It’s Okay if You’re Not Okay

not okay

I’m not okay.

I’ve told a lot of people this lately. Stephen the other night while we were camping, a great friend and pastor Sunday morning, my brother-in-law and his wife over coffee Monday night.

And they all told me that was fine, and told me to take the time to process everything that has been going on.

I had a loved one in the hospital for several months this summer. I planned a wedding, tried to keep up with kitchen renos, and then actually got married. I hid from the world on our honeymoon, buried-boxesthen came home so we could both go back to work and try to get our lives in order as I officially moved out of my parents’ home. Now school has started, and the kitchen isn’t quite done, and the house is still a bit of a disaster.

A lot of reaaaaaallllly big things have happened over the last three months. A lot of things really hurt, and it was really hard to think about wedding details. It was much easier to bottle up feelings and push through to get things done, than to deal with what was running through my head. A lot of the time I did things a lot more slowly than I should have because I was so overwhelmed, but my incredible mom, aunt, mother-in-law, and a million other people stepped up where I was lagging behind, and pushed me forward. I wanted to feel selfish and petty for having a “party” in the middle of everything else going on in our families, but I had some special people give me great reminders. My cousin, Ashten, said “Your wedding is not trivial! It is a visual of Christ’s love for His church, it is a beautiful, hopeful foretaste of our future hope. Each one of us will be blessed and encouraged if you do put the energy into to giving the wedding the care it deserves. It is not selfish, creating a beautiful God – honoring and God-directed wedding is a ministry and encouragement to you and your family.” I figured she sounded pretty wise, and the counselor I went to agreed, and so we had a wedding. Everything turned out beautifully, so many special people were there to celebrate with us, and I now have the privilege of being Stephen’s wife.

Sneak Peak-9Edit

The thing with being a wife though, is that Stephen is now always there. He is my new husband, and reaches to connect with me intentionally. It is really hard to keep things bottled up when someone is trying to touch your heart. I think I’ve kept an emotional wall up with God for the same reasons. I look for Him at work, and I acknowledge and celebrate what He is doing for others, but when I go to acknowledge His faithfulness to me and my family, I’ve been stopping. In order to recognize His goodness in my life, I have to recognize the hurt I’ve been holding inside. It’s really hard to get everything on my to-do list done when I’m a mess, and so I just tuck it away again and keep going.

Through talking with Stephen, Dawn, and Stephen’s brother and sister-in-law the other night, I was reminded that I am allowed to be a mess. It is not okay, however, to use that as an excuse to hide from any of my relationships.

I’ve been getting up early with Stephen to share breakfast before he goes to work, and most mornings I have time to sit with a cup of coffee and my journal after he leaves. The other day I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what He was trying to say to me, that I was blocking out. I found two posts from bloggers I follow that day, that seem to be His answer.

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary said:

This morning I asked God to make me awesome.

I was like, “Lord, would you please make me strong enough and smart enough and good enough? Make me capable and steadfast and secure and then make me all the other things I’m not and give me everything else I need to be awesome, so I can finally be kickass at life.”

And God was all, “Actually? I have a better idea… You do you, frail and broken; you be who you are – and I’ll do me, strong and whole; I’ll be who I Am. And then we’ll kick life in the ass *together*, because when you’re not enough, I Am sufficiently graceful, and when you’re too weak, I Am perfectly powerful. I don’t even need you to be awesome, I just need you to remember that when you’re not, it’s ok, because I Am on your team.”

And I was like, “ooOOOHHHhh, ok… But it would be easier if I was awesome.”

And He was all, “Not gonna happen.”

Amen.

And then Jennifer at Unveiled Wife told me – It’s Okay to Be Overwhelmed. And she is so right, there is freedom in acknowledging that we are overwhelmed and it’s okay. But we cannot give the enemy ground he has no right to. We cannot accept any defeat. We are the children of God. We fundamentally need Him, but He gives us power, and strength and authority. We don’t have to be okay, He is everything, and He is on our team. He gives us what we need to do what He has called, but He is also there when we feel like we’ve got nothing left.

I still have a lot of processing to do, but I am receiving the freedom to do that. I hope that my mess, and my “not okay” encourages you to find peace and freedom in our Father.

Building Community with Roses, Buds and Thorns

Roses, buds and  thorns

After spending a couple of weeks leading my wonderful group of ladies on a study heavy in the Word, a set of circumstances arose and I needed to focus on my family, rather than the study for a few weeks. The lovely Emily totally stepped up and loved me greatly through her willingness to take over both hosting and leading while I was in crisis mode. Through this time, we really bonded as a group, and have developed a true community of 20-something women. If you are leading a small group, living in a community house, living with your family, or just really want to deepen the relationships and level of community with those around you, the idea of Roses, Buds, and Thorns, is a resource I want to share with you! (I did of course, write most of this post before my wedding… Your patience with me as I try to catch up on Bible study posts is greatly appreciated!)

The idea is that each member of the group with share a rose, bud, and thorn. You can do this in any order (we like ending with roses, but it doesn’t always work out that way). Either everyone can share their rose, then everyone share their bud etc. or each individual shares all three at once. Often the second option works better, as the stories of each can intertwine. This is my version of it (based on what Emily has taught us) designed as a weekly reflection for small groups, but there are resources all over the internet on family sites, leadership sites, and coaching sites depending on what you’re looking for!

Roses: 

Your rose is a highlight, an answer to prayer, a happy moment, a Jesus win, or whatever else was life giving to you during the previous week. When we share these, we are able to celebrate together, and be encouraged by the blessings and testimony of those around us. We are living in the Word when we do this, reflective of the many festivals described in the Pentateuch. God asked his people to reflect on and celebrate his faithfulness regularly, and it helped build their identity as a nation. By celebrating together, we build community.

Buds:

Your bud is a hope or space of anticipation you have for the coming days. Whether it’s your light at the end of a dark and twisty tunnel, or the continuation of an exciting and happy period in your life, hope and anticipation are what keep us going. They are reminders that God is good, that he sees us, and he cares for our hearts in the midst of whatever else he is asking of us. We are living in the Word when we do this, reflective of the call to anticipate the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament prophets, to anticipate the resurrection of Jesus, and to anticipate his Second Coming and victory. When we anticipate together, we build community.

Thorns:

Your thorn is an situation where you are frustrated, or you are struggling to find hope. By sharing these places, we can learn how to love and serve one another, pray together, and comfort one another. We are living in the Word when we do this, reflective of our call to mourn together as a part of one body.

Talking about and sharing our roses, buds and thorns builds the vulnerability trust within relationships, and is a practical way to practice loving one another.

Romans 12:9-16

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

Let me know if you have any really great community building resources! Stephen and I have some books in our pile I’m excited to get to. I’ll let you know what I find 🙂

My God Made Xylem and Phloem

my God made xylem and phloem

(This post would be a lot easier to write if I had a textbook or two with me, but I’m on my honeymoon, so we’ll see how this goes!)

Saturday, Stephen and I went on a sea kayaking tour of Kloya Bay and Denise Inlet on the BC northwest coast. It was beautiful! Check out Skeena Kayaking for photos that’ll give you an idea of where we were. We paddled for about 15km total, in the coastal wilderness, fighting the wind and incoming tide on the way out, and enjoying the slack tide on the way back. We are soooo sore, but it was an incredible afternoon.

Kayaking_01

We went out with two guides, women who live and work in the port at Prince Rupert, and enjoyed their stories of the wildlife. One of them grew up on the BC west coast, but had spent a lot of time in eastern Canada, studying forestry and natural resource management, and working as a forester. A lot of the things I study are closely related to that, so we had a lot to talk about. We talked about the incoming oil pipelines, edible plants, and stewardship. We moved on to the design of plant tissue systems (yes, plant nerd over here…). I mentioned something about the incredible adaptations of aquatic plants. and she replied, saying that seeing all the adaptations really makes it difficult to believe anything she heard in church as a child. When the other guide agreed, I think I just muttered something about how I felt it was the opposite, and went back to studying the old growth forest we were resting by. 20150815_142951 [416729]

This conversation weighed on my mind all day, and later when we were getting ready to walk downtown to find supper, Stephen brought it up. He’s listened to enough lectures about how everything I study in the sciences points me to God, that he knew I had a lot more to say in that conversation. We spent some time praying about it, asking for grace for myself when I fail to speak up in these situations, and more opportunities to share how God is in science. As a practice run, here’s what I should’ve explained to my kayaking guide:

There are two general categories of vascular plants: angiosperms (or flowering plants), and gymnosperms (or seed producing plants, mostly conifers). They are called vascular, because they have a system of tubes that allows for water and nutrient transport within the plant. Xylem and phloem are the tissues forming these tubes, and use water pressure to move things up from the roots and down from the photosynthesizing leaves (the sources), to the growing parts of the plant and storage areas (the sinks).

Our kayaking guide was saying that the fact plants have developed xylem and phloem to transport the things they need, makes it hard to believe in anything but chance evolution. I believe the opposite.

Within the angiosperms, there are two more categories: monocots and eudicots (or dicots as they can be called). In the diagram below, you can see some of the basic differences between the two. There are nearly 60 000 known species of monocots, including grains, bananas and lilies. There are about 250 000 known species of eudicots, including buttercups, mangoes and mint.

Basic Differences Between Monocots and Eudicots

Each category of plant covers tens or hundreds of thousands of different kinds of plant. These plants will serve different purposes, have different coloured flowers and fruits, be able to survive in hugely different kinds of environments, and have different shapes. Yet, if you made microscope slides of every plant’s stem and root, you could (most of the time) easily distinguish between the monocots and eudicots, because of the way their xylem and phloem are arranged.

In eudicots, the vascular bundles (consisting of xylem and phloem) are arranged in a star shape in the roots, and a ring in the stem. Monocots have a ring of vascular bundles in the roots and evenly scattered ones in the stem. All plants within each category will follow this design.

vascular bundles

God made xylem and phloem and saw that they were good, efficient ways of satisfying plants’ needs. Though in different environments plants need other adaptations to survive, even if they have evolved over and over and their DNA has been altered and mutated time and time again, they have not lost this key design element, because it is good.

Putting aside arguments of young earth creationism and theistic evolution, I love studying science and being in nature because I see God’s hand in everything. Next time someone brings it up, I hope I recognize the opportunity, and share with them the incredible creativity of the Lord of All the Earth.

In the Word: Introductions Part 2

Introductions part 2We read Matthew 1 and 2, and Luke 2. The nativity accounts! The first descriptions of who Jesus is.

Matthew 1 and 2

We came to Matthew with the understanding that it is written for the Jews of the time, to show fulfillment of the Torah. He wrote at a time when Jews and Jewish and Gentile Christians were figuring out how they related to one another, and how they fit together in the overall story.

Matthew begins his account with the lineage of Jesus, showing his readers that Jesus is a Jew, and from the line of David. He was born in Bethlehem according the the Micah 5:2 prophecy. He was born of a virgin, fulfilling the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy, and beginning his life as a miracle.

Jesus’ birth was revealed to the wise men from the east. These were not the righteous Jews who would’ve expected to be told of the Messiah’s coming. In fact, when they told the Jewish King, Herod the Great what they had learned, he and “everyone in Jerusalem” were disturbed at the news. Herod didn’t want a new king; he was a ruthless protector of his own authority. Yet it was the unexpected people who were told of the Saviour’s coming. After this, we see an interesting parallel between Jesus’ life, and that of the Israelites. His family had to leave their land and go to Egypt to find safety (Jacob’s family ran to Egypt to be saved from the famine). Herod the Great slaughtered hundreds of baby boys in an effort to maintain his power, just as Pharaoh did. When the time came, the Spirit of the Lord let them into the Promised Land, Nazareth for Jesus (fulfilling Isaiah 40:3).

Luke 2

Luke wrote to relate Jesus to every ethnicity and gender. He compiled as much information as he could, in order to present information as completely as he could. The nativity account here is believed to be directly from Mary, indicated by the details regarding her thoughts and the greater detail of events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

Many Jews were expecting a conquering King to save them from the Roman rule. Others were awaiting one who would heal their afflictions. No one was expecting a baby in a stinky cave, and no one was expecting the shepherds to be the ones to announce the coming of the Messiah.

However, as much as Jesus began to break expectations from the beginning, his family did follow temple tradition following his birth. He was offered to God, as all first born Jewish sons were, but would have also been bought back with the traditional redemption price. His mother was ritualistically purified after giving birth.

We meet Simeon and Anna in Luke 2. These are two individuals who were faithful Jews, but were also waiting for God to reveal the messiah to them. Simeon recognized the baby Jesus as the one who fulfilled Isaiah 42:6-7 and 49:6. Jesus was the one who would restore Israel to what she had been created to be-the light to reveal God to the nations. Anna recognized baby Jesus as well, and told everyone around her that God had come to rescue Jerusalem. I don’t know what their reaction to this was, but goodness gracious, I hope I can live an expectant, full faith, content in God’s presence and Word, as she did regardless of what others thought.

This is also the chapter where we see Jesus stay behind in Jerusalem to speak to the teachers at age 12. We see that he recognized God as his Father, but was also obedient to his parents. He went back to Nazareth to grow in maturity and wisdom, as we all must.

In Conclusion

The big theme we found in the Nativity accounts, was that God sent Jesus for everyone, but not for their expectations. He came to the shepherds, the nobles from far off lands, the humble girl from Galilee, and the old man and woman waiting in the Temple. You are not too obscure, marginalized, dirty, or insignificant for God to use you as an important part of his plan. He sees you, and will reveal himself to you. I love that in a culture dominated by men and religious leaders, it was the women and shepherds who God chose to carry his initial message of the Messiah’s birth.

At this point, we’ve seen at least 4 prophecies fulfilled.

The next study will move forward in the story to Matthew 3: 1-17, Mark 1-11, Luke 3:1-22, and John 1:19-28.

In the Word: Introductions Part 1

In the Word Introductions Part 1 (2)For those of you who check in here from places other than Prince George, my beautiful friend Emily and I started a Bible study last week. Because I process through writing, and knowing that I need a prod to keep writing and a place to process what we study, I’m going to write along the progression of our study.

I first approached Emily about hosting this with me in response to learning a lot of hard lessons this spring. I found myself living in a safe, defeated place that I’ve spent the last couple of years building up. It was a really lonely place, and that loneliness and fear is really what finally helped me see. I started processing that earlier this spring (here), but there was much more to work through that I didn’t understand until I was invited to an individual session with our pre-marriage counsellors. The past two months have been a huge journey for Stephen and I, but I think maybe especially for me.

In high school, and even right after high school when I started this blog, and was working as the youth and worship intern, I was an active extrovert, organizing events, and trying to encourage and lead those around me, trying to be deliberate about using my gifts. When I got to university, I was hurting a little from different thought patterns and influences, and it became much easier to focus on school, and grades and Stephen than to put myself out there in this new place and find spaces where I could be the organizer and leader I was made to be. I didn’t create or build into many relationships, and didn’t realize that it would build to the state I found myself in this spring. I was blogging periodically, my relationship with Stephen was good, my relationship with God was pretty good (I thought). I didn’t realize that I was tucking a piece of myself away on the back shelf. After a lot of processing and hard conversations, I decided that it was time to work on living fully as the woman who God made me to be, the woman Stephen decided to marry three years ago, again. I had been buying into the lie that my way of processing and doing things had less eternal value than the way others did things. But, that was a lie, and I’ve been able to own that and move forward.

So I needed a place to build relationships with other young women, and I wanted a space where I could lead and encourage others tangibly, using my organizational skills and energy to create a community for those around me. I went for coffee with Emily, and she was totally on board. My love of teaching and her ability to host work together wonderfully!

So here we are. In our introductions last week, I was totally blown away that in nearly every introduction, the women around me were saying that God had told them it was time to find a community like this to build into, and to receive encouragement from. When everyone left, I cried with Emily, knowing that I am not the only one who needs this space, and that we can truly encourage one another.

We’re doing a study of the character of Jesus, as told through the four Gospels. We are trying to leave behind preconceived notions from what others have said, or what our experiences have taught us, and looking into the Word to discover his mission, his nature, and his character. As women who are coming to this text from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, and maturity of faith, we are trying to put ourselves on the same level, and discover Jesus together. We are heading Into the Word.

Just to keep length of post in mind, the next post will contain the summary of our discussion! If you are in the Prince George area and looking for a community to plug into beyond Sunday morning, send me a message! If you’re unable to come, we welcome your thoughts as you plunge into God’s Word from wherever you are, and discover Jesus with us!