Friday Links

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web. 

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Hey friends! It’s Friday, and I have a full weekend of work ahead of me. But we’ve also got some fun things planned, like a very special first birthday party for our sweet girl. There were a lot of important things on the internet this week, so I’m sharing some of the posts that have been particularly meaningful to me. Let’s love loud this weekend! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

Romania, Part 2

On Monday, I wrote about a mission trip I went on recently with my church. I shared some about the work we did, but I also have to share some photos from our sightseeing adventures. Romania is a really beautiful country—at times I felt like I was wondering the streets of Paris and at other times I felt like an extra in The Sound of Music. Enjoy!

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Romania, Part 1

During July, I had the privilege of going on a mission trip with my church to Romania.  While we were there, we worked with an organization called Project Ruth, which ministers primarily to the Roma people, or gypsies.  Project Ruth encompasses a wide range of projects and ministries, but on this particular trip we worked with their school.  Our team, along with a few other missionaries and translators, took a group of children from the school to a weeklong sleep away camp.  Throughout the week we led Bible Study, crafts, recreation, electives, and other fun activities like a talent show, campfire, and even a dance party. For the majority of the kids on the trip, that week was a once in a lifetime experience, and they had a BLAST! (So did we, of course.) And we fell in love with the kids. I mean, just look at these sweet faces…

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Every time I have the opportunity to travel, I’m reminded of two truths: the world is so much bigger than my view of the world, and God is so much bigger than my view of God. If we’re not careful, we can forget that. We start to imagine that the world is really just the way see it, the way we experience it. And we can turn God into our own small version of who we think he is, who we think he loves, and what we think he can do. But I watched these kids, whose world is so very different from my own, worship God with gladness and gratitude. I watched them embrace us and love us with abandon, even though we didn’t know one another or speak the same language. I watched as God worked in our hearts and theirs, changing us along the way.

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As I’ve read the stories and seen the images coming out of Charlottesville over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about Romania and these kids and love. Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the to the human heart than its opposite.”

In Romania, I was reminded of the truth of those words—that love indeed does come naturally. We didn’t speak the same language. We couldn’t share stories or jokes or even prayers. But we loved. And they taught me something about God’s love, too.

More than anything, I want to be a teacher of love today. I want to speak the truth boldly and denounce hatred clearly and loudly. I want to be an instrument of peace in the world. That’s my prayer for today.

Friday Links

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web.

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Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week. We are officially in August, and I’m in fall mode preparing to kick off all the programs and ministries starting back up at church. This weekend I’m planning to hang out with Finley and get some things done around the house. Have a great weekend, friends! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

On Taking Up Space

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Well friends, it’s been a while. All of the sudden I looked up and it was August, and this little corner of the internet had been abandoned for months. I would like to say that I don’t know how that happened. Except that I do.

The past few months have been packed to the brim with camps and planning and supply runs and crafting and phone calls and to-do lists, and all the other things that define the life of a children’s minister during the summer. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop for work and just got back a few days ago from a mission trip on the other side of the globe. Things have been a little busy around here, to say the least.

Several weeks ago my travels took me to Atlanta for a conference. Any time I gather with this particular group of colleagues we end our time together with what we call the “talking chair.” We each take a turn sitting in a chair at the front of our room and sharing with one another what we plan to work on, either professionally or personally, until we meet again.  I thought about what I wanted and needed from the next few months, and when it was my turn to speak I simply said, “I will write.”

I’ve said before that writing is therapeutic for my soul.  It’s the way I connect with God and myself best, the way I give myself freedom and space to be the most honest version of myself. And so I’m vowing to make more time for that—both here and elsewhere. I’m vowing to write even when I don’t want to and feel like I have nothing to say. I’m vowing just to write and let the rest fall into place.

A few days ago I was reading an essay in which the author talked about the importance of taking up space in your own life. She was referring to our tendency to put everything else first—work obligations, family responsibilities, chores, etc. It’s not that those things aren’t important (they are), but if we’re not careful we can slip too far into the background of our lives. We can go  entire days and weeks and years without doing the very thing that bring us joy and give life, the very thing we were created to do.

For me, that’s what writing is—it’s taking up space in my own life. It’s making time for something that nourishes my soul and speaking the truth I have to speak. Thanks for reading along while I do it!

 

Expecting the Unexpected

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One of my favorite things about kids is their curiosity.  They are unassuming, full of questions and wonder. They are always hunting, searching for answers—freer than we are to admit that they don’t know something. They love surprises and that little thrill that comes from the appearance of the unexpected.

Adults aren’t really like that. We like to know what to expect, what’s going to happen next. Our modus operandi to act like we have all the answers, like we have everything figured out already. We like to plan, to be in control of every aspect of our lives.

But that’s not really the way God works, is it? From the very beginning, the life of Jesus was all about the unexpected. We expect that the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of the entire world, would arrive in some grand fashion with flashes of lightning and clashing cymbals, but that’s not what happened.  Instead, Jesus came quietly, gently, and without threat or fanfare.  In fact, only a few lowly shepherds and animals living in a stable had any idea that the world would never be the same.

We expect that the very Son of God would be awarded great power and prestige, but again that’s not what happened. Jesus taught us that the meek would inherit the earth and the last would be first.  He taught us that it is better to serve than to be served, and he lived that truth in his leadership throughout his life. And then finally he died. Jesus didn’t use his incredible power to free himself from the cruelty of crucifixion, but he died a painful and humiliating death on the cross. For us. Because he loved us so much.

And now we arrive at Easter. The women went to the tomb that first Easter morning with the no doubt that they would find exactly what they expected.  A tomb. A body. Sadness. Despair. But then the most unexpected thing happened—the tomb was empty.

The women, understandably, were terrified. But an angel appeared to them and asked what must have seemed like the strangest question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” The angel was tasked with delivering the most unexpected surprise in history—Jesus could not be found in a cold, dark tomb. He was not there anymore. He is risen.

The story of Easter has so much to teach us, but I think one of its greatest truths is that God has the power to do so much more than we expect or imagine. You think God can’t bring healing to the brokenness in your life? Think again. You think no beauty can come from this hurt? It’s not true. The story of Easter—the story of God—is about light from darkness, hope from despair, life from death. The resurrection is God’s promise that what is lost and broken can be redeemed, that whatever pain you’re experiencing right now doesn’t get the last word in your story.

This Easter, I’m thankful that God does so much more than I expect or even believe is possible. And he that he loves me so much more than I know.

Nothing Could Be Finer

As the old song goes, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.” Personally, I would change the lyrics to say, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Chapel Hill, North Carolina the week after the national championship win.” Not quite as catchy maybe, but man is it true.

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If you’re a sports fan or have any connection to a sports fan or the University of North Carolina, then you watched the game last Monday night. And you know it was ugly.  Both teams were sloppy, no one could hit a shot, and everyone was in the double bonus with fifteen minutes left in the second half. I spent the majority of the game with my eyes closed, mentally preparing myself for the utter devastation of losing the national championship game two years in a row.

And yet somehow (and I still don’t know how), every time I checked the score we were within a few points and sometimes even in the lead. And then Isaiah hit that shot and Kennedy made that block and you could see it in their eyes…they knew. When the final buzzer sounded, it took a few seconds for it to sink in: We won the national championship.  There was plenty of screaming and jumping around as we watched the confetti fall. We watch live coverage of college kids spilling out of bars onto Franklin street. We didn’t go, but we thought about when we did. Later, I may have shed a tear during One Shining Moment. Redemption is pretty sweet, indeed.

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On Saturday we decided we needed to venture over to Chapel Hill to stock up on national championship gear and introduce Finley to one of our favorite places on earth.  And we made sure to pack it all in. We admired Old South and took pictures by the Well. We had blue cups at He’s Not and joked with strangers on Franklin Street. There was something in the air—a certain electricity that’s not there all the time. People were celebrating, yes, but it was more than that. We all got it—how unique this is, how lucky we are to be a part of it.

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I promise that after this post I’ll stop gushing about Carolina—at least for a little while. But there’s something about being on campus in the spring, a few days after winning it all, that makes you want to stop and celebrate. It’s a good day to be a Tar Heel, y’all. Nothing could be finer.