honest encouragement

There are a lot of amazing women in my life –

I have 5 amazing sisters.

I live with some beautiful ladies.

I lead a small group.

am part of another small group.

and have  girlfriends I care for dearly.

I love it. Indeed I do.

As women, we obviously relate to each other in so many ways, which is such a blessing. One of the things we all have in common is insecurities. Insecurities about our outer appearances. Insecurities within relationships – being enough, too much. Insecurities about being loved for who we are.

Let’s be honest, ladies. We ALL experience these worries. Even the most confident woman you know struggles with self-worth in some way.

So, my question is – If we know that we all share these insecurities, rooting ourselves in self-doubt or shame, why don’t we ever talk about it…really talk about it? Why don’t we reach out to encourage each other and together seek to learn what our perfect, gracious, glorious Father thinks of us?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Are we doing this within the communities of women we inhabit? Are we pointing our sisters to what the word says about beauty – that we are stunning inside and out? Instead of trying to take matters into our own hands, why not turn to Christ?

We can’t seek to find our self-worth in relationships, appearances, or what other people say, even if it’s positive. Instead we have to realize that we’re being pursued by a God whole loves us passionately as we are.

We focus on our insecurities on a daily basis. So, every day let’s remind each other of His grace that is more than enough.

be content

Today was the first day of spring semester classes. I’ve been dreading this week, and I’ve let everyone know that, whining about how academically challenging it will be and how many responsibilities I’ll have and how much I wish I was back in London and blah. blah. blah.

Over the past few days I have begun to realize just how much I have been pining for my semester in London –  the adventures, relationships, and experiences from that time – and just how vocal I have been about it.

But tonight, during an amazingly open and refreshing three-hour dinner conversation, I came to a realization about the importance of contentment – allowing the past to rest and remembering the unpredictability of the future.

Allow the past to rest.

I was sharing a yummy meal with my dear friend Haley, who just returned from a semester in South Africa. We swapped stories (academics. boys :). specific, meaningful conversations.) and opened up about the challenges we’ve faced in transitioning into the intense, fast-paced Elon lifestyle.

oh, haley :)
oh, haley 🙂

Our experiences in England and South Africa were one of a kind. Clearly, they meant a lot to us. But as we head into a new semester, which will undoubtedly provide us with fresh opportunities, it is going to be extremely important for us to remember that we were in those places this past semester for a reason. It was a time that can never be replicated. And instead of wishing for it to return – choosing to live in a place of loneliness – we can celebrate the beautiful, rich time we had and head into this next semester with the energy, lessons, and excitement it provided for us.

Remember the unpredictability of the future.

One of the lessons I learned in London can best be described through a conversation I had in a pub with my friend Sam. Sam is a 21-year-old British architecture student living in London for a year as an intern for a big architecture firm (kid has serious talent). Our friend Dan, an American theatre major also studying abroad, was talking about how uncertain he is about what lies ahead – What is he passionate about? Where will he be when he graduates? He wants to write music, but is theatre something he’ll pursue? He expressed how stressful it can be to think about these things. I agreed with Dan, talking about the pressure I’ve felt in the past to know what I’m going to do with my life and to take the necessary steps to get there. Climbing. Reaching. Preparing.

friends in london - dave, me, dan, and sam
friends in london - dave, me, dan, and sam

Sam couldn’t relate. He talked about taking one day at a time. He talked about the fact that the future is something that we have no control over – literally. Yes, we can plan ahead, having internships and beefing up our resumes, but who know what doors my open and close as soon as tomorrow? The next six months could provide a change in our life-path that we are not expecting. Why put ourselves through the stress? We don’t have the control.

At dinner tonight I was reminded of this conversation. We live in a society that is focused on the future, climbing the ladder, gaining “success.” But is that what we’re really meant to be doing? What we want to be doing? Are we compromising our today by keeping our sites on the uncertain future?

Be content. Where you are. Right now.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ~ Hebrews 13: 5

Although I have a big workload ahead of me this semester, I know that I can do anything with the help of my Father. My prayer for this semester is to learn to be content. Day by day. Assignment by assignment.

Yes, I can remember my semester in London fondly and apply for internships this summer, but I can also be content with where I am right now, delighting in the people, experiences, and conversations THIS day has to offer.

why do you believe what you believe?

But really. If I asked you what is important to you, would you be able to tell me why? If I wanted to know your opinion about something – an issue, idea, concept – would you be able to tell me what has shaped that opinion?

I have grown up in a large Christian family and, as many children do, I grew up believing what my parents believed because that’s what they taught me. No questions asked. However, this summer I began meeting with several girls for a bible study of sorts. We would curl up at least one night a week to chat about a variety of issues, from evolution to the trinity and predestination.

Several of these girls approached these topics, as well as passages of scripture, with a curiosity that I had not encountered before. As they asked tough questions, I began to realize that I couldn’t explain why I felt a particular way about something. I couldn’t really have an opinion about certain topics, because I had never taken the time to really consider them.

pizza and intense discussions. a winning combination
pizza and intense discussions. a winning combination

My time with these girls opened my eyes to the need to really approach things with a curiosity, challenging myself to seek out differing opinions about x, y, or z in order to formulate my own opinions and beliefs – rather than riding on the coattails of my parents. But this can be difficult to do. Sometimes it can become confusing or messy. Sometimes you discover that things are not always as you’ve wanted to believe them to be. It’s worth it though. I promise.

This definitely doesn’t just apply to biblical or spiritual ideas. This is true of things like homosexuality, poverty, and health, aspects of life that we can choose to ignore or disregard, but probably shouldn’t. They’re realities. We might as well educate ourselves and determine how we feel about them. Just a thought 🙂

host a game night

the girls living in my house
the girls living in my house

I live in an old, spacious house near my university campus. I share the house with several other ladies, and when we moved in we decided that we really wanted the house to serve as a ministry for individual’s on our campus, particularly women. For instance, we host small groups, have glee/the bachelor viewing nights, and host parties every once in a while.

This semester we’ve had a flannel fall harvest bonfire, a cookie-decorating party, and a onesie party – to name a few. Last week we decided to host a game night.

I love games. Growing up in a family of nine demands that you enjoy playing games. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve play – draping sheets over chairs to play wagon train, competing against each other in the homeschool Jeopardy that mom had created as a way to review facts, and arguing over who called “spit” first during the frenzied action.

So, why not have a game night? We set up stations with different games around the house – Cranium, Twister, Dirty Minds, Blurt!, Sorry!, Pictionary, Catch Phrase (always a favorite), Battleship, Banangrams. Yes, we had the hook up.

And it was a so much fun! I think this is for several reasons:

1) Playing games encouraged conversation and allowed people who may not have known each other to interact, the game decreasing the possibility of awkward silences.

2) We had a nice variety of games for those who wanted to hop around.

3) We had a master scoreboard. When guests walked in they were instructed to place their name on the scoreboard. Every time they won a game, they were able to add a point to the board. Super fun. The winner was to receive a tacky prize, but we forgot to dish that out. WHOOPS!

4) Munchies. Key to the success of any party 🙂

We had a blast, and I think that those who attended did as well. If you want to have afew friends over, don’t watch a movie! Consider hosting a game night!

PICTIONARY
PICTIONARY
Blurt!
Blurt!
Bananagrams
Bananagrams
*photos courtesy of Susannah Brooks, master photographer.

sorry, guys. this is not really for you.

Last week I was sitting in a room talking with six fantastic women. I’ve been a part of this small group bible study for about a year or so now. We were discussing a variety of topics, from how difficult it is to speak truth in love, to the ways in which we handle conflict.

Some of the girls in my small group! (From left to right - Haley, Sarah, Gretchen, me, and Annie)
Some of the girls in my small group! (From left to right - Haley, Sarah, Gretchen, me, and Annie)

As we were sitting there chatting I began thinking about how beautiful each of the women are. In fact, I was overwhelmed by it.

Let’s be honest, being a woman is tough for a lot of reasons. I think that a lot of us place so many pressures on ourselves, buying into different messages from media, friends, and even church communities. We have to do this. be that. have this. not have that. It’s exhausting and self-confidence or even self-assurance is thrown out the window on a daily basis.

But all of that stuff is crap.

As we were sitting there chatting, this realization hit me hard. At the next break in the conversation I said something like this –

“This is kind of off-topic, but I need to say this. We are so ridiculously beautiful. all of us. And I’m being serious. We all have characteristics, qualities, and aspects of who we are that are so incredibly stunning. And there are plenty of lies that we are told about not being enough. or too much. but that’s crap. There are relationships to be had, romantic relationships and simply friendships, with people who appreciate us for who we are and for the beauty that we bring to this world. I just want to make sure you know this, ok? Please don’t doubt that. You hear me, right?”

It’s true. The same is true for you. We don’t have to be this, that, or the other. We are free to just BE.

I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~ Psalm 139:14

a beautiful exchange

A Beautiful Exchange is a song that will always remind me of London. While studying there, I attended a church called Holy Trinity Brompton, home to a large congregation that is incredibly alive and vibrant. I’ve never met so many individuals so passionate about living for Christ and loving others. Christ is the center of everything – all else is secondary. It was a beautiful and challenging witness.

The worship at HTB was fantastic, and this song quickly became one of my favorites.

This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so love us, we also ought to love one another. ~ 1 John 4: 10-11