Tell me once again…

I am many things.

I’m a daughter, a student, a teacher, a friend, a sister, an auntie, a niece, and a cousin— just to name a few of the many positions that I fulfill in life.

This summer, I have had the privilege of bouncing back and forth between Colorado and California, focusing on the last two “jobs” on that list as I act as a live-in nanny for my aunt’s two-year old daughter Monica.

Staying out in the Bay Area again has been great. I’ve met new people, seen old friends from Berkeley, and have had amazing home cooked Mexican food and fresh fish for almost every meal. But most importantly, I’ve gotten to build a new layer into my relationship with my aunt.

Being the only two girls on my dad’s side of my family for nearly two decades, my aunt and I have always been very close. In fact, when I was a little kid, I essentially wanted to be my Aunt Vee when I “grew up”.

She has influenced every decision in my life from wanting to be a cheerleader in high school to where I applied for college to what NFL team I cheer for. (Raider Nation, baby! Sorry… couldn’t resist.)

When we’re together, my aunt and I always have a great time. But no matter how much I love my second home with her and her little family, I can’t help but feel a bit stressed out here.

You see, in Colorado I know exactly who I am. I have a routine. I have my job and friends. I even have a regular coffee shop where the owner knows exactly how I like my coffee (and occasionally my breakfast) made.

In Colorado, I’m someone’s teacher, someone’s intellectual equal, someone’s best friend.

But here, I’m just “Vee’s niece. You know, the tall one that used to have a cute Latina afro and little pink boots when she was three…”

Here I’m the bridge between two generations; not an adult in the eyes of my family, but certainly over qualified (and far too tall) to be considered a child by anyone’s standards.

I’m living in a weird flux state where I can’t quite figure out my identity in this new place. I don’t know if I’m coming or going, but I do know that this situation makes me want to get on the first plane and go back home to Colorado.

I know that retreating back to my comfort zone won’t do me any favors. I know that my identity is in (or should be in) my Heavenly Father, and not rooted in who I say I am or who my family views me as.

I know all of this, but I still have identity vertigo.

I’m well aware that I’m not the first, or only twenty-something-year-old to feel this way. But I want a definite answer about who I am, in every situation, not just at home. I want to take the control away from God and say “Look Buddy, I’m getting whiplash here. Just give me an answer before I lose my mind!”

And there in lies my problem. I am trying to discover who I am on my own… and in that process I am removing God. The same God who is the one true root of my identity; The one who knows me better than anyone, including my aunt or even my closest friends.

In the middle of my panic and vertigo, I am reminded…

I’m the one You love, that will be enough.”

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

~Isaiah 43:1

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In a Relationship

I love Summer.

The days are longer, the air is warmer, and maybe it’s just me, but early morning iced coffee and late night ice cream with friends just seems sweeter.

I know that part of my love affair with summer has to do with the fact that I’m young and single. While I lay in a hammock in the California sunshine typing this, I have been switching back and forth to my Facebook where many of my young married friends with children have been chattering about plans to head to the swimming pool, the zoo, the museum, ect. For many, summer seems like a time to hit the ground running, but being in the stage of life that I am, Summer is a time for me to head the opposite direction and slow down.

Without lessons to be planned, papers to grade, or my own homework to do, I have had the pleasure of being able to fill my time with other things these first few weeks of summer vacation.

In the last month, I’ve read more for pleasure and have been able to go out to coffee and have some amazing heart-to-heart talks with friends, both new and old. I’m an incredibly relational person and there are few things that nurture my soul quite like building relationships with the people I love.

My favorite “over coffee” question? “What is God doing in your life right now?”

Roughly three months ago when one of my friends first asked me this question, I was semi-paralyzed. Shoot, I don’t know… I thought, right before my mind went entirely blank.

God seemed so big and abstract. I couldn’t really pinpoint anything specific that He was doing in my life.

But my dear friend (who shall remain nameless) takes a certain amount of joy in watching me squirm in challenging conversations, and week in and week out, he would ask me this until I had an answer. After a few weeks of healthy nudging, I realized something.

Maybe I couldn’t always pinpoint what God was doing in my life because my relationship with Him wasn’t very strong…

After all, I knew exactly what all my friends were doing with their lives because I spent all of my free time talking to them over coffee, but I had never considered doing the same thing with my Creator everyday.

Our Father is a relational God who created us to be in relationship with Him. (Weird how that works, huh?) As Jamie West Zumwalt says in her book Simple Obsession, God didn’t create us because He needed someone/something else to serve Him; He had the angels for that.

God created Adam and Eve and walked through the Garden of Eden with them everyday, simply because He could. God gave us His Son so that He could walk among and beside us. God put the Holy Spirit within all of His believers so that we could experience true unity with Him.

God wants our hearts. He wants our time. He wants to be in a relationship with us.

Think about it. When you begin a new relationship, you spend all of your time getting to know that person. You want to know what they think, what they love, what their heart longs for. And to do this, you have to spend quality time with them.

This quality time looks different for every couple. I have friends who have gotten to know their future husbands and wives over city adventures, coffee dates, dinners, movies, training for marathons, and all kinds of other crazy activities. But the important thing is never the activity planned, but the time spent together.

If we can find the time to spend quality time with our friends and loved ones, why not set aside time to date God? Pour your heart out to Him and listen to what He tells you. Begin building an intimate, loving relationship with your Creator.

It may seem strange, but this summer, I’m dating God. One cup of coffee and conversation at a time, we’re getting acquainted in new ways, through both His Word and my words. And let me tell you, it is a beautiful process.

Where is God working in your life this Summer? Is He calling you into closer relationship with Himself?

~

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.”

~1 John 4:10

Leap

In August 2011, I was fed up. I was stuck in a job that I was no longer passionate about, in a neighborhood I knew I needed to leave, surrounded by things and people that reminded me of the mess I had recently made of my life…and I was begging God to move in me.

That’s when God dropped a job offer in my lap that changed everything. Out of virtually nowhere, I was offered a position as a Nursery Director at the Denver Street School. The possibility of getting away from the negativity in my life was so tempting, but there was one problem– I really disliked the idea of working with children.

They’re sticky, impatient, demanding, and cry all the time. (Ironically, a near mirror image of myself during this chapter of my life. Well, sans the stickiness…)

Even though I had specifically been praying all summer for a job to open up at the Denver Street School, I was beyond hesitant to accept what God had put right in front of me.

Seriously, God? Kids?! You couldn’t have opened an office position or something that I’m good at and would actually like?

And that’s when I heard it…

You’ve prayed and begged for a job at DSS. Just trust me, would you? This is going to be great, but I need you to take a leap of faith here…I’ve got you. You’re not going to fall.

I wavered for days. Was I really willing to walk out of my comfort zone to follow God somewhere new?

It wasn’t even that the Street School was scary; in fact it was more a home to me than any I had ever lived in. But I was (am) stubborn and it took many anxious talks with God before I finally “caved” and said yes.

Accepting the job at the Denver Street School has single-handedly been the best choice I’ve ever made. And I almost missed it because I wasn’t willing to let go of the rags I had gathered around myself and take that leap of faith.

Similar to where I found myself two years ago, I now have a choice to make.

The call to take another leap of faith has presented itself; I may have the opportunity to go to one of the best graduate schools for linguistics in this hemisphere. 

I say hemisphere, because it’s in Canada…

Taking this leap of faith would mean having to leave my comfortable life that I have watched God rebuild: new friendships, family, my adorable studio apartment in the city, my students, my teaching position… The list goes on and on.

So the question remains: What will I do? Where will I go?

Luckily, I have several friends that God has put in this same place in life to work through this with. (Shout out to these lovely people who know exactly who they are!)

All I can ask is that if you’re reading this, that you pray for me. I would pray for guidance, but I know I already have that; so instead I’m requesting prayer for courage.

Courage to accept the call: Courage to go on the adventure that I have so desperately been craving.

Is God calling you somewhere new today? What will your response be? 

~

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

~Matthew 16:24

[Eat,] Pray, Love

Roughly three years ago, a book came out and seemed to (at least temporarily) revolutionize our static American culture. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a gutsy self-help-esque book centered around the idea of “doing what you need to do to be happy”. (You know, standard “Oprah’s Book Club” stuff…)

On her journey to “finding herself” Elizabeth exposes her darkest secrets to her audience, and after ripping her own heart out and allowing it to bleed all over the pages for a while, she eats a lot of Italian food, takes a trip to India, and is suddenly able to sew herself back up, and viola! After a divorce, a family feud, and a few bad relationships, she is magically fixed!

Now, if you’re thinking that I sound skeptical, you would be 1,000% correct.

During the time that this book was all the rage, my life had essentially caught on fire and everything (and everyone) that I valued had either disappeared or had been removed for one reason or another. Everyone except the gentleman (hardly…) that I was dating at the time.

I was desperately seeking happiness and figured that if Elizabeth Gilbert was able to find happiness in her journey, that I might be able to get some happiness by proxy if I read her book.

I bought it, kept it in my purse, and struggled to enjoy the first third of the book. But there was simply nothing about her journey that seemed to bring me any joy; In fact, I only seemed to be slipping further down the rabbit hole of “blah”.

In an effort to speed up the process of rediscovering my happiness and myself, I decided to buy the movie when it came out on DVD (I’m an American, what can I say? Instant gratification is what we’re all about, right?). But even the movie put me to sleep– literally. I’ve tried to watch it on several occasions and have never made it past the second section when she’s in India.

For months and months, I continued to struggle to find some source of happiness. It wasn’t until I was given no other choice than to give up my comfortable lifestyle with my then-boy-toy and try to stand alone that I completely shattered.

If I was unhappy before the split, I was barely human after it. When my life had crumbled around me for the previous year, I had poured myself into making my relationship work. His friends became my friends. His interests became my interests. Heck, I even began reading the same books as him, simply so we would have some common ground amid our dysfunction.

After the break-up, I did the logical thing: I looked where society said that I would find happiness and I went after that. To my dismay, Eat, Pray, Love was still what the world was telling me would “fix me”. So I gave it another shot.

Pathetic and broken, I sat on my back patio and forced myself to re-read the book when this nifty quote jumped out at me for the first time:

“Moreover, I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that’s not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time—everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else. I do not relay these facts about myself with pride, but this is how it’s always been.

Some time after I’d left my husband, I was at a party and a guy I barely knew said to me, “You know, you seem like a completely different person, now that you’re with this new boyfriend. You used to look like your husband, but now you look like David. You even dress like him and talk like him. You know how some people look like their dogs? I think maybe you always look like your men.”

It was like Elizabeth Gilbert was reading my mail!

I had become so much like all of the people around me that I literally lost “me”. Sitting in my backyard that day, I began to wonder who “I was” before I had gotten invested in all of the people in my life.

The first thought that came to my mind was “I was a follower of Christ” and the second thought almost made me sick to my stomach– “I was…”

I had been so busy following other people, tending to other people, trying to love other people (many against their will), that I had stopped following, loving, and pursuing Christ.

The years since that revelation have been rocky, but now as I sit here and think about my life, I can see that I have lost myself in someone once again… People think I’m crazy, but I am in love.

I am head over heels for my Creator and I am working everyday to give him everything that I have. My time, my devotion, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money [Sorry, Charlie], my dog’s time… I am working hard to ensure that all of it goes to furthering His Kingdom.

My previously non-existent boundaries still don’t really exist, but I care less about that now. I have a peace that passes all understanding. I have the joy that I was so desperately seeking in other people. I have a wonderful, flourishing relationship with Christ and through Him, I have found my worth and my joy again.

I’ve still never read, or seen Eat, Pray, Love all the way through (and I likely never will) but I’m grateful for the bizarre way that God used it to pull me back into my relationship with himself.

All of this to ask my question of the week:

When people look at you today, who do they see? Are you reflecting your spouse? Do you look like your dog? Or are you a mirror of your Father in Heaven?

Who have you lost yourself in? And are you happy with that decision?

~

 “I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.” (~Elizabeth Gilbert)

Maybe Elizabeth Gilbert was onto something there… It all sounds so familiar…

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:38

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:8

Need I go on?

Learning to be Content on my Continent

jourjourney

In the last year, God has brought me an entirely new group of friends. These people hail from all over the United States, have different backgrounds, interests, and stories, but we are united under one commonality; our love for our Lord, Jesus Christ.

God has used my new friends to heal me of deep wounds, break me for new people groups, and re-ignite a fire in my heart for knowledge, travel, and community– needless to say, it has been an emotional roller coaster of  a year on my end, but I have loved every single moment of it because these wonderful people have been by my side through it all.

This summer I have said many temporary good-byes as my amazing new friends set off to change our world. From Chile to South Africa, North America to Asia, we have spread ourselves thin, searching for new experiences and longing to meet and love our current and future brothers and sisters in Christ.

To say that I’m proud of my adventurous compadres, doesn’t even being to cover it. But I must confess that I have been sorting through some level of jealousy and longing to be in their shoes.

My soul longs to be out of this country, feeding the poor, counseling young women who have suffered abuse, building wells, playing volleyball in the streets of Peru again… anything for His Kingdom… anywhere but here.

But today while I was sitting on the patio of one of my favorite coffee shops, I heard Him whisper somewhere in the depths of my “longing” soul. “I have you exactly where you need to be. Do not long for someone else’s journey. Your journey is equally beautiful in my sight, that is why I created it, just for you.”

How often do we wish we could be in someone else’s shoes?

How often do I envy other’s lives instead of taking the time to simply appreciate the one that He has given me?

While I may not be spending my summer wading through swamps along the Amazon to bring food to the needy or counseling victims of genocide and war on the other side of the world, I am making an impact here on American soil for my King, and I need to keep that in mind.

Taking my students out to lunch is making an impact in their lives, even if it is only a small one. Dedicating my weekends to fellowship and uplifting my fellow believers here in ‘Merica is just as important as doing the same thing in Scotland. There are homeless, hopeless, and needy people right here at my doorstep; this is my summer to serve them. Maybe next year God will have something else in mind for me… maybe not. Either way the cards fall, I’m working on being content with where God has me.

So I leave you with this thought:

Where is God using you this summer? How are you making yourself available to Him exactly where you are?

~

“For there will never cease to be poor in your land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”

(Deuteronomy 15:11)