Thursday, March 16, 2017

An unfinished masterpiece

No, my God's not done
Making me a masterpiece
He's still working on me

He started something good
And I'm gonna believe it
He started something good
And He's gonna complete it
So I'll celebrate the truth
His work in me ain't through
I'm just unfinished

- Mandisa "Unfinished" 

Ever done one of those wine and design classes? My husband and I actually did one to celebrate Valentine's Day this year and created two canvases that together created one picture. I had done a few of these sorts of events in the past and there are a few things that all the facilitators say each time. When I heard the lyrics to this song this morning, I was reminded of their guidance in creating a good looking painting (a "masterpiece" if you will) and thought I'd share as an encouragement to you. 

Before we started
1. "Your final product doesn't need to look like mine. It's meant to be a guide and I can help you along the way." 
Now if you think of yourself as the painter in this scenario, you have a guide! The guide is there with a lot of solutions to the problems you encounter and ready to help as soon as you ask. You need more paint - she's on it! You need to change the darkness of the sky - she's ready to help you mix the perfect hue! You need only ask.

making progress on the two canvas picture

 2. "The best thing about this paint on the canvas is that you can correct and make changes as soon as the paint dries. A canvas is very forgiving"  
This is very important since people who attend these events are usually not skilled artisans and they've paid for an evening where they want to create something of beauty. Think of yourself as the painting in this scenario. There aren't really mistakes in the traditional sense. Each time a brush stroke went where the painter didn't want it - a little patience and the blemish is turned into a thing of beauty. There wasn't just one way to get to the final product. The painters (in this case, my husband and I) could add some layers of paint and it actually enhanced the overall product.

Proud of our Valentine's Day masterpiece
 3. "Sometimes you need to step back and look at the whole thing in order to know what to do next."  
What wise life lessons learned in a painting class! Reflecting on what's been done teaches us what to do next. If I focus too much on the tree branch being straight, it may end up looking more like a log because I didn't take time to step back and see what impact those small strokes had to the entire picture. And in the case of a two canvas painting - we really needed this reflection in order to help the painting flow together (there's a marriage lesson in that I'm sure!). 

How much more exciting is it to think of ourselves as unfinished masterpieces of the creator of the world! We are unfinished on our journey in this earth and for that I am glad!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What a difference a year makes

True to form, as one year ends and another begins I want to reflect. It happens this time every year because I also have a birthday in December and as I literally get a year older as the year ends, I can't help but want to stop and think about all that has happened. So here it goes...

Last year on New Year's Eve, I was in Atlanta with my good friend Sarah Brookings, who lives there. We decided to go to a nice dinner downtown to ring in the new year and then watched Lord of the Rings on New Years Day in our PJs. It was a quiet and sweet way to start a new year. Then I went to Passion 2013 and things got much louder.

It was there that I started a new journal. I have journaled throughout my years as a adolescent and into adulthood, but as I've gotten older I've lost the consistent habit. But since I was attending a conference full of teaching, I thought it might be good to bring something along. I love the idea of journaling so, I of course, had a blank one at home I could bring along.

I highly recommend journaling, especially when it's cute like this one.

The first thing I wrote in this new Bible was part of a prayer from Louie Giglio who kicked off the conference and it was the most profound thing that impacted me from the entire Passion 2013.

"Lord do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine. Give me eyes to see the immeasurably more."

Immeasurably more is how I'll try to remember 2013. My 29th year of life. It was a great year. One full of new experiences, personal growth, challenges, inspiration, calling, affirmation, and depth. Those are such great words!

The first couple months were good growth while I completed a devotion called Fall for Him about singleness. I treasured the lessons learned and the prayers I prayed during those 25 challenges. I commend it to any of my single girlfriends as it was written by a woman who didn't marry until she was in her 30s so her stories resounded with truth and much empathy.

I also had several meaningful new experiences:

  • I attended the Justice Conference and toured Philadelphia in February.
  • I had a fun-filled girls weekend in Asheville in March. We spent the afternoon at a natural hot spring.
  • I got to visit Ohio several times to see my nephew grow in his first year. 
  • I went to a retreat center alone and sang out loud in the woods in June. 
  • I attended a work conference in Boston in July and created an epic road trip through Colorado in July.
  • I had another girls weekend in Asheville in October and went to Grove Park Inn for the first time.

The last part of 2013 and my 29th year was full of fruit and faithfulness.

  • I met my boyfriend Daniel in August and have fallen in love. 
  • I successfully ran a conference as President Elect of my state career counselor's association. 
  • I was invited to be an elder in my church with a community I love serving. 
  • I got a promotion in my job in December with a boss who seeks to develop me well. 

So now I'm able to implement so many of the heart lessons I've learned about "the me I want to be" (in the words of John Ortberg) in leadership, justice, relationships, and love. I used to always refer to the year I turned 23 as the best year of my life because I was working with Campus Crusade, traveling and feeling affirmed in what God called me to do, but I think 2013 has taken it's place as the best far...

I can't wait to see what God has in store for 2014!

Monday, December 16, 2013

I turned 30! Lessons from a wiser me :)

I'm 30! 
My friends helping me count to 30
So I had this 30 before I'm 30 list. It is essentially a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30 - a bucket list with a time frame. I created it when I was 28 and a few months old and have edited it a few times over the months I've been working toward these goals. I will include the list below but wanted to point out a couple lessons I learned from this experience first. 
  1. Being a goal oriented person, I loved having this list. It was well received by the people in my life who championed it, and sometimes even helped me accomplish some of the goals (thank you!). But there was a shadow side to the list. I created it with the idea that I wanted to celebrate getting older - despite my circumstances. I freely admit that I created the list in hopes of avoiding the sadness of my life not being what I envisioned when I was little. Most children think 30 is old. And I just assumed I'd be a mother, wife and home owner as a 30 year old. I created these goals partly as a distraction from the missing elements in my life. This was the shadow side - I can hide behind goals instead of sitting with the realities before me. The lesson in this for me was this - I need to be grateful for what I have and not focus on what I don't have. 
  2. Another lesson I learned from having this list involves flexibility in goal setting. I had a few goals that were something that wasn't actually important to me. I needed to start pursuing the goal to know I didn't want it anymore. 
    • For example - I wanted to go to Africa before I was 30 but I wanted to go to help people less fortunate than me. As I tried to understand more about justice, my influence and how I can be "helpful" I realized doing a short term mission trip as a white person would be more about me wanting to feel good and not about the people I could help. So I took this off the list as I continued to think about social justice. Going to Africa is still on my bucket list though :) 
    • For example - I had  a goal to pursue my Licensed Professional Counselor credential. As I started investigating that decision, it was going to cost me more in time and money that I was willing to invest and when I thought about my career and what I wanted it to involve, I intentionally removed this goal from my 30 before 30. 
So now, here is the final iteration of my 30 things I did before I turned 30 (in no particular order)
1. Advocate for something -> I raised money for clean water access in Rwanda
2. Go to Well of Mercy retreat center -> I went in June of this year and wrote about it 
3. Get paid to do a training MBTI or Strengths -> Thanks Heidi for hiring me to do some team building!
4. Scrapbook Crusade year -> It is complete! Come visit and I'll show you.
5. Be a counselor to missionaries -> I got to go in July 2012 
6. Pay off my car -> Just did last month!
7. Visit Kate Schultz in CO -> Saw her in July
8. Visit Lauren and family in MO -> Saw her in September 2012
9. Read 1 book per month  -> I'm on Goodreads
10. Go to an amusement park -> Did this twice!
11. Paint a canvas, not copying a picture -> Put my life motto on a canvas and hung it in my room
12. Consolidate online presence, create organized email! -> Love me some labels
13. Get enough race Tshirts to make a blanket -> did several races and plan to make the blanket before I turn 31

14. Be a mentor to someone each year - leader in church -> I've been a confirmation mentor and am now preparing to become an elder in my church
15. Find a mentor -> I now meet for dinner with a couple different women who mentor me
16. Teach a class -> I have taught BUS 105 twice for freshmen
17. Go to a Christian leader conference -> I attended Passion 2013 and Justice Conference 2013
18. Take advantage of the free grad classes at UNCG, don't stop learning -> I took 2 classes in the master of liberal studies program - Age of Revolutions and Global Human Rights
19. Apply for an international work opportunity -> I was accepted to present at an international education conference in Istanbul Turkey but decided not to attend due to some budget issues and timing
20. Lose 15 pounds -> did it in 2013
21. Visit new cities and countries -> Visited Philadelphia, Boston, Geneva
22. Get involved in Human Trafficking Efforts -> Attended the World Relief Gala to raise money for fighting human trafficking in NC
23. Sponsor a child in Africa through World Vision - Started this after seeing Girl Rising for a girl in Malawi
24. Continue to try new things -> I rode in a helicopter the other day and try to order new foods when I go out to eat :)

25. Live out my motto, reflect on examples -> Here's the reflection from 2012 and I hope to continue this tradition.
26. Tour NC wineries -> My boyfriend planned a day for us to see 3 NC wineries and taste wine. It was so much fun!

27. Continue blogging -> exhibit A.
28. Get next job in career -> I started as Associate Director December 1.

29. Kiss in the rain -> This happened, just trust me.
30. Fall in love -> This happened too with a boy who shares my birthday!  

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Girl + Education =

I am excited. I saw this movie several months ago and now have the opportunity to share it with you! On Oct. 13, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. my church, First Presbyterian in downtown Winston Salem is hosting a showing of Girl Rising, an awesome film that follows several girls' stories and the impact that education can have on them, their families and entire communities. It's beautifully done and both realistic and hopeful. I hope you can come watch it with me. 

2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report
Education in our country is free for our children. Our girls get to learn which gives them SO many opportunities for a bright future in America. Regardless of the problems in our education system, it is one of the things that immigrants come to this country for. In so many other countries in our world, education is more precious than our favorite possessions. I am thankful for my education everyday because it shaped who I am in the world and how I can help people. But as I progressed through K-12 education I didn't think about what a gift it was. My parents didn't tell me it was different in other countries. My friends and I complained about school work and getting up early. We expected to get new clothes each fall and to be rewarded for good grades. My worldview was so limited as a child. 

In the last few years I've been learning more and more about life in other countries and how much of what I take for granted is someone's life wish. The movie Girl Rising was one of those awesome tools for God to use in my life to expand my mind and prompt my heart to stop living just for myself. 

In addition to seeing this movie, I read a bit more and realized just how instrumental education is for girls worldwide. It's not just for them to be smart or get a job. It keeps them out of some devastating circumstances. In our country, by and large, we protect our children. We are hard on criminals when they commit crimes against our children and we uphold the value of their innocence. Of course the United States has its blind spots and shortcomings that end in tragedy as well, but it is not as commonplace. 

UNFPA, 2012

National Academies Press, 2005
As I prepare for this showing on Oct. 13, I'm praying for others to be spurred on by some of these numbers and stories. I simply want 100 people in my community to see the film and pray about what God is asking them to do. There are several local opportunities to help girls realize their place in the world as well as getting involved globally. For example, be a running buddy with Girls on the Run at the YMCA Mistletoe Run this year in Winston Salem. Or ask me about child sponsorship with World Vision or Food for the Hungry. There are little ways that each of us can affect these statistics and I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I was involved. 

I want to end with 2 things. Thanks for reading. 

1. A quote (you know how I love words) that I ran across in an article today. It is from one of my favorite abolitionists, William Wilberforce. 

“You may choose to look the other way 
but you can never say again that you did not know."

2. The title of my blog is unfinished because I'm still trying to wrap my head around the impact education can have on girls and on our communities worldwide. So I challenge you to also consider how you might finish this statement: 

Girls + Education = ________