Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loyola Cru Progressive Dinner

We had such a great turnout at the Progressive Dinner that the Loyola Cru students put on every year.  I was so proud of our students for doing such a good job of cooking food, opening up their apartments, and being intentional about inviting new people and making sure everyone was included in conversation and the group as a whole.  I met several new students that night, and have been able to meet up with them again and have some really great conversations.  Here's a few photos from the night:

Appetizers and conversation

We were excited to have a few International Exchange students join us - the two girls in the center are from Japan. 

One of the girls I am meeting with one-on-one for discipleship each week.  I'm loving getting to know her!

Sharing life together - I love how our student leaders are so intentional to make sure everybody feels welcome! 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fullness of Joy

There are days when life is so...full. 

The sun shines. A cool breeze blows and early morning mist rises from the ground, promising warmth and kisses from the sun later on. 

Sometimes the days blend into seasons, and you wonder at the goodness of it all, the blessings poured out "just because."  You realize grace all over again, the stunning generosity of it, the way it rushes out and over, not caring who it touches, just intent on lavishing. 

For all who are wondering how this season of transition is going for me, there's so much I could say, but overwhelmingly the feeling that I have is how I feel so blessed by the Lord in this season.  His grace pours over us whether life is going great or we're walking through pain and heartache - it's always lavishing and working beauty and goodness and redemption.  But He is richly blessing me in so many ways - amazing community at Trinity, and awesome staff team at Loyola, incredible professors and the opportunity to learn deeply about Him....

I'll share more specifics soon, but wanted to you know that I'm rejoicing in His goodness and provision. 

"...You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
~Psalm 16:11

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Day In The Life

A sampling, a snippet, a story...
For those of you who wonder what I actually DO all day long :)

It is 1:00 on a Wednesday afternoon as I sit in Starbucks on campus, slowly absorbing the smell of coffee into my clothing and hair - an unfortunate byproduct of my surroundings that is the plague of those who have no official office, but instead borrow tables at local coffee shops to hold meetings and answer e-mail.  Today, I am meeting Sarah (name has been changed), and I must admit that I'm a little nervous.  I've noticed over the past few weeks that she has been keeping me at arm's length - faithfully showing up to our weekly one-on-one discipleship/mentoring times, but always finding a way to avoid answering the harder questions that I'm asking about her life and relationship with God.

I know what's really going on.  She's fallen in some way, messed up in her walk with God, and like all of us at one time or another, has believed the lie that she is now somehow unworthy of the love of Christ.  Has believed the worse lie that she was ever worthy of His love in the first place, as if she had earned it somehow, rather than it being the free gift that it is. 

Isn't it strange?  We can study the Bible and talk theology all day long, but it's always the simple things, the basics of the faith that we forget.  Like how we need the grace of Jesus just as much today as the first time we realized our sin and need for it.  How it's just as undeserved today as it was then, and continues to be a free gift.  How easily we forget that Jesus came to free us from shame, to take our failure on Himself and cover our sin with His perfection, not expect us to be perfect now that we have accepted His grace.

We are meant to live in the light of freedom, not the darkness of shame.

But Sarah is hiding in shame. And it's affecting her relationships, not just with me, but with the other girls in the Bible study that I lead.  I've noticed, and so have they, how she has been pulling away from the fellowship that they share; avoiding spending time with them.

And the Lord has told me that it's about time I addressed this business rather than let her keep hiding in the darkness and the shame.  He had reminded me that I'm her spiritual leader, that He has given me the role of shepherding her at this point in her life, and I'd better consider what is best for her more than I consider the uncomfortable situation that confronting her might create.  (I hate it when He does that - it makes ME uncomfortable!)

So Sarah shows up, and we start to talk, and wouldn't you know - before I can even get the words out of my mouth, she's telling me that God has been convicting her about all of this!  We proceed to have an incredible conversation and dig deeply into her heart and life and all that God is doing through it all. 

And I'm left in awe and wonder at how God is so good, and so faithful - to give me a job that is incredible, with a front-row view of how He is working in the lives of others.  Yet also to humble me and remind me that He invites me to partner with Him in His work, but He is the One who is truly accomplishing everything.  I'm like a kid going to work with Dad; tagging along, not really helping, probably making it more difficult most of the time, but He brings me because He loves me, and wants me to be there with Him. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Origin of the New Blog Name

I suppose some of you may be wondering why the blog has changed it's style and name.  The answer is simple:  I don't live in Tennessee anymore, so "Down in the Tennessee Hills" didn't quite work :)
I'm so excited about the next stage of my life, and am eating up these last couple of weeks at home in Waynesville, being with friends and family, and breathing in the smell of fresh air and summer in the mountains! 

A Psalm and a song have been playing through my mind for the past month, and was the source of the new blog name: 

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Do you know what really struck me about the line in verse 6?  A sacrifice, in itself, is something you give up.  More than that, in biblical times, it meant that something died.  And Christ calls us to die to ourselves daily, and to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.  So this concept of offering sacrifices with shouts of joy struck me.  It speaks of something deeper, something fuller and more real than the brief life that we live here on Earth.  We offer sacrifices, we suffer loss of what is temporary, with joy, because we know that it is an investment in something eternal.  I hope that my life looks more and more like that - pouring out sacrifices with shouts of joy, living in the reality of my true life, which is beyond this world. 

And the song that has been playing through my mind, based on this psalm:  Fellowship Church's "Everlasting God"  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


A few clips of East Asian food, for those who are interested :)

Sweet and Sour Fish at a fancy welcome dinner that our school hosted for us
 (note the cute palm tree made out of veggies in the background)

Shao Cao!  (a.k.a. bar-b-que)  Our favorite street food - everything fresh, from goat to lotus plant to tofu!

An up close look at the Shao Cao - all of that red stuff is spicy red pepper!

Salad dressing. Flavor?  "America is the Juice" 
We had fun with all of the funny translations of things into English.

Boiled pork and cabbage dumplings with spicy dipping sauce - one of my favorites!

Funny animal-shaped cakes at a coffee shop in our town.

Sizzling rice in a stoneware bowl with yummy veggies, chicken, and apples on top - also one of my favorite meals!

Basically, I LOVED the food in East Asia and wish I could have brought back samples for you all - I guess these photos will have to suffice :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Changes, They're A-Comin'

As you can see, I have changed the design of my blog, which seems appropriate, to go along with all of the other changes taking place on my life.
It is hard to believe that in a little more than three weeks I will be moving to the Chicago area to work on my Masters of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and keep working with Cru at Loyola University Chicago.  I'm ready and excited, but a little nervous and scared to move so far away from home and start school again (I haven't studied or written a paper in 4 years!)  But God has been so clearly at work in the process that I know that I just need to take the plunge and trust Him to continue to provide. 
And there's so much to be excited about!  Getting to live in a totally different part of the country with a different culture.  Freezing cold winters that I'm choosing to believe will make me a tougher person.  Getting to study the Bible more in-depth and learn more about doing ministry.  Getting to continue doing ministry with Cru while I go to school.  Living near a huge city for the first time in my life.  The REALLY good food in Chicago.  Getting to be on campus again as a student, with the peers and community that comes with it. 
I'm pretty sure that those are only a few of the things to be excited about, so suffice it to say: this is looking like a good move! 

In the meantime, I will enjoy my last few weeks in my hometown, with friend, in the South, even, and try to live fully in each moment. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

America Really IS the Beautiful

There's nothing like being out of the country for 6 weeks to remind me of how much I love being home.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE travelling, and am constantly amazed at how blessed I have been to be able to travel as much as I have in my life.  I love being in a different culture, experiencing new and different sights, sounds, tastes, smells...all of it.

But there's nothing like hearing that "Welcome Home" from the customs official in the airport as I come back into the States.

We had an absolutely amazing time in East Asia, and literally saw God transform lives while we were there.  I hope I never get to a point where I'm no longer amazed that I get to be a part of such incredible works of God in the lives of others.  It is truly a priviledge and incredibly humbling. 

I'll be posting more photos and stories from East Asia soon - but here's a couple of photos to whet your appetite!

My team - such a great group! 

An aerial view of our campus.

The sweet daughter of the owners of our favorite restaurant - she had put her ring on my finger!

More to come soon!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Starbucks is my Office

It's ironic that Starbucks is, for all practical purposes, my office, since I really prefer to avoid visiting Starbucks in favor of local coffee shops as much as possible.  But it's in the library on campus and has lots of tables and is the only coffee shop type setting that I feel like I can visit every day for hours on end without actually purchasing anything and not really offend any of the here I sit, day after day, smelling perpetually of slightly burnt coffee...  Seriously, our student joke that they're going to purchase name placards for us to set on our Starbucks tables just like you'd find on someone's office.  Starbucks is the Cru base of operations at UT.

So it is odd for me to sit here this week, knowing that it is the 2nd to last time that I will meet with my girls in this place.  The year wraps up SO quickly!  I can hardly believe that my time here is almost done.  I'm excited to learn to do campus ministry in the Chicago area, but my heart is breaking a little more each day as I think about leaving Knoxville.  I really have come to love this place. 

Gotta comes one of my girls for discipleship!