Abortion and The Women’s March

From both sides of the aisle, assumptions have been flung back and forth.  For the sake of dialogue, for the sake of the healing of our country and the healing of the church, we must put all assumptions aside.

So let’s start this conversation from square one, with a blank slate.  For the sake of  dialogue and healing, let’s assume that I am not a monster who advocates for the murder of children.  For the sake of dialogue and healing, I will assume that you are not an ignorant racist who cannot look past your own self interest.  We, as followers of Christ, are united under the Kingdom of Heaven, and I refuse to believe these assumptions are true about you or about myself.

I am pro-life.  I am pro-life because I am anti-abortion.  I value, in the deepest and most intimate places inside my heart, that every life is a gift from God, that we are all created in His image, and that he has knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.  Because of this deep and intimate belief, I am pro-life.

I am pro-life for the young mother with nowhere to turn, I am pro-immigrant and pro-refugee, I am pro-woman, I am pro-people of color, I am pro-people with disabilities, I am pro-sexual assault victims, I am pro-LGBQT communities, and I am pro-life for the unborn child without a voice to advocate for itself.  Because of all of these things, I am, from a political standpoint, pro-choice.

I support Planned Parenthood because I support access to women’s healthcare.  I do not classify abortion as healthcare.  I, just like you, believe that abortion is absolutely heartbreaking and is the absolute last answer to any young mother’s circumstances.  I am thankful that it is illegal for my tax dollars to be spent on abortion.  I hope, in those same deepest and most intimate places of my heart, that no woman ever chooses that ending the life of her child is the right thing to do.

That’s why I am thankful that today, January 23rd, 2017, abortion rates are at an all time low.  I am screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-7-55-41-pmthankful for Planned Parenthood, and for the expansion of healthcare, because the expansion of these organizations has made these abortion rates possible.  Because of Planned Parenthood, women have access to birth control and sex education.

Because I am pro-life, I cannot be a single issue voter.  If I vote solely on the heartbreak I feel towards abortion, then I would be shutting the door in the face of every other population I am called to love.  In a perfect world, Jesus would come to earth and run for office, and we could all get behind him and join a campaign team together.  However, Jesus is not one of our political candidates.  Neither candidate we voted for on November 8th aligned with our Gospel beliefs.  So we must be willing to look deeper than any one issue.

Criminalizing abortion will not solve our country’s problem with abortion, just like criminalizing drugs did not solve our country’s problems with drugs.  Not only with this criminalization be counter productive and completely unrealistic, but it would only serve to further marginalize already marginalized populations, and as followers of Christ, these are the very populations that we are called to protect.

I wish that there wasn’t an aisle between us, and in heaven there won’t be.  But in the midst of a political season, and now a new presidency, that has left so many of us hurt, angered, scared, and scarred, let’s tear down walls and begin to build bridges.  Let’s facilitate conversations that assume the best about each other and that seek loving answers to incredibly difficult and nuanced questions.

What would it look like if we came together?  If we, as women, as strong women advocating for each other and for our children, were able to look past assumptions and have conversations?  We might start to look a little bit more like the Kingdom of God.

 

 


 

 

For more perspectives on the decision to vote for a pro-choice candidate, Rachel Held Evans has some very valuable insights. You can find a couple of them here, and here.

 

 


Investing Professionally in 2017

Going back to work after a long break is hard.  Last week it felt especially hard.

I’m not ready to go back to work, and I’m really not ready to go back to all of the stress and anxiety that comes along with going back to a workplace that isn’t always the way I think it should be.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I mean, whose work place is always 100% ideal?  There are a few careers and workplaces I have idealized and fantasized about for far too long, but I’m sure even these places that are so picture-perfect in my mind aren’t as picture-perfect in real life.  So if 2017 is a year of investing, what does it look like for me to invest in a workplace and in a career, even when it’s really, really hard?

I could talk about all of the ideal ways I should be approaching my job and my career path, but before I jump straight into the way perfect Erin or perfect Ms. Green (both of those characters are fictitious, btw) would act in every stressful workplace situation, I want to first identify the things that I believe.  Just like I did when looking at investing financially, I want to start with the foundational beliefs.  So what is it that I believe about this area of my life?

  • I believe that I have a calling placed upon my life, and I know that right now, I am called to be inside a classroom full of fifth graders.
  • I believe that I have a higher calling, a forever calling, and that is to the Kingdom of God.  Any earthly calling that I pursue should be ultimately pointing me back towards Jesus and His forever redemption.

Until this forever calling is fulfilled, until I am at the gates of heaven, I believe that I am in my right now calling to point towards this forever calling.  I believe this means that:

  • I am called to do all things with patience, prayer, and love.  I believe that I am called to be a light in the midst of darkness.
  • I am called to do my job with excellence.
  • Jesus has uniquely gifted me with multiple passions and multiple facets in which I can pursue those passions.  I believe that I am called to steward each of these unique gifts that I have been given, and that I am called to listen to the direction the Lord calls me.

These are the things that I foundationally believe about my job and my career path.  These are the things that should transform the way that I approach each day at work.  The reality is, it is much easier to write these things out than it is to actually act accordingly.  Just like with my finances, it is much easier to say that my bank account belongs to Jesus.  Actually giving my money away and capping my taco purchases at El Chilito is much more challenging.

So how do I take a step past just believing theses things, and how do I wake up each morning and carry these beliefs into work with me?  Unfortunately, I haven’t found any super cool apps to make me be a kind and grateful teacher and coworker (I searched “be nice app” on the apple store, but all that came up were some selfie editing tools and a “call Santa” app.  The Santa one seems pretty cool).

If these are the things that I really believe, then here are some ways I think these beliefs should manifest at work and in my attitude towards work:

  • If I believe that I have a forever calling higher than my right now calling, then I can rest in the knowledge that my day or week or month at work is not the end-all-be-all of my life.  There is more.  I am not limited to living in the right here and right now.  If I do excellently at work, it’s for the Kingdom.  If I do poorly at work, it’s okay, because I know that in the end, it’s not about me, and there is someone greater who holds each of my students in the palm of His hand.
  • If I believe that I am called to be a light in the midst of darkness, then I am called to pray.  And if I really believe in Scripture truths, then I believe in the power of prayer, and prayer can transform everything.  What would it look like if I prayed for those students and coworkers who are the hardest for me to love?  Like, really prayed for them, instead of complaining about them?
  • If I believe that I am called to do my job with excellence, then I am free to pursue lines of continuing education and continuing opportunity for the sake of Christ and His calling, not just for my own personal, financial, or professional gain.
  • If I believe that I am uniquely gifted and called, then I can live in the confidence that my worth comes from Christ, that I am where I’m supposed to be, and that the path I’m on is the one He has set out for me.  I can live in the freedom of knowing that when it’s time for a change in setting or a change in career, that will be a calling that has been ordained by the One who is greater than I, and His plan is sovereign.  I am free to be used for the Kingdom in the capacity Jesus sets before me in each season.

 

Jesus, thank you for my job, than you for a career that I am passionate about.  Thank you that my security comes from you, and not from how well I perform.  Lead me to invest my hands and my heart in the work you have set before me.  Let me listen to Your calling, and let me follow wherever you lead me.  Amen.

 


Investing Financially in 2017

Earlier this week, I reflected on 2016 and looked forward to what God might have in store for me in 2017.  As I looked forward, the word investment kept coming to mind.  I want 2017 to be a year of investment, the year that I invest in the things that I foundationally value.  I want the way that I invest my time and my money to match the things that I proclaim to believe.

In working through this idea of investment this morning, I decided to break it down into 5 categories of investing: investing spiritually, financially, relationally, personally, and professionally.  The things that I foundationally believe in all five of these categories should transform the way that I approach each of them.

Processing through each of these categories is a mighty task, and one that I will be tackling over the coming days and weeks.  Today, I want to take a look at what it looks like to invest financially, and I want take a minute to share a couple of my favorite financial tools as well.

In sorting through these 5 categories, the first question I’ve been asking myself is: what do I believe about this area of my life?

Financially, I believe that:

  • My money is not my own, it is a gift from Jesus.
  • I am called to be a good and responsible steward of the money I have been given.
  • I am called to be generous.
  • Money is an earthly tool, it is not eternal.  It can be used for good, and its value can also be dangerously distorted and used against us.  Scripture speaks all too clearly against coveting wealth.
  • No amount of earning, saving, or spending money will ever satisfy me.

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” Ecclesiastes 5:10

 

So if these are my foundational beliefs about money, then my bank statements should reflect these beliefs.  Well, last month I looked to see if that was true.  I printed out just one month of spending, color coded the ish out of it, and looked at where I was really investing my money.

Surprise surprise, the ways that I was actually spending my money did not align with the things I really believe about money.  I think that in the midst of yielding a tool as powerful as a shiny new credit card or a stack of cold hard cash (more realistically a credit card, I don’t think I’ve ever held a stack of cold hard cash), satan tricks me into believing the exact opposite of what I really want to believe.  He whispers in my ear, “you worked hard for this money, you can spend it however you want to.  You should really spend this money on yourself because [XYandZ].  This purchase will satisfy you.”  And I take the bait, despite the truths that I really know, almost every single time.

So if I’m going to approach money differently this year, I need to equip myself to let the truths that I believe transform the way that I use my money.  Equipping ourselves, in every arena, starts with prayer.

Jesus, thank you for blessing me with a job and a salary. Thank you for provision.  I pray that you would walk beside me and guide me as I learn to use my money to glorify You and Your Kingdom.  I pray against satan and his lies, and I pray that you would take ahold of my heart and point it away towards you and away from greed and selfishness.  Amen.

Alright, let’s take a look at some logistical ways to be good stewards of the money we have been given.

Last year I started my first big girl job, set up a big girl budget, and then proceeded to ignore the budget and do whatever I wanted.  Responsible AF.

I think that I really did put a good foot forwards towards budgeting, I just didn’t have the discipline to sustain it, and I was paying way too much for my apartment.  Now in a different (much more affordable) living situation, and a year and a half of salary under my belt, I’m ready to re-evaluate my budgeting.

This is the blog post I wrote last year about budgeting.  I used Nicole Lapin’s Rich Bitch book to guide me, and I still think this book is the most amazing thing.  (If you’re looking for the DIYs on budgeting, start here.)  I reopened this blog post last week, and sat down to reevaluate my budget.  I set up my budget again with the new numbers, and made some changes in my bank accounts to follow.  My bank accounts have been set up as follows:

  • I have three bank accounts: one checking account for scheduled payments, one checking account for “extra” purchases, and one savings account.
  • My Venmo and Paypal accounts are linked to both of these checking accounts, so that I can take money out of the appropriate accounts and don’t have to remind myself to make transfers.
  • I have two credit cards, but I have very limited reasons to use these credit cards.  I think building a credit score is an important thing to do as an adult, but thoughtless spending on credit cards has been my demise.

Scheduled payments from my first checking account include tithing, rent, bills, my car payment, insurance, etc.  There is also cushion in this account for spontaneous giving.  Tithing is first on my list intentionally.  If my money is not my own, if I truly believe that it belongs to Jesus, then giving is uncompromisingly the first thing I should be doing.  The amount that I give and the ways that I give should result in bending my heart towards Jesus and away from myself.

The second bank account is the one that I’m free to use for groceries, gas, and any additional things that I want to spend my money on.  All purchases, with a few exceptions, are being made with the debit card linked to this account.  My credit cards will be used for store specific purchases, and money will immediately be transferred over to cover the charge.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except for the continuing debt to love one another.”  Romans 13:8

I’ve found some really great apps that I’ve set up to help keep me on track (I am all bout apps rn):

unnamed-1Echo keeps track of prayer requests and sends you reminders to pray at designated times.  Financial giving should be rooted in prayer, and should spur us on towards continued prayer.  I’ve set up reminders in Echo, so that each month when scheduled donations are sent, my phone also reminds me to pray for that specific ministry.  I think that this has the potential to change the way that my heart approaches giving, and will allow me to invest spiritually as well as financially.

intuit_mint_logo_detailMint is a budgeting app that you may already be familiar with.  I’ve had it for a long time, but it was pretty meaningless to me.  Last week, though, I went back into my account, set up the Mint budgets according to my own budgets I should be following, and have been diligent about opening the app and making sure that purchases and charges are being filed under the correct categories.  If used well, this app is bomb.

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Credit Karma gives you free access to your credit scores and gives you insight into why your scores are what they are.  It also shows you all of the balances on your lines of credit.  I’ve learned a lot from it.

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Stash is an investment app that makes it easy to invest your money.  It helps you to set up an investment strategy that’s right for you, and then makes it super easy to sustain.  I’ll be honest, this is a chapter of Rich Bitch that I need to revisit to understand the ins and outs of stocks and mutual funds, but if you’re looking to invest, this is a cool place to start.  If you click this link, you’ll get a free $5 to get started.

These apps have been very helpful so far, and I’m excited to continue using them for as long as they are tools that will lead me towards being a better steward of the gifts I have been given.  If these apps are opened too frequently, or start to sway my heart words the idolatry of earning, saving, or spending money, then they will be gone.

 

As excited as I am for the fresh start of a new year and new ways to invest my money, what I am looking forward to most is this: I want my financial investments to be a springboard for investing my heart.  I am thrilled to be investing in my church, and in the ministries of my friends, and those investments should be propelling me towards thanksgiving and prayer.  Jesus tells us, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and I want for my treasure to be invested in and to guide my heart towards good, Kingdom worthy, freedom proclaiming things.

 


Believing and Investing: A New Year

I’ve been asked quite a few times this semester, “are you still writing?”  And my answer is always yes.  Yes, I am still writing.  I am writing curriculum and research and page after page of notes about curriculum and research.  Writing sweet words about Jesus on this blog however, not so much.

This semester has been one of the busiest of my life (I think I always feel this way, but I think this semester really takes the cake).  With the beginning of grad school, my second year of teaching, and leading a small group for college girls, I was just keeping my head above water.  As much as I love it, and as much as it fills me up and gives me life, writing on this blog has taken back burner.  The compilation of all of these things, plus the immense weight this political season, left me with the overwhelming feeling of 1), I don’t have time to write, and 2), even if I did have time, what could I possibly add to the conversations already happening?

But with 2016 coming to a close, and a new semester and new year ahead, and a little bit of free time left on my hands before the craziness begins again, now is a better time than ever to take a moment to write and reflect.

2016 has been an incredible year of growth.  At the end of 2015, I sat in a counselor’s office and cried.  I mean, like really cried.  I’m amazed that she understood even a single word I was able to get out.  I cried because post-grad life had left me in a puddle of messy transition and intense insecurity.  I felt left out of anything and everything happening outside of my little secluded world of UT Elementary and my one bedroom apartment.  I was figuring out what it meant to be an adult and a professional, and in the process, everything else fell to pieces.

This angel of a counselor told me things that I already knew.  She told me I needed to join a church, I needed to join a small group, I needed to read my Bible, I needed to turn to Jesus.  She told all of the things that Jesus says are true about me, and I kept telling her, “I already know that!  I tell high school girls these things every week.”  And she replied, “You don’t believe them for yourself.”  And she was absolutely right.  These truths would never take root and transform me as long as I only believed them for other people.  I needed to believe these things for myself.  So that’s what I set out to do.

2016 became a year of believing.  It’s a been a year of believing that Scripture truths are not just spoken about and for other people, they are spoken about and for me too.  2016 has been a year of choosing to believe that I am loved, that I am cared for, that my days have already been written out ahead of me, and that I can find rest at the feet of Jesus.  It’s been a year of believing in God’s provision, believing that He works in seasons, and He will provide what I need and what I desire in His own timing.

2016 has been a year of believing in the power of vulnerability.  It’s been a year of confessing my hardest struggles and inviting others into the conversation.  It’s been a year of crying and admitting that I am broken, that specific things and specific relationships have broken me, and that I need healing and redemption.  It’s been about believing that it’s okay to not be okay.

2016 has been a year of believing in the goodness of discipline.  It’s been a year of getting back on track, of setting goals and setting the clock back that extra hour to fight for time with Jesus, and believing that this time is worth it.

 

 

If 2016 was a year of believing, I was 2017 to be a year of investing.  If I truly believe that all of these things are good, if I truly believe in the power of relationships, of discipline, of vulnerability, of provision, then I need to invest  in these things.  I need to invest my time, my money, my thoughts, my prayers.

If I am investing all of my time and money into something, then there better be a good and Godly foundational belief behind that investment.  If not, it’s gotta go.  I want to invest in Christ, and in His Kingdom, and in all of the freedom that He offers, because I believe that those are the things that are worth it.  I want these foundational beliefs to transform the way that I live.

 

So as I close the door on a tremendously hard and simultaneously good year, I am hopeful for the future.  There are things about 2017 that absolutely terrify me, yes, (the complete demise of our entire political system, etc…) but I am also tremendously hopeful.  Around each corner, I truly believe that we will continually find new pieces of Christ’s redemption.  He is always redeeming, always challenging, always working, always loving, and I can expect nothing less from Him in the coming days.

 

And with that, it’s goodbye to 2016, and hello to a new year.  Fireworks on Apple iOS 10.2 🙌🏽

 

 


Wild and Free: Book Recommendation

I always share my booklists with you before I read them, but every time, I end up going off list just a little bit.  This summer, one of my favorites has been one I purchased on a whim, unsure if I would like it or not.  Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan, has been a beautiful gift to my weary soul.

515nSd04QLL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_When I ordered this book, my only concern was that it would be another super-Christiany-suburban-white-stay-at-home-mom book, but the title said Wild and Free, and the subtitle, “a hope-filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough,” was an idea my Young Life girls and I had talked a lot about a few years ago, so I ordered it despite my reservations.  I am so thankful I did.

For a long time, I have struggled with what it means to be a Christian woman.  So often, I feel like I just don’t fit the mold.  I am too opinionated, too strong willed, too outspoken, too inclined to break the rules and dismiss authority.  When I’m around other Christian women , I often feel less than.  I feel like I don’t measure up, like everyone else is better at being a Christian than I am.  But at the same time, I don’t want to be like everyone else.  I don’t think that the word gentle describes me, and I’m 10 times more willing to use the f word than I am willing to use the word submit.  (I know, I know, if any really good Christian women read this blog, they are scoffing at me rn 😁.)

Wild and Free has done something beautiful inside of my rebellious soul.  It’s reinforced in me the truth that I am enough, and despite my tendency to drop a curse word in every other sentence, I am not too much.  I have felt convicted about what it means to speak and pursue life, and what it means to live in the freedom that the Gospel offers.  It’s beautiful and hope filled and has allowed me to believe the Gospel truths that the Lord proclaims over me.  I am starting to really believe the truths that I tell high school girls every week: Jesus will never love me more than He does right now, in this very moment, and He allows me to walk forward in freedom.

 

This book is great to read on your own, and would also be a beautiful study between friends or in a book club.  Give it a read, ladies.  Let Jesus speak His wild freedom into your hearts.  You can check out more sweet things for Jess and Hayley at wearewildandfree.com.

 

*For those of you who are really concerned about my repulsion to the word submit, rest assured that Jesus and I will tackle it during premarital counseling. 🙃

 

 

 

 

 


A Prayer for Dallas, a Prayer for Justice

For the past few years, as I’ve learned more about race and privilege in our country, as I’ve learned more about the discrimination against people of color in America, I’ve become more and more passionate about fighting for change, joining the Black Lives Matter movement, and using my privilege to advocate for truth and justice.  But this week, for the  first time, my passion turned to heartbreak.  For the first time, I was broken over our country.  I sat in a circle full of women I love and admire, and choked back sobs as I prayed for racial reconciliation in our country.  I prayed because it was all I knew how to do.  I prayed because I cannot change the hearts of anyone around me, but I know the One who can.  Ultimate truth and ultimate justice come from the One who created it all, and in the midst of the deaths of two more black men and five police officers, all I can do is fall to my knees.

 

Lord, you are good, and you are sovereign.  In the midst of heartbreak and chaos, You are our peace, you are our strength.  I beg that you would bring reconciliation to a broken and hurting world.  I pray that you would bring us together, unite us as one people under You.  I pray that you would open the eyes of your church, that you would open the eyes of the privileged who follow you.  Make it abundantly clear to us that your Kingdom is one of beauty and color, that your Church is not exclusively white.  Open our eyes, open our hearts, let us scream and shout for those who have lost their voices.  

Oh Lord, let change begin with us, with your church.  Let your people be the first to stand up and proclaim that something here is not right.  Let us scream and shout and mourn for our brothers and sisters of color.  Let us join them, let us link arms as we proclaim that their lives matter too.  Let us be slow to speak and quick to listen to those who are in pain.  We are hurting and we need you.  White, black, brown- we need you.  Show us that we need each other.  

Let us unashamedly proclaim the names of those who have not known justice while here on this broken earth.  

Lord we lift up the black men and women, boys and girls, who were forcibly removed from their home countries and brought to America in shackles, where we began a legacy of slavery, brutality, and murder.  Open our eyes to the truth that the system of slavery has left a lasting impact on our country and our communities.

We lift up the leaders who fearlessly fought against the injustice of Jim Crow laws in the 1950’s and 60’s.  We lift up Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy of of nonviolence was rooted fully in your Gospel.  We lift up Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, who refused to believe that they were less than.  We lift up John Lewis and those who sat down in Greensboro sit ins, despite the hate thrown at them.  We lift up all who marched, all who spoke, all who used their bodies and their voices to change the legal systems set up against them.  We lift up those who marched from Selma to Montgomery, not once, but three times, to stand up for justice.  We lift up those who gave up their lives for freedom.

We lift up Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. We lift up all of the men and women of color who were killed at the hands of hate, never to see justice in their lifetimes.  Lord, let our hearts break over the truth that these legal systems have not yet been fully rectified.

We lift up Michael Brown, we pray for his family, that two years after his murder they would continue to heal from the results of police actions taken against their son.  We lift up those affected by the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, that their battle cry of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” would still be heard around the world.

We lift up Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and the hundreds of other unarmed men and women of color who have died at the hands of those responsible for protecting them.

We lift up Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and we beg that these deaths would be the last, that this would be the moment our country proclaims that enough is enough.

We lift up Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa, the five police officers killed while protecting Dallas citizens’ rights to peacefully protest.  We lift up their families. We ask for healing.  We lift up the officers who ran towards the danger, echoing the cry that Black Lives Matter.

We pray for those who have been told that their lives matter less because of the color of their sin.  We beg for forgiveness for the way we have treated those whose skin does not match our own.  We beg that you would convict our hearts, that you would change us.

We beg that you would raise up leaders in our country brave enough to join the fight, brave enough to proclaim freedom and justice.  Build up a police force dedicated to empowering the communities they serve.  Rebuild the system that has been devastatingly broken.  

Lord, we ask that you would convict the hearts of those who have committed acts of ill intent towards our bothers and sisters of color.  Convict the voices of bias inside all of us.  Give us a hunger and a thirst for justice, a hunger and a thirst that can only point back to You.  This is your battle, Lord.  We are your soldiers, let us be your hands and feet.  Lead us to the victory that belongs to you.  And in the end, sweet Jesus, let us pass through the gates of heaven arm in arm, rejoicing in eternal life together.  Let your sons and your daughters rejoice as one.  

We love you.  Amen.

 

“I am convinced that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed within us.”  Romans 8:18

 

 


My Beautiful Graduates

The day has finally come.  My sweet Young Life girls are high school graduates, strewn across the country, ready to pursue the next four years of their lives with a spirt of grace and adventure.

Girls, my words could never fully encompass what the last four years have been, but it would be a shame to not try.  This one is for you.

It feels like just yesterday we were sitting outside in the McCallum courtyard, me trying to be cool, you trying to not talk to me.

Well, really, it all started before that.  Here is how I really ended up with you girls.

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Natalie sent an email, and I called dibs.  August 7, 2012.

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We went to Mozart’s.  Natalie got a strawberry steamer, which I pretended was cool, but was really just warm milk and pretty weird.  We talked about her moving to Austin and starting high school and we realized that even with five years difference between us, we had a million things in common.

It all started from there.  I went to McCallum lunch, back in the day when leaders were still allowed in the courtyard, and I sat with some girls who didn’t want to talk to me until Natalie came and introduced me to her friends Hannah and Haley.  The group grew quickly.  At one point Meagan just jumped into my car and put her number in my phone.  Melissa showed up at sleepovers and polar bear, even though she “didn’t even go here.”

Our friendships built quickly, and I am thankful for every moment of them.

I remember those precious mornings your freshmen year, when we would sit around a table at Thunderbird and share our lives.  We talked about what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to seek Jesus.  Those times were transformative.  And then there was the time you didn’t quite make it to school on time, and Mark walked in…oops.  It was in those moments gathered around that table, sharing the Word of Jesus, that I knew these relationships were special and intimate and would last a lifetime.

I remember freshman year sleepovers, too many girls to count.  There was the time Meagan and I showered together, and somehow the curtain was pulled down.  It was one of the many, “don’t tell Mark” moments.  I don’t think there has ever been a time when whipped cream has been in the room and not ended up on my face.  I would let you girls cover my face with whipped cream a million times over if it meant that you would somehow know Jesus a little better because of it.

I remember sitting at Starbucks with you, Haley, and hearing you speak about Jesus for the first time in a way that was full of grace and gospel.  For the first time, you knew Him.  You had experienced grace, and it wasn’t about how well you had performed.  It was about the cross.  I came home and I cried that day.

 

So much can happen in four years.  So much change, so much growth, so much redemption.  Each year, our relationships have looked different, and each year, they have grown and transformed.  Sitting at your graduation parties, looking back on slideshows full of pictures from freshman year, it is evident that none of us are the same as we were when we first met.  Over the past four years, we have laughed, we have cried, we have celebrated and we have been silent.  You have faced conflict, you have been hurt, you have mourned the loss of leaders and friendships, boyfriends and relationships, and each time, we have seen redemption.  Jesus has shown up, revealing his mercy and lavishing his grace upon you.  In the end, you are not the same people because of it.  You have grown, you have been changed by the grace of an ever knowing, unconditionally loving God.

This year I have felt the sweet freedom of knowing that you are not just my Young Life girls, but you are my friends.  I have found rest in knowing that your relationships with Christ are not based on me or on my performance, but that they are based purely in the grace of Jesus.  Any part I have been able to play in that has been a gift, and the ability to step back and know that your hearts are, and forever will be, securely placed in His hands is the greatest gift that I could ever ask for.

So, Natalie, as you move across the country today, and Meagan, as you step out of being a camper into leadership at Pine Cove, and Haley, as you travel across France and eventually land back in the US at one of the country’s most prestigious universities, and Hannah, as you snapchat me from your couch until it’s time for you to head to college, and as all of you move forward into this next stage of life, know that I am right here beside you.  But more importantly, than that, Jesus is always and forever beside you, before you, and behind you.  I am forever yours, and Jesus is forever yours.  We have an eternity to share together.  The party is just getting started.

 

 


The Table: April Recap

The end of the school year brings along so much craziness.  Finals, standardized testing, graduations, with every grade comes along different stresses and a seemingly endless list of reasons to be anxious.  It was no surprise that stress and anxiety were the focus of our April conversation at The Table.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  As a teacher, there is never a time more fitting for this verse than in the middle of STAAR testing.

Unfortunately, being a believer doesn’t mean that we are somehow immune to stress.  We do, however, have a way of coping that is unknown to those who are not in Christ.  We have a hope, an endgame, a truth that tells us, in the end, it will all be okay.  In the end, you are not in control.  You cannot fix these children, you cannot solve all of their problems.  All you can do is love them with the love given to you in Jesus, and trust that in the end, their lives are in the hands of someone much more capable than ourselves.

So at the end of the school year, that is the truth that I cling to.  STAAR tests are over, lessons have been taught, some TEKS have been covered and some were never mentioned, and what’s done is done.  As my first group of students finish their last days in my classroom, and as they move onto middle school, I have faith in something and someone so much greater than myself and anything I am capable of doing or teaching.

So, teachers, let this be your hope, let this be your vision, your endgame.  You have loved your students, you have worked yourself to the ground all year long, and your students are better off because of you.  Regardless of what academia they have learned this year, they have encountered someone who knows Jesus, and they have seen Him reflected in you.  The stress and anxiety of their futures is not on your shoulders.  It is in the hands of the One who created you, who created your students, and who gave himself for us.  We can rest.

 


 

The Table has wrapped up monthly happy hours for the school year, and I have been so blessed by the beginning of this group.  There is talk of a summer book club, for anyone who is interested in participating, check out the Facebook group for more discussion around that.  We will start back up with happy hours again in August or September, and I am very much looking forward to the goodness and margaritas that lie ahead.

 

 


The Beginning of The Table

This week was our first happy hour with The Table.  I’m going to be honest, I was nervous.  I knew I would feel this way.  Jesus planted a dream in my heart and I jumped head first into planning it, just like I usually do.  I began planning and organizing, confident in the goodness of what Jesus had in store.  I knew the confidence wouldn’t last, and lies would sneak in.

The weeks and days leading up, I was nervous.  I questioned whether this was worth it, whether I had the time to organize anything, whether people would even show up.  But as anyone who knows Jesus could tell you, questioning His goodness and His plan is never a worthwhile activity.  He is good, always.  He shows up, always.  And so he did on Thursday.

We had a small group, which is almost always a gift.  A gift wrapped up with temptations of doubt and insecurity, yes, but at it’s core its a gift of intimacy, a gift of being known and heard.

It was a beautiful and diverse group, truly representing education across our city.  We had teachers spanning all the way through school system: teachers from pre school, elementary, middle school, high school, and college.  Sit in the power of that for a moment.  At every stage of development, a student in Austin has the opportunity to encounter Christ.  A teacher spending her days with three year olds sat across the table from a college professor, and they asked the same questions.  How can we give our students a glimpse of Jesus?  How can we love our students with a love that reaches beyond ourselves?  A three year old student is encountering the same gift as an overwhelmed college senior: a teacher who is praying for them, a teacher who is actively seeking Christ within this crazy school system.

Over queso and margaritas, we shared introductions and stories, struggles and dreams of what this group could be.  We talked about the struggles of balancing our own spiritual health, (something I’ve really struggled with this year), sharing grace with our students, and the power of prayer.

One of the most powerful take-aways I had from this week was the idea that while we can’t explicitly share the Gospel in our classrooms, we love differently, and our students recognize it.  Even the littlest of our students see something different and something good in us, something that can only come from Christ.  Whether they know what that love is yet or not, we can let go of our control and trust the One who called us in the first place.  Ultimately, Jesus doesn’t even need us, He just allows us to join Him in this gloriously messy mission field that is the public school system.

 

So, what’s next for The Table?  This week I will be beginning an email list of teachers interested in the group, via this survey, trying to figure out the best ways for this group to meet and to serve each other.  We have big dreams of continuing this group, and even talked about the possibilities of bringing in guests to share multiple perspectives and wisdom with us.  Our next happy hour will be Thursday, April 28th.  Mark your calendars!  I will send out details on time, place, and topics of discussion once I have some feedback from the group.

 

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take a minute to fill out the survey if you’re interested in The Table!

 

A special thanks to those who made it to the first happy hour.  I feel so blessed by this group already.

 


Aslan & Watercolors

Sophomore year of college, my roommate and I trained ourselves to get up at 6am every morning to spend time with Jesus (I’ve talked about this one a couple of times).  When I started student teaching, I rolled that time back to 5am.  These early mornings were so precious and foundational to me.  But about a year ago, I stopped wanting to spend time in the Scriptures.  Suddenly my magical routine wasn’t working anymore.  With no warning, God went silent.

I think we all experience times like these, times when Jesus just isn’t speaking loudly.  Maybe He’s whispering and we just can’t hear it, but the shock of feeling wrapped up in His embrace each morning to no longer hearing his voice is a hard punch to bear.  I feel like Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia; Aslan is here right beside me, and then I turn around and He’s gone again with no promise of when He will return.  He’s there, but He isn’t.  He’s with us, but we’re alone.

But Aslan is always on the move, and Jesus is always good.  He is alive and active, working in our lives and walking beside us each step of the way.  His presence in our lives looks different in each season, but in each season, He is there.

In the past year, I’ve come to learn one thing.  Jesus is the same, today and forever, and yet in each season He is revealing to us new facets of His grace.  In each season, I encounter a new side of Him.  In each season, He calls me to something new, to something a little higher and a little harder.  He challenges my routine and calls me to follow where He is leading.

All of this to say, my college routine wasn’t working anymore, and Jesus wanted me to meet Him somewhere else.  In this new season of life, He has led me into the most beautiful dance with Him.  I’m back to my 5am mornings, but they are no longer stale and barren; they have been transformed into a rich and colorful time of drawing near to my Jesus once again.  Who would have thought a little bit of paint could change so much?

I put away the devotionals and invested in a journaling Bible and watercolor pens.  Setting aside the commentary and focusing on the Word alone, rhythmically reflecting on sometimes just one verse, has changed everything.  Aslan is back.

And then—oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him. … “Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.”
…  “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” -CS Lewis, Prince Caspian

I have found this method of Bible journaling and coloring so effective, so I want to share the practicalities of it with you.  Here’s what it has looked like for me while going through Ephesians this week:

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Sometimes I really do focus on just a few words.  Ephesians 1-3 are all about unity and grace, and then you get to Ephesians 4-6, where there are subtitles like, “instructions for Christian living.”  For a girl who has hated following rules since the day she could say, “no,” this is a tough section for me to get excited about.  But within these chapters, Paul says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.”  (Ephesians 5:1), and this verse spoke so much to me that I ended up focusing on the idea of what it means to live and respond to instruction as a dearly loved child.  Those four words were so powerful.

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The single column and wide margins of this journaling Bible make it so perfect for writing and reflecting.  As much as I love the marked up, falling apart Bible I have had for years, it has been surprisingly powerful to have a new Bible with fresh pages.  It has really allowed me to read the same passages with new eyes and an open heart.  Here’s another example from John of how great these margins are:

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As always, everything I buy is straight from Amazon.  Here’s the shopping list for all of the tools I’ve been using and loving:

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  NIV Bible Journal Edition, $30

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Water Color Brush Pens, $10 for a 5 pack

Zebra Highlighter Milliner, $7

Zebra Highlighter Milliner, $7

 

 

Paper Mate Flair Pens, $13

Paper Mate Flair Pens, $13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve never used the Amazon mobile app before, download the app and use the code ERIN12599N at check out to save $5!  And while I’m sending you Amazon links, I might as well throw The Chronicles of Narnia onto this list for those of you who are still waiting to step through the wardrobe.

 

Think you might try Bible journaling?   I would love to hear about it!  Leave a comment or send me an email.  There are some pretty cool online communities of women practicing Bible journaling as well, check out IllustratedFaith.com if you’re interested in seeing more.