Tuesday, December 31, 2013

twenty thirteen.

Holy smokes. 2013, you have come and you have gone. I never really let you in that much, considering there were countless occasions that I wrote 2012 or 2014 in my journal this year. Whoops, sorry about that. It may have been that whole "you were one of the craziest years of my life" yet. Or maybe it was that so much changed this year, not even the year felt constant.

Because that was 2013 for ya: the year of change and the year of grace.

So much happened.

I finished my senior year of college. And welp, my career as a student as well. I pulled it together to make it through one last semester. Writing papers, studying, and learning all that my little brain could take in.

I relished in the nature of my "future self being jealous of now self" while still in college where the responsibilities and expenses were limited.

I saw some of the most wonderful Young Life teammates placed at East and I fell in love with the baby teammies. They gave me energy to lead our team and they provided some much needed laughter.

I became accustomed to making pancakes 500 at a time and welcoming 100 people into my home, because isn't that the best way to eat pancakes... in mass quantities & with best friends.

I got my heart broken in that weird kind of way where it hurts longer than you thought it ever could and it shows you that you have more tears than you thought. But then too, I learned that time really does make things better and at some point the broken heart did not feel so broken anymore.

I stayed up too late on the third floor of the McMansion and I delighted in the wee hours of the evening that roommates sat on the couch in my room and we talked about life.

I graduated from the university that stole my heart as a little girl. I wore that Carolina blue cap and gown, sat in a stadium I loved, sang the alma mater (#gotohellduke), and turned that tassel.

I watched my Young Life girls take the SAT and prepare for their senior year of high school and I saw just how much they had grown and how much the Lord had done in their lives.

I traveled to Chicago to go to the Art Institute because sometimes peace and hope is found in hours walking around an art museum.

I spent weeks in exhaustion. Like mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. And I learned that being a Christian is hard. Really hard. When Jesus said "pick up your cross and follow me," He really did mean it. Somedays I prayed that He would ask me to pick flowers, instead, and follow Him because I thought I would be better at that, but turns out that on the other side of exhaustion there is grace upon grace upon grace.

I fell in love with writing for my blog and it became a space to breathe and space that gave me life, so I wrote a lot. But then one day, it got harder and it felt more like work so I had to take a little more of a break than I would have wanted.

I found joy in tables that were delicately decorated, covered with delicious food, and surrounded with people I love. Through the year the people have changed... from McMansion, to Bible study ladies, to family, to nine other interns, and to a Colorado family.

I spent a month of the summer in the mitten on a Young Life rental property. The days were full, but God did a mighty work in my heart that month as bitterness began to melt away and as hope was being found in the cross.

I lived at home for two months in the summer and I learned to drink less than mediocre coffee and how to fight for my relationship with Jesus.

I screamed at my brother more than I wish to admit, but then I too had to see that sometimes giving grace can be harder than you would ever wish or expect.

I hopped on a plane with a week's notice to go to Minnesota for a week to work at Castaway Club. I spent nights beside a beautiful lake tearing down lies that were painted in my inner dwelling and I prayed for Truth to replace those lies.

I struggled to be a good long-distance best friend. Best friendships can be hard and sometimes they take a lot of work and somedays I fell short, but my best friend gave me grace each and every time.

I prayed and prayed for things to stop changing. I prayed that I could stay in the McMansion forever and that I would never have to move to Colorado. And then I read things like this: "Jesus says, Follow me. I'm going to take you to places that will make you say 'Why in the world are you taking me there?' Even then, I WANT YOU TO TRUST ME" (Tim Keller). Welp, okay, Colorado, I'm comin' for ya.

I went to the Taylor Swift concert, bashed boys, and dressed like a hipster because sometimes that is just good for the soul.

I finally decided to pack at some point at the end of August and I put all of my belongings in sweet Fonda and drove across the county. At some points I am sure that I would have turned around if it had not been for Anna following me all the way to Denver.

I met the nine strangers (well really only seven were complete strangers) who would become my housemates for the next year. And I was thankful because I was sure my heart did not have room for any more people, but somehow it expanded and the ten of us became a family.

I was terrified of Colorado, but in the Lord's most perfect provision, He has held me safe and He has covered me with His grace in an entirely new place.

I started leading Young Life again, but this time in a valley in Colorado; and I really never thought that I would enjoy it again, but I have been surprised ten-fold and I have fallen in love with a school with only 350 students in the middle of nowhere Colorado. Who. Would. Have. Thought?

I had my love for Young Life camping reaffirmed in all the best ways as I live and work my days at Crooked Creek Ranch.

I have had my fair share of difficult conversations this year. Those conversations that I try so desperately to avoid, but then somehow they just happen. And they have made me thankful for relationships that show me how to ask for forgiveness and how to give grace.

I picked up a new sense of fashion filled with large sweaters, fleece-lined leggings, large a** boots, down vests, chunky scarves, and wool socks. And people in Grand County are still shocked we live there... but turns out we are just a small part of what is "Fashion Forward Fraser".

I learned to ski (and am still learning) in one of the most beautiful places. My first day I ran into a tree and a Frenchman. It's really only gone up from there, but how it could it really have gone down?

I fell in love with a small mountain town just west of Denver called Fraser. I delight in it's valley, the county it is in, and all of the people that are here. I never thought I could love a small town like this, but I guess 2013 was full of falling in love with things I never thought I would.

I returned home to North Carolina for the holidays, in need of rest and room to breathe. I delighted in all that home has to offer, but too I realized that I have a whole new life in Colorado. A life that includes people I love, acquaintances I am excited to get to know, places that I like to get breakfast, a ministry I am ecstatic about, and a church I love to be a part of. A whole new life. Who knew?

I stumbled and still am stumbling through this whole post-grad life thing. But it is happening and it tough some days and other days it is really good. Here is to the ups and to the downs.

Whoa, 2013. You were good and you were hard. But you showed me the meaning of grace. You showed me that grace is never deserved; it is always undeserved, and that is why it is called grace. And you showed me that I need grace every single day. Grace to accept to change, grace to see beyond the situation, grace to forgive others, grace to forgive myself, grace to love those around me, and grace to open my eyes.

Thank You, Jesus, for never withholding grace from me this year. And may Your grace go before me in  all that is 2014. Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Choosing Light

It is no secret: I love twinkle lights. Like am kind of obsessed. I really am particularly in love with white lights. They're classy and pure and full of hope. They make joy bubble up in all the best ways.
all about the christmas lights.

Light, in so many ways, does bring hope and joy. It is the ultimate source of life.

The Light came down with the birth of Immanuel, "God with us." Light shone forth in the incarnation. With just a glimpse of the star the Magi were overjoyed. They had not yet seen the full, true Light, yet they were already overcome with joy because the Light is the source of all true joy. What a marvelous light.

The light is not always the first choice though, or even the easiest choice. There is darkness too. The darkness that breaths lies and fears. The darkness that whispers on the good days and shouts on the bad days: "you are not good enough ... you cannot trust anyone ... you will always be alone ... you are a failure ... you are not really loved ... you are defined by your mistakes."

That darkness is very real. It consumes some days and creeps in on others. It attempts to push out the Light.

But that night in Bethlehem, Light came to the earth as an infant. He came in a manger, full of grace and hope and peace. Light grew to live a life that knew no sin and lived in no darkness. He said: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

The Light changed everything. The Light brought hope and joy, unending. The Light washed away the stain of sin and the Light trampled over darkness.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). 

In all things and in all moments, we must cling to the Light and run to the Light. Darkness calls out in our fears and in the lies that run through our head. Darkness wants a hold over our lives and it wants us to believe that the Light is not strong enough to overcome it. But the darkness lies; we must choose to cling and run to the Light, the source of Truth.

This Christmas season I am choosing Light. I am choosing to believe in the presence and the promises of Christ. I am choosing to believe that the Light chases out darkness and the Light is the lover of my soul. I am choosing to believe that the Light brings healing. I am choosing to believe that the Light is already victorious over darkness.

Some days are a full on battle for the Light, but I am choosing the Light.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Deep Cleaning and Our Souls

Some days are best suited singing from the musical Annie: "It's the hard-knock life for us!" Because life is hard. And some days life is especially hard when you are deep cleaning one building on camp for an entire week. Yes those days, I want to sing like Annie.

But while it is hard, it is absolutely necessary.

On first glimpse, you could have walked through Creekside, one of our houses on camp for Assignment teams in the summer, and thought that it looked pretty nice and that it was certainly suitable for guests. Which it was, but closer to the surface and then beneath the surface, there was much more. There were baseboards yearning to be dusted, cabinets in desperate need of cleaning, and bathrooms that screamed for bleach.

So that is where the girl interns found ourself this week. In Creekside. Cleaning. Cleaning. every. single. thing. on. our. hands. and. knees.

Praise the Lord for bleach, scrub brushes, pumice stones, ladders, hundreds of rags, shop-vacs, Murphy's oil, hot water, and can-do attitudes. Because, yes, those are all things desperately needed for a good deep cleaning.

just a little expression of how we feel about scrubbing toilets
karlie & murphy's oil: 2 really great things
climbing to all heights to get dat dust... be gone with ya bad self, dust.
mary mary mary 
never ending scrubbing

And in cleaning this week we have laughed, we have cried, we have danced to Ms New Booty, we have yelled, we have talked, and it has been good.

Because cleaning is like that: it goes deep, into the nitty-gritty; it tears things up only to put them back together; it involves laughter and tears; and it gets real; but it is good.

And that is what the deep cleaning of our souls looks like too.

The Lord works in our hearts and in our deepest most beings. He works to refine us and to clean us and to make us new. And that cleaning goes deep, into the places that we want to keep hidden. It involves breaking things down, only to rebuild them and it involves tears and laughter.

We are continually being worked on and cleaned by the Lord. Some seasons are full of days of light cleanings. The days that we are gradually being drawn to the Lord and where we are connecting with Him and sensing Him in the slight gentle ways of everyday life.

But some days it is a cleaning that requires bleach, a wired scrub, and a lot of work. Those days come in all different forms. Sometimes those are the days we throw our hands up in confusion because none of it makes a lot of sense anyways. Or they are the days spent crying on the floor because thing are not going as you expected and hoped. Or they are the days that a friend speaks truth deep into your soul and it hurts because it is not what you wanted to hear, but it is what you needed to hear. And sometimes those are the days you drag your feet to spend time with the Lord because you sense the Spirit moving in you and it is scary. Those are the days of deep cleaning. Because the Lord works in the deep places, those places that we want to cling on to and that we want to keep hidden. He draws us to our knees and He reminds us that He makes all things new, even the things we are desperately attempting to keep buried. And sometimes those days are hard, really hard, like painstakingly difficult to the point of sobbing... but they are good.

Walking into the season of deep cleaning can be rough, or maybe down right miserable. But the Lord meets you there. He does not leave you alone and He is not dismayed by your dirtiness. He comes prepared with His unfailing love, unfathomable grace, and never-ending mercy. And may our prayer be that at the end of a season of deep cleaning we know the Lord more and that we are drawn more closely to His likeness.

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -Philippians 1:6