Everybody loves a good fixer upper story. The cultural obsession with Chip and Joanna shows us how much we love a successful renovation. We love to see the before and after, the way old can be renewed. Homes, rooms, hearts, all need a renovation every once in a while.
I entered into this new season of a different job expecting a lot of changes, but unaware of the complete renovation my life would face. And we know, a renovation most of the time is not a bad thing – in fact, it is probably necessary. We see in interior design the way we can get stuck with old decorations, wall colors, furniture set-ups. We get comfortable with the way things are. But sometimes we need a shake-up! Which, of course, is very fun to watch when it is some random person’s home on HGTV. When it is our own lives and hearts, it is often more painful and uncomfortable than we would like.
Renovation in our lives isn’t just a benefit or unintended consequence of following Christ, it is an absolute guarantee. It is a necessity. If we are seeking Christlikeness in our lives, we really should not even be surprised by it. Of course we would need a complete overhaul.
You were a rollercoaster! So much has happened and I am incredibly grateful for you. At the beginning I was not so sure; I told people it felt really old, maybe because it was more syllables than any age I’d been before (or will be, for another nine years). Or maybe it is that when you start inching closer to 30 something happens inside you. Like all of a sudden some of those life goals or hopes that you have kept stuffed in the back of your mind start pushing their way to the forefront, and things start to matter a little more than they used to. Each passing year makes me hold my days a little more tenderly, knowing there are (I know it is morbid) less and less left.
But the days were beautiful and full of surprises. When I rolled up to my 27th birthday party in that sassy romper and lipstick I had no idea that a year later I would be living in a different home, have a different job, and have traveled practically around the world.
I’ve realized I love Instagram more than Jesus.
I journaled this prayer a few weeks ago:
How do we retrain our brains to not be satisfied and fed by red notifications, but by the Presence of God?
To not hunger for the sound of a text message but for the sound of His Voice?
To not seek the approval of people but to know that we are His Beloved?
To dive into the Scriptures rather than swiping when we have a free moment?
We can look back and see – when have there ever been enough likes to make us feel loved? When have we heard from enough people to solidify our worth? When has a person’s approval ever made us feel wholly, fully good enough? When has scrolling ever made our hearts rest easy? Never.
You are capable of so much more than you know: Another life lesson learned in Uganda.
Throughout my entire life I have struggled with fear. I have always known fear, a close companion that turns out was actually a really crappy friend. But only in the past few years have I really become close friends with Courage. As we know, we cannot focus on the things we don’t want to become (i.e. if you spend your life saying “I don’t want to be like my mom,” you most likely will be just like your mom. It is all you have thought about or pictured.), so we choose courage instead.
Courage has become a constant for me; a discipline, a habit, an everyday teacher. While I was in Uganda, I started keeping a “courage list” because I was conquering so many things, both little and large, that scared me. This list included (but was not limited to):
Traveling to Africa (I’m kind of a nervous flyer…)
Riding a boda (a Ugandan motorcycle taxi type thing)
White water rafting the Nile
Preaching in a Ugandan prison
And each time, I survived. And was stronger and braver for it.
I’ve caught myself multiple times since returning from Uganda saying, “I’ve been meaning to…”
This isn’t new, I know I’ve said it a lot before I went on this trip. But it just wasn’t something we ever really heard when we were there, and so I started to notice it in myself when I came home. Saying, “I’ve been meaning to…” could mean one of two things: You’ve either forgotten, or you’re hesitant to do something.
In my case recently I have found myself in the first camp, although I certainly am queen of the latter. The times recently where I have caught myself have been something along the lines of: “I’ve been meaning to text you/see you/catch up with you” and as nice as that seems it actually implies, “I had a fleeting thought about you and then went on with my day.” Harsh, I know, but we’re here to grow, right? I want to be better.
As I sat in the school office, I did a double take. Did that sign really say those words?
Rewinding back to around three months before we were supposed to leave for our trip to Uganda: we found out that the organization we had planned to work with was cancelling all their summer trips. It was scary and overwhelming and heartbreaking. Not just for our team, but for everyone involved with this organization. They put loads of time and energy into that decision, and we knew they had not made it lightly. We had no choice but to trust that God still had a plan for us.
We felt confident that the Lord had invited us to go to Uganda, and we knew that this change of plans was not a surprise to Him. I sat down one day to pray about the situation, and the only words that I could utter were these: You know exactly what You are doing.
This past weekend I was at a Beth Moore conference that was nothing short of amazing. It was not your typical Beth Moore conference; it was geared specifically for women in their twenties and thirties who are passionate about and feel called to teach and write about the Bible. Beyond anything else, I walked away with a renewed sense of passion for the Scriptures and for intimacy with Jesus.
So I came home and was determined to be in my Bible, which has been a rare occurrence in recent months. I analyzed my daily liturgy to see where I was wasting time and where I could make room for what really matters.
I started in Galatians, and barely made it through chapter one. I was struck by the way Paul starts this letter with his story. He is reminding the church in Galatia of their need for the Gospel – the true Gospel. In order to convince them of this, he tells his story.
I wake up with that familiar pit in my stomach. Anxiety sits on my stomach like an overweight toddler, waking me up from my sleep. And then God’s voice says: Who are you inviting to sit at your table?
Oh wait, Fear and Shame, how the heck did you two get a seat here? You didn’t. You actually weren’t invited. You show up uninvited all the time. You come in like loud, obnoxious children – acting like you own the place. The worst kind of party crashers.
But this is my table. My mind. My heart. I don’t actually want you here.
Hey. Let’s all take a deep breathe together, shall we? Don’t speak. Don’t complain. Can we all, just for a second, sit together in silence? Can we take a moment to just be together? Yes, because when we do that – we take a moment in the quiet and see each other for what we really are – brothers and sisters. When we look each other in the eyes, and see each other’s hearts, we can’t hide anymore. We can’t call each other names or judge each other – we just see each other. For the love of Pete, stop posting mean things on Facebook. OVER IT.
It’s been a hard little while, hasn’t it? Let’s just be real about it – life is hard. There won’t be a time in the history of a broken world where we aren’t just that: broken. So let’s realize that hard will always be here, but what do we know about that? There is always good and hard. They are never separate.
“In church on Sunday we participate in a liturgy – a ritualized way of worship – that we repeat each week and by which we are transformed. Even those traditions that claim to be freeform or nonliturgical include practices and patterns in worship. Therefore, the question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, ‘What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?’” (Liturgy of the Ordinary, 30-31)
I’m reading this new book (if you need a recommendation here it is), Liturgy of the Ordinary. It takes the daily activities of our lives (waking up, brushing our teeth, eating leftovers, checking email, etc.) and transforms them into spiritual practices with deep meaning. Overall, it is a reminder that every small part of our lives is important. Everything has meaning.
I’ve been particularly struck by the quote above, specifically the final lines: “The question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, ‘What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?’”