Be Alert and Arise

 

What would it be like to be alert in an instant, to rise from deep slumber in one quiet, quick move and to hold the gaze of what is before you? Today I met a lioness. My heart beat quicker, my movements slowed and I was in awe.

I recently finished listening to Lisa Bevere enlighten me in her book Lioness Arising and my interest in lionesses has awakened. In her brilliant way of teaching and preaching all in the same sentence, this insightful author described the role and the character of a lioness. Her vision from Numbers 23:24 brought her own interest to the light and she shared her knowledge with diligent research and great application.

In Numbers 23, a man of God, Balaam, was asked by Balak a king greatly threatened by the Israelites to curse them. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, were blessed instead. Balaam recounts that God is with them and no evil would come upon them. Verse 24 declares “The people rise like a lioness.” As I have taken these words to heart in the past few weeks I have seen a change in my determination and my demeanor.

This morning, Camryn and I headed off to the Denver Zoo where I hoped to lay eyes on one, if not more, of the lionesses. When out, they are usually basking in the sunlight enjoying the usual 16 hours plus of sleep per day. After learning about these incredible female creatures, I quickly passed up the lions in search of the lionesses. Tucked in a smaller area was a slightly awake lioness. She was beautiful. She was a few feet from the glass, breathtaking in size and smoothness of fur.

Although there are so many who would prefer to see animals in their natural habitat, and I am no exception, the zoo displays God’s creation a bit closer and gives me a piece of heaven in my home town. Half forgetting my little peanut as she eagerly followed me, I spoke to the lioness. Something caught her eye and she was instantly alert. Thinking it was my little one, I picked Camryn up. Her eye caught mine and as I took a picture on my phone she sat up, then came to a full standing position.

Her eyes became piercing as she looked almost through me, maybe behind me, intently. Tears filled my eyes as I was overwhelmed. No one else was around to see my emotions. A little God moment just for me. I shivered and showed Cammie her big face, catching her glance again.

After working through this book on the role of the lionesses and the parallel to our role as women in the body of Christ followers, I had begun taking a stronger stand in my role at work. Last week I was intensely focused and spoke up for my team. My daughter went off to school, concerned she wasn’t as smart as the other girls. I went into alert mode, instructing her firmly her position in God’s family, our family and in herself. I went to my knees in prayer when I lost courage. By the end of this past week, I was weakened by comment someone meant as a compliment, being unsure if it was a good one. I became emotionally and physically tired and being alert seemed just too hard.

As I have been praying for renewal and discernment this week, the lioness arose. I am a visual learning and the confirmation from my Father in heaven came in the physical character of this lioness. She was just as beautiful, powerful and alert as I had envisioned after listening to Bevere’s book. This lioness’ held gaze connected my heart to the God who created me, the same God who has created her, for such wonderful things: to be beautiful, to be powerful and to be alert.

And so, sisters, be renewed today in your own beauty, your own power in the Spirit and alertness to what God is calling you to be. Whether it is nursing your baby, providing for your family or alerting your heart to a new calling, arise. Be like the lioness, for our Father is the Lion of Judah and we are his.

Best Intentions

It’s the first day of kindergarten and I wanted to be on it. With my alarm set for earlier than my “pre-kinder” life, I planned on making my oldest lunch, brewing coffee and spending a few sweet moments with my Jesus. Three hours before my alarm sounded my youngest made herself known, followed by her sister. When the alarm startled me awake from a rough dream, both girls were asleep, snuggled in on either side of me. Although a practice I am nervous about, today was an exception. We all needed a little mommy time before the morning light shown through our west facing windows. With best intentions gone out the same windows, I hit snooze only to anxiously anticipating the morning’s kindergarten drop off instead of sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Our best intentions often fall to the wayside as reality makes a move on our day, our lives and our relationships. Peter, a guy in Jesus’ crew, comes to mind as a man who had all sorts of best intentions. He made efforts to keep the children from Jesus because he believed Jesus was too busy. He send a crowd to find their own food instead of seeking God’s provision. He walked on water with a great amount of faith until his nerves took over and he sank. He cut off the solder’s servant’s ear in full zeal on the night Jesus was arrested only to deny him three times before the morning dew settled.

If we are not careful we can judge Peter for being so lousy at follow-through or failing in his attentions. If I judge him, I would be judging myself. My best intentions fail constantly, yet God invites us to experience his new mercies every morning and his grace in the mean time. It’s nothing deserved and nothing warranted by my behavior. It’s just who I am invited to be as a Jesus follower.

Jesus doesn’t stay dead. He came back to life and went to his disciples. Jesus had offered Peter a life as a Jesus follower with no collateral attached. But, I think Peter thought he had blown it just one time too many. So he did what he knew best. He went back to being an average fisherman.

Jesus showed up for breakfast while Peter is fishing. Like I said, Jesus offers new mercies every morning. When Peter realized that Jesus was calling to him from the beach, he rushed (swam fully clothed) to the beach to meet him. Can this remind us that a Jesus follower, like Peter, does not mind being messy in the presence of Jesus. Jesus, right on the beach, offered Peter his mercies once again in the form of fire roasted fish, heavenly smelling bread and a renewed relationship. (See John 21 for all the details.)

And so tomorrow, with a renewed heart and the sweetness of his mercies, I will attempt my best intentions once again. When I sit at Jesus’ feet with my cup of coffee, before my children stir, or fall on my face trying, Jesus will be ready to meet me with new mercies for breakfast and his gentle whispers of best intentions he is bestowing upon me.

Enjoy being at Jesus’ feet with new mercies! Lamentations 3:22-23

-ST

A forever home

I have been in my current position at Children’s Hospital for 8 years in March. I love it and I am constantly growing and changing. I just transitioned to my forth immediate supervisor and I have had two managers. My supervisors have been moving to new positions within the leadership structure and most recently I have moved to working primary during day shift. Work is a constant change, isn’t it?

We are close to moving Maggie and Camryn to yet a new childcare routine. This one being Daddy when Mommy is at work at least until the summer and Matt is preparing to change his work and embark on a new adventure. And so we find more changes for our ever changing lives.

We moved from being a couple, to a family of one, then added a dog, and now we are a family of four with a dog. Currently, we are working on re-homing our dog. With the girls’ allergies (okay, mostly Maggie’s but if her sister is anything like her, Camryn’s cough seems very familiar) it is time for our large hound to find a new home.

This weekend we met another potential family.  I went through yet another afternoon of advertising my dog to them while at the same time interviewing them to see if they could qualify to be the forever home for my dog. It’s a harder process than I thought it would be. It’s an emotional experience. It has caused me to stop and think about what it means when we commit our lives to Jesus and are welcomed into a relationship with God.

When we are in Christ Jesus we are his and he is ours. There is never a moment when he would every say: I’ve had enough; you are too much for me; it’s time to re-home you. Our relationship with God will look different from year to year as we grow, as our lives change and as we experience his grace more and more. But, the minute we choose Jesus, God gives us his forever home.

Let’s go to the Israelites in the dessert. For forty years they are been in the habit of remembering God and forgetting him, of praising God and complaining to him. The new generation had taken over and God was still with them. God had been constant, although threatening to bring his wrath for their disobedience, God turned his ear to hear the cries of Moses and pressed forward with his people. And so, they reach the Jordan River to pass into the promised land, the land promised to Abraham years and generations before. Joshua 1:9 finishes out Joshua’s pep talk about obeying and being strong in leading his people with this: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

That sounds like a God who stays. That sounds like a home that will last. We do not need to worry about being re-homed because our circumstances change. We can settle in. We can be strong and courageous because he will not leave us. It may take a while for us to believe this truth and to experience that he stays, but he will and he does.

Our lives change, our situations change and our dreams vary from day to day sometimes, but when we are God’s and he is ours, we are home for good.

I found this old hymn. I think I sang it as a kid. The first verse is sweetness to the soul. Loved with Everlasting Love by George Wade Robinson (1838-1877), music by James Mountain (1844-1933)

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so.
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.

Blessings and may you rest in the peace of your forever home.

-ST

Perspective

It’s the kind of morning I dread. The kind where you are supposed to be somewhere you are not. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I looked at the clock at 7:10 a.m. contemplating whether I should get up and spend a few minutes with Jesus before my girls wake-up or head back to sleep praying for a few more moments of rest. As I turned over in my bed my cell phone vibrated. My supervisor texted me.

“Are you on your way? You are on the schedule for this morning.”

Panic. I cannot stand being late let alone not being even remotely close to being where I did not even know I was supposed to be. I threw off the covers and started texting back as Maggie’s sleepy swagger rounds the corner from her room into ours. My Maggie is a creature of routine. She expects her mornings to be as she always has them. If not, give her ample warning.

“Quick, Maggie, we have to get to school. I have to be at work. Hurry.”

Her tears were immediate and she dashed back to her room, hiding under her covers. “This is not how my morning was supposed to go,” she wailed.

Thirty minutes later she was at school. It turned out that the schedule was wrong and I was not late, so I stopped for drive-thru coffee before heading to work anyway. While I slowed my heart and mind down on the drive I realized how often we view life in the same way Maggie viewed her morning. “This isn’t how my story (life) was supposed to go.”

We run from disappointment instead of allowing ourselves to find perspective in the midst of it.

Phillip Yancy in his book Prayer talks about perspective. We are small in comparison to the Milky Way which is small in comparison to the believed size of the universe. Job, the guy who went through more than his share of trials, never got answers from God. God reminded him instead of His vastness and His authority over all things.

“God needs no reminding of the nature of reality, but I do.” Yancy writes. He also talks of Paul who preached a similar message in Athens in Acts 17:24-28.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needs anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your poets have said, ‘We are his offsprings’.”

I believe passionately that God cares infinitely more for us that we could possibly care about every aspect of our own lives. He has not only done the necessary act to allow us to seek and to find him, but has lavished his mercies upon us morning after morning. He will continue to do so. We are not only creations, but we are made in his likeness. We are his offsprings and he desires us to seek him, to find him for he is not far from us.

So, my story may not be the way it was “supposed to go”, but in the midst of the disappointment and the smallness of who I am, I have a God who is bigger than I am. I have a God who wants me to seek Him and to find Him. He is not far from me. He cares more deeply about everything than my smallness can comprehend.

I believe that for you, too.

Lamentations 3:22-23 | John 3:16 | Genesis 1:27

-ST

 

David’s example

I have always had dreams…big dreams. Dreams that do not seem to be practical. Maggie and I have been watching Zootopia lately and talking about how the bunny had big dreams. She went against the stereotypes and the advice of those who discouraged her in order to follow her dreams. Judy, the bunny, announced to her little community that she would grow-up to be a police officer. Her parents tried to talk some sense into her. “It’s okay to have dreams as long as you do not believe in them too much.” Her mom informed her that happiness came to her father and her when they settled. She, of course, did not listen to them until all the odds were stacked against her.

Yesterday at church I was reminded of David’s story. Samuel, the great prophet of the Lord, was instructed by God to show up at Jesse’s home in Bethlehem to anoint one of his son’s as the new king. Jesse prepares his first seven sons, according to custom and instructions, to be presented. He overlooked and therefore disregarded his eighth son. He left David in the field tending his sheep.

When we feel disregarded, we can be tempted to diminish our dreams.

God made it clear to Samuel that none of these seven sons were to be anointed. (Read the whole story in 1 Samuel 16.) So David was summoned. The passage does not say if he had time to clean-up and be ready for the presentation let alone the anointing, but we do know that Samuel did instruct everyone to stay standing until his arrival. I can image the seven brothers were quite uncomfortable and disappointed through the whole process.

God confirmed to Samuel that David was the intended one. Once anointed, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. Can you image? In front of his brothers, in front of his father who had left him behind, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. He was to be king…the king of Israel. And then, he went back to his father’s sheep.

In the midst of being disregarded, David was anointed into a position that was not yet available for the taking, but it was promised. Isn’t that how most of our dreams happen? We are called but then we wait, we prepare for what we know will happen but we have no understanding how it will happen.

We read later about Saul’s, the current king of Israel, introduction to David.

1 Samuel 16:18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen the son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

He has God-given dreams and he is tending his father’s sheep. He was discredited by his own father as king potential, anointed and Spirit-given. The passage goes on to tell us that David began working for Saul and then would go back to tending his father’s sheep. (1 Samuel 17:15) He did not enter into “king training” and he was not treated like royalty, by anyone. Samuel anointed him and left. No instructions.

He was preparing for his rule by being with God, by protecting his father’s sheep and being faithful. He continued to be humble to his current position, 1 Samuel 17:17. When David showed up to Saul’s war with the Philistines and Goliath presented himself, David understood who God was. He understood God’s glory. He understood his role. It wasn’t to claim the kingship. It was to allow God to use him for His glory. (Thanks, Chad Bruegman, for the great message yesterday.)

When God calls us to big dreams, He first calls us to Himself for the display of His glory.

Being called does not mean that we claim those dreams immediately, but we learn, grow and move towards God and His character so we will be ready when the stage is set and we step into the role we have been preparing for.

-ST

Worthy, part 2…a Mess

After Matt and I had been dating for a few weeks he invited me over to his apartment and I suggested I could bring stuff to make dinner. Of course I brought steak because I wanted to impress the man. We planned for the following Sunday evening. There is nothing like seeing how the guy you are falling in love with takes care of his place. Several weeks after our lovely evening, Matt told him he cleaned his small apartment for 6 hours before I arrived. I had been impressed by how clean it was. My take away…I was worth cleaning up for!

This year has brought some new decisions in our home. One has been to have a house cleaner about once a month. Cleaning stresses me and takes more time away from my girls than I want to spend. It is not relaxing or stress relieving, but coming home to a clean house has a way of rejuvenating our family and re-setting our priorities. It is a luxury for sure, one I do not take for granted. However, sometimes, if I forget until Sunday night that our housecleaner is coming on Monday morning, I run around the house picking up and driving my family crazy.

Matt asked the first week we had someone come why we needed to pick-up. “Isn’t that why we have someone clean the house?” No, I informed him. If we didn’t pick-up she would have no surface area to clean. Cleaning up the messes in my home is not my strong suit. I have a kitchen full of dishes while I ponder this thought.

When disappointment with ourselves overtake us, we hid our messes from Jesus.

It is true in my life. When messes I create in relationships, or emotions, that I deem ridiculous, stay on the forefront of my mind, or tiredness overtakes my ability to make wise decisions, I begin withdrawing from Jesus. I become disappointed with myself and I hid. I shove the mess into the closet and make life miserable while I quickly try to clean up clutter in my spiritual life before sitting down for a quick “everything is great” quiet time.

I hope you know the amazing story Jesus tells about the lost son in Luke 15. The son makes some bad choices. His life is a mess. He has made terrible decisions. He was far from home because of those choices. For our purposes, he was far from God.

Verse 17. When he came to his senses, he said “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare and here I am starving to death.

To summarize the story (please read it on your own) he took the smelly (I’m guessing he needed a bath), hungry, tired journey home, preparing what he would say to his father. He had no assurance, in his mind, of how his father would respond. The father, on the other hand, was waiting for him. His father ran to him. He threw his arms around him and prepared a feast, calling him “son”.

The mess we bring to God pales in comparison to the measure of His love for us.

The son in our story tries to deny his worthiness. Verse 21: The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

A great posture of repentance to have when we approach the throne of God, but what I want us to see today is that the father did not reclaim his as his son because of that posture. The son did everything to make life a mess and took advantage of the father’s love but he remained worthy of the Father’s attention and affection. He belonged and he was lovable. His worthiness of being called son was never a question for the father.

And for us, our worthiness is not dependent on a put together life, a mess shoved in the closet or a full vulnerable view of who we might think we really are. We are daughters of the Father God, the Most High. As hard it is for our minds and hearts to absorb, let’s begin living like in that worthiness! When you find yourself in a mess, take it to Jesus right away so He can remind you “Daughter, let’s have a party and we’ll clean it up together!”

-ST

Worthy, part 1…the dog went for a run

The dog went for a run today. I took her for a run yesterday morning and today when I put on my shoes to run Maggie to school she started prancing around, expectant. I told her “not today” so she took it upon herself, with the help of an open garage door, to go for a run. She loves to run, as long as she isn’t on a leash.

My patience was already short so when a beautiful 4-year-old told me in not so few words that the dog got out, I was not a happy mama. I told Matt after the whole ordeal was done that I’m flexible, just not this flexible.

Flexible. It’s a word I hear a lot lately. It’s one I expect of myself and it’s one I take pride in owning. But, really, I’m not THAT flexible. I have boxes that I fit into and within those boxes I am all willing and able to be flexible. I have been reading several books (ok, listening to thanks to Audible) that have been addressing slowing down and learning the right “yes”, the best “yes”. The expectations and the desires I have long held myself to have exhausted me.

As I have enjoyed being taught by these amazing authors I have learned a few things about myself. In the name of doing what is “right” and “the will of God” I have been anxious since I was little over decisions, actions, words and the need to say “no”. Flexible, yes, in the name of being loving and “what would they think of me” if I didn’t show up has been my pattern. And that’s another thing. Showing up. I fear not showing up. What if I’m supposed to be there? What if I’m needed? What if it was God’s will for me? What if, what if, what if…

Needless to say, I am not new to this struggle. I am well aware of it now and have been working for the last few months to be alert to it. And I believe it boils down to the concept of being worthy. Worthiness, it is a difficult subject for me. A subject I have been processing for months. Thinking back over my childhood and adolescence worthiness was a big player. I did A,B and C to feel worthy. As an adult I added D,E and F. Even after choosing to believe God at his Word and believe what he says about me, worthiness still feels like quick sand. I might be swallowed up if I give in and believe that I am worthy of belonging and of his love.

And so I go to the Word. Matthew 10:29-31. Jesus has commissioned his Twelve to go into the land, heal the sick and drive out eval spirits. He gave instructions, empowering them to do his will and to not be afraid to stand up to the world. In the middle of his talk he places this sweetness.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 

Are we not worth more than sparrows? Yes. Yes, we are. But my heart claims that it can’t be true. Out of fear I run towards the A,B and C things of life to find worthiness. And so Paul writes to the Romans and to the Gentiles, whose who were not original “people of God, the Israelites, the chosen people” in Romans 8:15-16.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 

It goes on but for today, we’ll stop there. So if I(you) believe the Word of God, I (you) can rest in the daughter-ship of the Father, leave A,B and C to themselves and just be present. Flexible or not, showing up or not, the what ifs and anxiety can all be quieted as I sit at the Lord’s feet, working out my faith, especially in this area.

So, today, I’ll choose to work out my faith. I can just be present and worthy in the midst of my crazy morning. The dog ran to the elementary school near our home, chased some geese and entertained the kids. Maggie made it to school where I apologized for my frustration towards her. She was late, again, but, oh well. Camryn enjoyed hanging out with me as I wrote this post until a blow-out distracted me. And, the A,B and C that were supposed to happen today and didn’t will just have to wait for another day.

-ST

For more information check out these books:

Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simple, more Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkeurst

A friend as sweet as pumpkin spice

It is the most beautiful day today. Pumpkin spice cookies (thanks to my new friend Sarah’s recipe) are baking, filling our home with sweetness and fall. I had an amazing photoshoot this morning with a young family. Colors of yellow, green and red filled the background against their blue sweaters. My coffee maker broke this week, and although I have been very dramatic about it, I can still make coffee for Matt and I and savor it with the cookies. The girls are both resting/sleeping…I hesitate to peek for fear Maggie might see me.

Pumpkin spice and October 15th remind me of one of my most treasured friends who is celebrating her birthday today. One of our favorite pastimes is sitting together, enjoying tea or chai, listening to our girls chatter away and munching on something homemade. Her house often smells sweet from a spice candle. Just like her home, she cultivates warmth, openness and real life.

When I moved to Colorado we were slow to become friends. Both adults, we did not want to push one another to be friends. But on one afternoon when we met for coffee I found a soul sister. She is just a quirky and driven as I am. She is athletic and always up for an adventure. We love different things. We love similar things. It was refreshing and sweet.

Since we became friends, we have lived a lot of life. (Maggie is now peaking around the corner, giggling.) She danced with her future husband at our wedding. I did her hair for hers. She moved away and came back again. She and her husband were present with us when we lost our first pregnancy. And then again when we lost our second. We have cried hard over losses and we have celebrated fiercely over the good things. We have prayed for each other during seasons of depression and sleepless nights. We love when our girls play together and look forward to the day my second to be big enough to play with her second (most handsome, blue-eyed boy!). And as sickness overtakes her with another baby on the way we share all-day-sickness, too-tired stories and giggle over baby plans.

She is the kind of friend you dream about having when you are young and thank God for as an adult. I know she is just as sweet a friend to so many. She is just that kind of beautiful glimpse of Jesus to others. And to my soul, she is like sweet pumpkin spice on a fall day.

Happy Birthday, Ally!

 

Praying for Bundles of Joy

For a brief moment the house is clean and smelling of sterile products and freshness. It will stay this way until the rice I have on the stove boils over and I realize real life can only have a momentary break. The baby is down for a nap, her big sister doing who knows what downstairs and I can breath. After a long day of sitting through classes at work and thinking about all the other things I would rather be doing, I glance at my phone which has alarmed “check in with B”.

I do not know what it is like to not be able to get pregnant. As my rice boils over I think about the hardship that hits a woman’s heart after months of “trying” without reward. My sweet friend had sat down with me and cried as she expressed her desire to be a mother and wondering when it would be her turn. As my own little bundle of joy coughs and coos in the other room I think back on my own journey toward motherhood.

The evening after Matt and I did some lab work immediately after our second miscarriage we ventured over to some friends’ home for dinner. I wrestled with telling the ‘want-to-be’ mama that we had lost another baby. I knew the hurt would be great but lead to be vulnerable if she asked, I shared our afternoon activities. Her words in sharp reply, later apologized for, cut my soul deeply. Yes, I could get pregnant but with me, I couldn’t hang on to my babies. I didn’t know and still do not know what it is like to wait and try and try again. But I do know the longing for the children I did have and then was denied.

And so, since then, I sit and listen. I cry and I hug. I express remorse for my friends’ grief. I pray. I check-in. I have also had to hold loosely to some friendships which couldn’t take another one of my pregnancies. Friends, here or there, have expressed excitement for me and slowly stopped calling, stopped checking in and the silence becomes a bit awkward. It doesn’t mean they are any less excited for me or any more disappointment for themselves. It just is, and that’s okay.

A couple of fiends have asked me why they are the ones who can’t have a baby. Why, Steph, why? I don’t know. I just don’t know. Apart from my faith and belief in a sovereign God, there is little I feel I can offer on the ‘whys” of life. Pregnancy and being barren and loss of a child go back since time began. The longing to be a mother and seeing other women give birth to a baby who do not seem or show that they are not fit to be can be excruciating. The babies who need a good home after an abusive situation wreak us. Babies who are abandoned or malnourished just because of their geographic residence leave us feeling helpless.

Hannah, Sarah, Elisabeth, Rachel and so many other women in the Bible also struggled with the shame of not being able to have children. They longed, they cried, they were bitter and their husbands tried as they might to console them. “Am I not better than 7 sons?” Asked Hannah’s husband. And so too, as I sat with my most recent friend going through this struggle, we talked about our husbands inability to really understand, our desire to shade them from our disappointment and their presumed weariness for our tears.

I do not know the plans God has for these ladies but I do know if God allows, they will be amazing mothers. My friend who spoke those words to me is a mama of two with dreams, I would imagine, of more joyful music of baby feet and laughter on the horizon. I have have my two, sweet, blond girls who make me jump with anguish when they cough and induce smothering them with kisses even when I’m tired. And I pray a little harder and with greater intention that my friends will be able to experience this joy and lavished love some day. I pray that their faith in the God, who I believe gives life, would be restored or even started. But for now, I will sit and I will cry. I will hurt and I will hug if only to be a source of hope and comfort. And someday, soon, I hope to celebrate their children as eagerly as I have desired to mourn with them.

For the Love…of a College Campus

A friend and I approached a girl sitting on a bench one spring day on our college campus. We had the goal of cold turkey evangelism for a few afternoons every quarter. We would have a script prepared to start a conversation about eternal things, most specifically God. As we approached this student without batting an eye or even looking up she said a loud, clear “no”. Not a word had left our lips but she knew. Maybe we had a reputation around campus or maybe she just didn’t want to be bothered, but turned down, we left in search of our next potential conversation.

That is how it seemed to be on my college campus. I walked into my physiology classroom one afternoon after receiving a B- on a term paper. This professor did not like me. That was obvious. But on this particular day, after I sat down, middle of the room, my heart boiled up with dislike right back at her. I asked myself “can I love her today?” The answer was a resounding “no” and so up I went, just before she started the class. The paper was an interview of someone who had lived a long enough life to look back and answer the question “if I had it to do over, what would I do differently”. I called my grandmother, who lived 180 miles away, and we enjoyed a lengthy conversation. When I asked her the thesis question, without hesitation she said “I wish I had known Jesus earlier in my life. I would have done things differently.” It was her answer, so I wrote the paper. I was proud of my grandmother and I was not a terrible writer so the B- was a surprise and there were no other marks on the paper.

This summer I was able to visit briefly with a college pastor while my family and I were visiting the Oregon Coast. I was nervous to see him, mostly because looking back over the past ten years since I had seen him I have changed dramatically. I look a bit older, yes, but my heart and my mind seem almost as if they are new creations. I shared with him that I am different now, to God’s glory, and he stated the same. We both were able to talk about Jesus’ love and how we wish we could go back on campus and just love people differently.

With no critique on cold turkey evangelism (I believe it has it’s perfect time and need) I would love to know something about the girl who told us “no”. Was she hurting in a way that I could have reached out to her? Although I was young, anxious and hard headed, I really did care about my campus. I desired Jesus to have a front and center stage on my campus. Our campus ministry team was made up of young believers. We were young believers because we ourselves were young. What I know now compared to what I thought I knew then are two very different things.

And what if I could have reached more students with the love of Jesus so that they wouldn’t have to look back on their lives and wish they had known Jesus earlier or even at all. I do not look at my college years with regret for what I did and didn’t do, but I wish I had known how to love differently. I wouldn’t have been so scared to be friends with people different than me. I was friends with them, I just wouldn’t have been scared. I would have challenged a few more teachers and been willing to receive a few poorer grades than I did. I would have slowed down and cherished the conversations about Jesus I did have instead of rushing all the time to keep my head out of water.

I heard recently someone state that God is love therefore He cannot help but to love. He loves so desperately the students on my college campus before, during and after my five years there. He knows each one by name: the girl who said “no” and the professor who gave me a B-. He was present there even when I did or did not show up at my best. He saw my heart was good even when my tactics and ways were not always hitting the mark. He was at work in my faith and my mind to bring me to a place of redemption. He empowered me to start down the road to being who He has truly called me to be. He was proud to call me His even when I had little confidence to the title while thinking I needed to carry the weigh of an entire campus on my shoulders. God is gracious to me.

You may look back on your college years or are in them currently where you wonder if you should (have) loved differently. Maybe you are in a relationship or a ministry that God has called you to, but you know you are missing the mark. Maybe you are over your head in anxiety and perfection and have forgotten what you loved in the first place. Maybe you need to readjust your priorities or relive your memories in order to understand what God really does have for you.I believe that God does not require us for His love to be dispersed into the world but He delights in our partnership with Him to share His love with our classmates, our coworkers, our families, our friends and a few or more strangers along the way. Would you change? Be the person you want to be now and live a life that shouts God’s love no matter how your world receives it.