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Sunday, September 15, 2013

So, What Are You Doing Now?

Transition always breeds questions. People want to know where you are, what you're doing and why you're doing it. And internally we want to know the answers to those questions too. If left unchecked, it can be a really uneasy and even frustrating season of life. I've been asking myself some of those questions for the last few months and just recently feel as though I can answer some of them. In this post I hope to attempt to articulate some answers, or at least some tentative thoughts.

Prior to graduation, I couldn't wait to be done with school and move onto something different. Yet when I actually graduated, I felt the weight of transition and confusion as to what my next step would be. I spent the month of June applying for jobs like crazy. I didn't feel very envisioned or prepared. I actually felt pretty defeated and ill-equipped. After having dreams of going to the nations, planting churches and starting movements, the thought of having a full-time job wasn't appealing to me at all. It seemed so lesser than. But praise God He initiated a perspective shift for me. I started envisioning the kind of character God wanted to develop in me through working full-time. Although I never would have chosen what I'm doing now for myself, I sense so many deep things God is doing in me. The character development process isn't exactly exciting when you're in it, but it's powerful. And it's worth it. 

So, the answer to the first question is that I'm staying in Lawrence. I'm working a full-time job as an event planner for a non-profit near Kansas City. I make reservations with rental companies, create graphics, respond to e-mails, visit embroidery shops and work with local landscapers. Some days I really enjoy it, and others aren't so exciting, but I know that it's good. And I am so sure God is doing things under the surface, or in the unseen if you will. 

2 Corinthians 4:18 says "we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 

I have to believe that there's a bigger picture, an eternal one, than just what I see what my natural eye. Although I can't fully answer the question why I'm staying, I've made a choice to stay. I didn't have a big vision or word from God, but I did have several doors open for me and I have encountered God in some of the deepest places in my heart. I'm stepping out of one of the hardest seasons I think I've ever had, but stepping into more favor with God than I've ever thought possible. And now that I've made the choice to stay, I'm starting to see some of the sweet gifts God has given me here. I've gone deeper than I ever have before in relationships with people, learned to work through conflict, been painfully vulnerable with others in order to walk in the freedom I've been given, and become more hungry and desperate for Jesus than I have in a long time. 

Yes, there are still dreams in my heart to go new places and start new things, but I know I wouldn't be able to steward some of the things well without my character being developed first. And I'm starting to believe He's maximizing the impact my life could have by reminding me that I'm just one broken vessel, chosen by God to lay my life down for people and for the Kingdom of God. 

Transitions do breed questions, but they also breed character development, character that's worth building something on. I want that kind of character. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Celebrate: Graduation

One month ago I was sitting on my front porch overwhelmed by how much had to happen between then and now. Today I sit on my front porch thankful for the grace of God to finish well! This past weekend I graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Communication and a minor in Sociology. After transferring schools and changing majors, it really is a miracle that I was able to walk down the hill this weekend.

God has been so faithful to me over these past four years. He has made a way for me in both new and old places. I'm so honored to be a KU alum and excited for the next step of my life. Although I have no idea what's next, I do know that God "works for the good of those who live him" (Romans 8:28). Clinging to the truth that He is for me, loves me and only has my best in mind. I choose to be hopeful for whatever the future holds, even though I've been redirected so many times in the past few months. He's bigger than my current and future circumstances, faithful to my heart, and always good. 

Praise God and rock chalk. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Low Road

The low road. In our human nature no one prefers to go this route, but this is often the path we're called to choose most. It is, after all  the path Jesus modeled. I'm beginning to realize that I'm called to a lifetime of choosing the low road, rather than just a season. It's better to assume the last position and be invited forward, then to assume the first position and be rebuked and led to the back. As I begin to transition out of college and make decisions for the next year, I'm convicted, challenged and encouraged to respond well in the midst of so many unknowns.

A good friend of mine recently told me that each new step God has called her and her husband take has been lower, but sweeter. We live in a backwards Kingdom, so oftentimes the lower choices are the best choices. This may seem counter-intuitive and even unproductive. But Jesus came "not to be served, but to serve" (Mark 10:45). I'm so challenged by Jesus' choice to go low. Although He was God, "He did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave)... He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried his obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!" (Philippians 2: 6-9).

This is the epitome of backwards! The Son of God had the absolute right to lord his authority over others and assume the best position. But He didn't. Glory to glory doesn't equal lower to higher. But it does mean that we encounter Him in each new place, even if it's lower or less attractive. This revelation has convicted and rocked me these past few weeks. I'm so stirred to follow Jesus' example and choose to go lower, even when it's hard.
I'm reminded of a scene in the book Hinds Feet on High Places where Much Afraid gets to a dead end on her journey and is led away from the high places, where the Shepherd promised to take her. She cries and doesn't understand. But the Shepherd says "The high places are the starting places for the journey down to the lowest place." Much Afraid claims this contradicts his promise, to which he replies "It's not a contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible."

The low road doesn't contradict the promises of God. I'm actually believing really big, incredible promises over my life. But I also really believe that Jesus takes me to low places to develop character in me. Without the character development, I'd never be able to sustain or effectively step into the promises of God or callings on my life. The promises are an invitation to trust God more, especially when they don't seem near or possible. As we choose the low road, He makes the best possible.

As I approach graduation in just a few days, I am standing firm on the promises of God, yet willing to  take the low road, and even be redirected, for God to develop character in me and get the glory from my life! He's worthy of all of the glory and I'm so expectant to encounter His sweetness in this next season. The low road is a joy to take then, because it yields intimacy with Jesus! It makes a way for character to be developed in us and for Jesus to get all the glory and honor He deserves.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Obedience is a Win

Although the title of this post may sound simple or obvious, this statement has been a profound revelation to me over the past few months. I've found it's natural to adhere to our own definition of success. Even if we don't admit it, we each have a subconscious idea of what doing a good job looks like. It's hard not to. Oftentimes these definitions of success can surface in the form of expectations. Ahh the E word. How many times have we been advised to release or let go of our own expectations? Too often to count probably. Then how do we truly live without them?

I may not have a solution to this problem, but I did have a revelation that changed my perspective and definition of success. A few months ago I found myself frustrated after almost every conversation, discipleship meeting or lifegroup. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but I knew things weren't going as I had originally planned. Red flag number one: frustration. I knew there was some expectation I had that wasn't being met, but I couldn't figure out how to get passed it. This went on for a few weeks and eventually the frustration turned to disappointment in my heart. Red flag number two: disappointment.

It wasn't until a powerful encounter with God over spring break that I realized my perspective was off. I started thinking about why I was so frustrated and disappointed and it donned on me that no one else around me was feeling the same. None of my co-leaders or friends were feeling this way. So I went before God and asked Him to search my heart. I found that I had expectations for how each conversation, discipleship meeting and lifegroup was supposed to go. And when it didn't go as planned, I felt it wasn't a win; or a failure. Welp, that's red flag number three: sense of failure. Sounds like some of my identity had been wrapped up in the 'success' of the things I was investing my life in. But one word from God dismissed all three red flags. I felt like He said "Tori, obedience itself is a win." This simple word broke me before Jesus as I repented for wrapping my identity into what I planned to be success. I began to unpack the disappointment, frustration and sense of failure and rest in the reality that every time I obey God, it's a win. That's a success! Obeying God is the end goal! Not a certain outcome.

Now when expectations surface, I can confidently go back to the truth that obeying God is a win. I can let go of each expectation that surfaces and choose to be secure in obedience and in the fact that I'm loved and accepted by God even when I don't obey. Rather than trying to simply release the expectation and move on, it's more productive to go to the root of where it actually came from.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Celebrate: The Glory

I've often been puzzled by the passage in the Old Testament in which Moses is forbidden to enter the Promised Land. It seemed surprising and even wrong to me that after all those years of leading the Israelites, Moses wouldn't be allowed to go inside. It was after listening to a sermon and then re-reading the passage the next morning, that I was brought to a convicting revelation. God is after ALL of His glory.

This may sound obvious, but let me explain. God is so jealous for His glory and the credit for the victory He has won, that He reminds His people because He deserves it! Sometimes the reminding means removing.

God speaks to Moses in Numbers chapter 20 and says "speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water" (vs 8). Moses responds, grabs his staff and approaches the people once again. He calls them forward and says "listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (vs 10). Then Moses struck the rock and the water came. The next few verses reveal God's response to the event: "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them" (vs 12). 

My first thought has always been why? That sounds so harsh. Then as I sat in a living room in Waco, Texas, conviction came. I fell to my knees and started repented for places in my heart that have been after glory or credit. See, when Moses told his audience that he (and Aaron) would bring the water and struck the rock instead of speaking to it, He used his own strength to try to do something only God could. The glory and credit was given to Moses, rather than God. And I think that if Moses were allowed into the Promised Land, the people would have praised him instead of God. So God removed him. I'm sure God was 100% faithful to Moses after that, but He was jealous for ALL of His people's attention, praise and adoration.

There's nothing I could do on earth for the Kingdom of God to earn glory for myself. It has to point back to Jesus. He deserves ALL OF THE GLORY. He is so worthy of all my attention, praise and adoration. Jesus, alone, is worthy.

As I sat on my knees on a Wednesday afternoon over break, I prayed for God to put me in the place that would bring Him to most glory. I want to live in a way that people see Jesus, not me, my accomplishments or even the fruit of my life. And in order to do that, I must continually honor Him. Even if I don't feel it, I have to train myself to worship and honor God. I oftentimes practice physically what I want my heart to do spiritually. That means sometimes I jump up and down in my room or worship like crazy to get my heart to catch up and honor God. Although this may sound or look silly, I can't afford to let my eyes fall from His face. So I try to do whatever I can to stir my heart towards God. I hope to live a life that celebrates the Glory, the God of Israel who is jealous for His people and for me. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Celebrate: The Navajomies

I'm taking the next few weeks to celebrate certain people, events and moments because I've been changed by the value of celebration. To celebrate means to mark ( a significant or happy day or event), to observe or commemorate, to make known publicly, or to praise widely. When I celebrate or rejoice, it takes my eyes off myself and onto Jesus and others. To celebrate is give my attention and focus. To celebrate is to choose a different perspective. And what I love about celebrating or rejoicing is that it's possible in any circumstance. Today I thought I'd celebrate some of my favorite people and sophomore roommates, the Navajomies.

The year was 2010 when we moved into a cozy apartment together down the street from campus. I had no idea I would soon begin one of the most fun years of my life. We called our home the Navajome and we became known as the Navajomies. There are few people I laugh with as much as these three.

Claire, Megan, Lauren and I decided to have a reunion during winter break because the last time the three of us had been together was spring of 2011. Claire, our brilliant, adventurous roomie, decided to study abroad in Scotland and eventually transferred. Although I'm sure Europe has been a dream, those of us in the states have missed her dearly. Lo-Bear, hands down the coolest person we know, started grad school in the fall, but found some time between clinicals and her sporty BF for this epic event. And Megs, the creative queen, just so happened upon the reunion location of our dreams: a tipi. Yes, a real life tipi.

If I were to pick the wildest thing I did over break, it would definitely be this. We called the reunion Navonimo (pronounced Nov-on-i-mo). It was the perfect trip to relax, get refreshed and laugh more than I have all year! Not to mention one of the best dance parties I've ever seen. WHAT. A. BLAST. There's such a freedom with these three to let my guard down and totally be myself.

My fav thing about Claire, besides the fact that she actually laughs at my jokes, is that she is so secure yet so honest. She's comfortable in weakness, which is so refreshing. Praise God for a woman who models security in Jesus, yet powerful, raw vulnerability. If I were to encourage Lauren, the first thing I would say is the way she presents herself and her ideas. She speaks gently with so much wisdom. Her words carry so much weight. Plus you're always guaranteed a good time with this one. And Megs. Ahhh what a gem. This woman knows how to be content in all circumstances. She is also one of the most creative people I know. These women are going to change the world, and I'm honored to share so many experiences with them! Below are some photos from our trip.

(Photos by the talented Claire Aufhammer)

Also, check out this awesome video Megs made of the trip! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Celebrate: The End of Winter Break

Alas, break has finally ended and I am back in my cozy little room in Lawrence, KS. Winter, however has not. I arrived back in Kansas yesterday morning to a beautiful 17 degrees. Needless to say, the fuzzy socks are on and the space heater is cranked full blast.

It seems so long ago that I finished finals, packed up my things and headed home for the last few weeks of 2012. Something has happened in my heart in the last month and a half that has changed me. Today marks the beginning of a new semester and I am excited, envisioned and expectant for what 2013 brings! Here's to a year of richness, exponential growth, open doors, new dreams and new colors.

After leaving Lawrence in December, I felt completely exhausted and worn out and was sure I could sleep for days. There were places of discouragement that crept into my heart and I felt as though I never wanted to pick up a pencil or plan another thing again. I knew I needed something fresh from God during the break and was desperate for something new. Once again brought to my knees by my own weakness, I started asking. I asked God for energy; to not feel tired anymore. For encouragement and even new shoes. I asked for a reminder of why I was doing what I was doing. I asked for fun. For expectations to fall off. For refreshment and new life. And most of all I asked for deep encounters with God that would leave me marked for the next year, and even for the rest of my life. Now, standing on the other side, I can confidently say every one of the things I asked, feeling so small and weak, were received. And then some. 

For the next few weeks, I plan to celebrate some of my favorite moments from the past 2 months. I'm so convinced that celebrating in the middle of any circumstance is powerful. Regardless of whether you feel broken, deserted, happy, on fire or lonely, celebrating in the midst of it all is something we must learn. It just might bring a new perspective, breakthrough or increase of joy, like it has for me. Feel free to tune in and celebrate with me. :)