Category Archives: Collections of Thoughts

How to Navigate Transition

I just fell down the stairs. I was walking downstairs to make a cup of coffee, my drug of choice for writing a month’s worth of Sunday School lessons, and I slipped. It’s been awhile since that happened and I forgot just how terrible it is. I slid my way down half the staircase until finally running into the closed door at the bottom. It was loud, it was ungraceful, my cloth pants only added to the speed at which I was tumbling, and more than anything it hurt.

Because drawing an analogy may give some meaning to the pain I’m currently experiencing . . .

. . . sometimes transition feels like suddenly slipping down half a flight of stairs.

You think it’s all going okay until a few steps down and suddenly you’ve spontaneously lost your footing. Once you start slipping, panic and frustration set in, as you find yourself seemingly unable to stop the fall. So you brace yourself for the crash.

Part of why I hate falling down the stairs, aside from the obvious things like throbbing pain and sacrificing my dignity, is that I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve done staircases enough to know they can be done with grace and poise. More than that, I’ve seen enough movies to know there’s nothing better than the feeling of walking down a spiral staircase in a ballgown and having the whole room freeze and turn to watch you descend. I may not have had that experience yet, but I’m convinced it exists and that I need a staircase for it. Not only does walking down stairs not have to be a bad experience, it can actually be a great one.

elevator-suitcaseTransitions don’t have to feel like falling down a flight of stairs. It doesn’t have to be such that you feel yourself bracing for the impact of all that is new, overwhelming, and intimidating. Transitions don’t have to be bad and rough; they can even be wonderful, if you’re watching your footing before you step.

That doesn’t necessarily mean all transitions are going to be flawless. Sometimes you slip on the stairs even when you’re paying attention. We would have much fewer funny videos if people never fell down the stairs. Sometimes a hard transition leads to the kinds of funny, transformative, growing stories that change our lives or lives later on.

Here are three principles that give my life a sense of meaning and stability. I, as a 22-year old with limited life experiences have found these things helpful, and hopefully they can help you or give words to things you should pursue in walking through your next or current life transition:

  • My relationship with the Lord and a sense of His nearness in my life is foundational and going to change.

The one thing that has provided the most stability and peace in any transition is my relationship with the Lord and sense of His nearness. When my life is oriented towards His glory, no matter what is going on, there’s a bigger sense of purpose. In that, there are two reasons that I’ve noticed my relationship with God changes during transition, regardless of how big or small the transition actually is.

One of them is harder to articulate because it’s inherently unseen. The Spirit of God often feels different in different places. That’s not to say that God is changing or that His relationship to us is different, but there are spiritual realities present in lives and places that we can’t see. Verses like 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:12 give us a sense of these unseen realities. My relationship with God felt different in Georgia than it does in Illinois, which is different than it was at Wheaton College, which is different than it felt when I visited India, which is different than it felt in Costa Rica. The Spirit of God isn’t changing but the spiritual realities of these places changed my emotional and sensory experience of my spirituality. It’s hard to explain because so much of what’s going on we won’t know this side of Eternity, but even just knowing that my relationship with God is going to feel different in different places gives me a peace and an elasticity in being okay with those changes. He may feel closer or farther away in certain places; that doesn’t necessarily mean His proximity has changed or that I’m doing anything wrong. It means it’s okay if it feels or looks different.

The other reason my relationship with God changes in transition is more concrete: often during transition, my routine changes. A new job may mean that mornings with the Lord aren’t as viable as they used to be, or that a 6am quiet time may feel harder than an 8am one. Sharing a room with someone may mean that late night worship sessions aren’t exactly respectful or hospitable. Moving away from friends may mean that spontaneous Bible study conversations aren’t as readily available. When the places that I engage with the Lord change, my experience of Him innately changes. While we may not be able to change the spiritual realities with anything other than prayer and a pursuit of discernment, we have direct control over the patterns, practices, and rhythms of our lives. Knowing the things that consistently bring you life and revitalize your relationship with Jesus are critical in transitioning into new schedules and routines. It may look different – the time, location, and structure may change – but if you know what your soul needs, you’ll be better able to build it in during transition and keep the foundation that’ll help with your footing.

  • The people in my life and my interactions with others give my life inherent meaning, regardless of whether they’re deep or momentary.

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I used to think that is was only the closest and deepest relationship that actually mattered and meant something to me, but as I’ve navigated transition, I’ve realized that it’s often whoever is standing in front of me that gives my life meaning. Things like doing work in a coffee shop so that I can interact with the barista, spreading out trips to the grocery store to talk to the clerk, working out in a popular gym, making small talk with people in the office, or listening to middle school student tell a joke make my life feel significant. These interactions don’t have to be profound; they often aren’t. They just have to be present. There’s something about standing face-to-face with another human being that gives life a sort of significance. Actively putting yourself in places where there are people naturally increases a sense of meaning, especially if you make the time and expend the energy to engage with them.

With that, taking the time to invest in deeper relationships is vital in navigating transition. Relationships take time, so take off the pressure and expectation that this needs to happen immediately. Beginning to develop meaningful relationships beyond a small talk conversation in the check-out line also gives life meaning. If this can happen before the throws and heat of the actual transition, it makes the process that much smoother. In that, don’t be afraid to let previous relationships change and shift. That doesn’t mean those relationships have to die – life-long friendships are an incredible blessing – but holding tightly to the relationships and connections of a previous season often hinders people from living into the new ones. Comparing the people of a new season to those of an old one only increases the challenge of stepping fully into what is new. Delve into new relationships with the understanding that they are not going to be the same as the people of your past, but they are critical in providing a sense of meaning and seeing what the Lord is doing in these new places.

  • An others-oriented perspective, direction, or projects shifts the focus off self and offers a sense of something bigger than just you.

Just because my relationship with God feels solid and I’m engaging with people doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a transition is going to feel smooth; both of those things can still be oriented towards me. In my experience, nothing offers a sense of meaning more holistically than focusing on others. It doesn’t have to be big and can literally be anything that orients you towards others. It can be something as simple as giving money towards something that you’re actively engaging the stories of – give towards a cause and then watch documentaries, videos, and talk with people about it. It can also look like volunteering or opening your home. Make it personal; let it be something that matters and something you enjoy. There’s lots of talk about doing things with a “savior” mentality or out of a sense of privilege, so guard yourself against that. But getting outside yourself and doing something that diverts your attention to someone or something other than you can return dividends in living with a sense of joy and purpose. Even just being aware of your co-workers, bringing them coffee because you noticed they had a hard day, or stopping to buy the homeless man on the corner a burger can offer a sense of life beyond your needs, wants, and hardships.

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One more analogy for you. It’s too simplistic of a picture, since seasons, experiences, and relationships often overlap and affect one another, but it can be helpful in navigating transition: our lives are like a row of shelves and we get boxes for each season. Putting things in a new box is difficult when you haven’t completed the former one, capped it, and placed it on the shelf. If you keep looking through the old box or refusing to put it on the shelf, it only makes starting a new box that much harder. Begin a transition by giving yourself permission to sort through, celebrate, and lament that which is ending. Organize the box, label it, throw away that which doesn’t matter, and keep that which does – give yourself space to acknowledge what the Lord did beyond your expectations and that which went unfulfilled. It’ll make it easier to snap on the lid and focus your attention on what the Lord is giving you to put in the new box, whether the previous season was one of pain or blessing. Pulling out a new and empty box on the foundation of your relationship with Christ, knowing that it all may look and feel different, pressing into your interactions with people, and focusing on others and causes outside of yourself, will hopefully make it easier to begin filling and celebrating the new box and the work of the Lord in the new season.

Happy transitioning.

The Ordinary Life of Making Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool:

“One day, I’m going to sit in eternal fellowship in Heaven and I’m afraid I won’t have any glorious stories to tell.” February 23, 2013

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The truth that there won’t be any sin, crying, identity-issues, or comparison in Heaven (Revelation 22:3-6) didn’t stop my heart from questioning it’s worth before both the Lord and other believers. What was I doing and was it enough? Was I enough? Was I living in the fullness of the extraordinary life that everyone talks about having in Jesus? Because writing papers, meeting with middle schoolers at Starbucks once a week, and trying to keep up with a blog that no one really reads didn’t feel like enough. Depending on the Lord looked like my trusting him in small things and I just wasn’t convinced that a story of his faithfulness in having grace with my siblings or building new friendships was what someone was looking for on a testimony night.

But then I came across this article.

Have you ever heard of Bert Elliot? Me neither. He’s the brother of the missionary Jim Elliot. I was surprised that I’d never heard of Bert, given my admiration for Jim and Elizabeth Elliot. Honestly, there’s a chance I wouldn’t even be at Wheaton College if it hadn’t come up while I was reading The Journals of Jim Elliot the summer before my senior year. The Lord has used their stories and books to shape me in some pretty formative ways.

You can imagine I was pretty curious about this mysterious Elliot brother. Why had I never come across him? Because he was just an average guy who loved Jesus and his family and his neighbor. Nothing spectacular. Not the kind of thing they write books about or dramatize on the Big Screen. The article summed it up this way:

“In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that . . . There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.”

 

So, after reading this article, I spent the next few days wrestling. I looked back on the posture of my heart in 2013 and found myself digging up remnants of the same insecurity, while trying to rest in the truth of Scripture and testimonies of faithful, unknown people like Bert Elliot. And then, with the most unlikely of analogies, something clicked.

You probably didn’t know this about me, but I played powderpuff football this year for our Junior Class. I was drafted (aka they had to find a spot on the team for me) as an offensive line-woman for the 2015 powderpuff football game.

Trying to recall everything my dad had taught me about football before our coach walked over, I realized pretty quickly that I knew nothing about the line. I knew they hit people, but that was about it. I could name quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Maybe even a few kickers or safeties. But I was drawing a blank when it came to the line. Honestly, what did they even do?

Yet as we ran drill after drill, I began to see the importance behind the job I’d been given. When the coaches called a pass play, if I didn’t hold the defense back, the quarterback would be at best under pressure and at worst, sacked. We were responsible for giving our QB the most valuable thing in the game: time. People weren’t there to watch us. No one would remember our blocks. We weren’t making tackles, throwing winning plays, or scoring touchdowns. Memorable plays don’t have the names of the offensive line attached, but you better believe they wouldn’t have happened it we hadn’t made our blocks.

That was our job: make our block. Block the girl in front of you. Don’t let her get to the QB.

Make your block. It wasn’t an extraordinary job. But it’s what we were asked to do. We were asked to do it faithfully, play after play.

I think this is exactly what Jesus calls us to do too.

 

photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team
photo courtesy of the Wheaton Media Team

It reminds me of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

I’m reminded that the lot the Lord gives each of us looks different. Our stories will be different because the way Jesus is moving in each of our lives is different. We aren’t called to throw the football if we’ve been drafted for the line, just like Bert Elliot was not called to live the same life that his brother did. God’s faithfulness in my life may not look like thousands coming to Jesus or spectacular miracles, but that doesn’t make the stories any less about God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know where you are reading this.

Maybe you’re life looks a lot like playing quarterback or being a “Jim Elliot,” streaking meteor. Maybe God’s showing up in some pretty amazing ways and calling you to some radically transformative things. That’s amazing. We need your stories of dependance on the Lord and His provision in your life! Let the body of believers be encouraged by the stewardship of your talents.

But maybe that doesn’t describe your season, your calling, or your life. Maybe you are living a seemingly ordinary day-to-day faithfulness of dishes, homework, errands, laundry, phone calls, and deadlines. The life where taking the next step in obedience often goes unnoticed by those around you. But it doesn’t go unnoticed by the Lord. It isn’t insignificant to Him. Your life of dependance is amazing too. We need your stories. When His faithfulness looks like getting you out of bed in the morning with a smile or letting a dying car make it to the next appointment, it’s still His faithfulness. We can’t let our fear of not having “amazing stories” keep us from telling what are ultimately just the Lord’s stories.

He calls us to make the block that He’s put in front of us, that’s it. When we do, regardless of what it looks like or who saw it, the Lord smiles and whispers yet again to our hearts, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

When I Trust from the Stroller

It was the appropriately coined “solo day” on Wheaton Passage, the transition retreat for incoming Wheaton freshmen. This was our final stop after a day of fasting, prayer, and silence. Another park, this one a little less beautiful than the one before.

As I sat there on the patchy grass, trying to keep my thoughts off my rumbling stomach and lack of new thoughts to journal about, I rested my back against a less-than-comfortable tree. My wandering eyes roamed around the open Bible and journal on my lap and eventually fixed upon a woman with her son a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the young boy chase a squirrel in circles around the tree, his mom resting her arms against the back of the stroller.

And as I sat, content to watch the young boy’s joy and delight in the simple things of life, drawing parallels for my own need for delight in life, the moment was interrupted. Just as my my heart was settling into the sweetness of the moment, the mom came behind the boy, scooped him up, and proceed to strap him into the stroller. He began to kick and scream, protesting the abrupt end to his playtime. I watched as he pulled his shoes off, his patient mother picking them up and pushing the stroller away.

Flashbacks of babysitting flooded my mind. The boy has had his fun and now it’s time to go home. It’s what’s best for him. It’s about dinner time anyways. He’s probably hungry, although he was probably too distracted to realize it. In the young boys mind, nothing could be more wonderful than chasing the squirrel in the park. But he doesn’t know what’s best for him. He doesn’t see that the constraints of the stroller are bringing him to deeper places of care and necessity. He can’t see past his own little boy vision of what he wants and what he’s not getting.

And as I reflected on this reality, I began to write. . .

“Is that really how it is, God? I wander around this world, sometimes it leads me to discover something new about your world and sometimes it leads me to be a little too far away from You. I cry when you put me back in my spiritual stroller. I pitch a fit when I don’t get what I think I want. I feel hurt. I feel frustrated. I throw a temper tantrum at the God of heaven because you let me. But deep down I know it’s for my own good. I just don’t see what you are doing. Your delight is in watching me laugh and explore the world you are showing me. You love it when I delight in You. You correct me – always seeming to me, in the moment, harsher than it actually is. I don’t appreciate how much you love me. I don’t value that all you have is your glory and my good in view. I’m sorry. Increase my view of grace. Teach me what it means to trust you, in the things that make sense and in the things that don’t. Jesus, renew a steadfast spirit in me.” Friday, August 16, 2013

And two years later, I’m as convicted by this truth as I was sitting by the tree that day.

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On Encouragement.

“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. ” 1 Thessalonians 5:10-23

Some people are natural encouragers. For some people, it take more conscious effort.

Some people gravitate towards encouraging “outside the circle people.” Some people naturally focus on building up those “inside the circle.” We need both.

Whether it comes naturally or not, everyone needs encouraged. We all crave affirmation. Granted, there’s a fine line between needing built up in Christ and your identity actually being dangerously rooted in the approval of others. At the heart, though, Christians should be encouraging one another with the knowledge that we all need to be reminded of the truth of who we are. It’s biblical.

When I was having a bit of an identity crisis, alone on my bed, it was the letters and cards of encouragement from family, friends, and mentors that ministered to my heart. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not talking about sappy, feel-good letters, filled with the kind of comments you’d see between young BFF’s on Instagram. These letters were written by people of love and grace and wisdom. They reminded me where my true identity lies. They reminded me to return to my First Love, the only Love that will ever fully satisfy my heart. They spoke of their love for me – but not because of anything that I’d done or earned or become.

I’d be the first person to admit that I need others. I need community. I need to be encouraged because I need to be reminded of TRUTH. We weren’t meant to do this alone, remember? It’s the same thing God told Moses about Joshua:

“But commission Joshua, and encourageand strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” Deuteronomy 3:28

Encouragement isn’t easy because it is 0% about us. It is solely focused on the blessing of the Lord in someone else. It means being in tune to what the Holy Spirit is doing in someone else – what’s going on, how they’re gifted, etc. But when we are living under the weight of insecurity ourselves, we become incapable of thinking about others. We are concerned about self: how we feel and how we can improve our self-confidence. No one wants to feel like they aren’t enough or they are a failure, so we naturally focus on digging ourselves out when we fall into that hole of lies.

But the catch is that we all have insecurities because we all have weaknesses. We focus on improving our weaknesses (through Christ, of course), which is a good thing. It’s the process of sanctification. But there’s a danger. We run the risk of missing out how the Holy Spirit is moving in someone else’s life, and getting the humbling privilege of encouraging them in that. And they miss out on the blessing and community that encouragement brings.

I’m reminded of what Paul says about our weaknesses. . .it’s all too familiar:

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My insecurities, my weaknesses – I have to remind myself that those are the places Christ is made strong. Those are the areas where I can’t rely on myself. They are places where I am reminded that when you squeeze me in my flesh, nothing good or righteous or holy comes out. I am 100% dependent on Christ and His Spirit in me. So, the places that spur on my personal sanctification should also be promoting my encouragement of others. Because Scripture tells me that my weaknesses are never meant to point back to me; they are meant to point back to the God who has victory over all of them. The holy, holy, holy King who pours out such GRACE upon us.

Insecurity can kill encouragement. Because insecurity keeps us focused on us. But it shouldn’t be that way. Yes, we are weak in our flesh – but that only means that Christ that much stronger! So maybe we should step outside of ourselves and recognize what He’s doing in the people around us. Because everyone, even the most confident and seemingly secure people need to hear Truth.

Write a letter. Send a text. Meet someone for coffee. Pick up the phone.

It doesn’t matter how the encouragement comes. What matters is that it does, and that’s it’s rooted in Christ. Not encouraging others because you are too focused on fixing your own insecurities (or because you are “too busy”) doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. Encouraging superficial things or offering fake compliments doesn’t build up the Body of Christ. Jesus-lovers should be the most encouraging people around because we’ve been saved and encouraged in the most undeserving way. Even if encouraging others is a weakness of yours – whether in the family or outside of it – it’s not a fatal flaw; it’s just another place where Christ can show Himself stronger and more merciful than you could ever imagine.

I’m working on encouraging others. Those closest to me and the strangers in my life. If I’m being honest: the latter is harder for me. I’m working on encouraging people in the Spirit, and not just to boost their ego.

I’ve been so grateful for the encouragement of those around me during one of my hardest summers. Their encouragement has been such a blessing; it’s also convicted me to look at how I’m doing at encouraging others and recognizing where the Spirit is moving in other people’s lives. Needless to say, I need some work. But that’s awesome – because it’s just another place Christ can be glorified in my weakness!

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The Result of a Pensive Mind. . .on the Church

This summer has provided some much needed reflection and perspective, especially on things I’ve never really considered or questioned. Recently, that’s included the idea of church. I’ve gone to church my whole life. I was never allowed to open my Easter basket before the sunrise service, and any money I made my senior year of… Read more. . .

The Necessity of Hope

Doing my “monthly recap of the movement of God,” I noticed a trend between February and March. . . Hope. I think this is one of those I-grew-up-in-the-church-and-I’m-pretty-sure-“hope”-was-one-of-my-first-words kind of things. We’ve become numb to the true reality and necessity of what hope is, and the actual depravity of those living in hopelessness. Feeling like… Read more. . .

Beautiful Fall Days Call for Random Updates

I don’t know where the time is going. I’ve been here for 6 weeks now – A Quad, or half of the semester, is 3 weeks away from being over. It’s October. My mind no longer has any concept of what time means. College is a frenzied mess between having too much to do and… Read more. . .

Packing, Leaving, Writing…and a Little Crying

My flight leaves in 4 hours. I don’t even think I’ve processed that statement yet. I’m writing this, or attempting to write this since the words won’t seem to come, with a three-fold purpose: 1. For everyone who doesn’t check Facebook: I won’t have a phone or internet for the next 10 days or so.… Read more. . .

Thoughts From the 48-Hour Mark

This pre-college journey has been crazy; it is so surreal to think that in a little more than 48-hours I will be boarding a plane to Chicago. Everyone keeps asking how I am and how I plan on staying in touch. People are making a concerted effort to let me know all that I mean… Read more. . .

Blank Canvases and Loops

According to my plane ticket, I leave for college in exactly one month. What. I’m really not sure when that happened or when I grew up, but apparently it did and here I am. My family and I took a trip to visit both Wheaton and Chicago this past week. And on a side note,… Read more. . .