When you're feeling dry

It's almost time for the third (in)couragers session to start. My stress is extremely high, and I'm feeling bone dry.

There is so much awesome that we are planning for this session, and yet all I'm feeling is fear. That I won't have enough joy for sharing, that I can barely handle working motherhood and how in the world can I cheer other moms through it? And yet I recognize that this fear is not from God. I know He will use my weakness as His strength. 

I know that He is my adequacy, even on days when I forget I need to drop off the kids at daycare and miss the bus and get to work 2 hours late. Even when my husband and I fight and I go to bed angry. Even when my kids cry that they miss me. Even when I have nothing of my own to offer, He is my life-source, my living well, my bread and wine. Jesus is my victory. 

So if you are feeling dry and overwhelmed too, I hope you will come to Him with me. If you're feeling weak too, let's let Him be strong for us. 

Because these empty times are when He fills, when He shows up in power to shower us with refreshing rain and bear fruit in us. These are the times when He brings dry bones rattling to life, putting on sinew and muscle and flesh. When He breathes his spirit, puts on his hands and says Walk. Move forward in faith. Do not fear. 

He's got this. 


10 tips for the (Christian) college freshmen

They were giggly, silly sixth graders when I interned for our church's youth group. We went to Valleyfair and the water park, went sledding and baked cookies. Somewhere along the way, those giggly girls turned into wise young women, who needed boy advice and help with loving their friends through hard times. And this month they start college -- two of them at my alma mater. :) I've been thinking about what I can pass along to them -- the lessons I learned the hard way that might make their next 4-5 years a little more fun and life-giving. 

So, to my old small group girls and everyone else who needs it, here are my top ten tips for starting out at college:

1. Be real. Those first few weeks will be nerve-wracking as everyone tries to adjust to a new home and a new community. Be real with the people you meet -- let them know you're nervous, let them get to know your weird side. 

2. Plan your time wisely. Yes, there is that little detail about going to class. And doing homework. So it's important to find a way to schedule your time well, to make sure your priorities are being lived out. Make a list of the things that you need/want to do each week, and assign them a priority. Then schedule a time to do those things! If you have a smart phone, use your Reminders or Calendar app to help you stay on track. It doesn't sound very fun or glamorous, but planning your time will help you to manage stress and make time for work and fun. 

3. Be open. Your college friends might be completely different than anyone you hung out with in high school - and that's okay. Be open to meeting new people. Open your dorm room door; invite people in for snacks or a movie night. Especially in the beginning, everyone is looking for a place to belong, and you can help to make people feel at home. And again, be open about who you are and what you're feeling. 
Luau fun with my hall in 2005

4. Say yes. I know some of those orientation activities probably sound awful and awkward. But just say yes, just go. When new friends invite you to go to the football game, just say yes, even if you'd prefer some quiet time. Those first activities are often where people form their friend groups, and you don't want to miss out! 

5. Talk to your professors. Ask questions if you don't understand an assignment. Let them know if your group for a project isn't working out. I had one (new) professor who cut out about half of our assignments because one person was willing to speak up and tell him (respectfully) that it was way too much to expect from us. 

6. Join something. Find an on-campus group that fits your interests! Whether it's a sports team or a drama team, a Bible study or service group, find something to plug into. And if there isn't anything that you're interested in, don't be afraid to start something! 

7. Be free. I've noticed that at Christian college, everyone wanted to pretend that they were perfect. There seemed to be a lot of hidden shame, even though we were all free in Christ. Don't be ashamed of your sin -- confess it, receive God's forgiveness, and move forward in freedom. And don't be afraid to confess your sins to close friends, because chances are some of them struggle with the same things. 

8. Really get to know people. You don't have to stay at surface-level just because you're only going to be in college for a limited number of years. Invest in people, truly get to know them, even if you have to say goodbye someday. These friends may become life-long or they may be there for a season. Either way, it is worth loving them well! 

9. Live on campus. I know it can be expensive, but if at all possible, live on campus. My second year of college I lived back at home, and it was cheap but lonely. I loved having my parents nearby again and eating homemade food -- but I missed out on developing a lot of friendships. 

10. Plug into a church. Even if you go to a Christian college and feel like you're already at church all day every day -- find a church and serve there. Find a place off campus that has people of all ages, because you'll miss seeing kids and grandparents! Get to know people, ask for a mentor, and you will grow so much more than you would've while sleeping in. ;) 

And to my girls -- know that I'm praying for you as you go off on your own. You are smart, wise, kind, and beautiful. Dream big, work hard, and love well. God is going to do great things in and through you! I love you so much.

For those who've been there -- what advice would you add? 


On Rightness and Love, Food and Faith

After my first baby was born I became a food Pharisee. At 21, I was the first of my friends to get married and have a child -- and I was just a little concerned about proving I could do it all right. I turned up my nose at white flour and sugar, becoming almost obsessed with "real food". I worried over what to buy, cook, and eat more than almost anything because I wanted to feed my family right.

This summer I've been reading Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist with the Bloom book club, and her words have inspired me to think differently about food, nourishment, and hospitality. She says, "You can decide that every time you open your door, it's an act of love... every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving." Ouch. Neurotic proving? I know that has been my hidden motive too often.

I want the goal of my cooking, my hospitality, to be love. And love is not so concerned about it's own "rightness" as it is with what others want and need.
I'm learning that sometimes nourishment is having pancakes, made with white flour and chocolate chips and feeling the comfort of childhood memories. And sometimes nourishment is having friends bring their own meat to grill and getting bags of salad and chips, because I'd rather celebrate life together than give excuses that I don't have time to cook. Sometimes it's preparing homemade chicken broth for chicken noodle soup when my whole family is sick with a cold. It's a balance of nutrition, practicality, and heart, and knowing when to favor one over the other.

Sometimes, my faith has also been more concerned with proving something than about love. I went to Bible college, solidified my views on biblical interpretation and theology, and was convinced I had it all right. But I hadn't done much about actually loving people, actually living it out.

I've been slowly learning that faith in Jesus isn't about me proving that I know the Right Way to Think or the Right Way to Act. It's abiding with Him, being nourished by the Bread and Wine and Water of life. It's receiving from God and pouring out into the world.

This walk of faith is not about me and my right-ness. Romans 3:25-26 says, "God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness." (MSG) Friends, may we live in His rightness, trusting in His saving power, and be delivered from pride and proving.

Grace & Peace,