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I always seem to have a plan. And after a brief moment--when measured against the timeline of one's life--He gracefully and graciously ruins my plan of the hour, whatever it may be, in lieu of a greater one. This has occurred in my life without fail. In light of recent circumstances, a reverberation of His love, strength, and faithfulness has echoed in my spirit. As David said, "one thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving." Psalm 62:11-12

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Grapefruit of Community

In two short weeks from yesterday, my time here in Colorado with the most wonderful group of individuals will draw to an end. As I reflect on living the past three months within this community, I cannot help but defer to the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1954) in his book "Life Together," which we read in the beginning of the semester. Bonhoeffer offers sagacious advice for those living in community, based on his underground fellowship experience while living in Nazi Germany. During my time here, there have been aspects of his wisdom we adhered to; others we did not. Nevertheless, the fellowship I have experienced is unlike any of which I have otherwise been a part.

The very first weekend, during our retreat at Horn Creek, we began to form a bond that set the tone for the entire semester. We acted as if we had known each other longer and accepted one another from the get-go. By the time the weekend was over, we had already somewhat established our roles in the group. Between the 44 of us, we knew that Whitney and Matt were among the leaders, Cody and Matthew the musicians, amidst other dynamics within our life groups. As Bonhoeffer said:

"It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak."

Given our time spent with one another, in addition to learning each others' strengths and personality types via assessments, I would now say that we each play a specific role within the life of our community. For example, if you have any questions about politics, talk to Sarah. If you need an encourager, find Hannah.  And if you wish to glean insights from someone that you don't often here from, inquire of Anne Marie.

The acceptance of each other among our group has been a breath of fresh air. Moreover, never have I so well gotten along with and grown to love an entire group of 44 peers as I have this semester. And note that it is not because I have found a group of people who are nearly perfect. It is because if you and I are called to love one another, dwelling on frivolous grievances is no way to go about keeping that command. I have learned this semester that any problem I have with another person is absolutely and solely my problem. I have a responsibility to God for my attitude and my heart towards another person.  We all do. Selfishness never justifies relinquishing the greatest commandment.  

As in all community, when living daily with imperfect people, there have been moments of disconnectedness, conflict, and miscommunication. Within our apartments, to more or less extremes, we have all by now discovered the different norms we possess. Within our life groups, we have had frustration between members. And I think it is safe to say that each of us have had moments of insecurity, fear of vulnerability, or at the very least, concern with what another was thinking. Notwithstanding these realities, I have been blessed with incredible apartment mates and an awesome life group. The relational tests for me personally have been minor during this season of my life, for which I am very thankful. Even so, I have been amazed to watch the confession and forgiveness of those around me who have experienced greater difficulties. Although Satan would have loved to have used such difficulties for his schemes, the Lord has used them instead as opportunities for growth. And we are all the better for it.

"Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God's grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren."

My classmates and I have truly experienced life together. All 44 of us have attended the same classes everyday this semester, we have eaten lunch and dinner at least twice a week together, and we have shared our homes daily with one another. Even amidst our 4500 pages of required reading this semester, we have made time to have fun and play together. (In fact, these times were our motivating factors to get our reading done!) These people have asked me the hard questions and they have challenged me with insights from differing walks of life. And I hope I, them. They have encouraged me and made me laugh more than I had in a long time. They have helped me and sacrificed their time when, for example, our apartment caught on fire... I could go on and on, but I will conclude by saying I am truly thankful for each person with whom I have spent this semester, and will dearly miss each and every one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vantage Point

So I get a call as I'm walking back to room #6 with my roommate, Katie. It's Kjersten, my RD.

"Hey...how's she doin?" she asks.
"She's doing okay, Matt and I are walking back with her now. Her burn looks pretty bad but hopefully she'll get some good drugs soon."
"Okay...well, call me when you leave and come see me tomorrow. I just want to be sure you're okay. You know, talk through anything that might be upsetting."

What was she talking about? I had no idea. Did she think something serious was going on in my life? Was I missing something?

And then it occurred to me. She was talking about the fact that our kitchen had just caught on fire and I was in the ER with my roommate who had acquired near third degree burns on her hand.
It's Tuesday, about 24 hours after the incident, and I am slowly putting the pieces together. What's great is that there were about 11 witnesses at the time of the incident, some playing more static characters than others; some catching different pieces in the timeline of events. Thus, from my vantage point, I will try to collect for you the whole event, incorporating what I've been told by others...

I had just finished sending some research to my boss from my room when the fire alarm went off. I didn't think anything about it; it happens...and I've become an expert at blocking out my roommates when I am trying to work. But when the yelling and chaos continued, I got up to check it out. As I opened my door and walked out of my room, I saw flames going up across the stove, over the microwave, and engulfing the toaster. It was like a movie scene, except in my apartment. I remember seeing Katie in the kitchen but as I stared at the flames, my senses sort of dulled. About that time, Lindsey came out of the laundry room on her phone and had the most confused look on her face. As she tried to escape out from behind the door, which opens right into the burning stovetop, she slipped on the oil that had splashed onto the floor...

Katie was doing a trial run for fried cheese balls for our Greek dinner the next night. She does not remember how or why the oil pan caught on fire; only that it did. At that point, she had to reach around behind the flames to turn the burner off. She picked up the pan to move it to the sink, and as she reached with her left hand to move the faucet out of the way, a drop of water leaked out of the faucet, causing the pan to burst into flames...and catch her hand on fire. She immediately threw the pan back onto the stove, causing the oil to spill onto the floor, the stovetop, among other surface areas.

...Both of them crawled out of the kitchen, at which point I lost track of Lindsey (and Joy, for that matter, who was frozen in shock somewhere behind me). Still staring at the flames--mind you, this is milliseconds later--I saw Katie scramble to the closet out of my peripheral. For some reason, I think the door was already open when I flew out of it, still in my heels and work clothes, to grab the fire extinguisher (I don't know why it would've been but I don't remember opening it). All I know is that I jerked on the metal lever, glass shattered into thousands of slivers in slow motion, and I grabbed the fire extinguisher. I pulled the plastic ring off as I headed back into the apartment, and Katie instinctively grabbed the fire extinguisher from me to put out the flames. I looked to my right and saw Tamara and Sarah (my neighbors) standing horrified and worried in the doorway...

Tamara was approaching the top of the hall staircase when she saw me book it to the fire extinguisher. Apparently, I was yelling all kinds of expletive as I tried to figure out what to do with the extinguisher...though I have absolutely no recollection of this part, nor pieces of the following 5 minutes.   Tamara told me later that night: "You were possessed. You were in another world, and I watched it happen. I heard the fire alarm and when I got to the top of the stairs, there you were saying, "----, s---, how the h--- do you work this thing?" (Great).

...I walked out of the apartment in a trance, just knowing that I couldn't stand to inhale any of that anymore. At that point I realized I was shaking. I stood facing the open entrance into our apartment. I could see Joy and Lindsey still standing there behind the smoke, in shock, and Katie making sure the fire was completely out as she yelled for someone to get her ice. I yelled back that that was a terrible idea. I became aware of a woman holding a dog standing beside me and a little Mexican boy from upstairs whose expression spelled terror. The woman was yelling for the girls to get out, to quit breathing in the fumes. In my mind, I thought, "yeah! Get outside!" but nothing came out. She coaxed Katie into the hallway who was holding her hand up. Again, she calmly asked someone to call her mom and began inquiring about insurance. Within these few seconds, I watched her fingers change from red to white, from swelled to bubbled to blistered. I took in a large breath and ran back into my smoke-filled room to grab my keys, wallet, and cell phone to take Katie to the emergency room...

Part 2 to follow soon.

Friday, October 29, 2010


You know the feeling you get when you wake up early to leave for vacation while it is still dark? That's the feeling I started my day off with-a mixture of tiredness, excitement, and anticipation. Wednesday morning, three of my friends and I left the apartment at 5 AM to watch the sunrise on Cheyenne Mountain. We packed the freshly-made muffins and fruit in a picnic basket and toted our creamed coffee in a cooler as we prepared for this glorious morning.

The drive up the mountain was longer than I anticipated-full of switchbacks-but as we climbed higher and higher, the landscape was breathtaking. At one point, we pulled over just to catch a glimpse of the city lights at night, thousands of feet below us. We drove as far and as fast as we could, racing against the sun to get the best view of its grand entrance. We finally found a place to pull off, and all while still dark, grabbed our coffee and breakfast, and climbed some boulders to get an even better view.

While Chris set up his camera and Katie poured the coffee, Joy and I were simply taking it all in--the crisp scent of the morning, the wind whipping in my ear, and the panoramic view of the shadowed mountains. Slowly but surely the sun began to rise. And let me tell you, there is nothing quite like it. Watching the sunrise on top of a mountain, watching the sky turn colors while casting light on the dark parts of the mountain, automatically makes for a wonderful day. 

And it's moments like these when I realize how seldom I take the time to praise my God and Creator of the universe. How incredible, how majestic is our God. We have been discussing naturalism in class as of late, and I wonder how anyone can justify the absence of an orderly and brilliant Creator. A friend reminded me of a verse a few weeks ago from Romans 1:19-20:

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

Indeed, we are without excuse. The deep, existential, unexplainable sense that envelopes us at a moment like this is proof. That there is something bigger than us. That whatever, whomever is responsible for such a masterpiece deserves to be worshipped. This is our God.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts Unceasing

I just received mail from two of my favorite people. The first was a postcard announcing Lindsay's marriage to Alex (yay!!!) with the most adorable pictures of the two of them I've ever seen. The second was a letter from Maighdlin. If you have never received a letter from her, you should wish that you had. In it she writes about paying attention to what is being revealed "about Him, others, you, your calling, and His perfect plan for your life." What an important reminder for me-for all of us, really. As I am sure you have, I have been so busy with what's become my daily regimen--learning new material, acquiring knowledge, ruminating over specific ideas with other people, among other things--that I have scarce taken time to step back and truly contemplate life's bigger questions...

I remember Dr. Ury talking during the last fall revival about how as Christians, Jesus is our Reality. I had never heard this preached before but I took a liking to the precept. It seemed profound to me, but I was too "busy" to reflect on the implications of this statement. Reality, as it relates to philosophy, is defined as existence that is absolute, self-sufficient, or objective, and not subject to human decisions or conventions. Thus, if Jesus is true reality, and if this definition really encompasses the nature of reality, then the Godhead does exist as absolute, self-sufficient, and not subject to human decisions or conventions. Does this hit anyone else like it does me? What mainly impresses on my mind is that if I really believed this to be true, there would be no place in my heart for insipid notions of self-sufficiency, subjective conclusions, or truth outside of God. The fact is that whether I believe God to be true or not, He is. 

Application: Ugly as it may be, I have always had strong tendencies to want to control all things pertaining to me, from my present circumstances to my future. This desire contradicted what I knew in my head to be true about God: He died so that I might gain life where it was lost, that I might find freedom through Him, and in Him, a perfect plan purposed for my good. (Philippians 1:21; Galatians 5:1; Jeremiah 29:11). For as long as I have had a personal relationship with God, there has been this dichotomous tension, almost as if I am wrestling God Himself for control over my life. What if Jesus became my overriding reality? What if I fully believed Him and His word to be true? I do not believe I would fight Him anymore for control because I would know in my heart that He really does have a future prepared for me, better than any I could plan myself. 

What is it about God that you do not believe to be true? And how does it affect the way you live your life?

Once I acknowledge God as Reality, it becomes easier for me to accept my position and to shed any pretense I have before Him and others. Along with being busy has come the feeling of being thrown into this semester and into circumstances. Unbeknownst to me, it would prove the best time of my life! I have been thrown into this community of 43 students and 10 staff members. And as all of us were sort of forced into this close-knit community, we've had no other choice but to treat it as such. On the subject of community, we read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together. To my surprise, it's amazing what being in real community can do for you and others! (Who knew?!) As Proverbs 27:17 says, "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." It has been a blessing. I will share more about community in an upcoming post.

As I said, seeing Him more accurately and acting with others as His body has given me proper (though far from perfect) perspective on my role in all of this. It amazes me that at points in time, I have valued myself more than others. Note: This is foolish. All that results from this is a skewed, self-absorbed mentality. Rather, you and I need other people to help us learn more about ourselves. In fact, I find that I learn most about myself when I realize I have just judged or disliked someone's personality, disposition, etc. I mean, what kind of pride must lie someone deep inside that would surface when I meet people with whom I automatically write off for no good reason? Ashamedly, I have identified this attitude in myself a few times, living in such close community. And thank God for grace. For helping me to understand. My heart needs to change; not them. 

To address the last part of Maighdlin's letter, I am in the midst of things I've yet to sort through regarding my calling. Many questions pertaining to all of our futures have arisen through conversation and class, such as: What has He gifted you with? What are your natural abilities? What do you have a heart for? Does your career necessarily need to be your ministry? Would not the church function more properly if we as Christians took secular jobs and spent time after work doing the work of the church? Should not every area of our lives reflect our primary calling, which is to glorify God? As I said, many questions...much to sort through. But to bring it back around to the reality of Jesus:

"And why do you worry...? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" -Matthew 6:28-30

And the fact remains that whether I believe God to be true or not, He is. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Feels Like Fall

A partially opened window exposes the crisp, 68 degree air. The breeze wafts the calming scent of the pumpkin spice candle burning beside me throughout the room. And I sit, admiring the mountains as I write while listening to instrumental music for piano and violin. Other than a change in scenery, it is, my friends, the feel of fall. My favorite.

This very moment is the first I have had to sit down and reflect on the past week. I did not have my practicum today, so I came straight home with every intention of taking a lengthy nap (as I only slept for three hours last night). Instead, as I walked into my midday empty apartment, it occurred to me that I could not remember the last time I had been alone! Thus, I decided to enjoy this quiet moment of solitude, however long it may last, and write.

Picking up where I left off, Tackett delivered his final lecture on the heart and the mind last Friday...made for great conversation over the weekend. Friday night, we all attended a Rockies baseball game in Denver. Thankfully, some girls and I sought out Starbucks as we barely explored the city, took plenty of pictures, and did not arrive until the 6th inning...Perfect! The rest of the weekend proved pretty low key, allowing me to get ahead (though not for long) on my reading. Monday marked the first day of Identity and Leadership Development class. My professors, Dr. Robert and Elena Thomason, maintain that "a large part of leading well stems from knowing who you are, and knowing who you are is intricately wound with how God has made you male or female." Interesting...we shall see!

Tuesday was our first day of the Marriage and Family course, which I know we are all going to love. The current reading for this class--Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas--has been profound. Even our professors, Dr. Steve and Twila Lee, agree that this book on marriage stands apart from the rest, in that it breaks down our cultural belief that marriage should be sought after as a means to comfort, happiness, and romance.  It is not that marriage does not afford these; rather, each of these ideas are much more likely to be evidenced in one's marriage over time, through a commitment to another person, with the ultimate goal being to glorify God through your relationship, and to become more like Christ. As Thomas puts it, "In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comfort, desires, and expectations are met.  In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator...Thus, spiritual growth is the main theme: marriage is simply the context." I'll spare you my soapbox. This time. Only because I know there will be plenty more to grapple with in the following classes, and I wish not to burden you with an exhaustive reflection of each one. (Know however, that my heart is for figuring out how to mend broken marriages, and how to shape godly ones from the get-go. That said, I apologize in advance for when I unintentionally do so anyway).

Haha! Ciera, me, Chris, and Daniel.

The students designated Tuesday's class period as stoplight day, wearing each color according to his or her relationship status. Pretty appropriate for a class on marriage, I'd say. (Kidding guys, I know I'm at Focus on the Family, but seriously...) Anyway, it was a fun day. :) Moreover, someone snitched and thus, our professors both showed up in red!

I'll save my worldview class for another post because I have absolutely loved it, as well! However, my social life and sleeping habits have not appreciated 400 pages of reading and a paper this week...Tonight I have small group with ten girls, led by my worldview professor's wife. Until then, much reading to do...

The Colorado Adventure

View right outside my apartment.
Scott, Daniel, Hannah, me, and Katelyn
The (2000 ft) Incline: a mile long stair climb up the side of Pike's Peak

Balancing Rock

Garden of the Gods
I realize I haven't posted in a while...time seems to slip more and more out of my grasp.  Anywho, thought you might enjoy seeing some of what I experience everyday! All of these pictures are locations within 15 minutes of my apartment. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tackett for President


Initially, I was not nearly as enthusiastic about my politics class as I was about the others. That is, until I met Del Tackett, author of The Truth Project, and my Family, Church, & Society professor. For the past 8 weekdays, I have had the privilege of listening to Dr. Tackett lecture for 3 hours a day. And sadly, our last day of his class is tomorrow. Not only I, but the rest of my classmates are saddened by this, as we all have acted as sponges in absorbing breadth and depth of biblical knowledge, as it relates to the world in which we live, from his teaching.  Dr. Tackett has an extraordinary comprehension of God's design and thus, an integral approach in teaching us about family, church, and society. Challenging in itself is the fact that he has taken responsibility for his faith, searching the Scriptures and applying such knowledge to daily life. One of many things I have learned through him is that the Bible is not just a tool of encouragement and daily bread for me; it is a blueprint for humanity. His word to us describes His very own nature, marked by goodness, love, humility, and jealousy (to name a few), and reveals our human nature in contrast.

I hope to dialogue with you more about this when I get home, but for now, I will try and summarize all that I've learned these past 2 weeks in a few paragraphs:

According to Dr. Tackett, the Scriptures elaborate on 6 different social spheres: Family, Church, the State, Community, Labor, and God & Man. Basically, God has designed each of these spheres in His image. Given that God operates as 3 in 1, as diversity within a completely unified relationship, so should we.  For example, the family system was designed as Husband, respectable head of the household, Wife, as his respectful beloved and equal (yet not the same...), and Child(ren), outcome of the bond between Husband and Wife. Three parts in one family structure; diversity within a covenant relationship. Sound familiar? What about the State? According to His design, He should be the foundation upon which an earthly leader governs the people. Three parts to one system. And as we began to look at the design of each of these relationships, they all bore the image and nature of God.

This was an enormous task, to then reflect on what each of these spheres look like in reality, in our society. If God is absolute Truth, then His commands are the standard. If His commands are the standard, then there is no moral relativity. If His very nature is Good, then there is nothing bad about the design for which He intended each sphere to operate.

We discussed many of the pathologies among each sphere as a result of the Fall of Man. And let me be the first to say, that by not contemplating the nature of God and the fact that I was created in His image, I have insidiously subjected myself to secular philosophies, namely individualism, feminism, humanism, and postmodernism. And if you think you've not, ask yourself if you've ever chosen yourself first over others? Have you, as a woman, stepped up when a man would not? Or have you, as a man, abdicated a responsibility because the woman did it for you? Have you ever believed that what's true and good for you is not necessarily true and good for someone else? (Okay, I guess it's just me...)

I realize the summary of what I've been learning is a bit intense, but I am so thankful to have been informed from a biblical standpoint, to have wrestled with issues I never had before, and to have realized my responsibility as a believer to take a position on political, ethical, and moral issues.

Another word on Dr. Tackett: Many of us found that we had had similar thoughts on starting a campaign for our professor. Tackett 2012. Of course, he would not stand for this, as he is probably the most humble man I have ever met. I wish you all could experience him in the classroom. He is passionate about the Lord, above anything else. He speaks lovingly of his family, gracefully of nonbelievers, and starkly of the image believers have created for ourselves. He greets each of us with a firm yet friendly shoulder squeeze during our time of greeting each other in the morning, and then captivates us with his charisma and authority as he speaks. I am not kidding when I say that I have been on the verge of tears nearly every class period, as if his passion were physically contagious. What would happen if we were subject to the leadership of a man such as him? Food for thought. Whether or not ole' Del ever decides to run for president, I count it a blessing to see the example of a man who loves God with all his heart, and so has modeled his life after Him. At the very least, we would do well to follow suit.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We are biopsychosocialspiritual beings.

Dr. Seitz was the first to familiarize me with this term, and I thought it a most appropriate title to encompass all things learned thus far at the Focus Leadership Institute. Please bear with me as I try to articulate each prefix, (and note that physio- would be a more appropriate prefix for the first section) as related to my current experience. It might be a long one.

This past weekend at our retreat, I attempted to hike 8 miles up and down a 3,500 ft. mountain in 4.5 hours. Given the shape I am in, that attempt proved unsuccessful. We were instructed to turn around, wherever we were, at 4 o'clock, at which point I was only roughly 2,625 feet up the mountain. Had we more time, the rest of our group could have made it I'm sure, but we were not quite as acclimated with the elevation (mind you we began our hike already 9,000 ft. above sea level) or mountains in general, as were the others. (Apparently, our group is the second, out of all the years they've attempted this hike, to make it to the top of the mountain the first weekend). It was a great time though! After I got past the leg-burning, I want to die stage, I loved the challenge and goal we were working toward! And, although I was told by one of the camp workers that he didn't expect me to make it that far for my first time, I was still pissed that I didn't get to the top! The guys have incredible pictures in front of the mountain-surrounded lake at the top, with the sun beaming off the water! Agh, but I'm not jealous or anything...
So, in preparation for future hiking, Alyssa, my neighbor from Arizona, and I are going to do inclines and stair-stepping like our lives depended on it. :-) Seriously. I am waiting on her now to go the gym at our apartment complex.

Class begins tomorrow. The past two days have each been a 7 hour intensive on leadership. Dr. Leland has been lecturing, and I cannot wait to have him in our worldview class! He is sharp and quick-minded, intelligent, passionate about Scripture and teaching, and an eloquent speaker. Needless to say, the past two days have not been that bad. His motto has been, "we are so glad you're here, but we cannot wait for you to leave," as the purpose of the institute is to equip FLI students to go confidently into the world as effective and competent Christians in a secular world. Conservative? You might say. Cliche? Perhaps. But that is the last thing being here feels like. For the first time, I am surrounded by peer leaders who all want the same thing, to be effective and competent in our generation. Not that I do not have that atmosphere at Asbury; I am surrounded by only 43 other students who chose to spend such an intense semester here in Colorado. And we have the opportunity to study under and be mentored by godly, competent leaders who are working to accomplish the same things in their areas of expertise. And I am so excited!

For the sake of your time, I will defer the social aspect until my next post. Spiritually, I have never been so enriched by a community. While I have been asking others to pray for time to digest everything and spend time with the Lord, it seems as though His word and teaching are incorporated into nearly every aspect of my day, whether in class or reading for class (okay, so those two things consume most of my day so far). In a real way though, not in a Christian bubble way. But back to understanding why I am here...I did not really know what to expect as I headed out west. Everyone here seems to have a story of how God brought him or her out here at the last minute or through crazy circumstances...and as I was talking with a girl named Joy on our way back from retreat, I told her that I had ended up here by my own choice. That I had worked this semester into my schedule at Asbury so that I could still graduate on time. Only I did not realize until a few days after being here that God humored me by allowing me to think that this was in my plan. And by His grace, I know I am here for divine reasoning which I do not yet understand.

I have so much more to share, it's ridiculous. But, Alyssa just texted me...and I'm off to get in the best shape ever! :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Orientation Week

I arrived Tuesday around 11:15 AM. As we pulled into the apartment parking lot, it finally hit me that this is where I am living for the next 3 and a half months! You guys, it is beautiful out here. As you drive through town, all you can see are incredible mountains surrounding the city. Like, massive. A few of you immediately received texts saying, "Holy crap. I am never coming home." I'm only half kidding. On top of being smack-dab in the middle of this awesome backdrop, my apartment complex is AMAZING, as is the city. Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Panera are all within 1 minute of me. Do you know how incredibly happy this makes me?

I, along with 42 peers, have had orientation for the past three days, beginning with a welcome dinner Tuesday night, right across from Alpha and Omega classrooms (naturally), where I will spend the majority of my class time. I do not have enough time to go into great detail, which I am sure you are thankful for...I already had to sit through 14 hours of orientation...no need to regurgitate it. I will highlight however, that I really like all of my professors so far. They briefed us on the structure and content of their classes and there's not one that I'm not excited about. I will also mention that as you walk down the hallway past their offices, each of them have their Myers-Briggs personality types posted outside their door, just so you know whose office you're entering, what kind of personality with which you are about to sit down and talk. Being the psych major that I am...LOVE IT!

Otherwise, I've been super busy between shopping for hiking boots (yes, I said it), cold gear for hiking, a bathing suit (because I didn't bring one...oh but wait, guess I'll be needing that for our hot tub :-), groceries, apartment stuff, etc. etc. Last night, we had a worship team meeting that lasted 1.5 hours, during which we accomplished very little. But, what's new of musicians? I am organizing the rotation schedule and am kind of the liaison between our student led worship team and our Resident Director, Kjersten. Oddly enough, I am pretty excited about that!

I know I'm probably boring you, so more to come when classes start and I get to explore beautiful Colorado. I just wanted to give you an update (so I got up at 6:30 this morning to do so, as I had to finish reading an article for retreat this weekend and have had no other time)! I am heading out about 8:30 this morning for a camping trip a few hours away and won't be back until Sunday afternoon...at which point, I will have about 60 pages of reading to do before class starts Monday...

Hope everyone has a great weekend. :-)

Go Eagles!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Midpoint: Tulsa, OK

Mom, Dad, and I have been driving through Kansas all day with 3 hours still to go until I reach my apartment in Colorado Springs!!! Last night, we stopped midway in Tulsa, OK to spend the night with my aunt (my dad's sister) and uncle, whom I have never visited. I have seen them at least once a year for the past two decades, but had never made it to their neck of the woods until yesterday.

We were greeted by their two dogs, which I loved.

Okay, dropping the I hate animals pretense for one second, they had a mutt named Ody. He was very cute. The end.

My aunt Sue and uncle Mike own a toy store, called Kiddlestix. They sell specialty toys to special customers, namely Mrs. Taylor Hanson, who was there just a few weeks ago. Seriously though, it's adorable-they took me to see it last night. And I had to blog about it, if for no other reason than to name-drop the wife of my childhood, and current, crush. At dinner, Sue and Mike were telling us about the Silly Band craze that swept their store in March. Mike insisted that they buy a thousand to sell at $5 a package! Against her prognostication that the fad would fade with the end of school, Sue consented.

On the Silly Band stand right in front of the check-out counter, a sign now reads: "Buy one, get one free. No returns." I got a kick out of this. As well as $40 worth of Silly Bands for free, that I will be mailing as gifts to you soon. In case you were wondering.

Around 8 AM this morning, the police showed up outside Sue and Mike's house. See, what happened was: Uncle Mike took Maggie and Ody for a walk in the park this morning, just down the street from their house. (To preface, let me mention that they had just been telling us about a number of recent home invasions in their area)... Anyhow, he noticed a fifty-some year old woman walking from house to house, who seemed innocuous enough. Until he realized that she was taking panoramic video of each one.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Why are you videotaping my neighborhood?" he asked as he approached her. She did not respond at first. But uncle Mike did not let up. I had not previously known this about his personality.

"Silly question...crazy talk," she answered him with an Eastern European accent.

He persisted, "well no, actually. Taking video of people's houses makes them nervous. And I would like an answer as to why you just videotaped mine?"

"Are you security?" she inquired.

"Nooo...do we need security?"

Apparently, Mike arrived at that conclusion on his own. He was on his way out the door to tell the officer she was probably long gone, when who but Lithuania comes trekking up the hill with her video camera. The officer interrogated her while Mike stood by, unconvinced by her claim to the policeman that she lived up the street somewhere and was documenting trees...and apparently just the trunks, as her footage evidenced nothing above the rooftops....

How did the story end? Well, pretty uneventfully. The policeman told her to make her way back home, (wherever that may be). And that while videotaping people's homes is not against the law, it is concerning to the residents. Obviously.

All that to say that while I have been victim to prairies, windmills, and wheat fields for the past two days, our travels have been nothing short of entertaining. Thank you Sue and Mike. That's all for tonight...like I said, 3 more hours to go, and a Starbucks across the street, calling my name come 8 AM.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Past Few Days...

...have been pretty weird. Classes started two weeks ago at Asbury and I have been at home. Well, back and forth a lot. I have loved traveling to Asbury every few days. I love the drive and always...(except for one time)...feel refreshed when I come back home. Like I just needed a good dose of my best friends and people I've not seen all summer. But it's strange, finally leaving. I'd become so spoiled seeing my friends for the past month. And today I left (most of) them for good--for the semester--and realized I am leaving, to move to Colorado for three and a half months tomorrow!

I have been super anxious to leave. But I only realized this through my somatic symptoms. Trouble sleeping, which I never have. And by trouble sleeping, I mean going to bed at 1 AM and waking up at 5 AM, unable to go back to sleep. Irritability, which surfaced a week ago tomorrow (Ashlyn, Lahni, Zeus...I apologize). And now that it's here, I came to this realization which plagued the following 45 minutes of my final drive home from Asbury today: I am a senior, moving to Colorado Springs, during the time when I should be most familiar with the college routine. I am up and leaving when I would normally be preparing for the unknown of the upcoming year. Taking the GRE, applying to grad schools, preparing in advance the best I can. But instead, I am leaving everything I know to venture off into something I know nothing about. And don't get me wrong--I know I am going to eat it up. I can't wait!!! But thinking about preparing for my future when my current experience is also completely new!? Needless to say, if there were ever an hour for me to draw from a vast array of coping mechanisms, the time is now...

I shared this reality check, as my mom put it, with her and my youngest sister last night as they sat in my room while I packed. To which Lahni responded, "Well yeah girl! Of course you're freaking out! I mean, I'm only a sophomore...and I realize I only have two years left of high school! What am I going to do? And you! You're a senior in college! You're practically a mother!"

Thank you, Lahni.

In an attempt to downplay her previous statement she said, "what I mean is, you're almost an adult. Well, you are an adult, but a real adult. Like, a pay-your-own-bills adult."

Again, thank you.

I know the Lord is good. I know He will take care of me. My faith in His ability to do so will be tested, but I will trust Him over my own ability to accomplish anything. In all honesty, there will be times where I will stupidly fight with Him for control, but I know that at the end of the day, I will surrender. I know some of you reading this are praying for me, so know that I plan to share as much as I can with you. :-)

Anywho, I say my last, and therefore hardest goodbyes tonight. Two of my best friends are coming to spend my last night at home with me, along with other wonderful friends and family. And soon enough, you will be reading of my adventures in Colorado! This being my first post in regards to Colorado though, I wanted you to experience the full range of emotions with me, from pre-FLI to post. I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Tribute To You, Sisters.

Last night, 18 girls (ages 15-39) occupied the Techau household. My dad always gets teased for being the only male in a house of 5 women, daughters ranging from age 16 to 21. So, I guess it's fair to pity the man who must succumb to 24/7 estrogen, PMS, and the occasional sleepover extravaganza. During such events, you will find Neal either playing guitar on his bed or walking his only male companion, Zeus. (Sorry, Dad...but then again...I guess it is your fault...)

Anyway, my original intent was to describe, maybe brag on, and share some memories of the girls with whom I've  grown up. Just thinking about them, as Ashlyn and Lahni finished their first week of senior and sophomore year, respectively. Taylor left this morning, marking the beginning of her sophomore year at Asbury. And while their school years have started up again, I am at home for a couple more weeks until I leave for a semester in Colorado! Ergo, the following tribute.

Taylor. Taylor and I are 16 months apart. Two very different personalities who wound up being the best of friends. When we were younger, Taylor was the funny one, the social butterfly, much more easygoing than me. Girly, as evidenced by the fact that she never passed up an opportunity to check herself out in a mirror, and always wore a t-shirt twisted on the back of her head in an attempt at having long hair. But a bit tomboyish at the same time. I, in contrast, was girly, perfectionistic, competitive, reserved, proper, yet desired to be the center of attention. (I suppose little has changed for those who really know us).

I love this girl so much. She still loves me even though I've pulled a chair, and come to think of it, her pants out from underneath her, knocking the breath out of her when she hit the floor...and I still love her even though she's chucked a brush at me. Boy did she know how to push my buttons. See, when I was upset, I would mostly cry and yell. But when she was upset, she would become SO hateful and yell. Thus, she was much better at winning verbal wars. I remember wanting to knock the crap out of her but never having the guts to do so. (Good thing, too). Anywho, I'm glad we can look back and laugh.

Now, I find her hilarious. We have similar humor, though she's much funnier than I. Admittedly, I have adopted some of her quirks, which we now share as inside jokes. (Please God, always remind us of when we're in public). She's just enjoyable to be around. I know that no matter what I disclose to her, she will never judge me, which is a haven for someone with my personality. Taylor is generally light-hearted, fun-spirited, and nonchalant comparatively. She is compassionate and great with kids...All things I am not as much, and admire in her.

Ashlyn. Ashlyn was always the quiet one. No one ever knew exactly what Ashlyn was thinking. She is the most even-keeled girl I think I've ever known, and I appreciate her consistency. I began noticing her wisdom and insight when she entered junior high. She didn't say much, but when she did, it made you think. If only we all could keep our mouths shut until we have something profound or insightful to contribute... Then just a few years ago, Ashlyn really came into her own when she was chosen among applicants to be on the leadership team for International Youth Convention. It was a 2 year planning process, including trips alone to Florida to plan for the 5,000 people event. These past few years, it has blessed me to watch her grow spiritually and as a leader to those around her.

And I've yet to mention her art. I forget when she began, but I guess my parents noticed her talent for it, and started her in art lessons with a local painter. She began drawing and painting, and now there is little she doesn't use as a medium. Her photographs are probably my favorite pieces, as seen alongside my posts. So proud of her, and can't wait to see how the Lord uses her.

Lahni. Those of you who know Lahni, you know that there are not quite words. In the best way. When Lahni was little, she looked adorable in her glasses and bowl-cut, but we all knew not to let her innocent look deceive. Mischief sums up Lahni's childhood. Love, love, love her heart. As she has gotten older, her personality has grown more dynamic. I remember my mom saying, "if she could just divert all the drive, determination, and energy into work for the Lord..." and I believe she is. She has overcome so much in the span of 16 years. She is strong-willed and ambitious. A born leader. I cannot wait to see how the Lord uses her, either. Three years of high school left, and she's ready...to make a difference in the world. I love this about my little Lahni. In some ways, I still think of her this way, though I know she'd rather me not. I remember coming in her room to hug her each night and make sure she was tucked in; she was my baby sister. But she should know I am well aware that she is no longer in need of babying. I aspire to have her sense of responsibility to society and His kingdom, and to endure with the same drive as she will.

Johnna. Okay, so Johnna does not share my blood, but she might as well. Taylor's best friends since preschool. She lived behind us for a while, so we played together on occasion and shared all of our first, best concerts. Her dad drove us to school in the mornings and I will forever remember him singing Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise." I will also forever remember the tens of clips Johnna would style in her hair at one time. She is embarrassed at this now, but I say she should embrace it. Just like she should embrace the box hair color I just applied to her head. Johnna has always been uniquely Johnna. Her own person. Even when people look at her and expect something different. I absolutely love this about her. Lately I have never laughed so hard as I have when spending time with her.

In conclusion, Dad, I'd say you have it pretty good after all. And girls, I will miss you this semester.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I have become very tired of the scenario in which I find myself.  I am still at home, while my friends are at school. I have three weeks left and much to do, and waning energy with which to do it. And unfortunately, I have carried this as a heavy burden over the past few weeks. And then, yet again, the Lord was merciful, pointing out that I suck and He does not. Thus, a list of things not to complain or be pessimistic about; rather, a list of every good thing He has given me this summer:

  • Family...
  • Wonderful Sisters.
  • Free Rent.
  • Friends...
  • Wonderful conversations with my best friend who was living in North Carolina this summer.
  • Four wonderful women of God whom I met with (or tried to) weekly at Coffee Times!
  • Shared experiences...amongst several of my good friends.
  • Weddings and engagements to be excited about!
  • Late nights on the Mallory's patio.
  • Pillsbury cookies.
  • Church Family...
  • Great conversation with a woman in my church.
  • A desire to see His ministry be effective!
  • A chance to work in the church in which I grew up.
  • New relationships.
  • Singleness.
  • Much learned.
  • Wisdom.
  • Humility.
  • A heart for His kingdom.
  • A chance to save money for school.
  • Opportunities to give.
  • Opportunities to serve.
  • Opportunities to love.
Need I go on? So, when you begin to feel discontent...don't. God is SO good. 

Count your blessings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Love Letter

Dear Hanson,

I love you so much. I would have told you so had not my desire to be perceived as refined kept my true feelings unexposed. Of course, I hope you could sense my devotion by my mere presence at your concert last night, accompanied by my screaming after each and every song.

My affection for you began in 2nd grade when my dad brought home an album of long-haired boys not much older than me. It was love at first listen to your album, "Three Car Garage." That began the explosion of Hanson posters covering my bedroom wall, listening to your album so many times I thought it would scratch, learning every lyric, and buying every TeenBop or TigerBeat magazine I could that included either posters or interviews of you.

Zac, you were always my favorite.

        Until I saw Taylor in person 5 years ago.

Nonetheless, I had sea monkeys as pets once...

        I named all of them Zac.

You know, I have my dad to thank for introducing us. I was proud to have heard about you before many others had. He first invested in your music-and my happiness-when he bought the albums "Three Car Garage" and "Middle of Nowhere" for me and my sister, Taylor. During Christmas 1997, you came out with "Snowed In," the only Hanson Christmas album out there. Still my favorite. By the way, your logo? Brilliant. Additionally, I will forever associate the sensation of a warm car during snowy weather with your music. 

I met a girl last night who was in grad school at Spalding. She had come to see you for the twelfth time. Having only seen you three times, I hope you hold true to your promise to continue producing more albums. I also met a girl with your logo and your signatures (somehow) tattooed on her ankle. See, there's sort of this side-stream mania of Hanson fanatics, like myself, whom have stayed true to their first love for the past 13 to 15 years. While you can rest assured I will never brand myself in honor of you, we all have the same stories: Sure, our commitment has strayed from time to time but as soon as another Hanson album comes out or a concert opportunity presents itself, warm feelings and memories of you like an old friendship flood in. 

Lastly, thank you for all your wonderful music. You all are so very talented! Taylor, you play nearly half a dozen instruments at your concerts and Zac, you're ability to sing lead and keep rhythm amazes me. Your combination of rhythms in the song "Crazy Beautiful" last night...very impressive. And as always, quality harmonies. Thank you for sounding the same as you do on your records, for performing with God-given talent, combined with skill and charisma. And for giving a Christian artist, trying to make it, a chance to get his name out by opening for you. Unrelated, I appreciate that you each have a wife and children to whom you are faithful. Way to be solid in a ridiculous industry.

It would be ideal that one day, by some fate, you would stumble across this post on my blog. And that you would then think, we should personally invite her to a show to meet us...even better, to rehearse a song with us! And that you would be encouraged and affirmed not only in your music, but in yourselves as influential individuals.

Your sincere and unashamed fan,


Friday, July 30, 2010

Men of Snow

Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible. I know a lot of people find it depressing but I think it is full of wisdom! The author of this book says that he searched the world for meaning--Wisdom, Pleasures, Folly, Toil, Advancement, Riches--and does not find it in any of them. It reminds me of The History of Rasselas, in which the Prince of Abyssinia  sets out on a journey to find the best way in which to live his life. He observes ideals similar to those of Qo'heleth (the author of Ecclesiastes), and concludes that it is best to reach no conclusion regarding life's questions, lest one stop questioning. Moreover, he chooses to live a life of learning and of faith.

Albeit less romanticized, how many of us have sought most of, if not all of these things to satisfy? At this point, you are either trying out the next thing as a means to fulfillment, or you have realized that at the end of the day, we are men of snow; we melt away. But what then? When I read Ecclesiastes, I find hope in realizing that nothing on earth will ever cut it. Because I know that you and I were never meant for here. Should we put stock in wisdom, find joy in pleasures, avoid recklessness, work hard, be the best we were created to be, and accept responsibility for the resources with which we have been blessed? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, His first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It's as simple and complex as that. When we love God and know His heart, we will discover compassion for others. When we know His mind, there we will gain wisdom and understanding. And not until we forfeit our lives do we truly find it.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I make a mess of things. I do.

And don't we all? Have we not all made a mess of things, of situations, of relationships in our lives, some with greater repercussions than others? If you're thinking "no" in your head (as a side note, I don't believe you), then have you ever been subject to a similar scenario?

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace, that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. -Ephesians 1:7

In my lifetime, I have seen my parents' marriage restored.  I have seen my older cousin come to truly love the Lord, God redeem her relationship with her high school sweetheart, and consequently, marry him.  Her faith has affected her family.  I watched as Jesus transformed the life of my sister, from struggling with anorexia nervosa to knowing Him personally, loving Him, and wanting to serve Him.  I have seen individuals across several generations in my family healed of old wounds. (And you wonder why I want to help couples and families via Christian counseling). I have seen a lifelong friend come to know the Lord, and actively pursue Him with her fiance, who came to the Lord 5 years ago.  I have seen a relationship that I ruined, be healed and restored. Additionally, this friend is now walking daily with the Lord, and is an encouragement to me.

As I read back over this list, it seems so miraculous--and, of course, it is.... Who else in heaven or on earth could be given such credit for changed lives?  The thing is, this should not surprise us.  As Christians, redemption is our reality.

God is so good. And the most awesome part is that He doesn't do it for us! I know, crazy to think that God does not take care of us and provide for us for our sake!? His ways are perfect, and He has purposed everything and everyone for His glory. There was a time when I did not understand this; there will be times when my behavior suggests that I still don't. But praise God that you and I, in Him, find forgiveness, redemption!

*Grammar lesson #1: Alliteration: the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent of closely connected words.
                    Ex: "subject to a similar scenario"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Euchre, Sparkler Bombs, and Academic Decathlons.

I was cracking up (alone) the other day as I recounted the sparkler bomb episode to my family.  They just...didn't quite get it.  I know my friends are weird.  I mean, who enjoys getting together to eat powdered Donettes and play cards for hours upon end, when the same partners win every time?  And who gets together after work to come up with 100 questions, ranging 10 subject areas, so that the brainiacs of the bunch can compete to determine who is the smartest? If someone, unfamiliar to the dynamics of our interaction, could be a fly on the wall on any given night, one would seriously wonder.... Nonetheless, it is obscure evenings such as these that have brought me joy this summer.

So, cheers to contented, age-old friendships!  I count it a blessing to still have you in my life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


A dear friend of mine reminded me of a few verses recently.  And I would like to share them with you.  Romans 4:1-4 says:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

This scripture is saturated with God's goodness.  I have peace, meaning I can rest in God through the grace brought me by Jesus Christ.  I would go so far as to say that the only reason I am standing is because of His grace.  

I will not go into detail about my recent experiences, except to say that I know my pain is nothing compared to what others have endured, or to what I even may endure later in life.  But for the moment, the hurt I feel subject to is enough to bring daily struggle, enough to bring me to my knees, in need of strength and love.  I was listening to a Tim Keller sermon the other day and he stated: "If God is letting you get hurt today, it's because He's trying to save you from a greater hurt tomorrow.  He's trying to wake you up with a pain now to keep you from a greater pain...he'll bring you a loss now to keep you from a greater loss later."

Lord, as unpleasant as this may be, Your Truth has given me hope.  You are always faithful and the plans that You unveil later never cease to astound me.  Thank You for Your people, who have encouraged and walked with me. And whatever brings You glory, whatever that means for my life, let Your will be done.

From Pew Filler to Intern

I am interning at my home church this summer and was told by some individuals that I would be taught a lot about the ministry; by others, I was told that I would learn a lot about the ministry via observation.  After 7 weeks of working in my church, I have decided that the latter is far more accurate.  Have I been taught how to prepare a sermon, youth lesson, or Bible study?  Yes.  Have I been taught one way of how to go about visiting hospital patients and shut-ins, how to conduct funerals and weddings?  Yes.  And I am very thankful for my opportunity to have done so.  

On the other hand, serving as a staff member has opened my eyes to the politics of church life, if you will.  I am becoming more aware of how easy it is for one to go about doing the church work rather than God's work.  And it's not that intentions aren't honorable, it's just that church leadership are expected to carry the weight that the Church should distribute amongst themselves to lighten each other's load.  Speaking from what I've seen, how can the pastor be expected to carry every burden, to remember every birthday, anniversary, and other important dates, to know who has been admitted to the hospital without someone calling, prepare for sermons, have people drop in while he's trying to do so, attend every meeting of every board in the church, take care of 5 maintenance issues that suddenly arise on Sunday morning right before his message, see his own family, and then endure the criticism that is unleashed when he cannot effectively lead the congregation? 

I admit, I have been one of those pew fillers, one that thought that the pastor was in charge of...everything.  I did not vocalize it, but I have been let down because he or she had dropped the ball, in my opinion.  Now, to those who have been guilty of a similar mentality: YOU are the Church.  I am the Church.  And Jesus Christ is head of the Church.  So, if you have issues, I would recommend going to Him first.  I know that He will fix them for you. :-) Most effectively.  

So, what have I learned about the ministry via observation?  First of all, what a shame that I have just realized what a role I play in the ministry; not because I am being paid for the summer, but because Jesus Christ called me to His ministry the day He saved me by His grace.  He called you as well the day He saved you by His goodness and grace.

It's definitely not comfortable.  But being comfortable has gotten us nowhere.  

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Reading List

Hopefully, I will be able to check all these off as noted by a future book report, by the time I leave for Colorado!
  1. Crazy Love...Francis Chan
  2. The 5 Love Languages...Gary Chapman
  3. Love and Respect...Emerson Eggerichs
  4. Sunset...Karen Kingsbury
  5. Unchristian...David Kinnaman
  6. Miracles...CS Lewis
  7. Mere Christianity...CS Lewis
  8. The Problem of Pain...CS Lewis
  9. The Screwtape Letters...CS Lewis
  10. A Wideness in God's Mercy...Clark H. Pinnock
  11. Radical...David Platt