Tag Archives: Discernment

open valentine year II

After half my emails bounced back (I really ought to update my address book!) I’m posting an open valentine to bloggers and facebook for the second year straight…

So much has happened in the past year to be thankful for. The biggest news is that the “guy” I mentioned last year asked me to marry him.  So I will! At a very small wedding on New Year’s Eve coming up. We are thrilled, our families are thrilled, and perhaps the most excited of all is Pepper. She adores Jay!

Jay synopsis: Jay is the supervising news producer for the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, finished in the top 1% of the Boston Marathon last April, placed 3rd in his age group in the Richmond Marathon this November, loves music and harmonizes with me in the car, hales from the village of Newark in upstate New York (where he is a local prank celebrity), and is a born and bred Packers fan.

I also mentioned last year that I had entered the discernment process to become an episcopal priest. After 18 months of interviews and prayers and many life lessons, the bishop granted me Postulancy for Holy Orders. Being a postulant just means I get to go to school to be a preist–Yay! There are still lots of steps before becoming a priest, though… so more on that in years to come.

As for where I’ll be in school next year–I’m waiting to hear back from my first-choice school: General Theological Seminary in New York City. I checked the mailbox this afternoon in hopes that I’d have news on that front for this (already day-late) Valentine, but nothing yet! Regardless, the plan is for me to go to school this fall, finishing my first semester without Jay while he finishes out his contract in Charlotte (boo!) We’ll be married between semesters so Jay and Pepper can join me sometime between January and March. We’re excited about starting our marriage in a supportive community of faith at seminary.

And that’s the scoop! I did take a group of 34 kids to Nova Scotia on pilgrimage this year, traveled to the Bahamas with Jay for my 30th birthday, spent a week on Lake Ontario at Jay’s family’s cottage, attended several best friends’ weddings (singing in two of them), celebrated several births, and celebrated my granddad’s 80th birthday in Texas with every single aunt, uncle and cousin on that side of the family. It’s been quite a year, with lots of love to celebrate.

I pray that you too are celebrating love every chance you get. May we all find even more love in our hearts this year than we knew we had, remembering Proverbs 15:17, “A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.”

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open valentine to bloggers and fb

after getting muchos bouncebacks to this emailed valentine yesterday, i thought i better share the same on blog and facebook for all those i missed! love.

It is my custom to mail valentines to friends and family, near and far. But as the list of places I’ve lived grows longer, and my relationships multiply, well… it gets expensive! So please accept this electronic valentine and update as a token of my continued affection. I’ll even throw some pictures in (just click on any highlighted words).

The past year has been a doozy, in a good way. Here are the highlights…

I continue to love my job as a youth minister. The kids and the church are awesome. Last year I took two ski trips, a beach trip, mission trips to Costa Rica and West Virginia, and I led a Pilgrimage to Ireland. It was a lot of travel (10 days in Ireland feels like 100 when you’re taking care of 37 teenagers!) but I got by with a little (or a lot of) help from my friends. And the best part: countless Moments of Grace. Nothing like a lack of control to help you see God right in front of your nose.

I love life in Charlotte. Though the city is lacking in diversity, it is over the top in hospitality and activity. My friends here introduced me to a number of new hobbies, including my first two triathlons, first two 10k races, and first two half-marathons. My family thinks it’s hilarious that I, the nonathletic child, have become a runner. Who knew? Chalk it up to peer pressure, in a good way. I’ve got an awesome Monday night girls’ group–we read books and pray together. I’ve got an awesome Thursday night girls’ group–we drink wine together. Got to love balance. I don’t just hang out with girls, though… there are boys too. One, in particular. And he’s a yankee (gasp)!!

The two most exciting and daunting pieces of news are Pepper and the Priesthood. Pepper is my dear sweet dog. A 2-yr old German Shepherd Lab mix I rescued her last March; she is the love of my life. She cannot get enough love, nor does she ever run out of love to give. She barks at boys and likes sweaty shoes. I didn’t think I could handle the responsibility of a dog, considering all my travels, but my friends have made it all possible. It takes a village. As for the Priesthood, I entered the discernment process to be an Episcopal Priest last fall. It’s a long process, complicated, exhausting, rich and life-giving. Depending on how things go, I may start seminary in Fall of 2011. Maybe I’ll know by next Valentine’s Day… in the mean time, I appreciate your prayers!

No matter where you are this Valentine’s Day, I pray that you know Love. Uncontrollable, no strings attached, unconditional, radical, unstoppable, mindbending… God LOVE.

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ain’t no stoppin’ church

i was a little concerned when i hadn’t heard from anner this morning. i was getting ready for church, and thought maybe she had decided the blizzard ridden roads of b’more were too treacherous. i could have walked to church, i did every week when i lived here. but anner had to drive from the other side of the harbor. at 8:06am, she called, “i’m here. i’m early.” of course. never doubt a girl from minnesota.

so we drove to church (after anner tried to push someone down the street by ramming their back bumper, per their request…) and found only one other person there. “guess we’re not having church?” i said. “i just saw pastor, he said to go sit in the choir loft,” said a woman i didn’t know. and we did. maybe 20 of us in our jeans and boots walked (or squeaked, in my case) up the aisle to the very front of the church, up to the choir pews, just right of the altar.

now, i have to say that this sanctuary is a special place for me. first, it’s beautiful. the man that designed it was one of the 3 architects of the national cathedral, so… awesome. but it’s also a place i used to have a key to when i lived here. i’d come to the church 30 minutes before our girls’ book club every sunday night to get ready for the rest of the gang, sitting in the dark sanctuary, just me and the candlelight. it’s a special place too because it’s where, during one evening lenten service, i heard God speak into my heart: “feed My sheep…” the beginning of a call to ministry.

this morning it was special because we were just a handful of neighborhood peeps and two priest. no robes. no acolytes. we were the choir. pastor sabor, who hadn’t practiced the organ since 1971, pecked out a couple of hymns. pastor fritas shared a beautiful sermon about mary’s annunciation and God’s knack for using ordinary people to bring Jesus to the world, something i think about often.

the whole experience was a welcome confirmation of being where i am now, and a reminder that this story i’m living is not a new one. it’s a Great one.

pastor sabor put on a pot of coffee and pastor fritas tracked down some donuts so our gathering could tarry a bit longer. all in all, a beautiful morning. church at its blizzard best.

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identity: mine and God’s

hmm. 7 months without posting. maybe i should give “phos” up and stick to my journal. but just in case…

i did a little exercise this week, discerning both my identity and God’s. i basically answered two questions:

1. what have you learned about yourself as a result of your experience with God?
that i can withstand more than i think; that i’m extremely unique and unusual; that it’s better for me to rely on God than on myself or others; that i can be quiet, be alone and be slow–and enjoy it; that lessons are harder and hurt more when i’m stubborn; that i like the sunshine; that affirmation doesn’t satisfy me like God’s love does; that in any given moment, i have enough; that i don’t have all the answers–and that’s okay; that i’m easily distracted by relationships; that i struggle with pride; that my worth is not determined by others; that i’m amazingly complex and beautiful all at once–a mystery.

2. what do you know about God as a result of genuine encounter with yourself?
that God loves me and lavishes blessings on me; that God hears me and knows my needs better than i do; that God thinks i’m special; that God will patiently challenge me again and again till i learn God’s truths; that God is always present; that God loves me better than anyone; that God is sufficient; that i hear God best when i’m humble; that God is so much more interesting than i make God out to be; that God is not afraid to put me in danger; that God’s dreams are bigger than mine are; that God is everywhere–but in my stillness especially; that i’m relieved God doesn’t fit in a box; that nothing can shake God or take me from God; that God is big enough to cover all questions, hurts and losses; that God is freakin’ hilarious at times.

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just realized it’s the last day of november and i’ve posted nothing on phos… so i’ll share something i wrote in an email yesterday for the sake of time. and because it really has me thinking.

okay. i’m reading a book by jeanne guyon, written in the late 17th century, titled “experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ.” it was sent to me by two dear friends, ron and ruth, who provide pastoral care to yfc missionaries. they visited me in october, and sent this book upon their return to washington. when i was seemingly (and perhaps truly) in the depths of despair last week, r&r asked if i had read the book they sent. i immediately snatched it up, reaching for anything to touch my hardening heart.

it’s really a simple book. it’s meant to be especially useful to the uneducated and illiterate. i know, a book for the illiterate… but it could be read aloud. anyway, it’s short. but i’m reading slowly. really slowly. this morning i read about abandonment, and came across something i’m not totally comfortable with. it’s good to get uncomfortable… it’s how we grow…

here’s the passage: “remember, you must never blame man for anything. no matter what happens, it was neither man nor circumstances that brought it. you must accept everything (except, of course, your own sinfulness) as having come from your Lord.”


i mean, i’m all for abandonment, though it doesn’t come easily. something to be learned again every day. and boy, is it freeing! but to say that all things, even bad things, come from God? except my own sin… but what about another’s sin? what about when someone sins against me? of course God can use that, and has used that, and does use that… but to say that that too is from God? maybe i’m misunderstanding the passage.

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i have a song stuck in my head back from the days of church camp. the chorus goes like this… “teach me simple things. help me understand. take me by my hand, and teach me simple things.”

i’ve been reflecting on how much easier it is to appreciate the simple things here in africa (especially the past couple of days i’ve spent in the village) and how God teaches us through simplicity. i think as i’m realizing the Source of every simple blessing, i loose some of the vanity that comes with the more complex (or contrived) activities and accumulations. when looking at the complex, i can attribute some aspects of “greatness” to myself, forgetting that everything has a simple beginning, and that God is responsible for the most elemental details.

another song come to mind: “tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free, tis the gift to come down where we ought to be. and when we find ourselves in the place just right, t’will be in the valley of love and delight. when true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shant be ashamed. to turn, turn, will be our delight; till by turning, turning, we come round right.”

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little faith

every sunday, most of the missionaries and other christian expats get together for english fellowship. yesterday we were talking about the story of Jesus walking on water, and peter walking out to meet Him, then sinking in his fear (matthew 14:22-33). someone made the statement that when Jesus says to peter, “you of little faith, why did you doubt?” that He’s pointing out peter’s self doubt. peter doesn’t doubt Jesus, as Jesus is still standing there on the water… what’s to doubt? but peter doubts himself and God in him.

i’d never looked at the story that way, and i need to reflect on it more… but it certainly resonates with my experience. how often do i doubt the greatness God has called me to, even in the face of His deeds in my life and the world around me? when i think i’m not capable of doing what asks, i’m doubting myself, yes… but doubting God simultaneously as i doubt His ability to make me great or do great things through little me. so self doubt isn’t so much humility as it is disobedience with a scapegoat.

hmm. interesting.

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time capsule

i write a lot. blog postings are probably 1/20 of what i write in any given day, not including writing stuff for work. i have a journal on my computer and two journals that i write to God in… one stays by my bed, the other in whatever bag i’m carrying around with me at any given time.

i’m almost finished with the journal that currently lives by my bed. i started it in july of 2006 on my way to pakistan. this morning i read through all the entries up till this date a year ago. i was kinda afraid of what i might find, knowing some of those days would describe heartache i’d rather not re-live, but i was surprised to find that even the heartache was laced with large doses of hope and expectation. i thought i’d publish a few excerpts here.

july 11, 2006, “When Farhan’s mother prays, I feel as if our hearts are connected and we are speaking to You together. I love all the rituals and ceremonies that make this marriage so sacred. I want my own marriage to be as focused on You; an act of worship.” the women in farhan’s family prayed so much for his marriage, it was touching.

july 13, 2006, “Thank you for giving me such a loving family and supportive friends. I pray for Mike—bless our relationship and shape our hearts to reflect your will only. Lord, I love you.” i still thank God for family and friends, and God definitely worked on Mike’s and my hearts to make room for His will.

july 14, 2006, “Lord, I pray that I would learn what is in Your heart for me while I am here and that I would be ready for the life you have prepared for me.” it’s while i was in pakistan that i started feeling more called to missions abroad.

july 29, 2006, “Lord, I pray that you would bless Paige ad me with a roommate that will bless this house.” anne marie was one of the best blessings all year! i can’t imagine life last year without her living down the hall.

august 9, 2006, “So Lord, here is my dream. I don’t know why You want it back since You gave it to me in the first place, but I trust You to bless me in my obedience. Since this is what You want, I ask You to grant me the strength and courage to do so.” this had to do with a relationship, and i do think the end result is greater than that which i had to let go of.

august 14, 2006, “I feel You calling me to the Church, and I pray you would show me more fully what that means and grant me a job that fulfills my desire to serve You and love Your people. These days I’m almost scared to pray for an amazing life, but it is my desire.” indeed. look at where that got me!

august 21, 2006, “I think sometime we’ll laugh together.” ha!

september 10, 2006, “Lord, I pray to you about Africa. Lord, if this is your will, I pray that you would open doors and confirm my every step so that I am walking with You.” i wrote this before i even interviewed with yfc.

september 26, 2006, “Lord, I pray that you would give me clear indicators regarding YFC and Benin specifically. Sometimes I feel discouraged, but I know that doesn’t negate the possibility of me serving there. I pray that You would make the decision in my heart.” yep, that’s what i was praying exactly a year ago today. wow.

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1 corinthians

while i was in colorado this summer, i came to the realization that i had given the bible considerably little time and thought compared to the numerous works i’ve read for st. john’s and beyond. when i do read the bible, i typically pay attention to what makes me feel good, and steer clear of the rest. why? so i’ve set out to do a more thorough reading of the bible. reading whole books at once instead of excerpts, noting what makes me feel good or uncomfortable or confused. asking questions. re-reading. it gives me lots to think about.

here are some thoughts on 1 corinthians.

“has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?… for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.” (1:20, 25). certainly, yes. i encounter this in myself and with my more intellectual friends. faith does seem foolish at times, which is part of what makes it faith. if everything made sense, there would be no room for wonder, mystery, God.

chapters 5 and 6 are troubling to me. paul says to condemn the sexually immoral person in their group (he’s referring to a man who took his mother as a bride) and to not even share a meal with him. it’s a pretty hard line. he seems to change his tune a bit in 2 corinthians, though, which i’ll touch on later.

“i have become all things to all men so that by all possible means i might save some.” (9:22). paul is talking about how he meets people where they are, much like Jesus did. he says more about this, and there’s much to be learned from it, i think.

God always gives me a way out of temptation (10:15)… whether i chose to accept that way is up to me, though.

chapter 13, the famous love chapter. one of my friends used to get annoyed when chapter 13 was read at weddings, since the context of the chapter is actually dissention among the corinthians, not the harmony a marriage ceremony is to represent. he was encouraged, though, when a minister actually addressed that truth during the wedding. perhaps acknowledging the context of the passage actually makes it that much more appropriate to a marriage with its ups and downs. regardless, i think this definition of love is beautiful. “and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. but the greatest of these is love.”

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