Catching My Breath

Happy 2015!

I think this last week has been one of the most chaotic in a long time. I just arrived back in the country from a wonderful two-week trip spent in Ireland and the UK, only to return to my internship as a counselor a matter of hours later. (Score one for my pure stubbornness in wanting to have as much time abroad as possible. Fortunately I was so happy to be reunited with my clients that I didn’t notice the jet lag until that night…) As I sit here writing this post in-between jotting all of my assignment due dates for my final semester of grad school (?!) and typing a draft of my final research proposal for graduation, it is suddenly hitting me just how much has happened this past year.

I am still working on the long post that I briefly mentioned in my last entry. The words aren’t coming to me like I had hoped, but to be continued!

But because it is a new year, I wanted to make just a few brief lists for 2015 goal setting. Definitely encourage anyone else to make their own!

MY WORD FOR THIS YEAR:

Last month I was challenged to pray about a word that God really wanted me to focus on. Before I even finished, the word integrity came to mind, plain as day. Integrity, for me, is needing to…

  • Stop trying to cut so many corners. This is something I am especially bad about in my schoolwork. Sometimes I get so involved and focused on my internship (which I love) and actually serving in the field, that I begin to resent my graded papers and assignments, and just do the bare minimum. I need to remember that I am in school to learn- I want to appreciate what time I still have left and commit more to the entire process.
  • Be more intentional. This is a really broad goal, but specifically, I need to be more intentional about studying the Bible and engaging in conversations about it. Although I don’t want reading the Bible to become a chore, and merely check it off each day, I tend to get lazy and make excuses if I go several days on end without picking it up. I need to be more intentional about setting aside specific time and generally use the “whenever I get around to it” statement less.
  • Be more direct with people. Working as an addictions counselor has definitely toughened me up, but my tendency in day-to-day life is to want to bend over backwards to make other people happy. I need to be upfront and honest more often if I am frustrated with a situation rather than just doing nothing about it whatsoever. Raised voices tend to set me on edge, which is why I need to practice and remember that caring confrontation does not actually have to involve yelling.

Gratitude List

Even though people tend to do this during Thanksgiving, a project I want to pursue is to actively keep a gratitude list. The quickest way to kill contempt is to tell God, or another person, things that you are grateful for. For me, this most often happens when I am driving. (I don’t know if it is because I suddenly have the angry desire to issue driving tickets via hand signals that are supposed to express “What are you DOING?!?!” in the car, and therefore actually think about being grateful more often, but this is usually what happens.) The other day in my head I just started telling God how grateful I was for heat. That gas is a whopping $1.99 all of a sudden. That I have a car. And suddenly my road rage was lessened a bit.

Highlights and Lowlights

This year was a great one. By God’s grace, I published a book (see tab at top of website), joined a church plant team in Ireland for three months (and met an Irish fellow I am quite fond of while I was there…), finished my first year of graduate school, and heard some really amazing teachings and sermons that made my desire to follow Jesus multiply. I am going to be the Maid of Honor in the wedding of one of my best friends, got to see two friends get baptized, celebrated a new birth into one of my favorite families, and traveled solo across Europe for a few weeks.

It was challenging at the same time. It was difficult not having access to income anymore, and I felt guilty spending any just about any money that wasn’t a necessity as it was all coming out of my savings. Although I have some amazing relationships in Charlotte, I also spent a bit of lonely time missing friends in other cities. My sense of time management became stretched thin as I began taking night classes and electives in order to graduate on time and complete my internship. This unfortunately meant that I could no longer attend a weekly Bible Study or a leadership training I was nominated for. This has actually been one of the hardest things to deal with in recent months.

Goals for This Year

  • In some ways, not knowing where I will be living or working in five months, after graduation, has caused me anxiety. In other ways, it has led me to appreciate more of what God wants me to learn and do here in the present day. One goal of mine is to focus more on giving up control to Him whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I think the whole “God won’t give you more than you can take” notion is mostly false- I think He gives us a great deal more than we can take sometimes so that at the end, there is no question of who should take the credit for it.
  • I have already talked about the necessity of spending more time reading my Bible, but as soon as I have a spare evening again, I am very much looking forward to joining a small group again for Bible study. I am very much missing the provided accountability and friendship!
  • Continue to invest time and love into the Urban Eagles. Last month, due to my course schedule, I had to stop volunteering in Grier Heights. This was hard for me to accept (I think I was in denial for a bit that a new elective option would be added to a morning), but am so thankful to continue to commit to the Forest Hills neighborhood. These young girls give me some of the most joy all week, and the leaders are all now some of my very best friends!
  • Create boundaries. This is one I will not expand on here, but is certainly a continuous goal, especially for a social worker.
  • Above all, develop more of a passion to know Christ more so that I may be able to know and love others more.

Any prayers for me as I continue writing, studying, learning, and working are much appreciated!

Blessings. xx

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Reflections on Baptisms…

Instead of going into all of the things going on in my life right now however, I want to just free write on a subject that has been a big topic of conversation lately: baptisms.

Many of you readers know that I was baptized this past spring- you can read that entry where I wrote out my testimony here. It was so nerve wracking for me to publish. Openly sharing things that I would often prefer to just forget with people who I had never met made me feel very vulnerable, but in a good way. It was an opportunity for people to see a little bit of how I got to where I am now, and I wanted to take the risk that some people might be critical or skeptical for those who would find it meaningful for making decisions in their own lives. It was someone else’s online testimony that inspired me to write my own, and I wanted to continue the chain reaction. To date that entry has something like seven or eight times the views of my next “most popular” entry, which blew me away!

After I was baptized, which for me was a public declaration of who exactly it was that I belonged to, I was quickly affirmed (as in probably like, 5 minutes later) in something that I have since heard time and time again: baptism doesn’t actually make you do things right, or even better, for that matter.

I think a lot of times people fall into this misimpression, often without even being aware of it, that after you make that decision and go through the act of becoming baptized, suddenly you will become full of the Holy Spirit and be kinder, more loving, get rid of perhaps any addictions or constraints, and just generally be full of freedom. At Bible study recently (I am so happy to have already found one in Charlotte!) we discussed the baptisms that are currently going on at church (see footage here– it was amazing to witness in person how much joy there was!) and what our own (if we had done it) meant to us.

This was something that was so good for me to both hear and talk about without even knowing it. I loved hearing others’ testimonies, sharing in the sense of relief and peace that they felt coming out of the water, and how despite the fact that baptism did not actually change their current struggles or perhaps the number of mistakes they made in a day, that it represented how none of it mattered when their past and future was washed clean.

When the old self is drowned in the water, and instead you have something new come out.

Something that will live forever, long after the world is gone.

This seems to be the point that some cite when they say they do not know yet if they want to take that next step to become baptized. Sort of a “I need to get my life more together before I can take that step. I need to be more progressed in my faith,” and so forth. It makes me wonder about all of the different ways in which people perceive baptism. Whether it’s just something ceremonial, or whether it really is something that can mark the day for you when you made the decision that it was time for a change.

I wasn’t even close to perfect when I got baptized. Let me just say that I am fully aware of that right now. I am sure there are people who will vouch for me. Probably a lot of Duke fans. (just kidding… bad joke.)

But despite the fact that the act didn’t actually make me a better person, or wash away the consequences of maybe mistakes I had made in the past or things that I was still in the middle of working out, it was a moment that I knew nothing could take away from me. And from talking to the other young adults in church who made that same decision, it sounds like we are on the same page there.

Here is my attempt at an example, despite the fact that I have no practical experience as a wife.

The act of getting married doesn’t mean that your love has peaked, everything in your relationship is perfect, and you have 100 percent faith that it is going to hold that same level of perfection for the rest of your lives together. But it is a symbol saying “I choose you”. It is making the statement and declaration in front of the world that they now know who you belong to in that context, and that you will not pick another man or woman over your spouse. Your relationship will, however, continue to change, grow and develop over the course of your entire marriage.

This is the best way I know how to describe baptism: something that is not the end, and in some ways even, not the beginning, as there are many people I know (and I was one of them) who accepted Christ awhile before they were actually baptized. People fall in love before they get married, too. And likewise, exchanging rings doesn’t mean that suddenly you or the other person will become a better partner in that relationship, or even that things will change at all from that point forward.

It is a public announcement of your love and commitment to another person.

Baptism is a public announcement of your love and commitment to God by knowing who you are in Jesus Christ.

Who are you in Jesus Christ?

Loved

Forgiven

Chosen

Someone who has their whole past, and future, wiped clean of mistakes

Fought for

Cherished

Just to totally top off my analogy here, I am pasting the lyrics to a song I love by Tenth Avenue North called “Beloved”, which is written as if it were Jesus saying his wedding vows to us:

Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need

Give me your life
The lust and the lies
And the past you’re afraid I might see
You’ve been running away from me

You’re my beloved
lover I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us and it binds you to me
It’s a mystery

Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need

I’m the giver of life
I’ll clothe you in white
My immaculate bride you will be
Come running home to me

You’re my beloved
lover, I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us and it binds you to me

You’ve been a mistress, my wife
Chasing lovers that won’t satisfy
Won’t you let me make you my bride
You will drink of my lips and you’ll taste new life

You’re my beloved
lover, I’m yours
Death shall not part us
It’s you I died for

For better or worse
Forever we’ll be
My love it unites us
and it binds you to me
It’s a mystery