Monday, May 26, 2014

what two weeks off instagram reminded me about life.

I took a two week break from instaworld. It was first sparked by the fact that Shaun was in Panama for a week and didn't have wifi so I didn't need to check instagram for his updates. It was confirmed by my wandering heart's struggle with desiring things that I don't have, or worse, can't have. I decided I needed to get hungry, not physically, but in my spirit. I realized that I don't hunger for God when I'm already full on other stuff- kind of like I am not hungry for a salad when I have already eaten my weight in nacho flavored Pop Chips, the kind that taste like Doritos but claim to be better for you, so naturally I eat a million. Its not very profound reality but its true, if I am already "full" from your photos, and my filters, and their cute kid, and her adorable house, and those great outfits, I don't crave the "living water" and "bread of life" that Jesus calls Himself in the gospels. 

So it was time to get hungry. 
And I did. 
I got hungry. 
And I got filled. 

And now my two weeks is over.

So I was driving home this weekend trying to put words to how this 2 weeks has affected me, because even though it was a relatively small thing, I know it did something significant in my soul. 

For one thing, I know for sure it helped me with my Spanish. Because whenever I got tempted to go on Instagram I would get on Duolingo instead... which was everyday. Thank goodness for these two weeks, now I know how to confidently tell you in Spanish that "your skirt is on your table". Niiiiice.

But actually I should back up a couple weeks to help you understand where I was at when I started this "insta-fast". Then it will make more sense. I was aching. Really. The vast disconnect I felt between the joy I communicated through my photos, and even just through who I am outwardly, and the emptiness I felt inside of me, was a daily struggle. Swirling with questions about whether or not there was real joy and real beauty on this side of heaven, or if everything was about choosing to stay positive and grateful, exaggerating simple things through filters and emojis and enthusiastic captions, until we die, and then finally experience the goodness I was longing for. 

Sorry homies, I know that's pretty intense, but I'm trying to stay real over here. 

So as i was processing all this while driving the other day, I got interrupted by a glimpse of a fiery unfiltered sunset. I didn't take a photo of it... and honestly I don't think I even breathed. I just soaked it up, and let it heal me. That's when the words came... 
These past two weeks reminded the deepest parts of me that our God is a God of joy. Real joy. Not filtered. Not exaggerated. He is a magnificent artist. The Maker of Heaven and earth. He is the Creator, giving us poetry and peonies and color and sparkle and butterflies in our stomachs and first loves and hot lattes and that satisfying feeling we get when we give to someone else, or serve a person in need. He is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him. He is committed to us, even when we are not committed to Him. He is jealous for us, even when we are zealous for this world. He is the Lover of our souls, bent on taking us from one glory to the next. He provides us unwavering hope, anchoring us in shifty waters. He is the Prince of Peace, covering our minds the way a mother covers a newborn while breastfeeding, quietly nourishing us in ways that only He can. He is glorious, beyond our wildest imagination and desires to meet us in ways we can't fathom. These 2 weeks have been exactly what my heart needed and even though I'll be back on my insta-game starting today, just in time for us to leave for Spain tonight, I pray I'll stay hungry. Because there really is nothing on earth that can satisfy me the way He can. 

Before I go shower and finish packing, here are some of the things that went on these past 2 weeks. I threw a goodbye party for Carrie and an engagement party for Meredith and David. Shaun got back from Panama. Janelle accidentally launched her skateboard through her back windshield while putting the seat up... which was hilarious and slightly unfortunate. Kaylee served us fondue at one of our MFC leaders meetings. My peonies bloomed! (Ps. I squealed with delight literally everyday watching it happen... and took photo evidence of the whole process... it was magical.) I at a breakfast burrito while watching Emily play in a volleyball tournament on the beach. And finally that last photo is from the engagement party I mentioned before. How incredible that so many people would come together to celebrate my sister and her fiancĂ©! We are seriously rich in friendships and I am soooooo grateful for it. 

That's all for now! See you on instagram! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

booty dancing, singleness, & Dorothea getting married.

Dorothea’s wedding invitation came in the mail today. It was in Swiss German so I didn’t understand all of it, but that’s okay because mostly I just loved the pictures and the fact that she sent me one even knowing that I probably can’t be there. She also sent me a Starbucks gift card. What an incredible friend. 

Thinking of Dodo getting married feels a bit holy. Like finally God is letting us in on the bigger story He has been writing all along. I’m sitting here recalling all of the tender, tear-filled hours Dodo and I spent talking together about her often lonely journey of trusting God for a husband. The conversations we had in Chile, our long late night walks in LA, the girly sleepovers in Switzerland, constantly talking about what it might be like when she “finds him” and how in the world she was supposed to keep herself sexually pure for another year... or worse.... years. We wondered together if she would end up with a Swiss guy, or maybe a Latino, because she had a thing for tan men... and dancing. My personal hope, of course, was that he would be an American, just because when you find a friend like Dorothea you want to live on the same continent as her for as long as you possibly can. So many times we prayed for this mystery man, confident God was preparing him for for her, even though we had no idea who or where the heck he was. It’s sweet to see her fiancĂ© now and be able to put a face to our prayers. He is Swiss, and handsome, and they lead worship together in their church. He brings out the best in her and I love him for that. 

Dodo’s singleness was my favorite kind of singleness, it was the purposeful kind. Somehow God let me have the honor of being the friend who saw the lonely tears she cried behind the scenes, but those moments were few compared to the time she spent investing in people and following Jesus to the ends of the earth. Dorothea squeezed every last drop out of her singleness, leading teams around the world to serve others in places like Costa Rica, Haiti, Chile, Europe, and California. She was (and still is) incredibly open about her struggles, and hilariously disciplined about overcoming them too. Some of my favorite times happened when she wanted to flirt... or make-out... with dudes that weren't good for her, so instead she would memorize Bible verses to get her mind off it. There were a good few months where it seems like she was ALWAYS quoting scripture. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has the whole book of Psalms on lock now. 

Dodo loves bigger and more deeply than most people. In fact her ability to love big reminds me of the way she packs -- always, always BIG. I think Dodo packs for trips as if she is a small really well-dressed army moving to a foreign country for an unknown amount of time. She packs everything she might need, and everything you might need, and everything your sister might need too. Whether it rains, snows or is 99 degrees out everyday, she is ready. We led a team with her to Chile for a couple months and you would have thought she brought her whole closet with us. I actually know she didn’t though, because the day after we arrived there she announced that she had left her hair-straightener in her refrigerator back in LA... Her creative attempt to cool it off quickly, resulted in several months of wavy hair, and a confirmation that she did in fact leave something at home.

Dodo is a gift-giving, encouraging-note-writing, social butterfly who will stay up with you for hours, laughing, crying, praying, watching girly movies, or dancing with you to an R rated song until you are laughing so hard you are crying and need a good girly movie, and some prayer, to help you recover. Dodo listens with her whole heart, and gives of her possessions with her whole heart, and actually I think she does everything with her whole heart. When she was single she honored God with her whole heart, and now she is a few months away from being married and I’m confident she will honor God with her whole heart then too. 

It’s easy to get hung up on what we don’t have, whether it relates to singleness or anything else. But Dodo has shown me that I really can find all I need in Christ alone. 

By keeping our eyes on God & on the good He has for us right now we find renewed strength for life and peace to guard our minds. 

....And when all else fails, Dodo has taught me that a healthy dose of booty dancing and a good cry go a long way.   

Congratulations Doodle Bug, I love you and am SO happy for you.  

a few photos with Dodo from Chile, Switzerland & LA. 
that first one is from when we got tattoos together in Chile. :) 

Dorothea Wehrli is the Director of Beauty Arise Switzerland
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Split ends.

Split ends are frustrating. It seems so counter-productive to be growing out your hair only to find that it is, as my friend Bobby Bo put it, "cutting itself"... breaking, splitting, and falling off, meanwhile you have invested gallons of coconut oil to make it all long and strong.

Life seems a bit like that too. Counterproductive. An attempt to move ahead with so much working against us. This annoying tension of good with bad, beautiful with ugly, wonderful and exciting and sacred and blessed with painful and broken and empty and bland.

One Sunday I am in a hospital room saying goodbye to a 90 year old friend who is hours from his last breath on this earth, and later that week I am at the same hospital, in a different room, welcoming a newborn baby girl who is hours from breathing her first. Today I celebrate a treasured friend turning 26, but yesterday I mourned the loss of her beloved Dad who would have celebrated his own birthday if he weren't in Heaven now. Come to think of it he probably did some wild celebrating there, but it felt seriously different, and seriously wrong, to be here on earth without him.

Most days I move so quickly I don't think about this stuff. But today I had the gift of sitting in LA traffic with the radio off and my mind just went there. How do we do this? How do we accept the aches of life and still embrace its delight? How do we love well and choose to be present when there are so many thoughts and worries and fears that war for our attention all the time?

Our world is one of instant gratification. Not the whole world, but definitely my world. This western one. Billboards, commercials, magazines, the internet, all of it constantly bombarding us with this idea that if we aren't happy something is wrong, and in order to fix it we need to acquire the new thing, whatever it is, that will make us feel better. It could be a new hair-cut, a new car, or a new spouse. "The most important thing is that you find happiness." That's what they want us to believe, because when we do, we will buy their product, or use their services, and ultimately our attempt at finding satisfaction will pay their bills and that's what this is really all about anyway.

Last night my friend told me about her brother's new truck. It's big and new and totally dreamy. So dreamy in fact that he was willing to take on the $800 monthly bills that would come along with it. Evidently the massive debt he accumulated didn't cause any stress because he was so stoked about driving his shiny new toy. But my friend told me that this past week he surprised everybody by confessing that he was actually trying to sell the truck. He said it wasn't worth it anymore because "the newness had worn off" and the cost was too high.

I heard a similar thing from my other friend's mom who left her husband and children to move in with her high school sweetheart that she had reconnected with on Facebook. It was a tragic and hell-ish, especially for her husband who was suddenly left alone to raise the youngest sons who were still at home. Eventually though she came back home, asking for forgiveness, willing to do whatever it took to fix her family. The newness of her relationship with Facebook guy had worn off and she realized it wasn't worth it. Thankfully their family has been restored and miraculously they are all thriving again.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Even though the world wants us to believe that we are never meant to feel unhappy and that we need to do whatever we can to find some earthly thing that will make us feel better... I think they might be wrong. I think that this side of Heaven there will always be a place of emptiness in us. Not to torment us, but one intended to draw us to a higher place. It's a longing that can't be filled by another person, or location, or possession or hobby. It will never be satisfied by any earthly thing because it was sovereignly designed to be satisfied by Christ alone.

Jesus spoke tenderly in John 16:33 saying,

"I have told you this so you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world."

He has overcome the world. Simple truth. Enormous implications. I am to find my hope and peace in Him. It's not in my stuff. Or my man. Or my appearance. Or my hair. There is rich comfort that though we live in a world of annoying things like split end, we have a God that loves us so intimately He knows the number of hairs on our heads.

Placing my hope in a God who raises the dead carries me through days like yesterday, when the reality of death touches the deepest parts of my heart and all I really want is to hug my parents and tell them how great and brave and wonderful they are.

Life is hard. But its also tremendously beautiful. May we be people who accept the stuff that sucks so badly, while still having eyes to see the glorious sparkling magnificence all around us.

Thank you Jesus for a new day.
Happy birthday Hillary Salvaggione.

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Ps. When I struggle to see the goodness of God I think of this beautiful little sister of mine 
and the story He has written with her life. 
"Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered in shame." Psalm 34:5

Sunday, May 4, 2014

may the fourth be with you.

May the fourth be with you!

I learned that today is National Star Wars Day (Or is it Starwars Day...?). I am not really a Star Wars girl (hence my question on it being two words or one). But I think its hilarious to say "May the fourth be with you." So I did. Twice already in this post. Three times if you include the title.

I just ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on freshly baked wheat bread with freshly made jam. It was delightful, except the bakery that sold it to me used normal creamy Jiff peanut butter and I think it would have been more fitting to use natural crunchy. The weather is warm and wonderful, the kind you hope for all year and when it comes you want to do everything possible to make it stay. Shaun and I have been playing tennis in the evenings for just that reason. Soaking up the perfect warm air. We bought tennis rackets from Goodwill and he scrounged a tennis ball from somewhere while out skating I think. The makings for some of my favorite memories so far this year.

"Scrounging" is Shaun's term for finding free things while going about his daily life. It is most often used when he is telling stories about the food he scrounged from other people's tables at restaurants. He is all about free food. Even if it is somebody else's mostly eaten french fries. He walks through restaurants watching as people are about to leave and then right when they are finished and walking away he takes their left overs before the busboy comes to throw them away. Its actually really fun, and sometimes disgusting, and every now and then I help him. One time I convinced a waiter to box up someone else's plate of leftover pasta for me so that I could take it home to one of our skaters. The fettucine alfredo filled an entire carry-out container. Then on the next table someone left behind an entire pink lemonade. I took that too. I felt so accomplished presenting my entirely scrounged meal to our skater friend who had no shame in eating somebody else's food because compared to other things he had ingested this meal was fit for a king.

I never wanted to be an astronaut. I remember getting anxious in elementary school when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up because I thought they expected me to say astronaut and I thought going to space sounded frightening and unnecessary. I still feel that way. I also never wanted to be "just a ________". I remember hearing grown ups say things like, "When I was your age I wanted to be a professional athlete and now I'm just a furniture salesman." That wasn't anybody's exact quote but that was the gist of it. Like they once had a big dream and now life for them is a sad story of settling down into their unmet desires. I didn't want that. Still don't. I don't want to be "just a ______". To be "just a missionary" or "just a wife" or "just a stay at home mom" implies that somehow we are missing the bigger better thing. No sir. Time to make a switch. It doesn't actually matter what we are doing or how different it looks from the things we thought we would be doing. Lets be "a ______!" Did you catch the difference? It was a subtle shift. All I did was subtract the "just" and replace the period at the end with an exclamation point.

What are you? "Well Johnny, when I was little I wanted to be a fireman but now I'm a pizza delivery guy! And your dad! And your mom's favorite guy!"

What are you? "Well Lucy when I was little I wanted to be a professional dancer and travel the world with big celebs but now I am a blogger! And a decorator! And your mama! And a fun haver! And your Daddy's favorite girl!"

What are you? "Well Carlos, when I was little I wanted to be Oprah but now I'm a missionary! Living in a church! Trying to run some ministries! And maintain friendships! And love my husband! And not eat my feelings!"

See how great that was? Let's add exclamation points to our every days.

Enjoy the little stuff. Take risks. Laugh when we fail. Laugh when we don't. Laugh just because. Even when its inappropriate. Like in church. Let's just laugh.

Because life is short and we don't want to miss it.

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Ps. May 4th is my Goddaughter Lily's 4th birthday. We celebrated last Sunday but I'll post the photos today. She and the fam are on a ministry trip in Redding. She is a darling.