Top 8 Lessons from the Past 4 Years

When I started this crazy college journey, I wrote a post with my top ten lessons from the first two weeks. In it, I share, with the honesty of an eighteen-year-old, some of the things that I hadn’t realized would be so prevalent in my transition away from home and into autonomy. Some of them are particularly nuanced to my specific move into a Christian, higher education institution, but some of them are universally applicable when it comes to general transitions. The fact that relationships take time, small talk is necessary, and it’s important to be real with people are things that proved important beyond my first couple weeks in a freshman dorm. Some transitions are more daunting than others. Going away to college is a big one, especially as teenagers stand on the precipice of the “emerging adulthood” life stage. Regardless of how life changing a transition is, the reality is that we all experience a level of shifting emotions when we transition – excitement, unknown, fear, lament, gratitude. New seasons, new experiences, and new relationships change us. It’s important to give ourselves space to reflect on that, both to process unmet expectations and unanswered prayers and to celebrate what the Lord has done beyond what we could’ve imagined. With that, it felt fitting to bookend my time at Wheaton with more lessons that I’ve learned over the past four years . . . 1. Remember that wherever you are maintains a level of imperfection, full of imperfect people and imperfect circumstances. I came into school with a level of expectation – most of which I hadn’t realized. Some of it came out of...

If You Give This Girl a Cookie

I’m sure you know the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It tells the story of a sweet little mouse who is hopelessly trapped in a circular tale of desire. He gets the cookie and realizes he wants milk. The milk makes him need napkin. The napkin reminds him that he wants to color. Coloring reminds him that he’s hungry. And so it goes… A couple of months ago, I re-read this book inside Minneapolis’ Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Children. As a chicken ran around my feet and a cat nuzzled my leg, I was struck by this bedtime story’s similarity to my twenty-something life. Then again, isn’t that often how it goes with things that were meant for little ones? Because, for as far as I’d like to imagine that I’ve come, I’m really no better than the mouse. Except we’ve swapped cookies and coloring for larger circumstances, life-related answers, and more adult-sized longings: If the Lord gives Maddie a cookie, she’ll probably wonder where she’s going to eat the cookie. When the Lord tells her where she can eat the cookie, she’ll probably wonder who she can share the cookie with. When the Lord tells her that the people she will share the cookie with aren’t here yet, she’ll probably wonder when they will show up. In waiting for them to show up, she’ll probably realize she wants some milk to go along with the cookie. So she’ll start praying for milk. When the Lord gives her a glass of milk, she’ll drink it (probably forgetting to say “thank you”) and then ask for a napkin to wipe her face with....

do I love something else more than Jesus?

We know that Christ’s proximity to us never changes, so if I’m walking through a moment, a week, or a season where He feels distant, there’s a chance there’s something going on in my heart. I question my heart when I’m feeling anxious, apathetic, or overwhelmed. If I’m wondering where Jesus is or having trouble hearing Him, I compel my heart to evaluate: Am I loving something else more than Jesus? That’s not to say that His silence or my emotions are always tied to some prioritization, sin-issue. Sometimes we walk through desert seasons, unprompted by our actions, where He is actively silent. Sometimes our emotions just don’t make logical sense. Yet, in asking these questions, I’m able to better identify if something emotional or spiritual is going on that’s causing whatever disconnect my body and soul are feeling, or if it’s something that I’ve consciously or unconsciously stepped myself into. Over the years, I’ve found a couple of good indicators that help me answer this question honestly. If any one of these things is true of my recent habits or thought patterns, it’s often an indication that something has stolen or is in the process of stealing away my first Love. 1.) If I’m not tithing. . . This is often the first place I can go when it comes to checking the priorities in my heart. Since I was little, giving generously hasn’t been a strong suit of mine. While the Lord has been gracious, patient, and convicting, it’s still one of the first things to go when I’m keeping a tight grip on my life or am...

Things I’ve Learned From Refugees

“I think about the trees, the flowers, the brown grass in the fields. They can all be patient, Certain that spring will return. They don’t have to hope, They can be sure. Hope is a thing made only for people, A scrap to hold into In darkness and in light” Home of the Brave, 246 The other day, I wrote about things I’ve learned about refugees from my work at World Relief. There’s been a lot of new information circling regarding resettlement, refugees, and statistics regarding the growing displacement crisis. While facts are important, especially true ones and ones written from a personal connection, ultimately I wrote down things that you could find elsewhere on the internet. At the end of the day, they’re still just the facts. And these people are so much more than facts. Interacting with people who have literally been forced to leave everything they know and arrive in a foreign land, often alone and not speaking the language, has done more than just teach me a few important tidbits about the refugee crisis. They have taught me about bravery, resilience, humility, hope, and hospitality. The people, not the facts, have chipped away at hardened pieces of my soul and shown me more of the grace and love of Christ. They aren’t just numbers, pieces of the resettlement system, or the faces supporting the new refugee Olympic team. They are some of the strongest, most courageous, most genuine people I’ve ever met. And here’s just a brief glimpse of some of the things they taught me this summer: • Our presence is always communicating something – through our smile, our eyes, our body language, and the emotional state of our hearts. ...

How’s Your “Quiet Time?”

I’ve become hesitant to talk so frequently about having “quiet time,” “devo time,” or “time with the Lord.” Not because I don’t think it’s one of the most important ways we can spend our time, but because it’s not the most important. In our individualistic, western view of Christianity, it’s easy to adapt a solely personal and isolated view of our faith and relationship with Jesus. We can lose a value for cooperate worship, fellowship, prayer, giving, and service when it becomes, albeit subconsciously, a me-centered emphasis. There’s a fine line, which isn’t to say that spending time alone with God isn’t imperative or universally commanded (Jesus Himself makes it clear that He needs time in solitude and seclusion with just the Father). After all, my time alone with Jesus leads to some of the most necessary, precious, and life-giving moments of my day. However, sometimes I believe a lie about my time alone with the Lord. I’ve been fed this idea, through a variety of often hidden means, that every time I sit down before Jesus and force myself to be aware of His Spirit, usually with Scripture open, that I should expect something profound. I’m sitting before the God of the universe and I’m told to approach with a sense of expectation. If I don’t walk away with some incredible spiritual revelation about my life or someone else, what was the point? What am I supposed to tell people about my “quiet time” when they ask? The point of our time with the Lord isn’t anything more than our being. Stop. Period. It begins and ends with our willingness to simply show up and...

Just Be With Me

During my time in Asia, I visited this place called the Home of Hope. The name is kind of a misnomer, however, since the atmosphere seemed to suck every breath of hope out of my lungs. I remember my eyes stinging, whether from the equatorial sun radiating off the concrete slab beneath my dusty flip flops or from the literal stench of death, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for the holistic, embodied suffering I was about to come face to face with. I shuffled my eighteen year old body across the cemented field, fighting back tears as I smiled at the very bodies of dehumanization. Women literally left to lay out in the sun, crapping in their pants, and scratching the lice in their hair until they die. If there was anything that was going to strip any “savior mentality” view of service and missions away, this was it. Lotion bottle in hand, I was here to just love these women; there was literally nothing effective or practical that I was equipped to do. That sounded more romantic than it felt as I sat down next to a woman whose sun-leathered body looked older than her eyes told me she was. I motioned that I could rub lotion on her hands, if she wanted. Without hesitating, she pulled down a piece of fabric that could barely be considered basic clothing and patted her arms. Looking into her desperate eyes, I began rubbing lotion on her arms and chest, smiling awkwardly and fighting the urge to find a corner that I could lose it in. Suddenly and without warning, she...

Why am I Doing What I’m Doing?

At the beginning of the summer, I had a reflection due on Henri Nouwen's book In the Name of Jesus, in preparation for my summer internship (stop reading this and go buy that book right now!). Due to a lack of awareness about the deadline and an overwhelming amount of other work on my plate, I almost tried to write the reflection without having read the book. I read an online review of the main points, gathered the gist that a Christian Ed major would need to fake their way through a reflection, and started writing – ignoring the conviction gnawing at the back of my heart. The reason I knew I could write the reflection in my own words and with seemingly insightful thoughts was because, humiliating and humbling as it is to admit, I'd done it before. I've had four years of Christian high school and three years as a Wheaton College CE major. I know how talk the Jesus talk. You just use words like “journey,” “convicting,” “brokenness,” and “deepening my love for my Savior:” all without actually letting anything penetrate the callouses on my heart. A couple sentences into my reflection paper, I stopped my typing short. I was overcome. It was bigger than  conviction – this was a holy, terrifying fear. What was I doing? And did I realize how dangerous this was, not for my grade or even my integrity, but for my soul? I’m afraid – and I should be afraid – of going through the motions and then coming up with something “profound” for the sake of sharing my experience and having poetic language...

A Deeper Kind of Trust

One of my favorite stories in Daniel comes at the end of Daniel 3. It’s not about Daniel, but his fellow Jewish brothers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Long story short, Nebuchadnezzar erects a massive, golden statue of himself that he puts in the center of Dura. Then he asks everyone to bow down to it. Naturally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, knowing the king is going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. But that’s not even the part of the story that my soul finds so captivating and convicting. Before sending the men to what should be their certain death, he asks them why – why didn’t they bow down? Who do they think is going to save them? “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 It’s one thing to trust that God is mighty enough to save you. To believe that He can heal and provide and show up in amazing, unexpected, supernatural ways is to trust who He is as God. It’s another thing, a deeper thing, to trust in a God who can, but may not. What’s amazing to me is that Jesus demonstrates this same kind of trust on the cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus is hanging disfigured, bruised, and bloodied on the cross for our sins. The crowd and Pharisees begin jeering, asking...

8 Things I’ve Learned about Refugees

This summer I have the privilege of interning at World Relief, in DuPage/Aurora, Illinois. I’m working with the new arrivals and volunteer coordinators to get a closer look into what the refugee resettlement process looks like and how World Relief is doing it as a Christian non-profit. Suffice to say, the experience is doing more than building my resumé or further solidifying my desire to work cross-culturally. It’s changing my heart. Despite having traveled to over twenty different countries and being passionate about serving overseas, I didn’t know a lot about refugees before this summer. I thought I’d share some of the deeply impactful and often eye-opening things I’ve learned in my time working with refugees. 1.) There are 65.3 million people displaced worldwide; 21.3 million refugees. The UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has a myriad of terms to describe and identify the different situations of fleeing people around the globe. The UNHCR was only created in 1950, to help the millions of displaced Europeans after World War II. For someone to apply for refugee status, they have to flee from their home country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution” and life-threatening “war or violence” (USA for UNHCR). 2.) There’s a difference between a country that is hosting refugees and resettling refugees. Unlike internally displaced person (IDPs) who flee his or her home but stays within their home country’s border, a refugee crosses international lines in search of asylum. In countries where there is persecution and conflict, refugees often flee to neighboring countries. Turkey is currently hosting 2.5 million refugees, Pakistan has 1.6 million, and Lebanon has 1.1 million....

22 Drafts

My mom calls out as she heads up to bed, “don’t forget your devo for tomorrow!” Believe me, we’ve been here before. One of the many perks of being Lori MacMath‘s daughter is that she extends more than a little grace when it comes to turning these articles in. Thanks, mom. Except, per usual, I’m staring blankly at my screen. This time, twenty-two drafts stare back at me. Twenty-two. That’s a whole lot of unfinished pieces of writing, if you ask me. You could call it 22 ideas, 22 beginnings, 22 glimpses into something that feels much bigger than myself, 22 pieces of my heart, 22 stories, memories, and lessons of walking with the Lord. But for as beautiful and poetic and all of those things sound, at the end of the day they are simply drafts. Unfinished. Incomplete. Fragmented. Less than whole. Something I can’t post. So I sit here disappointed with the drafts. What constitutes this difference between post and draft? Resolution. Answers. Summary. The pastoral “3 steps to take home” climax at the end of a sermon. It’s the bow that gets tied around the present or having a 30-second elevator pitch. It’s what compels us to put puzzles together and why it bothers us when a piece is missing. We want completion, fullness, finality, and understanding. We know that all good writing has a thesis that ties the whole piece together. So what do you do when you can’t seen to find the thesis? When conclusions are elusive, summaries seem far, and life is full of more cliff-hangers than epilogues… Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us...