Precious Memories

As a kid, I used to love a good hurricane. In the 90s it seemed like Southeastern NC got a Category 2-4 every season. Hurricanes in my family meant securing our homes, and bunkering down with grandma and grandpa to ride out the storm. This meant; snacks whenever I wanted, no real bedtime (because the town shut down), spending all day every day (for 3-4 days) with my family, watching movies (assuming the power wasn’t out), playing upstairs in the attic (I realize how unsafe this is now), filling the tubs and sinks with water, and playing cards or board games with my family. If we were lucky enough for the power to go out (yes, I realize this is not a ‘lucky’ thing), then that meant stories with grandma and grandpa, listening to the hand crank radio for weather updates, moving food from the fridge to the cooler, building a fort in the living room to protect us (my grandpa can tie a mean knot), and singing hymns or quoting scripture with grandma. During the eye of the storm we were allowed to go play outside. Most of the time this included a video camera, and playing weather man/woman updating everyone on the storm. These are some of my favorite memories from being a kid. I used to hope and pray for a hurricane. I never wanted them to be scary, I just wanted an excuse to spend a few random days with my family.

Now, as an “adult” (I use that term loosely), I’m not so sure I care for hurricanes. My hip and knees have been hurting for over a week, thanks to the change in temperature and rain. I can’t sit, stand, or lay down comfortably for more than 10-15minutes. I know the damage that hurricanes can have, whether they make landfall or not. Sure, as a kid we lost shingles, and we replaced them with grandpa less than a week later. Trees went down sometimes, but people never got hurt. Places flooded, but homes and cars were never destroyed, and lives were never lost. I mean, they were, but my family protected me from that. I still look out the window every 10minutes like I did as a child. It’s still mostly from wonder and amazement, I have always found hurricanes and forces of nature fascinating, but on some level I check out the window or door from fear. Not necessarily from fear of the water levels rising too high, or from losing power, or something being ruined, although if this rain keeps up all of that is certainly an option. I think I just have more respect for the elements, and now I fully understand what they are capable of.

I miss the days of not being afraid of the elements, however grateful I am for my respect for them. I miss the days of feeling protected by my family when I was afraid of the thunderstorm from a hurricane. I miss grandpa telling me stories during howling winds, so that I wouldn’t be so afraid. I miss playing in the attic, and opening the window, and not realizing just how dangerous that is in a category 4 hurricane that has made landfall 15 minutes from your home. Maybe this is part of growing up. Making memories you want to hold on to so tightly for the days of being an adult. I’ve always said I never cared much for adulthood. I did childhood much better. But what I have learned in adulthood is how to be grateful. Grateful for the respect I have for nature, grateful for my family to give me memories that make me miss them and my childhood so much. Grateful for my safe home, and God’s provision in our lives so we have never had to worry about our home being destroyed by a flood.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness, of the midnight,
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

-S

Beloved Community

Two posts in one night, so clearly you won’t hear from me again for months. This is the same as the last one, just a different topic. I could have combined the two, but that would have been incredibly long and you may not want to know what I think of both, so you want to skip one. This makes skipping easier, you’re welcome.

The second topic I am supposed to be commenting on is what do I think “Beloved Community” looks like.

The first thing I thought of when I saw this question was Baptist Student Union during my undergraduate career. There was and still is I would say, no where else I felt more safe and at home (then at home, of course, but I don’t think that counts). This was where I first really gave the notion of a call to ministry serious consideration. This is where I was mentored, and encouraged as I discerned that call. It was where I met some of my best friends. They were the people I shared my life with for three years. I transitioned with BSU as an individual and as part of the organization. I went through the growing pains of college as a student, and I went through the growing pains of a leader in a transitioning organization. They were there for me for the mountain tops and valleys, the late night cookout runs, and the early morning breakfasts. They were my support and stability in a time when life so easily becomes unstable. I can honestly say that without a few key people at BSU, I would not have stayed in college.

So after that, I again, went to the theme passage. Colossians 3:12, 14 (NRSV):
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

So what does this mean? This, like a lot of things in the Bible, reminds me of the greatest commandment. Love is the greatest commandment. It bears all, believes all, hopes all, and endures all. Without it, there is not much, if anything left. Same here. Without love, you cannot be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, or patient. It’s not possible. Without love, you cannot be genuinely concerned for another person. Without love, you cannot be kind and good. Without love you cannot be modest in your view of yourself. Without love you cannot be gentle. Without love you cannot tolerate a difference in someone or something else.

You also can’t learn and develop these traits on your own. You cannot love by yourself, not well. You cannot be compassionate without having someone to show compassion to. You cannot be patient, unless you have someone testing your patience.

So what does a beloved community look like to me?
A group of people, that not only gives you the opportunity to learn true compassion, kindness, and patience but also gives you the opportunity to make and watch love become an action.

So again, what do you think a beloved community looks like?

-S

Transformed into New Life

I meant to do this weeks ago… so obviously I started at the last second. Go figure.

This weekend I am going to a conference in which I will be helping with a video. In the video they want me to briefly say what I think the word “Transformation” means to me. So, I’ve been thinking about it, but for some reason I can’t think of what I think of the word. So naturally, I went to google. Google said transformation is “a complete or major change in someone’s or something’s appearance, form, etc…” Which, that makes sense. I can back that definition. But what does that mean to me?

So then I went to the theme verse for our conference. Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV):
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Right. obviously I can back that verse. But what does that mean to me? So then, I started thinking of transformations I had seen. The Biggest Loser transforms peoples bodies and lifestyles. Butterflies are transformed from caterpillars who crawl on their bellies to beautiful creatures who fly and would never dream of crawling on the ground.

So what do these things have in common? They are both losing or gaining something. They are both in essence, just as they were before. But there is a drastic difference in which they would never dream of going back to the way things were. The man or woman how loses hundreds of pounds on The Biggest Loser would never dream of going back to the unhealthy, potentially harmful life they once lived. They are still themselves, they are just different healthier. The butterfly is still a caterpillar in body, they are just capable of something they were never capable of before.

You and I as humans are just that-humans. From the day we are born until the day we die, we never stop being human. Humans were made by God, and for God. When we know who Christ, we are still humans – made by God, for God. But we are a different human. Not better, but different. We are forever changed. To truly be transformed means never going back to where you were. Transformation is the process of making a permanent, complete change.

The butterfly remembers being a caterpillar, but it would never dream or desire to become a caterpillar again. The weight loss champion remembers being extremely overweight, but they would never desire to be that unhealthy again. By allowing our minds, bodies, souls, and hearts to be transformed by the Word of God, we are allowing ourselves to do things we were never capable of doing before.

So what does Transformation mean to me?
By being transformed we are allowing ourselves to become someone and do something we would previously never have been able to do. We are remaining ourselves, but allowing God to completely and permanently change us for the better.

What are your thoughts on the word Transformation?

-S

Change is Scary

I have a feeling 2015 is going to be an interesting year. I could be wrong, I think I’d like to be wrong, but I’m not sure that I am. For some reason I feel like this is the last year that my life could look as it has (more or less) for the past 24 years. I don’t know how I feel about that. This Christmas has probably been one of the best, and my family always has a good Christmas. Donald graduated from UNCW, I got to see lots of friends, and spend a lot of time with my family. I finally got to give Donald his Wicked tickets for the end of January (a secret I have been keeping since September), and we surprised mom with an iPad for Christmas (something she’s really wanted). It almost felt too good to be true. I felt the need to really be present more because everything could change at a moment. Like this time next year my entire world could be very different. Even Donald said a few times how this Christmas could be our last one like this. How we may not have many more opportunities for the 3 of us to be together. I’m in a fairly serious relationship (not that either of us are planning anything for anytime soon, calm yourselves people. We have to finish school), and Donald is at a point that at any point he could be in a serious relationship.

The more I think, the more I don’t want things to change. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t handle change well at all. Over the years, I think I’ve become very flexible, and within reason I think I still am. But for some reason, I am terrified to think that my life could change entirely over the next year. Maybe with Donald’s graduation, me being in my first real serious relationship (particularly in which everyone likes the guy), and it being Christmas we were all in a different state of mind. I remember thinking after my grandma died, that life and Christmas would never be the same again. And it was very different, and it was really hard, and I was terrified; but it wasn’t bad. We were all emotional and reminiscent of her, but we still made the best of it. Over the past week mom talked about the first Christmas after Daddy died, and how she was afraid that we wouldn’t make it through Christmas, and not knowing what to do. But we did, and I bet that was a hard Christmas for her, but we made the best of it, and I bet it was good. Different yes, hard absolutely, but good.

I think tonight made it the absolute worst. I went to see my grandpa for a few minutes tonight since I won’t be able to see him before I leave tomorrow. One of the caregivers walked in the living room where we were, and jokingly asked grandpa to tell me who I was. He looked at me and laughed, kind of mumbled for a second, and the caregiver asked again. He laughed, and said “I don’t know.” And mom and I laughed, because otherwise I would have burst into tears. Mom told him he did know me, and she said “That’s Stephanie Diane, better known as your princess” and he laughed and said “yeah she is.” and we all laughed, but inside I felt like I was going to be sick. I know my grandpa knows who I am, because he smiles and laughs, and carries on, when I’m there. He knows I’m his granddaughter, but he can’t remember my name. It never occurred to me that grandpa’s Alzheimer’s would take away my name from his memory. In 24 years, it never occurred to me that he wouldn’t know my name. And he knows who I am, so it could be worse, but still. What will I do next Christmas if he doesn’t remember me? I thought it was bad the day he didn’t tell me to “don’t take any wooden nickels” and to “keep it [the car] between the ditches” when I left and headed back to school. But to not remember my name? I’m trying to rationalise it; maybe he was tired, or he had been out riding around in the car too long, or maybe he was trying to be funny. But I don’t think so.

Tonight particularly, made me really not want to leave home. I don’t want anything to change, I don’t want grandpa to keep changing, I don’t want my family to keep going on with their lives without me. On a very rational level, I know this is all an over reaction. Holidays are sentimental, reflective, emotional, and all of that, but right now the potential for change just seems to be too much. And I don’t really know how to prepare for it. Normally, when change is coming, I know how to prepare for it. This change, this is a different kind of change. This is a potential for drastic change, that I have very little control over, will likely have very little warning of it’s coming, and it is such new change that I don’t know how to prepare or move with it.

So I guess, in a nutshell what I’m trying to say is I’m scared terrified petrified of what the future holds because I can’t plan for it. That’s a normal fear for a 24 year old, right? Someone please say yes.

I don’t like change. I don’t like the unknown. I don’t like not being prepared for change. So please, 2015, be kind to me.

-S

Why millennials are leaving the church

CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by  Rachel Held Evans , Special to CNN

(CNN) At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

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So Many Questions

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PytP9XPhP1g

This is the song Joseph’s Lullaby by MercyMe. I never really thought about this until I heard the song last night, but I honestly have to wonder, what were Mary and Joseph thinking through all of this? We have no real indication of their thoughts or words to one another in regards to this situation. From my understanding, Mary was around 14 and Joseph was in his 30s. They were set to be married so that part isn’t uncommon, but then his wife is suddenly pregnant with the Messiah. You have to wonder what her parents thought and what Joseph thought. They were Jews, so they knew the Davidic Covenant, but did they really buy into it? What about Mary’s parents? If my 14 year old daughter said that to me, there is no way I would believe her no matter how honest and sweet of a child she had been up to that point in her life.

It is so hard for me to wrap my head around that night in Bethlehem. In this quite, crossroads town, probably no bigger than my beloved Buies Creek, the Saviour of the world was born the same way as you and I were. Let that sink in for a second. The newborn who would grow into the Healer, Teacher, Master, Friend, Saviour, Redeemer, and Protector was born just like me. From a mother in pain and into the world. Did he know who he was? Or did God shield him from his greatness? Was he born with the knowledge of who he was and what he would do? Or was he allowed the innocence that you and I are granted at infancy? You have to wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking during these moments? If they believed their son was who God said he was, did they pray differently for him than our parents pray for us? Did they feel the need to pray for him at all? I mean, he is Jesus. Do we need to pray for Jesus? I would probably be incredibly selfish with my prayers and pray for my ability to raise the Messiah. Did they actually realize the weight of their calling? To be the earthly parents of the son of God. Or did they even think of all of that in the first moments of his life. Did they even entertain his immortality? Or did they simply put all of that aside for just a few moments to enjoy and love their son. Their precious gift from God. I’m not sure I could put all my questions aside, but I would hope that Mary and Joseph were able to stop amid their questions, and fears and enjoy their child.

Which I guess is a lesson we can learn even today. During this busy season of shopping, parties, events, family time, recovering from exams, maybe even our many questions; I hope you take time during this holiday season to just sit and enjoy the presence of Christ. It may seem in our world that he is hard to see or hard to hear but if you put everything else away for just a moment, it’s really not that hard. Take time this season to sit and remember who Christ is, who he was, and who he promises to be. Whether in the form of an infant, toddler, teenager, or adult; Christ is who he said he is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I encourage you, more than ever, to sit in his presence and remember the miracle that was the human birth of Jesus Christ.

 

-S

Everything to Say, Nothing to Say

I meant to do a much better job of keeping up with this, promise I did. Can we talk about how it’s halfway through November? Crazy. Anyways.

Summer came and went, fall came and is almost gone, and we’re heading into the holiday season. Catherine moved out in August, Brooke moved in, and we fell into a hectic pattern of crossing paths once a day, and catching up at soccer games and on weekends. So far I’m not failing any classes, but divinity school has drastically changed the way I look at life, education, and the world around me. I think more than I ever have in the past, I am more exhausted than I have ever been before, and even with as busy as I was in undergrad, I’ve never been more overwhelmed before.

I resigned from the church, and today is actually my first Sunday not being there. They’re on their way back from Caswell today, and I pray it went well. Telling the youth I wasn’t coming back was one of the most un-fun things I’ve ever done in my life, but I know it was important if I’m going to do this whole divinity school thing properly.

I have so much to say about this year so far, yet I can’t seem to find words to go with any of it. It’s like, this entire year (from August to now) has left me completely and totally speechless, and I have no idea what to say or think about it. I’ve tried to put words behind what I’m thinking or feeling, but nothing. I just had a ladybug come in my house… I digress.

I feel like the next 3.5 years of my life are going to be interesting. I have so many plans and dreams, but I know at an instant God can say “nope, you’re doing this” and that’ll be that. Which is kind of scary to think about, but kind of exciting at the same time. I’ve also stopped writing 3 or 4 different times thinking the words would come to me, not so much.

Now that I have a smudge more free time, maybe you’ll hear from me more. But if not, know that I’m busy tucked away in the library, working on papers and Hebrew, studying away, and you’ll hear from me during Christmas.

 

-S