Under Construction

“Almost all of the really beautiful, profound things God is going to do in your life are going to take place over a long period of time, through a lot of ordinary.”
– Matt Chandler

Since I’ve lived in New York State my whole life, I, like all true upstaters, am immensely adept at complaining about the cold, bleak winter that darkens about six months of the year (give or take). It’s a point of solidarity among New Yorkers, something that you can reference to a complete stranger and likely receive an earful on.

However, I don’t actually hate winter. I grew up right outside the snow belt and a recipient of Lake Effect Snow, so winter is like an old familiar friend to me. I enjoy how muted and fresh the world looks under a fresh blanket of snow. I like to ski. I like to sip hot chocolate, curl up next to a fireplace and immerse myself in a book. I like wool socks, scarves, and cardigans.

Yet, in spite of all that, this year I needed it to be spring in a way I haven’t previously. It has been a long, dark, cold few months in my personal life. I am sick of the outdoors reflecting my inward state.

I am ready for growth.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks. Its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
– Cynthia Occelli

To be clear, I am not intimidated by winter – both inwardly or outwardly.

As someone who struggles with depression, the seasons serve as a source of continual personal encouragement to me. The seasons are a tangible reminder that change can be beautiful and that everything is impermanent. I am not going to get perpetually stuck in the winter months. Spring will come. Beauty will burst forth, and I will reap what I’ve sown. And, I’m certainly not scared of struggling. Shaming struggling is a facade. Everyone struggles; there’s no reason for shame. Thus it’s a facade I refuse to participate in.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I am relieved that it’s finally spring.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
– Albert Camus


Was it Necessary to Do It?

I tell you that ant is very alive!
Look at how he fusses at being stepped on.
–  Mary Oliver

Even my church building has been a source of ready encouragement to me.

About a year ago, the church that I attend, Goodwill – New Paltz, finally had the privilege of opening the doors of its permanent location for the very first time. Together, we rejoiced as a church, as this is something we had been praying for consistently for the better part of a year and a half. Previously, we had been meeting in the Community Center in town, which, though accommodating, presented its own unique set of challenges. Fellowship was significantly hampered after church due to the fact other groups also used the building and we had to vacate the premises by a certain time. Not to mention the extraordinary outside effort and time it took each week to completely set up and tear down all of the chairs, tables and instruments required for both services.

And, not only did we finally have a permanent location, but the building that my church gets to call its home is, by no exaggeration, one of the most historically significant buildings in the Village of New Paltz. (Interestingly, though the building itself dates back to the Civil War era, my church was founded in 1729 – prior to the American Revolution.)

Feeding the 5000: Transforming a Steakhouse into a Church

The building that now houses my church has traditionally been at the center of the culture and hubbub of community activities. (Coincidence? I think not. God is good.) In fact, in 2004, the building was officially declared a landmark by the New Paltz Village Historic Preservation Commission. The two-story, 3,200 square foot brick building that sits on the corner of North Chestnut Street was initially built as a Village Hall in in 1864. However, it has worn a variety of titles throughout its history. It has been a traditional theatre and a “moving-pictures theater” on multiple occasions, (usually both at the same time,) as well as an Opera House, Community Center, and various restaurants. It has also housed a hardware store, a school of ballet, a barber shop, and a shoe repair shop. It has even briefly housed residents! It has hosted everything from basketball games to barn dances.

Pastor Josh has remarked on numerous occasions that: “To know that we get to be the stewards of this jewel of New Paltz – to me, the most iconic building in the Village – comes with a sense of great joy and great responsibility.”

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Stupidly excited. God is moving in New Paltz, and it’s a privilege to be a part of that.

Turning a restaurant into a church is no small feat, however. Thus, for the better part of the first few months that we occupied it as a church, it was in a state of obvious construction. At this point, everything that is left to do is primarily cosmetic, but there was something very cool about worshipping God in a space that was still in the process of realizing its full potential.

After all, aren’t we all in a state of perpetual construction before Him?

“We, in Communion with Jesus Christ are a Community of friends and families who love and trust Him and passionately pursue the Christ-like Character essential to fulfill our Commission to change our lives and world for Him.”
(Goodwill’s purpose and identity statement)

We live in a society that rewards and celebrates the “big things” – starring in a play, releasing a single on iTunes, getting a metal at the Olympics. Social media has only contributed to this propensity to play into the highlight reel of our lives. But what’s not seen by the masses is the hours of rehearsal, the voice lessons, the frustrations, and years of daily pushing the physical limits that led up to each of these individual successes.

What’s not seen by a visitor of Upstate New York in the spring is the winter that proceeded it. What’s not seen by a visitor of my church now is spackle behind the painted walls; the long days put in by Doug Jeffries and many unnamed others to transform a restaurant into a functional church.

We need to stop waking up and waiting for something wonderful to happen. We are that something wonderful. Let’s make it happen.

“Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight.
At the sound of His roar, sorrows will be no more.
When He bares His teeth, winter meets its death,
And when He shakes His mane, we shall have spring again.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe


Where, oh death, is your victory?
Where, oh death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory 
through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

One of my least favorite phrases that has wormed its way into the Christian vernacular is: “God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers.” (It’s right up there with: “God helps a man who helps himself.” Gag me.)

I detest this cliché for a myriad of reasons. First of all, it’s not Biblically grounded. It completely

  1. Disregards that the only way any of us stand a chance in battle is because of Who God is, not because of who we are. Please. Let’s not get presumptuously cocky. (I don’t know about you, but pride is never something that my Bible speaks of highly. But maybe you have a different translation?)
  2. Ignores how someone becomes a “strong soldier.” As aforementioned, just like most success, becoming a soldier is preceded and continued by a string of minute decisions daily, small, uncelebrated, and sometimes even unnoticed acts of obedience.

To be entirely transparent, I have often longed that the battles that God has given me to face and carry – my brother’s stillbirth, Nancy’s untimely passing, my depression – could be re-gifted to some other soldier. Not that I would ever wish sorrow on anyone else. But at the same time, I whine at God, why me?

I often get FOMO amongst my peers. Many of my friends my age have graduated college at this point, and are either in grad school or beginning their careers, getting married, or starting a family. I’m still struggling to keep my plants alive, and am not even yet settled enough somewhere to get a pet. My plans have been written and re-written over the course of the last few years, as what I want has changed, and I’ve been forced to take time off of school for the sake of my mental health (I’m actually on a leave of absence from school right now.)

In a way, experiencing grief so young feels like I got robbed of what remained of my youth, and was catapulted into adulthood without my consent or even any sort of warning. I was a senior in high school when Nancy died, on the cusp of finally experiencing the “best years of my life:” getting to discover who I was apart from my parents and hometown, and make irresponsible decisions without remorse. (I may have done that last thing anyway.)

I have often told God that if He wanted to place the calling He has on my life on someone else’s life, I’d be cool with it. (I’m not yet sure what He’s calling me to, but He has made it abundantly clear to me that He has work for me to do.) Because, the paradox of all of this is that “to much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

I have been given much, therefore much is required of me.

I personally would rather lie low. I’m rather fond of my bed. I’d be okay with just sliding by, unnoticed and uncelebrated, leading a “normal” life with “normal” activities. Unfortunately, that is just not accessible to me. God wants (and even demands) more for (and of) me.

So in trusting Him, I’m striving to celebrate the ordinary: this season of harrowing internal construction, even if it doesn’t look exactly how I had imagined or how I would have preferred. Fortunately, weather* it’s spring or winter, my Jesus is consistent in all seasons, and the gospel only gets sweeter with time.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is your life appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory.”
Colossians 3:2-4, emphasis mine

*entirely intentional.

 

Lionesses: Ladies with a Bite

A necessary (and perhaps overdue) rant about the church, relationships, and feminism.

Frankly, I’m tired of apologizing for being a woman that knows her own mind and sets high standards for herself and those she surrounds herself by.

And I refuse to continue to apologize.

“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry about.”
– Amy Poehler

I’m sick of being told that I’ll “never find anyone” because my standards are “too high” and I’m “too picky.” I’m tired of being invalidated by other people that assume they know better simply because they’re older or because they’re willing to settle for less.

Not me. Not today. Not ever.

I will only have you if you are sweeter than my solitude.

I will not apologize for knowing my own mind and standards. I will not apologize for being self-aware and knowing what I need. I will not apologize for my confidence.

I will not apologize. 

Insecurity is not humility. To know Christ is to know who you are because you know Whose you are. And once you know who you are, it’s not only hard, but impossible to settle for less.

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14

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“If we base our significance, self-worth, or self-esteem on anything other than the strong nails of our identity in Christ, then we are at risk of collapsing when the strong winds of adversity come our way. The truth is: you are who God says you are.”
– Sharon Jaynes

I’m not going to diminish myself to be with someone. I’m already under five feet.

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“What matters is not the length of the wand but the magic in the stick.”
– Anonymous

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“‘Are you a princess?’ I said and she said, ‘I’m so much more than a princess, but you don’t have a name for it yet here on earth.'”
– Brian Andreas, The Story People

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Rachel Aiden Garben, one of the most beautiful and passionate souls I know.

“‘I love myself.’
The quietest.
Simplest.
Most
Powerful.
Revolution.”
– Nayyirah  Waheed

Leslie Knope to Ben: “Here is my wall of inspirational women.
Ben: Is that a picture of you?
Leslie Knope: Yes

Parks And Recreation GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“The woman who doesn’t need validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.”
– Mohadesa Najumi

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The Jesus I know didn’t just warm a pew on Sunday morning. The Jesus I know wasn’t politically correct. The Jesus I know was passionate, bold, and even at times irritable.  (See John 2:13-22, 11:35.) Jesus refused to sacrifice truth on the altar of love. He loved people enough to tell them the truth of the gospel. The Jesus I know always treated women as equals and with the utmost respect. The church and His followers, unfortunately, have not always done so.

It is my prerogative to be picky. It is my prerogative to have high expectations. I think that the person you marry (if and when you marry) is the single most important decision you make – second only to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You’d better believe I’m going to be picky. I’m not intending to divorce. 

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Nora: That is just it; you have never understood me. I have been greatly wronged, Torvald — first by papa and then by you.
Helmer: What! By us two — by us two, who have loved you better than anything in the world?
Nora: [shaking her head]. You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me…
I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so.
Homer: How unreasonable and ungrateful you are, Nora! Have you not been happy here?
Nora: No, I have never been happy. I thought I was, but it has never really been so.


Nora: Alas, Torvald, you are not the man to educate me into being a proper wife for you…I must stand quite alone, if I am to understand myself and everything about me…I believe that before all else, I am a reasonable human being, just as you are – or, at all events, that I must try and become one. I know quite well, Torvald, that most people would think you right, and that views of that kind are to be found in books; but I can no longer content myself with what most people say or what is found in books. I must think over things for myself and get to understand them.


Helmer: You are ill, Nora; you are delirious; I almost think you are out of your mind.
Nora: I have never felt my mind so clear and certain as tonight.

(Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House – highly recommend)

Friends, I beg of you, stop undermining the people with high expectations. I know that my standards are not unrealistic, because I know Who my God is. He is faithful, and He passionately pursues us. He is patient. And gracious. God is love (1 John 4:8.) Thus, to know God is to know how to love.

I will not apologize for my desire to be a loving wife and mother. I do desire to nurture and raise children, and I believe that God has called and equipped me for the task. However, I’m not going to settle down with someone just for the sake of accomplishing those goals. Because frankly, it’s not worth it to me. When I pick a man to marry, I’m picking the father of my children. As my mother always says, it’s better to be single and happy than married and miserable.

 “And you,
You scare people.
Because you are whole
all by yourself.”*
– Lauren Alex Hooper

*completed in Jesus without the aid of another person.
Revolutionary.

I’m also sick of the overwhelming volume of articles that plead “Don’t overlook the nice guy!” I understand the intention behind the articles, and it’s a nice sentiment. However, just because a guy is nice does not mean that he and I (or you and him!) are necessarily compatible. Good is the enemy of great. Just because something isn’t terrible, doesn’t mean you should put a ring on it.

God does not call us to complacency. Why would I settle in this area of my life? He calls us to radical obedience. He calls us to obey even when it’s uncomfortable. Or even when we have to wait. (Psalm 27:14.)

“My heart was saying,
‘Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.’
The Lord was answering,
‘I must teach you to long for something better.’
– Elisabeth Elliot

I believe that women were created equal to men, but not uniform to them. Unfortunately, the text in Genesis depicting the creation of Eve loses a lot in translation.

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

As Chuck Swindoll puts it, in English the term “helper” sounds “menial, even pathetic.” But in order for the full weight of what was being spoken here to be understood, you have to look back at the original Hebrew, and not limit yourself to your English understanding of the word. In English, the word helper is generally understood to mean “aide” i. e. someone who comes alongside and supports a person who is already equipped for the task. This makes a helper superfluous and unnecessary. In Hebrew however, the word has much deeper implications. The word helper, or ezer “has the idea of supplying something crucial that is lacking, and it most often refers to God” (Swindoll, Marriage is God’s Invention.)

Wow. What an incredible statement.

To be clear, I do not think that women were created as subordinates or to serve men. Rather, they were created so that all of humankind, who were made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27) would better reflect all of His attributes. The creation of woman brought into existence attributes that apart from her, simply didn’t exist in an earthly capacity. How very cool and empowering.

“God created woman as the answer to the very first problem.”
– Lisa Bevere

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I believe that women should receive equal pay for equal work. I do not however, think that a woman should be looked down upon should she choose to be a homemaker. Honestly, my personal priority is going to be with my family first – ahead of my career. Not because I lack the abilities, talents, or the education to be immensely successful in a career, but because I would personally rather invest that time and those talents in my children. I don’t think that to make this choice I’m holding myself back. I do not desire to be a mother because “it’s what society has told me to do” or because I’m operating on “internalized oppression.”

(Yes, I have actually received pushback and been asked these questions by self-proclaimed feminists. It is immensely discouraging and demeaning – not to mention the glaring irony of being second guessed by the very proponents of those who support “all women.” I promise you, women who know their worth can still objectively make this choice for themselves. I know my own mind, and I am a force to be reckoned with. I am not a robot, dictated by the expectations of society. In fact, I would make the argument that at this point and in my experience, American society has gone a different direction and you are more looked down upon for making the choice to sacrifice a career for the sake of your family than you are for pursuing a career. To be clear, I do not think that either choice is necessarily objectively wrong. People do not belong in boxes. But I know the choice that I will make, if and when I meet the right person, because that’s where my personal priorities are.

Again. Not that you can’t do both. And not that someone who chooses differently is lesser than me in any way. This is just where I have landed personally. I think that to simply ignore that I desire to be a wife and mother is just as terrible as becoming those things out of obligation to a false idea that it’s what society expects of you.)

To be a wife and mother is to make a very valuable choice. I don’t think that women choosing to stay home and raise their children are necessarily holding the women back who choose otherwise. Isn’t feminism about supporting all women, in whatever choices and endeavors they choose?

In my opinion, an investment in people – specifically children – is never a waste. They are the future. And by raising strong men and women, I am tangibly contributing to progress.

My parents made the financial sacrifices necessary so that my mom could stay home. My mom, together with my dad, was brave enough to raise us to know our worth.

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The Requiem of the Moon Poetry. Via Pinterest.

I will not apologize for knowing my value. And I will raise my children to know theirs.

“She’s the type of woman you go to war beside, the type of woman you marry.”
– R.H. Sin


“‘I’m sorry, Aslan,’ [Lucy] said. ‘I’m ready now.’
‘Now you are a lioness,’ said Aslan. ‘And now all Narnia will be renewed. But come. We have no time to lose.'”
– C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

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Biceps, s’mores, and barbed wire Sharpie tattoos.

“It is an awesome thing, the becoming of you, and you are bound to make them uncomfortable;
Leave them to their discomfort, for you, oh you, blossom beautifully within their fires.”
– Nicole Lyons


“She didn’t need to be saved. She needed to be found and appreciated, for exactly who she was.”
– J. iron word.