Uncategorized, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A Light in the Darkness {wonder-full wanderings}

A pretty common childhood fear is the fear of the dark.  As we grow up, the actual anxiety of being in an unlit room typically lessens, however fear of other kinds of darkness only increases. 

We’re afraid of the darkness of tough situations in life.

We’re afraid of the darkness of sadness or depression.

We’re afraid of the darkness we see in the world around us.

We’re afraid and often when we’re afraid then we are ashamed of that fear and end up hiding in the darkness. 

One of my very favorite parts of the Christmas season is the fact that there are lights everywhere… Lights on trees, lights on houses, candles, and more.  A moment I treasure each year is at the end of the Christmas Eve Candlelight service when everyone holds their candle high in the air and Pastor reminds us of the verse we speak at each baptism:

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven. Matthew 5:16

This moment is just so beautiful.  People recount it with joy and awe. Last night I had a chance to witness this from the balcony… watching one candle, Christ’s candle, was passed from person to person and soon lit up the entire room.  And isn’t that how it’s supposed to be when we face the darkness in our world?!? The Light came into the World on Christmas and it began to spread… From Mary and Joseph … To the shepherds who began to tell others… From the 12 disciples who told others who told others… Generation to generation the light has been passed.  And now, it’s our turn. 

May we hold our light high, because it truly is a beautiful thing to watch the light overtake the darkness, overtaking our fears.  The great thing about it all is that while darkness may be scary, light always wins! 

Shine your light bright today! 

Merry Christmas! 

  

Advent, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A week of joy… {wonder-full wanderings}

Week 3 of advent complete and we’re heading in to the final stretch. Anticipation building on this last day of only lighting 3 candles on the advent wreath.

This week we got to add the joy candle.  It’s probably my favorite!  The pink standing out against the purple.  Bright against darkness.  To be honest I’ve spent a lot of time this week wondering what I would put in this week-end post about joy. I struggled not because there was no reason for joy in this week but because I began to realize how these blessings of God, these fruits of the spirit … Hope… Peace… Joy… How they all just kind of blend together.

For example, I think we might be able to argue that it’s impossible to find yourself in a place of true joy without God’s peace. And can you have peace without hope in our Savior? It seems unlikely. 

Despite how much they blend together, here were a few special moment of JOY this week:

  • Witnessing a beautiful young woman I know join God’s family forever through baptism. 
  • Worshipping with the youth band on Sunday morning. Sitting there with some amazing youth, using the gifts God has given them to enter into true worship of our King and through their song, inviting a couple hundred people to join them in the throne room.
  • Time spend with children, especially my awesome goddaughter and her two siblings… Experiencing Christmas through the eyes of children I think automatically brings joy.
  • Dinner with one of the most amazing women I know. 
  • Little kids giggling in my backseat.
  • Laughter with teammates
  • Answered prayer

And the list goes on and on… The big things… The little things.  Even if happiness eludes us, joy remains and the hymn reminded us to keep speaking joy over and over: “Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.” 

And repeat it we do because there we remember the love of God.

“The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends. WHEN DOES HE EVER END!?!” 

– Ann Voskamp 

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in this season, Joy HAS come to our world because the Lord Jesus has come. May we receive Him with glad hearts! 

  

  

Advent, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A week of Peace {wonder-ful wanderings}

Peace.

The second candle lit on the advent wreath… A call to be still and know God is God and He is in control. 

Unlike with hope last week (where the theme seemed plastered all over my life) peace was a little harder for me to come by.  In fact, I may or may not have had a texting conversation with a friend earlier this week about being frustrated with God that despite asking (maybe even begging) for peace it seemed my prayers in that situation had fallen on deaf ears.  I had found myself accepting that for some reason our good and faithful God saw it fit to not change a situation right now, okay. But couldn’t He at least come through with the peace He promises all throughout Scripture!?! Was that too much to ask?

Like a child with a parent, demanding typically doesn’t produce the desired results and I found the same to be true of my heavenly Daddy.  It seems maybe He was actually LONGING to give me peace but He knew I wasn’t able to receive it until after I finished my “temper tantrum”.  

As I continued to wander through the week, eventually peace settled in. 

My Prince of Peace sent me a note through these words written on the bottom of a Christmas card:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

He sent a faithful friend to encourage me and challenge me. 

He showed up in little kid laughter and a gorgeous sunset and in staying up way too late reading by the Christmas tree.

I just needed to remember that our Prince of Peace is also the Emmanuel, God with us… Always…Whether I sense his nearness or not, He never leaves. 

Unlike princes in fairy tales, I don’t have to sit around waiting for my Prince of Peace to come riding in to slay the dragon and rescue me… He already did that. And this Christmas, if I let myself, I simply get the joy of anticipating the day when there will be no more tears or pain or suffering or death..(Rev 21:1-5).

Only peace. 

Come, Lord Jesus.

Come Prince of Peace.

Come!

  

Uncategorized, Wonder-Full Wanderings

With Every Breath {wonder-full wanderings}

When you get home before sunset on a 55 degree December day in Buffalo it means only one thing: 

Grab your running shoes and get out the door AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! (At least for someone who enjoys running but hates treadmills as much as I do.)

While good for my body, breathing in the fresh air as my feet hit the pavement is even better for my soul.  As the body speeds up, my mind slows, and one by one the worries of life seem to fade.

About a mile into my journey, my lungs begin to remind me why 50-55 degrees is about my threshold for cold when it comes to running and why I’m stuck making treks to the local gym all winter long.  But on this unseasonally beautiful day, that’s not going to stop me.

I inhale and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

The fact that I can feel each breath is a beautiful thing as I realize again what a miracle it really is.  

I think of my amazing friend Adrian who feels and labors at every single breath every single day and am reminded to lift up a prayer for him.  

A few steps later it hits me… how could I forget… The stories of concern the doctors had as my premature self entered this world… ‘Her lungs may not be able to hold air‘ they said.  ‘She may not live long if she can’t breath.’  ‘Prepare for the worst.’

My run continues and now I’m literally laughing out loud… Running and singing… Two of my favorite things… Evidently my “weak” lungs managed to catch up just fine. 

And as headed back toward home, these thoughts caused me to remember: every single breath I take is a reason to praise.  It doesn’t matter whether a day is amazing or downright awful… It doesn’t matter if what I need to do in a day is crystal clear or completely confusing… It doesn’t matter what is happening around me, as long as there is breath in me, I have reason to praise. 

Jesus, we know we’re pretty bad at this, but would you help us praise you with every single breath? When we want to complain or be jealous, would you remind us of all we already have? When we are sad or scared or alone, would You reveal your presence? When we feel like we’re just wandering through life, would you bring us to a place of wonder?  May we breathe in your grace with each inhale, and exhale only praise!  Thanks Jesus! Amen! 

  

Advent, Wonder-Full Wanderings

Ladder-Climbers {wonder-full wanderings}

It’s before the sunrises on a new week and the bed is warm and a blankets are begging for a few more minutes of sleep, but a different calling rises, greater… The need for a different kind of rest.

Blog after blog, Facebook post after Facebook post talk of this busy time of year for families… School programs, parties, sports practices, on top of the shopping and preparing and just general craziness… and even with only myself to worry about, the busyness still invades. It threatens to take over, but once again it’s why these quiet morning moments, no matter how long or short, are critical… Oxygen to make it through the season…food for a hungry heart…rest for a weary soul.  

So the feet find their way to the floor, the candles get lit, the tree lights turned on, and I settle in.  The Scripture for the day talks of this ladder where earth and heaven meet… where Jacob declared “this is the Lord’s place”.  

Oh the ladders we climb–the corporate ladders, the keep-up-with-Jones’ ladders, the there’s-got-to-be-more-to-life ladders–all leaving us longing, never satisfied.  And then the realization that the ladder connecting heaven and earth was never meant to be climbed, but one by which our Jesus came down to us.  All my doings and thinkings and sayings can never make this “the Lord’s place” … Only the Lord in this place can do that.  Like we’ve heard but so often forget, this Christianity thing is not about what we do but about what He has done.

And so on this quiet advent morning, I show up, not to climb a ladder, not to prove myself, not to “be-a-good-Christian girl”. I show up because He showed up… in a manger and on a cross.  I come rest here not by my determination but by His invitation.  I seek not to check some boxes, but to adore a King.

And while the activities may still swirl around us, we step into the rest of the day with these mile-markers of Advent not found in any ladder-climbing pursuit: 

Hope… 

Peace… 

Joy…

Love. 

We shine them bright in a dark, desperate world of fellow ladder-climbers… pointing to the One who came down and made those things possible.

I’m watching for You today, Jesus.  Let’s do this day together!  Amen! 

 

 

Advent, Books, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A Week of Hope {wonder-full wanderings}

Week one of the beautiful advent season… One candle lit on the advent wreath… The hope candle.

  
The flame dances small but mighty both on the wreath and in our souls.  I don’t believe it’s coincidence that everywhere I turn it seems the ‘word of the week’ appears.

All through the pages of God’s Word:

“Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24

“I wait for the Lord, my souls does wait, and in His word do I hope.” – Psalm 130:5

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 

On the kitchen wall:

  
In a book I recently picked up:

“And hope happens here at this nexus of bitter and sweet. I will not talk myself out of hope, hiding behind Scripture to support all my reasons for being ‘wise’ and ‘measured’ in my responses to the not-yets in my life. Because when I choose to engage in that awkward intimacy of believing that He might say no while asking expectantly that He say yes, He gets the most beautiful part of me. 

Hope is my precious oil, mingling with tears to wash His feet.

Hope, and the vulnerability it brings, is what moves His heart.

Hope, and how it draws me to Him, means not one of those minutes curled up in pain was lost, not one of those minutes of closeness with Him is forgotten… I can discover that our greatest testimony isn’t found in those moments of victory over weakness or even in the moments of hope fulfilled. It’s found in waiting, wanting, adoring.” – Sara Hagerty

And isn’t that what this season is all about anyway… The waiting, the wanting, the adoring? 

This hope is a daring thing, because “who hopes for what we already have“?  And yet as Christians, that’s exactly what we do.  We live in the “already” and the “not yet” all at the same time.  

We have the promise: He WILL come again!  

We have the inheritance: life forever in heavenly bliss.

We know the end of the story: He wins! We win! 

Yet we still live in this painful, war-torn, desperate world, hanging on desperately to hope.  But as the advent season continues on to an advent week 2 adventure of peace, the hope flame stays lit too.  May it be true in our hearts as well. 

“Hold onto hope. Hold onto hope. Even those closest to you will challenge it, as the world around you collapses, but hope is your greatest weapon because it is an invitation into the Unseen.  … One day, the Unseen will be more real to you than what your eyes can perceive.” – Sarah Hagerty

 

Advent, College Ministry, Prayer, Wonder-Full Wanderings

 {wonder-full wanderings} at UB 

This semester I have seen God do amazing things through the time I have spent at the University at Buffalo campus.

Also true: This semester not many things have gone as planned in our work at UB. 

 “Wandering” feels like a pretty applicable word in trying to figure out where God is calling us, specifically with our Lifetree Cafe ministry. God has made it very clear that our presence on campus is necessary.  I’ve talked to at least twenty students who all think that this is an amazing ministry that needs to be happening on campus, and yet some weeks not a single person shows up.  

As I kind of talked about in my first advent post, the neat thing is that even in all the “wandering”, wonder has not been absent. Every single time I’ve left the campus this semester I’ve done so in complete awe of God’s work in that place.

Tonight was no exception.  

To sit in a room with 20+ Christian leaders right smack dab in the middle of thousands and thousands of students from all across the globe praying for them, praying for our world, praying for peace in tragedy and hope in darkness, praying for salvation of souls… Yea, it’s pretty holy ground. 

To see the fields ever so “ripe for harvest” and to be in the presence of some of the workers God has sent… it does something powerful in your heart. 

To know that the thousands of students you see walking by out the window might not have even ever heard of the Christ child born in Bethlehem, evokes urgency and passion.

I still have no clue exactly what God is calling me, or First Trinity, to specifically do in that place, but He’s working and I’m so thankful for the any chance He gives me to join Him.  

Truly wonder-filled wandering at its best! 

” We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

 See all of this advent’s Wonder-full Wanderings posts here.