Tag Archives: faith

When Joy is Hard

Joy at Home
Sometimes the Christmas season is holly jolly, merry, and bright. Sometimes Christmas is hard and sad. It hurts when things do not go as expected, when we miss people who are not with us for one reason or another, and sometimes when traditions change.

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Filed under life, milestones, sadness

Techie Tip of the Week

How to get same day Instagram prints | StairStories.com


Temporary Photo Wall Project
Our student ministry welcomed students back to campus last weekend. We had a table in the official check-in line and wanted to make our area look inviting. I printed photos from the past year and then Veronica and Lindsey arranged them on our photo wall. They were impressed when I told them Walgreens now lets customers upload and print photos from Instagram (with same day service). I ordered a number of photos from my Instagram feed and both I and the girls were impressed with the convenience and quality. One of them said, “Man, that is amazing! I’m going to print some tomorrow!”


2014-08-18 17.54.41


What I Did
From the Walgreens photo page, I logged into my Instagram account, selected the photos to print, and chose the sizes. I used 4×4 inch squares, but they also offer 8×8 inch ones too. Most Walgreens stores will offer same-day service for a little extra fee.


Walgreens often puts discount codes in banners at the top of the page. In addition, you can use RetailMeNot or its smart phone app to look up discount codes. I found a code for 50% off any photo order, but they change often.


Side Note
You can also upload photos from your computer or from your Facebook account. I have tried the former, but not the latter.


Walgreens did not ask or pay me to recommend their photo service. I am simply sharing my experience with a business.


Filed under advice, photos, something to try

Lows & Highs: 9/26-10/2/12

My low this week was feeling overwhelmed with trying to do my midterm project, prepare lessons for two different classroom observations, and month-end processing at work.

Students shared lows of finding out a godmother has a brain tumor, coping with a mom’s Huntington’s disease, hearing two classmates who were injured in a car wreck over the weekend, and worrying about a brother who was in a coma following a wreck. Please pray for these students and their families.

Note: I found out early this morning that the student’s brother passed away.

1) I had to do a “Community Connection” project for my TESOL* practicum this semester, so I organized a bilingual story time at the public library and had an excellent turnout.
2) Both my classroom observations went well and I am feeling more optimistic about the rest of the semester now that I have passed those hurdles.
*Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

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Lows & Highs: 9/19-9/25/12

Last weekend, I traveled to Salina, KS, with a group of students for an annual fall conference for college students. This year’s theme was Live Out Loud – Following Jesus in the Everyday Life .

Inconvenient: I had to miss one of the conference sessions and get up super early (4:15 a.m.) on Saturday to take a certification exam (Praxis for ESOL) required for my graduate program. The upside is that the test is over and I feel comfortable enough with the material that I may not have to retake it.

Exhausting: On Saturday, I was awake for over 22 hours of what felt like non-stop activity that started with the Praxis and ended when our group returned around 2:00 a.m. from its annual IHOP run. I enjoyed the day though, and I do not know what I could have left out.

Bonding: At the conference, I enjoyed getting to know our students better and meeting people from other campuses, particularly the other two-year college we partnered with for the weekend. Combining our two groups gave students the benefit of each one’s strengths and they seemed to enjoy each other. See a photo of the combined group below. Don’t we have fun students?  

Sweetness: I also enjoyed attending sessions & workshops with Brian, who also brought students to the conference. Two of the girls teased us for not being publicly affectionate and enthusiastic about seeing each other, saying we didn’t act like we even liked each other. They approved a little more when they saw us holding hands later but I think they were disappointed that our initial greeting was not more like a scene out of a romantic movie. Their playful, teasing disapproval cracked me up!

Feel free to post your lows and highs or link to a lows-and-highs post in the comments.

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Shadow on Affection

They say people become like their pets or pets become like their people… either way, I hear there are a lot of similarities between the two. My family has Shadow, a seven-year-old puppy-at-heart who is probably a Rottweiler-Lab mix (she is a rescue so we are not exactly sure). She lives with my parents across town from me, so I get to visit her often.

She is always thrilled to see me no matter what kind of day either of us have had. She greets me by prancing in circles and wagging her huge tail. When my hands are full and I am not ready to greet her, she sits and waits (still shuffling her front paws and thumping her tail on the floor, watching my every move) until I set down my possessions and turn to pay attention to her. She rushes over, eagerly licking my hands, letting me rub her ears and then turning so I will scratch her back, her hips, her sides. She rubs her sides agains my legs like some sort of 90-pound housecat. Shadow’s affectionate greeting will go on for a good 30 minutes if I let it.

When we are watching a movie or eating dinner or playing games, Shadow likes to lie on the floor near us. If she thinks she is welcome, she will come over and lie right next to (or even on) our feet, just so she can be as close as possible.

I do not know how much Shadow and I are alike, but I think my relationship with God has some similarities to my relationship with her. On one hand, her enthusiastic, all-encompassing affection reminds me of God’s love for me.

The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior Who saves! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in silent satisfaction and in His love He will be silent and make no mention of past sins, or even recall them; He will exult over you with singing.Zephaniah 3:17

In the context of the rest of Zephaniah, this verse comes after God has been wronged by people who refused to listen or follow Him, who wanted little to do with Him. He chooses to forgive and reconcile because He loves them (and us!).

On the other hand, Shadow’s adoring desire to simply be near those she loves is what I want in my attitude toward God.

   I’m asking God for one thing,
      only one thing:
   To live with him in his house
      my whole life long.
   I’ll contemplate his beauty;
      I’ll study at his feet.

   That’s the only quiet, secure place
      in a noisy world,
   The perfect getaway,
      far from the buzz of traffic. Psalm 27:4-5

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The Blue Butterfly Journal

This week I finished a journal I began on October 1, 2011. It is not an unusual milestone, I fill at least one journal a year and have a collection of them spanning more than a decade without gaps.

When I near the end of a book, I love to read back over the pages of that life “chapter.” As I reminisce about what changed and what stayed the same, I begin to notice themes in what I wrote and what God taught me. Here are the two most significant themes, along with related thoughts and excerpts.

Theme #1: Don’t worry or panic

  • I don’t want to pull away from what God is doing even when it seems strange or uncomfortable or risky, instead I need to stay and watch from the unique vantage point He has given me.
  • God has everything under control and does not need my help to make His plans happen.
  • He wants me to chose to be involved in what He is doing and will not let me miss out on His will just because I can be clueless and oblivious to what is really going on.
  • He is more than capable of getting my attention, especially when I spend time with Him often and practice doing what He says.
  • I’m growing in attentiveness to God and what He says.
  • I know Him a little better (and want to know far more) than I did in October.
  • When I actively pay attention to God and what He is doing, all my anxious thoughts and questions fade to silence. They are irrelevant when I recognize again how powerful and loving and trustworthy God is. I don’t need to ask, I don’t need to know exactly what is going on because I know Him and that is more than enough.

Theme #2: How God sees me and what He says about me

  • He delights in every detail of my life.
  • He loves to show off what He is doing in me and is proud of who He made me.
  • He is in no way ashamed of me.
  • He knows I am not perfect yet but assures me that we are on the way to perfection and He will get me there if I stick with Him.
  • He loves to surprise and astound me and He is more creative than even my wild imagination can guess.
  • I have nothing to prove to Him because He knows my heart, with all its desires and secrets, even better than I do.
  • His Spirit within me is my undaunted, untamable, steady and unflinching core.

My favorite theme from this journal is the truth that melts my worry and stubborn resistance every time I remember: I am completely safe with God.

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Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. – 2 Corinthians 5:14

So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. – Colossians 1:28-29

In college Bible study on Monday, we discussed our motivation for interacting with others and talk eventually turned to “How do we do this in real life?” (a.k.a. practical application).

Someone mentioned that the way the students live now, the habits they form, and the way they choose to apply life lessons are good indicators of how they will act after college. As I considered that, I realized how true it is of my life, particularly the way I approach relationships and community.

In college, I looked for ways to interact with people and get to know their stories and what they were enthusiastic about. As I grew to know them, I tried to include them in whatever I was doing – hanging out in the library between classes, game nights, Bible studies, campus events, lunches in the cafeteria, and so on. I enjoyed introducing people and seeing them form friendships. I offered an invitation for people to connect with me and others, to be part of a community on whatever level they chose. Some of them accepted and some did not, but I still communicated that I cared and liked them as they were and liked having them around.

I have been out of college for years and I do not have opportunities to interact with as many people now, but I still invite people into my life and community. Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of people just from work who have accepted my invitations to float trips, lunches, Bible studies, game nights, church, murder mystery night, coffee, etc. in the past year. This is not about having an active social life or about how many people I know, I want to meet people where they are and share lives with them because they matter to Christ and to me.

I don’t use myself as an example because I have this figured out or because I think I got it right but because I tried. Sometimes this seems to work and sometimes it does not. I still keep watching for opportunities to connect with people on a personal level, to get to know them, to look for opportunities to invite and include them.

I love people, talk to them, invite them into my life (and share theirs). I listen to God and love Him and spend time with Him and obey Him. That is my part. God’s part is the internal, heart-and-soul work I don’t always see.

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1-2-3 Quiet Time

A couple years ago, my dad was having a weekly Bible study with Justin* who dislikes reading books and had the impression that quiet time required lots of reading. Dad sympathized because he is not a lover of reading and writing either. He prayed for a simple, practical way that Justin could study the Bible and have quiet time. He came up with three steps: Read, Rewrite, Respond.

1. Read a verse.**

2. Rewrite the verse as if God is speaking personally to you (because He is).

3. Respond to what God is saying.

As an example, here is one I did earlier this month:

1. Read 1 Corinthians 1:19-20

For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

2. Rewrite

Abby, I am never indecisive or hesitant. I do everything I say. I said “yes” to you, to our relationship, and I’ll never change my mind.

3. Respond

Jesus, You chose me and made me Yours. Now I share Your undaunted Spirit; help me act like it. I want to trust You instead of worrying.

You do not have to write as much as I did or you can write more. You do not have to use the whole verse or verses but you can if you want. What I like about this 1-2-3 method is that it is easy to remember and adjusts to fit each person.

*Of course that isn’t his real name.

**If you do not know where to start, try the verse that follows the last one you read or one that was mentioned in the last sermon or Bible study you attended. If neither of those suggestions work for you, start with 1 John.

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Limit: One Life Story Per Person

A couple years ago, I was going through a season of many, many weddings and births. Every time I went to another shower or wedding, I simultaneously loved celebrating with my friends and felt left out of all the fun and moving to new seasons of life. I plaintively asked God why I couldn’t have that too. (I used to hope that I’d get married right after college, but that didn’t happen.)

His response* was almost instantaneous, “If you had gotten married right after college, you wouldn’t have been where I wanted you, wouldn’t have moved to this town and job and college ministry. Would you want to trade your experiences for the past six years to have gotten married earlier?”

A mental montage of highlights and lowlights played in my mind, experiences I would have missed. “No, of course not.”

“Do you want to trade what comes next in the your unique life story in order to live a pale imitation of someone else’s story?”

“Well, no.”

“Then what are you complaining about? You like your life and wouldn’t trade what I’m doing in it for a different life. Look, no two life stories are the same and you can’t have both your own and someone else’s. You can choose an imitation of another’s story; I am not forcing you into this. If you opt out of My dreams for you, you won’t ruin My master plan but you and everyone around you will miss out on the story I want to tell with your life.”

We each have the opportunity to be a real-life, walking-around, one-of-a kind display of God’s power, love, and infinite creativity.

 The LORD directs the steps of the godly.
      He delights in every detail of their lives. 
 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
      for the LORD holds them by the hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 New Living

*No, it was not an audible response and I am not “hearing voices.” I believe God can and does speak to people in many different ways; this is simply how He spoke to me that day.

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Missing Friends

One of the things I am looking forward to about heaven is that none of my friends will be dating and getting married (Mark 12) and none of us will be pressed for time. Seriously, 2010 was a record-breaking year of weddings and I have had six friends get married so far this year. Don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate my friends’ happiness but I grow weary of “losing”  and missing one close friend after another.

Most of the time, I enjoy being single. Something I dislike, though, is being left out because I do not have a significant other to do social activities with my friends and their sweeties. Some friends vanish when they start dating someone. Some manage to squeeze in “hang out time” until wedding plans get busy. After the wedding, the happy couple moves or is busy spending time together, with their families, and with their “couple friends.” If I was friends with the wife first, the two of us might get together occasionally (especially if I ask often). If I was friends with the husband, we don’t really hang out anymore unless we travel in the same social circles.

I’d Like to Tell Them…
You should understand I knew you were fantastic long before you met your sweetie
You should understand I am absolutely thrilled that you are happy together
You should understand sometimes I just miss my friend

I understand we are all busy
I understand we both prayed for you to find this person (and I don’t regret that!)
I understand wanting to spend lots and lots of time with your sweetie
I understand friendships change over the course of time
I understand life has seasons and this is a crazy one
I understand we still care about each other
I understand quality time means more to me than to some
I understand wanting to have “couple friends” when you are part of a couple
I understand, but that does not make me miss you less
I understand.

Life Lessons (or How to Cope)
Step 1: Realize that not everything is about me.

Step 2: Weigh the opportunity cost. If I am upset, hurt, or annoyed by the changes to our closeness, I can choose to stew in that emotion or I can put more effort into staying maintaining the friendship.

Step 3: Decide that my close friends are, of course, worth the extra effort that it may take to get through this hectic season without losing touch completely.

Step 4: Be the social instigator. Invite friends to do things we both enjoy. Initiate social events for groups of friends. Try setting up a standing appointment. I have coffee* with two girl friends on the second Thursday of the month. Sometimes one of us misses or we cancel altogether, but the recurring plans mean that we still get together more often than when we tried to remember to set up one appointment at a time!

Step 5: Recognize that there is a season to let a friend go, but still remember and appreciate the past relationship.

*For us, “having coffee” means we will get together and talk and, at some point, we will discuss having coffee. Coffee consumption does not always occur, but that is still what we call it.

Originally posted on Practical Adventure, 13 October 2011

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Filed under advice, celebrations, life, weddings