Letter #634: One Step

Dear steps,

I ran a half marathon in the spring. 13.1 miles. I read somewhere once that’s about 25,000 steps. Wow.

As we go through this thing called life, we’re all on a journey. Our destinations are all the same (death :)), but not one of our paths look alike. I love and hate this at the same time. We question our journey and compare ours to others unnecessarily because we think ours needs to look like everyone else’s.

The reality is, none of our lives are going to look alike. Let’s stop trying to imitate others’ paths and start living in our own.

So I’m stepping along over here, doing my best to embrace my path. Sometimes I take lots of you consistently because I can see where I’m trying to get. Other times, all I can do is take one. I can’t see any farther. I don’t have enough courage or information to take anymore.

Both are acceptable. Both are exciting. Both are going to happen at different points in our lives. Sometimes I know the big picture of where I’m trying to get and take the steps to make it happen. Others, all I can do is simply take one step out of faith and trust I’ll know the next step because I had enough faith to take the first one.

This is where I sit currently. I’ve taken one step without knowing what’s next in a particular area of my life. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t have financial details worked out. I have no idea what exactly I’m going to be doing. This one step has taken me more out of my comfort zone than maybe any one thing in my life.

So what’s my one step? As of a week ago, I’m going to Zambia, Africa December 26th-January 4th. I’m going to Africa. I AM GOING TO AFRICA!!!!! I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet.

A really long story I’ll probably never be able to fully share short, I started praying about the possibility of going to Africa more than two years ago. Through books I’ve read, friends I’ve made, prayers I’ve prayed, causes I’ve supported and things I probably don’t even recognize, a flippant prayer prayed more than 24 months ago will soon turn into reality.

I couldn’t be more excited, yet nervous. I’ve never been more unsure about something, yet so sure. I couldn’t feel more inadequate, yet I’ve never felt more peace. I don’t know many details and I have no idea how I’m going to come up with nearly $5,000 to get there, but I do know I’ve taken one step. The next step will make itself known in time. For now, I will continue to rest in obedience of the one step.     

For the planner that I typically am, one step isn’t good enough. I want destinations. I want a plan to strive for. The older I get, the more I learn I don’t need to know everything to be obedient. Honestly, if I knew everything that was coming at me in the future, I’d probably run the other direction. God probably knows I can only handle one step. And He’s probably anxiously awaiting the opportunity to reveal Himself to me as my faith and trust are stretched.

Here’s to a wild ride filled with lots of steps,

Soon to be Africa goer/step of faith taker

***I’ll include more details in later posts, but I’m going to do camp for a week in Africa. It’s called Dream Camp through Family Legacy. Find out more here.***

Letter #442: Why Not?!

Dear why not,

I’m a realist. I’m practical. Often times, my friends say too practical. I have an Excel monthly budget where I track every dollar I spend. Oh, now you’re tracking…good. In so many ways this is the right way to operate. It allows me to be a good steward with what I’ve been given. I can frame situations with sound perspective. I typically am able to see things with a big picture point of view rather than getting caught up in details.

While good on many levels, I believe I miss out too. On a small scale, I sometimes miss out on fun because I don’t want to spend money or take a risk. On a bigger scale, I miss out on things I don’t even realize. An opportunity. A lesson to be learned. God’s provision and blessing. Who knows what else. My realism and practicality get in the way of seeing God work.

Thus, I have started asking myself you, a two word question, from time to time in the midst of situations. Why not? Pretty simple. Sometimes my answer will still be no. There are just some things that will never be a good idea! Others, I’ll realize I need to branch out. Why not go to Steak n’ Shake super late after a wedding to hang with friends?! Why not try to win a free trip to the Broncos vs. Patriots game via Twitter?! Why not initiate a potentially awkward conversation with a complete stranger and wind up talking about spiritual things?! Why not live, as my friend (I use this very loosely) Dave Ramsey says, like no one else so I can give like no one else?! Why not take the Bible literally and trust that the miracle working, life-changing God of the Bible is the same God I serve today?! Why not?!

Operating like this is not in my comfort zone. However, I think operating outside our comfort zones is when we can truly see the Lord at work. I’m choosing to look at life through the why not lens. I don’t know what this looks like for you. Maybe it’s why not finally pursue your dream of starting your own business?! Maybe it’s why not spend your summer doing something that truly matters rather than walking down the internship, resume builder path?! Maybe it’s why not adopt a child in need of a family?! Maybe it’s why not apply to be on a reality TV show?! I don’t know what it is, but may we not operate in fear but rather operate with an undeniable trust in the Lord as He guides our steps.

Why not do things that matter and have a ton of fun in the process?!

Practical girl longing to walk in faith

Letter #346: Child at Heart

Dear children,

You have a way of putting things into perspective. From the way you view things simplistically to the way a hint of laughter from you makes everything wrong in the world right, you open adult eyes in ways we can’t seem to achieve any longer.

There’s something about age. It strips us of our innocence and honestly often makes us cynical. We’ve been wronged too many times, our hearts have been broken and life has taken a few too many turns for the worst. Adults often play a huge role in this process in your lives. We present reality in the midst of your dreams; we taint your innocence with our cynicism; we hesitate when you pray and dream boldly. I don’t think it’s purposeful, but it’s true.

Then, there are moments when you rock our worlds. You pray a prayer we think is impossible and it happens. You make a comment about life that clicks with us. Your innocence challenges us. Whatever it may be there are moments you open our minds in ways we can’t explain.

Last night, this happened for me. I was babysitting three little ones, 5, 3 and 1. We built forts, pretended we lived in a kingdom, ate ice cream, read books. Typical kid things. It was a blast. Then it happened. When I was tucking them in, I asked who wanted to pray. With no hesitation from the three or five year old, we agreed one would start and the other would finish. Side note: I don’t hear little kids pray often. I work with middle school kids and college students the majority of time, so prayers from you are rare in my world.

Three year old says a brief three sentences and ends with an amen. Then, the five year old begins. She is instantly grateful for her parents and brothers. When I say grateful, I mean grateful. Then she starts praying for her and her brother to make good choices. In a five year old’s words, she was addressing sin nature. She longed to do the right thing, but her flesh sucks her into sin. She was praying against sin in her life. She ended by expressing her gratitude for her parent’s unconditional love despite her mistakes.

Theology from a five year old. Thank you Lord. When’s the last time I’ve been overwhelmed with gratefulness? How often do I pray fervently against sin in my life? How quickly do I take for granted God’s unconditional love despite my idiotic choices?

Thought I was going to hang out with a few of you for a few hours. Little did I know last night would be a moment where you opened my eyes and rocked my world. My cynicism was set aside, and I was able to view life through your eyes. I understand why Jesus highlighted child-like faith so often.

Learning from you,

Embracer of being a child at heart

Letter #202: Soul Surfer

Dear Hollywood,

“You watch any other movie — like Muhammad Ali [in “Ali”], it doesn’t hold back his religion. Just because I’m a Christian, it doesn’t mean that everyone who watches it has to be. It shares my faith, but it’s not overdone and I think everyone can enjoy the film.” These are the words of Bethany Hamilton, surf icon and the reason I’m writing you today. She is the true story, the walking reality behind your new movie, Soul Surfer.

A few weeks ago, I started hearing about a new, inspirational, true story about a teen surfer getting her armed ripped off by a shark. I think I vaguely remember hearing this on the news when I was 16, but I didn’t know much about the story at all. Bethany Hamilton, here’s her website, survived the shark attack, relearns to surf, ends up competing professionally, wins surfing nationals and inspires millions. Bethany even does her own surfing stunts in the movie post shark attack. All with one arm. All because she only has one arm.

I saw Soul Surfer last weekend and to my surprise loved it! There were definite moments I was thankful Laine was with me to laugh at (mostly that Carrie Underwood needs to stick to singing), but overall this was a story of triumph and perseverance wrapped around a family’s and a 13 year old girl’s faith. Plus, surfing…seriously, what normal human being doesn’t wish they could surf?! Learning to surf is at the top of my bucket list…maybe one day!

The Hamilton’s, specifically Bethany, have become heroic icons in a culture longing for positive role models. After her arm loss, recovery and determination to return to her board, Bethany won an ESPY for “Best Comeback Athlete’ as well as a Teen Choice Award of courage in 2004.

I was blown away by the boldness of this film. I didn’t feel like it had been promoted as a Christian movie, just an inspiring, true story. So, as the story unfolded, I was shocked at the transparency of the Hamilton’s faith. Bethany says it best in the opening quote in an interview she did with ESPN; “It shares my faith, but it’s not overdone and I think everyone can enjoy the film.’ It’s not overdone. It portrays a solid, Christian family’s reaction to a trial. A girl wrestling with her identity and finding it in Christ. While anyone could enjoy the film, I hope questions are raised about Christianity because of it.

According to this article, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton became Christians after friends got them interested in reading the Bible. Oh, the power of friendship. Bethany learned to surf and accepted Christ around the age of 5. Today, she’s 21 and seems to be as outspoken about her faith as ever. The Hamilton’s were determined for the film to be as accurate as possible, and Bethany claims it’s pretty close. She praises AnnaSophia Robb several times in various articles for displaying her well.

AnnaSophia with a sleeve allowing her to be filmed with one arm; Bethany actually with no arm.

After the movie, I was intrigued as to how much was true and how much was just you being you. I read up on the story in tons of articles, and surprisingly it seems you stuck to the story pretty well. Hollywood, I’m impressed by your willingness to let this movie speak boldly, for not squelching the realities of the Hamilton’s faith. If nothing else, you will allow great conversation spark across the country among young girls and the power of perseverance. I’m hoping for far more than great conversation. I’m hoping for transformation because people come to know Christ.

Inspired by the story of Bethany Hamilton, an inspiration because she lost an arm,

Wondering what my loss of arm story will be

P.S. Any ideas how I can get Bethany Hamilton to speak at Kanakuk this summer?!

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Letter #188: Belief Statements

Dear belief statements,

Imagine your only purpose of being in a room of five people is for them to fire questions at you for 30 solid minutes about what you believe and why you believe it. If God is all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? How can Jesus be fully God and fully man? What historical facts validate the Bible? Do we have guardian angels? What’s the role of the church? How can I become a Christian? Intimidating right?!

A year ago today, I did just that. I walked into a room, stood before a panel of five leaders in the Kanakuk world and defended everything I believe to be truth concerning my faith for 30 minutes. Our second semester project while I was at the Kanakuk Institute entailed us writing you concerning 10 areas of Christianity: the Trinity; God the Father; God the Son; God the Spirit; the Bible; Man, Sin, Salvation; Angels, Satan, Demons; the Church; Christian Life and the last one was our choice. Basically, I wrote doctrinal statements that a church has for my own personal life. Every “claim’ I made about a topic had to be backed by at least two verses.

From January to April, we worked on a different topic each week. Some weeks came easier than others. Some weeks I was able to devote more time to doing research. Some weeks I spent more time than I dreamed imaginable on it because it was fascinating…Holy Spirit: 20+ hours easy. Over Christmas break, I had a realization that there was no way I was going to let the opportunity to do this project well slip by. On April 6, 2010, I couldn’t have been more thankful for that moment.

So, I began. I read a ton of Scripture before I ever thought about beginning to write my summation. I was shocked how many things we believe with no biblical basis. As I wrote you, I’d never been more convicted to speak truth. We cannot put our stamps of approval on statements with no biblical backing. I was reading things and my entire belief system was being changed, challenged or solidified along the way. Slowly, I was able to combine scriptural truth with my writing style compiling you.

I have never been more proud of an assignment, and I will likely never complete a task of such great value in my life again. Walking into a room of people I respect and leaders in my faith was intimidating. I was unbelievably nervous. I didn’t know enough Scripture. I was inadequate. But I kept reminding myself I wasn’t there to impress a panel. My purpose wasn’t to impress man. My goal was to communicate my beliefs”…my audience was the Lord. If I couldn’t speak confidently in a room of believers about faith, how would I ever do it in my everyday life?

The firing of questions began, and I honestly don’t think I shut up for 30 minutes. I was able to contribute something and use Scripture for every question asked. I definitely have room to grow and improve, but I was handling questions with ease that prior to studying for this assignment would’ve caused me to cringe. After questioning ceased, I quietly stood, walked out of the room and was humbled by how much I had learned about the Lord, His character and my faith. A year ago today was possibly the single most affirming, eye-opening, beneficial, challenging and exciting 30 minutes of my life. You don’t have to attend the Kanakuk Institute to achieve this process, but I’d encourage every believer to define their beliefs by writing out you with Scripture backing it. My world was rocked through it, and I believe yours would be too.

Wishing this year’s students well and challenged to review my statements,

Thankful belief statement writer