The Rumor is Now True…

Sweet mercy I haven’t written in ages. Yikes. Well, by now most of you know we’re engaged, and if not, SURPRISE! You’re way behind on the local dish! Here’s how it all went down:

We planned a date night to go cross country skiing together at the end of March (clearly I’m behind on writing…). I had an inclination that Kelly was going to propose that night based on a few things that happened in the days leading up to it. The biggest one was when I asked where he wanted to ski that night. He said, “Let’s go to Tumalo Falls one more time, and then we’ll go other places for the rest of the season.” Tumalo Falls was the first place we went skiing together before we even began dating. I tried not to get my hopes up, but it was hard not to!

When we arrived, the snow was the consistency of a melted, re-frozen sno-cone – not ideal for skiing, but at the end of ski season I’ll take anything I can get. We got to the top of the first large hill on the way to the falls, at sunset, and there he asked me to marry him. We’ve had this long-running joke since we first started dating that we don’t like the term “boyfriend/girlfriend” because it seems so noncommittal, so juvenile. Our separate “dating” theories have always been to date with the purpose of marriage in mind because otherwise it’s just a waste of time. He began his little speech with, “I’m tired of being called your boyfriend, it’s time you call me your fiancee.” And he went on to tell me how much he loved me and how much he is thankful for my presence in his life.

Here’s my favorite part:

When I first arrived home (by this point we already *knew*), he gave me a garnet he has had since he was about 21 years old. It’s a gift he was given by a student while teaching English in Sri Lanka. We talked about incorporating it into my wedding ring, but apparently garnets aren’t as hard as diamonds and the jeweler explained to us it would abrade over time. We decided not to take that risk and to have it set into a necklace once the wedding was over and the purse strings loosened a touch.

I found out Kelly doesn’t like to wait to give me good gifts. He ordered my ring back in February, and of course the wait time was somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks. Somewhere in that time frame he grew tired of waiting to ask me to be his wife, so he had the necklace made and planned to propose with it while the ring was being finished. It worked out wonderfully, because this little garnet I now wear means so much to me – it contests how much I like my ring even. The funny thing about this part of the story is that Kelly got the call at the end of the business day just before he proposed that my ring was done. It wasn’t more than 24 hours before I had two lovely gifts to wear.

There you have it. I’ve finally blogged about the time when Andrea was proposed to by a tall, handsome, and wonderful man.

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The Beach

It has been an unusually warm winter down here and we are enjoying relatively constant temperatures of 70-75 degrees. Today was no different. I headed to the beach with my friend Lisette (an exchange student from Holland) and my buddy Blake. This is where we went:

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burdened.

My friend murdered his roommate last weekend.

In the eyes of society he will always have “murderer” listed after his name – almost like a title. “So and so, the murderer.” This title will forever linger. For this my heart is full of sorrow.

For the first time I feel true compassion toward someone who has committed such a vile and evil act. Never would I have expected this of him, that he would harm a person and leave that person on the ground, gasping at precious air for his own life. Never would I have imagined a rage to come from within him so deep that he could do such a thing. I’m appalled and yet deeply sad in ways I can barely articulate. There is not a word strong enough to wrap up in a neat descriptive package for you to understand. Grief has closed the depths of my mind so that my heart might begin to understand something greater.

Out of this circumstance God has burdened me with knowledge of His compassion toward us in our great state of depravity. To think that the Creator of the universe knows intimately our awful state and yet still loves us to such great heights that He might send Redemption…Oh how I marvel. And oh how I mourn. The Lord’s is a heavy burden to try and comprehend, for I am merely human. I am created, not Creator. I alone cannot bear even a fragment of His work. And yet He has given me strength to understand – scarcely – His definition of compassion on us.

I challenge you to shift your paradigm – even slightly – to think from this place. We are depraved. We have either found redemption or have the opportunity to find redemption in the blood of Christ. The victim desperately needs to be rescued, but what of the perpetrator of evil? Does not their soul need saving? Does he not breathe as I? Does he not need food as I? Does he, deep in his soul, not crave mercy and love as I? Does he not need grace as I?

I believe he does.

Unending, really? Really.

I have been on this justice kick for a while now. I’ve been reading books, scouring the bible, and educating myself on current social justice issues around the globe. It is clear to me that God is a God of justice.

During this time I have found my prayers circling this basic thought process that God is someone to be reckoned with, that I am to strive with Him, pleading for justice and change and true love and truth to rise up amidst hopelessness and the terrors of our day. As much as persistent prayer is biblical, I felt like my prayers and my motives were lacking something. Something was missing somewhere on my radar and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

It wasn’t until a conversation over a beer in a crowded restaurant the other night that it dawned on me via the insight and wisdom from a very dear friend. Carrie is one of the people in my life that shares this passion for social and biblical justice. And because she’s been at this longer than I have I am thankful to the bottom of my heart to have her in my life to help guide me.

As we sipped on our beers, we were marveling at the sermons at church as of late and feeling grateful that truth is being spoken in regards to love and justice (see my last post). As we talked, Carrie brought up a book that she had recently read and a point the author made that turned our conversation upside down for a bit.

The thought was this: unless you fully understand and set your foundation on how much God ACTUALLY loves YOU as an individual (through the gift of Christ’s example and sacrifice), you cannot genuinely love others nor can you be effective in doing justice. At least not for very long.

This is not to say that those doing justice who do not know God cannot do any good, but those who do not rest on His foundation and purpose to know His love personally will not be able to last in fervor of service and pure motive. Their “cup” will run out because it is not being continually filled and nourished with God’s love in order that love flows out of their life to properly “do justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow’s cause”. (And sorry to use such an overused “Christian-y” metaphor, it drives me nuts, but the “cup” makes sense.)

We – at least for Carrie and I – have always heard as we grew up in the church that if you love God, you must love others. But it seems natural and biblical that we should know He first loved us. Unless we know with full assurance and seek out how much God loves us, where will our motives come from? And how quickly will our perseverance run out if we are not resting on that love?

This is hard for me to grasp in some ways because I see many American Christians who take, take, take, receive, receive, receive, and horde, horde, horde. It seems it’s therapeutic to be a Christian for so many. It fulfills this surface need to believe in something, gives us hope, forgives our sins and makes us feel like we’re a better person for being “religious” or by having “faith”. However, in this need to fulfill self we have forgotten to turn around and genuinely give the grace so lavished upon us to our fellow man in need – whether it is spiritual or physical. When I began to notice what was happening around me I felt my own heart go to the extreme of give, give, give. Give your heart, your life, your excess, give out of no excess by faith…and I forgot to continue truly receiving God’s love as my source and ability to give and do justice. I felt guilty, I kid you not, for reading Psalms as a means to draw closer to God. It may sound asinine, but it’s true.

A matter of months ago I began to feel guilty for accepting this love and for feeling so good about God’s grace and love toward me when I constantly have thoughts in the back of my mind about injustice and the suffering of others in this world. However, it seems I went to the other extreme, one which would lead me down a dead end road of complete exhaustion and more than likely bitterness and hopelessness.

It seems to me that my prayers will shift in content and direction just a few degrees now. The time I spend reading the bible will begin to contain a little bit more reading so that I begin to seek God’s love not only for others, but also for my own heart. Because God’s love is unending, and that is the foundation upon which I need to stand.

Exhale of Joy

Do you ever wake up from a night of silent, dreamless sleep, and there’s nothing you can do except smile as you prepare for the day? You feel an overwhelming sense of peace, a rightness in the world that scarcely makes itself known, a silent rhythm of perseverance.

I had that morning. It lingers. I am exhaling joy.

Granted, there is a story behind this that begs telling.

Justice has been served. In a world teeming with corruption and malice where horrific acts take place more often than we care to ponder; one case of injustice will be set right, at least in the eyes of the law. Words can scarcely make an appeal to my elation. A little girl and her brother will (hopefully) never again be molested. They now have the chance to heal, to make a clean break, and I pray to God that they are given the fullness of that opportunity. Innocence was ripped away without permission and smothered as if it didn’t matter. It was concealed and denied. And now the oppressor faces his due punishment, for that I am thankful.

So much is affected by injustice. There is so much to consider. Injustice is not only an act, it is not only a series of: injustice, investigation, justice served. Injustice lingers. It follows lives to their end like a black cloud and sometimes lingers over the following generation of those originally affected. This breaks my heart more than I can elude to on a blog. I simply cannot begin to try.

And when I cannot find the words to speak, to tell a story, I will pen a poem in hopes that some expression will come from my heart that sends the message I intend. For my friend Michelle and all of her courage:

Magnificent is the beat of the heart of Justice
Riding in stronger than the armies of old
Wielding a sharper sword and farther reaching weapons
Than any injustice could imagine
As they creep and hide and commit their crimes
Denying and conspiring that Justice is not great enough
In the darkest corners it ruins and smothers and sabotages
Innocence and rights are laid waste
and left to suffer silently, endlessly, without hope
Until Justice makes a fool of its powerless enemy
By lighting the concealed atrocities and
Ripping apart the haughty enemy
To give due diligence and freedom
healing and hope
to the victims and to the wounded
To sound the song of victory
Making known the all-consuming power
of Justice at its best
A foretelling that injustice will never have the last word
And this time injustice has not seen impunity
It will not be the last
For Justice rides on in triumph

 

Oh Honesty…

Honesty is the best policy. Tell me you haven’t heard that before and I won’t believe you. 🙂 It’s practically the grade school motto in this country. Somewhere deep inside me I find that it’s more than just needing to hear the real truth from someone, more than just being a good citizen, more than just a phrase, more than just honesty and communication in relationships… I find that honesty in the fullness of life is an important thing.

This is why I blog. This is why I drink countless cups of coffee with friends and strangers (who, in turn, become new friends, of course!). This is why I share my heart and beg of others to do the same. I replied to someone’s comment on one of my poems a while back with this:

“I see the heart as useless if we do not share it and give others the opportunity to experience who we really are. And by that, experience Christ through us.”

This is why I don’t cut corners of truth when I’m writing. I feel if you don’t see all sides of me (even the far-out-left-field sarcasm and humor I tend to spew out without warning, the moments of ugly and sadness, or the confusion I might be in…) you won’t see a real person. You’d see this ridiculously happy, always content and smiling, fake person who “really loves God”. And you would despise me.

I don’t want fake. I want real. I desire to be real. So when I say what I’m about to, well, you’ll know that I’m not lacing my writing with falsehood. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a little bit of God shining through. Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Let’s start with the positive, because that’s just who I am when it comes down to it. I am stoked out of my mind to start school. I’m so freaking excited I can barely wait until Christmas is over. That’s creepy, seeing as that’s wishing away a good 3-4 weeks of ski season and because I hate how fast the holidays go every year. I know this little turn of events is something God has been directing me toward, and it excites me to have direction and a long-term commitment ahead of me. (To me, commitment is terrifying at best – so this “four year thing” is a big challenge!) I’ve spent the past two years unsure of what God wanted of my life, but I have been seeking it as passionately as possible fighting the urge to run at almost every turn. And now I have school to help me continue on a more specific direction toward purpose. It’s rather thrilling.

HOWEVER…

I was sipping coffee and reading a blog of a lovely sister/stranger/acquaintance who happens to be serving in Africa this very moment and…well…I cried. Admittedly, her most recent post was tragic and deeply sad, however I felt this other kind of hole inside of my heart. This feeling of, “UGH, WHY THE HECK AM I NOT IN AFRICA?!” I wanted to beat my fists on the floor and let the hot tears take over. I wished and wished I could simply transport myself into the heart of Africa and stay there forever to serve and give my life away and forget about anything our own society tells us is important. My heart is racing because I’m upset. I’m sad that I cannot go right now. I actually mourn the fact that God wants me to do something else right now, even though that something else is exciting to me.

I suppose the only thing I have left to do is wait. I need to allow God to work through what I feel is this funneling of my entire being into something more exquisite than I can imagine. I can only suspect that if you love God, He does that to you, too. It’s what my pastor said to me about a week ago: it’s a period of delayed gratification. That if only I trust God and believe He is doing what He says He will do, it will be more astounding and fulfilling than I can ever hope. Those are some high stakes, folks. I simply have to wait and hope and trust in Him. And that is what I’m hoping and praying to actually make it through without trying to manipulate things and take control to do it the way I want. Because in the end, I want to glorify God. I want Him to use my life in a way that reflects Him and brings Him praise. No matter if I like it or not at the time (or both of those, in this particular case).

Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name,
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever, amen.

Faithful

faithful:
1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker.
2. true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.
3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends.
4. reliable, trusted, or believed.
5. adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate: a faithful account; a faithful copy.

I was sweetly reminded of God’s faithfulness last night. You see, a couple of years ago I went through a really difficult time. My career tanked, I lost my house, I lost everything. I was at rock bottom in so many ways. When all of that crashed down I was left looking at God and astounded at my own idiocy. I had been depending solely upon myself for everything, which God did not find amusing. My response was simple and to the point: I needed God back at number one. I needed to depend on Him rather than myself. And I needed to serve Him and others before myself.

However, months later, after an internship with the church and working with the college ministry, I found myself floundering. I was lost, regardless of how many wonderful friends I had to encourage me. That was the problem. I had friends, no mentors. I had my parents, but no outside wisdom. Don’t get me wrong, my parents and friends are the bomb diggity and were so supportive it absolutely rocked my world, but I still craved time and wisdom from a woman who had already been through it all. A sounding board. And not only did I feel I was missing that in my life, I kept hearing of many other young women who craved that as well. So I began to pray.

Now, fast forward to this spring.

Suddenly in a matter of two weeks, and after a year of wonderment at why God put that on my heart, God gave me a vision and desire to start a women’s group. A gathering to facilitate genuine fellowship, to grow relationships, to study the word and seek out God’s wisdom – and just for the summer months until our fall community groups at church began again. I couldn’t help but obey, even though I wondered if I would have the time or energy to do that on top of planning for Africa. I tried to rely my faith and on the strong belief I have about balance in ministry: that wherever I am, I am called to serve; that no matter if I am planning on serving overseas, I still have work to do at home.

After much prayer and preparation, our first gathering arrived. And let me tell you:

God. Is. Faithful.

We had fourteen women of all ages attend, and we got to know one another, we got to study the word and seek wisdom…and it was so real. I felt a fullness and joy to the depths of my soul like I have never felt before. When God says that He is our ultimate satisfaction, He’s not kidding. This understanding in my heart about servanthood and love, and a heart desiring God, it has never been more alive to me than right now.

If that was the first gathering of the summer…then holy smokes, my imagination will run wild with all of the amazing things God will do in the future.