beach trips ... spontaneous outings ... kitchen dance parties ... and so many other truly wonderful things.

And I have been with some of the most delightful people... I live with seven of the most inspiring ladies who love Jesus and are some of the best people to spend time with. I lead Young Life alongside eight awesome people who are passionate about the ministry and who make my day each and every time I see them. I have a mentor who is honest, understands my love for rules, and who is constantly challenging me. I hang out with really wonderful high schoolers, who teach me something every time I spend time with them. And on top of all that, I have so many friends that live all over the country (and a few of them all over the world) who I adore and who love me so well.

By the sounds of that, I have it all. I am beyond blessed. I know that I do not deserve any of that.

And recently, I have been clinging and holding on to the sweetness like never before. I am grasping at all of the goodness that I possibly can, because I am afraid of the bitterness and twinge of sadness that hides beneath it all.

Underneath all of those delightful, Instagram worthy things, there is a bitterness, a confusion, and a sadness.

Those feelings have come from a multitude of different things that have happened in my life, in my loved one's lives, and in the world over the past few months.

a really broken relationship ... the haunting of May 13, the day after graduation ... attempting to uproot some seriously deep-seeded insecurities ... the battle of cancer in a dear family member ... the tragedy of the Boston marathon ... poor decisions with grave consequences ... a broken heart for those who are suffering


Honestly, I have learned to not run away from the brokenness and from the darkness and I have learned to confront many of the issues, but as more time passes it is becoming more and more difficult to synthesize the bitterness with the sweetness... to let the two occur simultaneously. The bitterness has been put to the back burner, not because I do not want to face it, but because there are so many other wonderful things to delight in and to keep me busy. 

But recently, the bitterness has been catching up to me and the door is being unhinged. It happens in the simplest of moments, the bitterness bubbles up and becomes too much.

It's in the moment that I am at the lake with the best team in the entire world and I am struck with an intense sadness that the Lord is asking me to leave a group of people that I love, to enter into a community where I am so unknown.

The time that I am sitting at Starbucks attempting to write my ten-page paper due the next day and something pops up on Facebook reminding me of the brokenness and I am unhinged. Huge tears welling up in my eyes, giving it all I have to not break down in sobs, and the hope of finishing the paper beginning to fade away as a distant memory.

When all clear-minded thinking is thrown out the door when Anna asks me to take a picture to finish a project she is working on. I end up hating every single thing about the picture... my hair, my outfit, my smile and the fact that it has to be done right then... All ridiculous things to get upset about, but I do because the bitterness creeps out in the most unexpected of moments.

And then there is a phone call that sends my day spinning and I just don't know where to begin to pick up the pieces.

It is so difficult for me to synthesize the bitter and the sweet. It doesn't seem okay for them to happen simultaneously.

I feel guilty when I rejoice in the sweet, and I feel guilty when I wallow in the bitter. 

It's in this time that I have started reading Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Her words bring comfort in this season.

"Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness." 

When I really consider it, that is beyond true. In all of the brokenness there is something incredibly beautiful. Each time the bitterness appears and I am done sobbing and trying to dry the tears, Jesus is beside me helping me pick up the pieces. 

He is there when the team comes back together at the lake house for a family-style dinner. He is there as he instills a peace in my heart and a calm to finish my paper with enough time to actually get six hours of sleep. He is there in the Every Nation worship after the picture taking hissy fit. And He is there on the other side of the phone when I call my best friend because I just don't know what to do anymore and she reminds me that it isn't my fault.

He is here in these moments reminding me...

My sweet child, I am not mad at you. I have never been mad at you. I am not punishing you for anything you have done. You do not need to feel guilty, you have been set free. I am crying with you and I am rejoicing with you. I love you. 

So yes, this season is bittersweet, but Jesus is good and faithful. He has not changed a bit, through any of this. He is still the same perfect God who calls me His beloved and who died on the cross to save the world. He is the same God that has always been there.


And today, things are changing, but the God of the universe is not. I am happy and I am sad, all at the same time.

"This is what I have come to believe about change: it's good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean it's incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God's hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be."

You give and take away, You give and take away; my heart will choose to say Lord blessed be Your name

Friday, April 26, 2013

Funtastic Friend Friday: Kaitlin Shinn

Today's guest blogger is one of the East teammies and a girl who undoubtedly makes me laugh each and every time that I am with her. Kaitlin is a sophomore at UNC and got placed on our Young Life team a little over a year ago. It has been an incredible blessing to see her grow over the last year as she has fallen more in love with Jesus and has become one of the best Young Life leaders that I have ever met. She has an uncanny ability to make our entire team laugh with her antics and her choice words. I am thankful for our car rides to lunch at East over the past year, for the serious conversations and for the epic dance parties. Kaitlin will be a guide at Young Life's Wilderness in Colorado this summer and I am beyond excited for her time there and all of the ways that the Lord is going to grow her.




Kaitlin has a beautiful way of crafting words that strike the heart. I am beyond thankful for her words in this post because I know how real they are and how much they mean to her. Her adoration of Jesus is intoxicating and I am so excited to share her post. 

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Farther Along


“Terrorism Strikes Boston Again, as Bombs Kill 3.”
“More Bodies Identified in Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion.”
“Bangladesh factory collapse death toll rises to 161.”

I read the headlines from last week and they are shouting, telling of yet another way in which the world is coming undone. To me, it seems sometimes like the world is like a child caught in the tides of the ocean, getting smashed over and over in the head with wave after wave of tragedy, ears filling with water and eyes burning with salt. It is tumbling and tumbling, head over heels until the even difference between up and down is lost in the blackness. 

As I was reading them, what struck me this week was not pain. Instead, as I heard about tragedy after tragedy, death after death, I looked within and I felt nothing. 

Somehow I’ve come to a place where in my head I believe that if I truly listen to the stories of pain in the world, if I allow my heart to crack and break it will eventually become so unhinged that I’ll lose my ability to function. So instead I build walls. I construct them higher and higher, creating a fortress and within them my heart grows hard, slowly becoming stone. Over and over I choose to hide, until I don’t know if I even have the capacity to feel broken for the world anymore. 

Slowly, though, I hear that small whisper in my ear, that still small voice. That this isn’t what the world was meant to be, that this isn’t what he intended for us, and that numbness is not of the Lord.

           
            “Mary, He’s calling for you,” Martha’s whisper breaks through the fog in her head. And Mary is on her feet, she is running, pushing through the mourners her family had hired in the wake of her brother Lazarus’s death, pushing open the door to their house in Bethany. All that matters is that she got to Jesus.
She falls at Jesus’s feet in the dust, panting, the grit pressing into the soft skin of her knees. Her eyes are bloodshot, her hair a tangled mess. “Teacher, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Her voice breaks.
The mourners have followed her, bringing the chaos back. A swell of noise rises as they wail, lifting up their voices to the heavens as if to shake their fists at the sky, hopeless and angry. Jesus looks at her. He is broken for what has become of this world, for how distant it has become from what He intended. A tear runs down his dirty, weather-beaten face, weaving a path through the dust. His tears are not loud, attention drawing, like the mourners; they are quiet.
           
In this moment in John 11, Jesus not only weeps for the loss of a dear friend, but also weeps over the very existence of death itself. The passage says that when Jesus saw Mary, he was troubled, using the Greek word tarasso to emphasize the depth of his feeling. This same word is used for the terror the disciples feel when they see Jesus walking on water, the pain Jesus feels in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately before he is crucified, and Zacharias’s fear when he sees an angel in the temple.
           

I see how deeply compassionate Jesus was, and immediately I spiral into self-loathing. I wallow in it, bathe in it, feeling shame and guilt and inadequacy. I wonder if I ever loved anyone or anything, really; I hate myself and I hate myself until I have thought myself in circles for so long that all I can do is cry. But again I hear that still small whisper, breaking through the haze, My sweet child, self-loathing is not of Lord.

So I turn back to the beautiful God-man that is Jesus, and oh, how he is captivating.

That a divine being weeps for the world, one who is infinite like the stars, who is big like a galaxy, who is light and joy and love itself. That silent tears streak his face, tracing through the Middle Eastern dust.

That He never gets overwhelmed by the number of voices clamoring for His attention, each with desperate pain in need of a hand to pull them out from the waves. Patient, He has time for each of us, giving us a new name, no longer defined by our brokenness or our past. 

That He sings a redemption song over the people of the earth, singing that one day He will wipe away the tears from our eyes, that there will be no more pain and no more suffering and that He will swallow up death forever. (Isa. 25:8)

At the end of this journey, I think all I have left is Jesus, and the hope of life through Him. 

For the promises He has made to us, they are staggering. That we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, that our unveiled faces will reflect the Lord. That the life of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Most powerful of all, that He will remove this heart of stone from us and will give us a heart of flesh. (2 Cor. 3:18, Pro. 3:18, Eze. 36:26)

And maybe that knowledge is enough, bigger then my self-loathing, my numbness, the world’s pain. Maybe it’s enough, the beautiful relationship He offers me, the hope of the future He promises, the transformation into His likeness. As I reach the end of myself, I think that maybe I don’t have to have all the answers. That it’s enough just to know that I have Jesus walking beside me, and inside me, and to hear His promise that this numbness isn’t permanent. That I don’t have to hate myself. That I am not finished.   

At this moment, I think of that well-known and loved Josh Garrels song. He sings, “Farther along, we’ll know all about it/ farther along we’ll understand why. / So cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine,/ we’ll understand this, all by and by.”


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life Over the Table

There is something magical about a table. There is life found over a table.

Okay, that might sound kind of crazy... But, I am convinced that that there is something that is inexplicably beautiful about time shared over meals, food, coffee (the table) with other people.

thanks caribou for your napkin truths & supporting my love language

In ancient cultures meals were typically the settings for blessings. Today meals are often a huge part of celebrations. We have birthday dinners, huge family meals to celebrate holidays, and even fancy dinner parties.

The thing that is so magical isn't really the dinner table, but the people that sit around the table and the bonds that the Lord creates between those people.

Life is found in the relationships that are formed over a table.

It's in the tiniest of moments that life springs forth, but there is most surely eternal significance.

It's in the moments... 


... of uncontrollable laughter as old friends recount their favorite memories

... of confession over coffee with best friends 

... of new beginnings with new friends as you learn about each others' lives

... that one person finally admits "I don't have it all together" 

... that two people realize they have more in common than they thought

... friends come back together for reunions 

... of celebration and excitement

... when one person should seemingly walk away, but they choose to stay

... of sharing old memories as you make new ones

... that two people realize the Lord has put them in each others' lives for a divine purpose

... declaring truths to each others' hearts

... of being humbled by one another

... of bubbling giddiness and delight at the other person's words

... of being truly vulnerable and transparent

... where healing is found in broken relationships

... of tears flowing freely as freedom is found

... that friends can rejoice with one another


I think that the Lord is present in all of those moments. He is there in all of those moments as life is experienced between two people or a group of people. 

The absolute most beautiful thing to me is when the people around the table begin to see one another, really see one another. They let one another in each others' lives and they truly see one another in all of their messiness and loveliness. And when they truly see one another, life is found in the inexplicable moment when both people choose to stay at the table with one another, despite all their messiness.

Our Heavenly Father is working in our relationships with one another... He is blessing us abundantly, or growing us, or stretching us, or humbling us, or teaching us through all of our relationships.

The life the Lord gives us is rich and abundant and He allows us to experience it in community and relationship with other people. Oh, praise Him!

Some of my favorite memories of this semester have come from time spent over the table with friends. He has brought us together over coffee, home-cooked meals, pancakes, and so much more and He has blessed us with life and with relationships that are growing us.

Here are just a few of those memories that have been documented and will forever hold a place in my heart:

To begin the semester, the McMansion had a house bonding evening that involved a wonderful dinner and little gifts to celebrate one another.





We have had the most exciting time this semester celebrating each others' twenty-second birthdays. There is nothing better than funfetti cake, best friends, and whole heck of a lot of Taylor Swift's "22." 



There have been countless evenings this semester of cooking dinner with the McMansion together and just learning from one another as we cook and talk and spend time together. 

an evening of shrimp & grits makes for so much southern goodness

Jen and I were recently shopping in Target and fell in love with some of the dinner party ware there, so obviously we decided to host a dinner party at our house. We had all of the girls from our College Life class over for a boojiest dinner party Chapel Hill had ever seen. We got dressed up, expanded the McMansion dinner table, took lots of pictures, and just experienced life together. It was a truly delightful evening full of laughter as we recounted memories from the past four years of college. The Lord has blessed us in mighty ways over these four years and the girls in this group will forever hold a huge piece of my heart.

class of 2009 college life ladies
table settings & decorations is kinda my secret obsession... along with etiquette... perfect for dinner parties.
conversation, laughter, goodness, memories
mary nel, anna, phoebe, & i
my third floor besties
melaney, sarah, & ashton

And life over pancakes... oh, I am sure that life is found over pancakes. Some of my most treasured memories from living in the McMansion involve our Pancake Nights. One Thursday of every month we open up our home to all of our friends (and their friends) to all spend time together and eat pancakes. There have been pancake nights with over 100 people in our house laughing, hanging out, and eating lots and lots and lots of pancakes. It has been such a blessing to have so many people in our house and to meet so many new friends as they walk through our door. Anna is working on her videography these days and her first official video comes from our last pancake night. I absolutely love the video because it documents some of the most beautiful relationships formed at pancake nights and the life that is found over pancakes.



"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people." -Acts 2:45-47


Friday, April 19, 2013

Funtastic Friend Friday: Johnson Beasley

This guy, if we're being honest, I do not know that much about. I have known him for less than six months or so, but here are the two things I am sure of: (1) he loves Jesus A LOT & (2) he loves Young Life. And from that, I think he's pretty great. Johnson is a freshman here at UNC and just got placed as a Young Life leader at Carrboro High School. Young Life has a phrase that says "You were made for this"-- well, that statement was made for Johnson. He was made for Young Life. I adore how passionate he is about the ministry, but most importantly I adore how much he exudes Jesus... all the time. Johnson will be doing Summer Staff in the kitchen at Crooked Creek this summer, my future home, and I am so incredibly pumped for him. I am also so excited for Johnson to have three more years at UNC and for all the ways that Lord is going to grow him and teach him in this beautiful college town. 


johnson with crock (area director) & tripp (new east teammie + johnson's bestie)







one heck of carrboro young life team.
I was so honored that Johnson agreed to write a post on my blog. I am excited to share what he wrote for so many reasons. He gives a beautiful picture into the ministry of Young Life and what our role is as Young Life leaders. He also writes about YL camping, which has stolen my heart and I am super passionate about. But lastly, he writes about the Lord's love for us... and wow, he writes it in a way that speaks much needed Truth to my heart, and my prayer is for yours as well. 
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I was flattered when Jordan asked me to write for her blog, primarily because I’m just some loud, all-over-the-place freshman that stares in amazement every time I read one of her blog posts (Even Jordan’s YL teammate and one of my best friends, Tripp, will tell you that every time Jordan has a new post, he’ll receive a text message from me that reads, “Well….Jordan did it phenomenally….again.”)

I was actually planning to write about how I seriously underestimated the amount of cool people in college. (I make that claim jokingly, but I also claim it honestly.) The Lord has astounded me with people at UNC that I never ever thought I would be friends with; in His grace, He has stuck me in the middle of communities where I am consistently encouraged and surrounded by the Gospel. But, in the midst of writing about my na├»ve underestimation, I felt like I wanted to share what I have written below, because it has been something that I have been wrestling with lately – do I really believe that my Heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe, looks down on me and all my imperfection and calls me Beloved?

I was recently placed as a Young Life leader at Carrboro High School, and I absolutely love it. In fact, I have even told friends that I became a Carrboro Jaguar fan more quickly than I became a Tar Heel fan. It has been an honor, just in the past few months, to live life with my few high school friends at Carrboro. All throughout my senior year, however, I tossed and turned over the question of whether or not I should be a Young Life leader. I was the epitome of the YL guru at my high school in Raleigh, but, if I’m totally honest, the thought of being a leader scared me sideways……………....until I had the opportunity to lead the freshmen guys at Sharp Top Cove, a YL camp in Georgia, for a week last summer.

And here begins the heart of my post.

Let’s go back to Sharptop. Something about that place is purely magical. Must’ve been why that crazy man dressed as a magician on stage kept screaming, “FLY MAGIC BIRD!” I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. I’ve never been challenged so strongly in my life. I’ve never smiled so big, prayed so hard, laughed as loud, cried so fast in my life. The Holy Spirit does work there. He just does it. And it is amazing to be a part, to be a spectator, to sit back and watch as the spiritual “magic” unfolds.

You fill a wide range of roles as a leader at a Young Life camp. A coach. An alarm clock. A waiter. A “free milkshake” buyer. Through it all, though, you’re a cheerleader. You’re your guys’ biggest fan from the moment they finally get out of bed until the moment they crash back asleep in the wee-hours of the night.

To the kid whose legs are shaking as he balances the wire on the ropes course? His biggest fan. To the kid who has never had a family style meal and is still shocked that the food is always all-you-can-eat? His biggest fan. To the kid who hits a Grand Slam in wiffle ball? His biggest fan. To the kid who purposefully walks slower down the mountain so he can release all of his hidden disappointment and frustration about his brokenness? His biggest fan. To the kid who falls asleep during the club talks? His biggest fan. To the kid who cries in cabin time but won’t say a word? His biggest fan.

You don’t care about bedhead, about morning breath, about lack of deodorant, about dirty socks, dirty bathrooms, dirty cabins. Forget about burps, about smells, about sunburn, about stains. Toss away the reputations, the judgments, the bad decisions, the baggage. At the end of the day – and quite frankly the beginning and the middle – you genuinely desire that they know Jesus, the loving Creator of the universe. And all those idiosyncrasies and mishaps suddenly disappear in the midst of The Light – The Light that has rescued you from the shadows of death. It is because of the Marvelous Light that we act this way.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.[John 1:4]

What’s perhaps the coolest thing about all of this, you know, is that Jesus is our Number 1 Fan. We wake up, and He’s already been cheering for us. We go to sleep, and He doesn’t stop cheering for us.  He is cheering for us as He wipes the slate of all our wrongs completely clean. Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be washed white as snow.[Isaiah 1:18] Brokenness, shame, fear, guilt – GONE. He’s our biggest fan.

We’re the kid who thinks he can balance on the ropes course without a harness. We’re the kid who greedily wants more and more of the food at His table. We’re the kid who hit the Grand Slam and thinks he’s the coolest man to walk the earth because of it. We’re the kid who breaks down because we keep failing at trying to fix our own brokenness. We fall asleep when during the important moments, and we cover up our tears to act like nothing’s there.

We let our imperfections swallow us in shame and guilt, attempting to hide our brokenness from those surrounding us. But our Heavenly Father, the Triune God, looks down from all of His splendor and doesn’t see our bedhead of anger, doesn’t smell our morning breath of dishonesty, looks past the dirty socks and wet clothes of business that clutter our lives, and smiles approvingly at us when we feel like the stains of our past are too noticeable to disregard. He carried those burdens for us when He hung on the cross, died for our sin, and victoriously rose again – defeating death – three days later.

Throughout it all, Jesus is still our biggest fan. He’s sitting in the stands at every game, cheering us on when we hit the home run and when we strike out. He showers us with grace like rain and covers us with love immeasurable. He supports us, and cheers us on proudly, through and through. He’s yelling our name loudly. He wants us to succeed, and He’s encouraging us all along the way. He wants us to run towards Him, the One who makes all things new. He calls us through the Gospel, so that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.[2 Thessalonians 2:14]

Do I hear Him cheering, calling my name?

“You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [Mark 1:11]

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hidden, Messy, and Beautiful Connection

This post comes in the same vein that Bri's post did for Funtastic Friend Friday last week. If you didn't read Bri's post, you most surely should. 

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I have been a part of the same Bible Study since my sophomore year of college. It originated from our College Life class and has expanded and shrunk over the three years, but it has become a very special part of my life in Chapel Hill.

Over a month ago, I casually volunteered to lead Bible Study the week that our leader, Amanda, would be out of town. When I volunteered much of it felt out of necessity because no one else was volunteering so I just casually raised my hand thinking someone was going to have to volunteer, and I guess that just meant me.

I wrote it down in my planner that I needed to plan Bible Study the weekend before and after that I casually pushed it out of my mind.

But then the particular Bible Study was I was supposed to be "planning" approached and I had no idea what in the world I was going to lead on. I felt less than adequate to be "leading" the Bible Study with my peers and best friends. It had been a rough two weeks previously and I wasn't quite feeling the whole "I know what I'm talking about and you should trust me" thing.

When it came time to planning nothing of significance was actually coming to mind that I felt adequate enough to lead on. After much contemplating, I had nothing in mind.

God had something in mind though. He had a lot in mind. All that He had in mind was everything I was sure that I was not an expert in and was sure that I was mildly horrible at... vulnerability.

God, really? Do I have to? Because I'd really rather not. Vulnerability... yea, that sounds pretty and all, but I am terrible at being vulnerable. 

Yes, my daughter, you do have to. It's time to stare vulnerability in the face and take it head on.

I won't be good at leading a Bible Study on vulnerability though.

No, no, you won't. But you don't have to be. Because I will be. 

So I started planning. I pulled out all of the resources that I could find and I began reading and listening and praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what He wanted me to teach on. I use the word "teach" extremely loosely... I was hardly teaching. I was more or less fumbling words around and asking for everyone in the group to share and add input because learning comes best when we are all engaging with one another.

I wanted to share what the Lord put on my heart to talk about at Bible Study that week though, what I learned (or am still attempting to understand), and just a few nuggets of other people's wisdom on vulnerability. 

First, I came upon Brene Brown's TED talk on the power of vulnerability. I was first introduced to this talk and research this summer at Timber Wolf Lake during an all-camp worship session when one member of the Assigned Team showed part of it as a piece of his message. It was from this talk that the inspiration came for our Bible Study. I highly, highly suggest that you watch the whole talk.



If vulnerability was not a topic that was sticky enough to be discussing, Brene Brown opens her talk with a discussion on the concept of shame. Shame... that is not only sticky... it's messy, ugly, and not often talked about.

Brown describes shame as the factor unraveling connection and as the belief that says "I am not ________________ enough." That blank can be filled by so many different things... pretty, funny, good, skinny, strong, witty, holy, wise... and, more often than not, can be left with just "I am not enough."

Yes, shame is ugly. Very, ugly.

Emily Freeman, author of Grace for the Good Girl and "chatting at the sky" blog, differentiates between guilt and shame. She uses the word guilt as a means to define "a God-reminder when things aren't right and an opportunity to change them." She writes: "Guilt says I did wrong. Shame says I am wrong. Guilt deals with behavior. Shame deals with identity. Guilt leads to repentance. Shame leads to hiding."


We hide behind countless things. Bri wrote about a few of them on her post last Friday. Some of the things we hide behind are good things and others are more destructive, but in all the things we hide behind we are hopelessly searching for some source of protection and safety.

But, WE DO NOT HAVE TO HIDE. If we have a relationship with the Lord, we are hidden in Christ.

"You hem me in-- behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me."
-Psalm 139:5

He is behind us and before us. And His hand is even upon us. We are covered from all directions. 

We are hidden in Christ. We are safe in Christ. We are SAFE in Christ. 

When that sinks in, it gives reason to let the masks fade away. We do not have to hide due to our shame because we are already hidden in Christ. 

"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that be brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery." 
- Deuteronomy 7:6-8  

"Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. 
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. 
You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband--- the LORD Almighty is his name---
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth."  
- Isaiah 54:4-5

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him."  
- Romans 6:4-8

"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." 
- Colossians 3:3

If we are known by God (1 Cor. 8:3) and hidden in Christ, then that allows for us to be known by others.

This is where it gets even more challenging for me. Just because I know that I am hidden in Christ, allowing others to truly see me is not something that comes easy for me. I am daily having to seek the Lord and ask for His grace as I fumble in this area of my life.

Brene Brown describes people who believe they are worthy of connection as whole-hearted people. When we are hidden in Christ, it allows for us to truly be whole-hearted people.  

She uses three words to describe whole-hearted people:
  1. COURAGE: They are people who have the courage to tell the story of themselves with their whole heart and they are people who have the courage to be imperfect. 
  2. COMPASSION: They are people who can be kind and compassionate towards themselves and then also to others. 
  3. CONNECTION: They are people who connect to others as a result of authenticity.
The word that she uses to embrace all three of those words together is vulnerability.

That word is scary to me. In my mind, when I hear vulnerability I think weak, not strong. I think emotional, not compassionate. I think "too much," not authentic.

Brene Brown points out that while vulnerability may not be comfortable or easiest, that it is simply necessary.


"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

One of my favorite bloggers, Stephanie May, writes: "Vulnerability is choosing the daring hope that someone will see us and know us and choose to love us because of what they see-- not for the show or for our perfectly styled hair. There's just nothing more courageous or deeply beautiful than that."

As Brene Brown deconstructed vulnerability she found four things that will allow vulnerability to come alive in us:
... let ourselves be seen ... 
... love with our whole hearts even though there is no guarantee ...
... choose joy and lean into gratitude ...
... believe we're enough ...

While those things may seem simple, I tend to find them quite difficult. It's scary and uneasy and there is an enemy who so desperately does not want for any of those things to flourish in our lives. But it is when we are truly hidden and guarded in Christ that those things can begin to give way and reign true in our lives. 

And that is what Bible Study was on that Tuesday evening. To say that I understand all of this would be a lie... to say that I practice all of this would be an even bigger lie. 

But I am trying. And I am praying that the Lord will help me and guide me in His Truth all the while.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Funtastic Friend Friday: Bri Fitzpatrick

One of the most fun things about the East Young Life team is that three of us all went to the same high school and love to represent the 3-3-6 together. Today's friend is one of those people. She is a teammie, but also a friend since the days of high school. Bri is one year younger than me, but we have always run in similar Young Life circles. Having Bri be a part of the East YL team has been truly one of the largest blessings in my life. She is a person who has a genuinely kind soul. Every Tuesday night Bri comes over to my house to plan campaigners together and it's those moments that I will look back on and cherish forever. As we sit on my bed planning, we also share our lives and all that is going on in them. It's been in those moments that I have come to realize just how similar Bri and I really are. There have been countless moments where I breath a sigh on relief because I realize that at least I'm not the only one that thinks the way I do. I am forever thankful for how the Lord placed Bri on the East YL team at just the right time.


nerdy dance party lovin'
east team ladies
I could not be more excited for Bri's post. One, because I know how difficult it was for her to get up the courage to write it. And two, because it's everything that I would say as well and just have not known how to for a very long time. She so perfectly crafts the words that have been swirling in my head as I attempt to understand my striving good girl attitude and the grace that my heart so desperately craves. Let us be reminded, our God is El Roi, the One who sees. 

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A few weeks ago Jordan showed me a book titled, Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman, and told me that I should read it. I have to admit that I first read the title and did not know what to think. But, a few days later, I bought the book, read the first chapter, and came to the conclusion that I am, in fact, a good girl, or I try to be. And now, every Tuesday night I look forward to sitting in Jordan’s room trying to unpack this book and the jumbled thoughts in my head. It’s messy, but it’s awesome.

A good girl is responsible. She has everything to do with put together and nothing to do with falling apart. She is always sweet, always positive, and never needs anything. She makes good grades and goes to church every Sunday. She is always busy but always says yes when asked to help. She never makes mistakes. Everyone loves her. I am not always all of those things. And yet, I do my very best to convince myself and everyone else that I am.

I can’t believe I just admitted that.

I have spent my whole life trying really hard to appear perfect. But what I am realizing more and more is that I also have a desperate longing to be seen as I am. The problem is that I have had a hard time convincing myself that being known and being loved can go together. I am convinced that to be loved, I must be perfect, and I panic at the thought of being found out. Surely, if anyone knew how imperfect I really am, they would be disappointed and not want to love me anymore.

Everyone else is allowed to have imperfections. I will even admire their willingness to openly admit them. My imperfections are another story.

For the past two years I have been learning what it means to be known by God. He has shown me that I am deeply known and fiercely loved. When I finally came out from hiding and fell at Jesus’ feet as my imperfect, shame-filled self, I was awestruck. As I risk being seen by God himself, I get a glimpse of his infinite beauty, I experience unconditional love, and I am overwhelmed with grace. I believed a lie that I was unknown and forgotten when all along I could not have been more known by God.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; My soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

I challenge you to go read all of Psalm 139 today. Seriously, do it! I read it and I am reminded that God knows me far better than I know myself. God knew me as he breathed life into Adam and Eve. His eyes saw my unformed body as he hung on the cross for me. He carefully and purposefully designed every part of me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am known. I am loved. I never want to stop digging deeper into this, for I know the Lord will gladly reveal that much more of himself as I do.

Although I can confidently claim the truth of being known by Jesus, I still find myself face to face with fear as he calls me deeper in my relationships with other people. I appreciate vulnerability in others, but I have a hard time with it myself. I fear that I am not enough.

And yet, I long to step out from my safe hiding place and be known. God is dramatically altering my idea of what this looks like as I read Grace for the Good Girl. Letting myself be known is partly about telling people what I am struggling with and experiencing. However, the hardest part for me is to let go of my need to be the good girl and to allow myself to just be.

When I am having a hard day I tend to put on a smile and make myself busy to cover it up. I keep moving and tell myself I will deal with it later. What would it look like if I stopped covering up my messy days, acting like I have it all together, and hiding behind my busy schedule?

The truth is, I don’t know. I am just beginning to find out. Right now I do know that when I rest in the truth that I am intimately known by the Lord, I find freedom. In that freedom, I find the confidence to risk exposure and let myself be known by others.  

“… now you have a choice: live from your flesh, your false identity, your mask. Or live from your spirit, your true identity, and your freedom. You have the letting power. Let fear dominate or let peace rule.”
- Emily Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl