Happy Everything!

I love celebrations. I’m not elaborate or fancy with them, but I’m all in when it comes to remembering, acknowledging, and savoring the gifts and goodnesses of our days.

I’ve thought a lot about celebration as a spiritual discipline lately and love how celebrating allows us to enter into God’s joy as we remember His faithfulness and goodness.

Throughout the Old Testament, God commands His people to celebrate feasts each year (feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover, Feast of Harvest, Feast of Ingathering) and the New Testament reiterates the value of celebration with commands to “Rejoice Always!” Jesus enters the world in jubilee as the angels tell the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy” in Luke 2 and some of His last words before ascending to Heaven were recorded in John 15, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” God’s great big rescue plan even culminates in celebration with the wedding feast of Christ with His bride the Church.

Artwork featured in a gallery is an honor, but celebrating small often looks more like affixing events, people, and moments to the refrigerator door like children’s artwork…often the most honoring space. Moments of significance are constantly happening, but so often we just pile them all away in a cluttered drawer or trash can instead of recognizing the beauty before us.

Celebrating small is my jam. I want to both honor the big things in small ways and highlight the small joys in big ways. In a not-so-celebratory season, it’s easy to stop celebrating, but I’m choosing to celebrate small, believing that celebration tethers me to God’s greater story that starts, ends, and is constantly filled with celebratory joy.

Blursday everyday has forced me into intentionality. I’m typically good at chasing the fun, but the fun is not really flying by like butterflies these days…the fun lies hidden like buried treasure. So I consider what would add joy and life to the moments and I chase that.

I eat my simple meal on my Oh Happy Day plate, no longer reserved for birthdays, engagements, or new jobs; I go hunting for wildflowers, butterflies, or my favorite bird with the bright blue and teal feathers; I wear my favorite pjs all day; I eat Cheerios; I hang streamers for our last staff meeting and twinkle lights just because; I cover my Christmas tree with lights and photographs; I try to grow plants and nurture life; I write and read and learn; I tell my people they’re the best and try to share my deep affection for them; I watch sunsets and rainstorms and clouds that make shapes; I Marco Polo and text and porch sit with my people; I take bunny breaks and laugh with myself; I skip and run through the rain.

I’m celebrating the small moments with big joy and offering small gestures to honor the big milestones. I will celebrate small. Celebrate with me. Rejoice in the Lord always and celebrate good times, come on!

Certainly Uncertain

Sure, we’re living in uncertain times. Certainly I don’t know what the future holds. And yet these are not the first days I’ve experienced uncertainty nor are these the first days this world has faced uncertainty.

As I consider the moments of greatest uncertainty in my life, the pattern I recognize is that each uncertain season was masked in a veil of certainty.

When I wasn’t wondering what would happen next it was only because I thought I knew what was around the next bend. The truth is we never truly know what’s coming, but every once in a while our eyes are opened to that reality.

Expecting to know what’s coming and experiencing the unexpected makes me feel unsettled in the inevitable, constant uncertainty. However, leaning into the reality of perpetual uncertainty allows me to better ride the waves because I know they’re coming. I can trust the waves will come even if I don’t know what the waves will be.

My home church spends a week with another church family on a reservation in Montana. We set a schedule for the week with times allotted for meals, small group events, work projects, conversations, VBS, and showering. The community’s relationship to time is looser than our own, projects take longer than planned, conversations linger, the doors to the showers are locked, the food takes longer to cook, and the teens give piggyback rides hours longer than we could have ever anticipated. When my expectation is the plan we wrote down and passed out in our schedule, the days feel chaotic. There’s an unsettling feeling of having veered off course. If, however, my expectation is that throughout the week we will go with the flow, prioritize relationships, see needs and meet them (whether those needs are dishes, encouraging words, piggyback rides, or dry walling), try to get a shower at some point in the week, and be faithfully present to whatever the days hold, the days suddenly feel less unstable.

With chronic health issues, a global pandemic, and a job that’s constantly adapting to the changes in our world, life feels uncertain. If I focus on the details of how I thought each day would look and notice the disparity between my expectation and my reality, I begin to unravel. Instead, I’m choosing – or rather trying to choose – to be faithfully present, do the best next thing as it comes, and focus on what is certain, known, and true.

I’m grateful that in a world where my life is not the same yesterday as it was today and in a world where tomorrow is sure to be different still, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s word remains unchanged, His character is a constant, and His presence is tried and true. After rising from the dead, Jesus instructs His disciples to go and make more disciples and then assures them He will be with them always. In Matthew 28, the NIV uses the word surelySurely I am with you always, even to the end of the age. We can be sure – certain – that God will never leave us.

During this certainly uncertain season, we can choose to either set our schedules and plans with our hopes and expectations or we can choose to set our hearts and our minds on the God who promises to always be with us. God’s presence and immutability are certain.

Seen. Heard. Known.

I’ve been lying low for 27 days (I’d say I’ve been in isolation that long except that 20 days ago I did get to hug a rebel friend…so I technically haven’t been totally isolated for the full 27…but mostly) and I have all the thoughts, so I’m back on my blog to process and share.

During these lonely days, I’m thinking a lot about relational losses and the ways we long for human connection and relationships. I miss my people. Part of me just misses people in general, but mostly I miss my people…the ones that when I’m with them, I feel most like me…the people who just get me.

As a military brat, this longing has felt permanent. I lived places only long enough to have people to miss. In adulthood, I’ve maintained the pattern (a classic TCK move) and struggled to connect in ways that truly allow me to feel understood.

At the root of these longings are the three things I think people most crave in relationships: to be seen, to be heard, and to be known.

I’m reading Exodus, and those same words keep showing up across the pages as I learn more of who God is. God is not a distant ruler zapping us with lightning for going too long without reading our Bible or for swearing out loud. God is near and intimate and closer than our closest friends. In Exodus 3 Moses encounters God in the burning bush (great story, go read it) and then as God is talking to Moses, he says: I have seen my people suffering, I have heard them cry out, I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them (the Christina paraphrase).

7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Throughout Exodus (and the Bible at large), God tells His people He sees them, He hears them, and He knows their situation/story/life. Exodus 4:31 recounts the Israelites’ response when they learned that God had seen them and paid attention.

31 The people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to them and that he had seen their misery, they knelt low and worshiped.

When they felt most like themselves, when they felt like God got them, when they knew they were fully understood, they worshiped. I get it, I absolutely adore the people who I feel like actually get me.

My joyful friend in Grad school saw her purpose in serving college students to be someone who can allow others to feel seen, known, and loved. She sets out to meet these fundamental longings in others while helping them meet the One who fully sees, fully knows, and fully loves all of us. She is so loved by so many because she genuinely loves others so well by seeing and hearing and knowing them. This is what it looks like to follow God’s example.

God sees. God hears. God knows. And God comes to deliver. I’m praying this Holy week that you would deeply know the truth of our God who sees and hears and knows and comes to deliver. God sees you and hears you and knows you today and chose, years ago, to come down in the form of a person through Jesus Christ to live perfectly on this earth, die a brutal death on the cross and rise again so that you and I never have to experience the true isolation and suffering of death.

Today I still miss my people and I’m grateful for the relationships to miss and the ways we can stay connected across distance. But more than that, I’m grateful that God is present with me now, and not just ethereally, but really, truly present. He is here and he sees me (sitting alone in my apartment), and he hears me (talking to myself, crying when I’m sad, or laughing hysterically because I’ve reached a point where everything’s funny), and he knows me (and my motivations, thoughts, and judgments). My God who sees, hears, and knows me also loves me dearly and will come to deliver me (from my fears, my isolation, scary illnesses, and more) in this life or the next.

A few weeks back I ran across this song on the way to church and was struck by the truth and the beauty of sweet, little Lucy singing along. Be encouraged. God sees you. God hears you. God knows you.

 

To my students – April 2020

To those of you who moved home to a family full of fun and love, I see you and I’m so happy for you.

To those of you who moved back to places with heartbreak, job loss, tension, or conflict, I see you and I’m sorry.

To those of you who lost jobs or internships, I see you and I’m sorry.

To those of you thriving in long days of introversion joy, I see you and I’m glad you’re feeling refreshed.

To those of you who are now the only Christian in your home, I see you and I acknowledge the longing for Christian community and I’m cheering you on and praying God will use you to shine His truth into dark places.

To those of you questioning God’s goodness in this season, I see you and God sees you and He can take your frustrations, doubts, and fears.

To those of you drowning in schoolwork, I see you.

To those of you with too much free time on your hands, I see you.

To those of you grieving your unfinished year, I see you and I join you.

To those of you with at risk health, living with people who are more vulnerable to disease, or living in areas with high volumes of illnesses, I see you. These are scary days and I’m so sorry.

To those of you who think the world is overreacting to a disease, I see you.

To those of you trying to make plans in the midst of uncertainty, I see you, this is beyond challenging.

To those of you just trying to make it through each next assignment, each next day, each next step, I see you.

 

There is space and while we’re not all in the same place (physically or emotionally), we can all extend to each other the same grace. Extend yourself and others grace to not think, react, or respond to things identically. Give grace when your academic progress doesn’t meet your expectations or your group members seem to not pull their weight. Give grace when you or others feel sad, angry, or happy. Give grace when you don’t accomplish great achievements during this shelter-in-place season or when others seem unproductive.

There is space to do “all the things” and there is space to just sit in the reality that this is “a whole thing”.

Belonging

I’ve been here just over two months. People often ask what I think so far. This question feels so broad.

My typical answer has been something like this:
“I really enjoy my job and my students. I love what I’m learning, but wish I could learn it outside of the context of school. I’m having a hard time keeping up with the school work, but it’s happening. I’m just not sure how well I fit here or who I’m connecting with.”

I long for a sense of belonging. Who are my people? How do I fit in this place?

What does it mean to belong?
-to be the member of, the property of, or a part of
-to be in, be affiliated to/with, be allied to, be associated with, be linked to, be an adherent of
-to be in a close or intimate relationship
-to be connected

Today, I opened an Amazon package and was confused, did I order in the middle of the night, half by accident…again? Is this another Mouse Rat shirt? It was a MAIGG water bottle. A whole family from church has these water bottles. There’s a note. She writes that she wanted to fill it with enjoy life candy bars and tie an orange ribbon, but she’ll let me imagine. I will imagine. It’s a good image. 

This generous and thoughtful gift spoke to me of belonging. I belong with their family. Their people will be my people. We drink out of the same bottles. We are bound together. 

I think of the movie, The Blind Side, when Michael Oher answers the question about why he wanted to go to Ole Miss. He simply says, “because it’s where my family goes to school.” His belonged with his family. He belonged at Ole Miss, a school that bound his family together. 

I’m a part of, affiliated with, in, associated with, linked to, close with, and connected to lots of groups…lots of people. 

Within the bonds of Christ the common ground of the gospel binds us to one another. Sometimes the bonds are less visual than all sitting in front of the same television show together or all drinking Starbucks arm in arm, but I no less belong to these people, to the truth of Christ, and to countless communities to some degree or another. 

I worked a puzzle last night and sometimes want to work my life in the same way where I fit on all sides just perfectly jammed in with the perfect others. Upon deeper thought, I don’t believe this is how we belong. I think we belong to one another in the same way that Mama’s homemade pizza was bound together…hodgepodge and delicious. I loved these pizzas, often made with toast or leftover hamburger buns and topped with whatever needed to be eaten. Leftover sloppy joe meet instead of pizza sauce? Sure! Cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella? Why not? We don’t fit in a neat and tidy way; we fit in a thrown together way. We choose to bloom where we’re planted and connect within those places. The connections may not be the most natural, but they compensate with intentionality.

As I carry this bottle around, I will carry a tangible reminder of the choice to belong and the way others have chosen to belong to me. My family drinks out of these bottles, my family reminds me of where I belong – with them and with our Jesus.

*Sidenote: I feared this would be my first birthday in which there was no gift to open, and God knew that hurt my heart and he sent me this gift through these people. He is so personal to me and loves me in the most tangible puzzle-piece like ways that speak powerfully to my heart. He is faithful, always faithful.