The Beauty of Yes

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The Beauty of Advent Pt 3

For the past few weeks, I’ve spent Sundays sitting in my coffee shop, sipping my mocha with a book or pen in hand, and I have prayed. I have prayed for the barista (I’ll call them R) behind the counter, the one whose smile brings warmth and whose greeting brings charm. I have been praying for R, because faith is hard and spiritual abuse is real and the beauty of Advent is not always evident. I have been praying that R would see the coming of the Messiah with the wonder they did when they were young—when the mystery was still enchanting and life was not complicated and faith was easy. I pray for R because I want them to say, “yes” like Mary did.

The Son of God came as a zygote in the womb of a woman. A young and poor woman with no rights or notoriety. Just the favor of God poured out on her. Jesus could have come in any form—a mighty warrior, a reigning king, a roaring lion, a magnificent dragon, a brute force, or a battleship. But nothing royal or majestic came. Just small and miraculous.

The angel could have appeared to Mary with great volume and flaming sword in hand, but he came gently relaying God’s plan and seeking her consent. Mary listened and responded. I do not know how she deliberated or wrestled or how she came to her conclusion, but her yes ushered in redemption. Her yes may have been a whispered awe or spoken with bold assurance. Her agreement with the Angel came with no surrogate fees from heaven, just a promise and peace.

Mary pondered and thought while the Christ Child grew in her belly. She knew the Prophesied One would be born soon. She had songs, prayers, words, and peace, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! (Luke 1:45)”

At Advent I have a choice, R has a choice: is the baby in the manger still the King? Was He born to die so that we might live? Born in a manger so that I might be born again? Born into poverty so that I might sell my belongings and give to the poor? Born as a refugee so that I may live as an alien in this world? Do I give this little eternal King my consent to tear down the walls in my life and grow fruit in the cleared lot? Do I treasure the fruit and say yes like Mary? I want to say yes, I want to believe that the Lord will fulfill His promises. I want to, and I pray that R wants this too. I pray that my “yes” will set the example for R, the example that Mary set for me.

written while listening to Worship 2017

currently reading Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances

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Beauty in the Waiting

The Beauty of Advent Pt 2

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

As we anticipate, we wait for the light of Christ together. Like the watchman waits for the morning, we wait for the dawn of Hope to break through the darkness. Like the watchmen yearn for the sun, I pine for Advent, hungry for something new. I am searching for light in the context of encroaching darkness. And yet as the night gets darker and the light grows dim, the hope of Advent appears, rays of the sun begin to peek over the horizon. This hope is what makes the waiting worth it, for it illuminates and casts out the uncertainty of night.

The beauty of waiting is that even when it seems lonely, it is not. The watchmen wait together. Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth prepare together. The shepherds celebrate together. The Magi seek together. And we, the Body of Christ, the Fellowship of the Saints, wait, prepare, celebrate and seek together.

We wait together because the Christ Child is the Truth, because the waiting is worth it, because the waiting unites us in the grand story of redemption. Together we sing and pray and expel the darkness, together with Christ and the Church we are the best Patronus the world will ever see. We bring the blinding light of the truth and the hope, and the joy of the Lord with us everywhere we go. When the darkness is winning, we look to the light of the Baby in the manger, he shines brightly and overwhelms the void.

If the Advent is real, if the Light is coming, if the waiting and the anticipating is for Truth, then we must wait together. The beauty of Advent’s waiting is that we do it together. It is not a solitary event, it is communal. We are a community that waits together, that prepares together, that celebrates and seeks truth together—so that we can eliminate the darkness in the world and in ourselves.

written while listening to Yes, Yes and Amen

Beauty in Obscurity

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Beauty of Advent Pt 1

Part of the beauty of the Advent is the obscurity of it all. We view this story as ubiquitous, but as it was unfolding it was so obscure and the players were unknown. A young couple getting ready to begin their life together, some shepherds just doing their jobs, a group of astronomers seeking the anomaly they had been studying, and a cousin who just loved her kin. Most of the story was everyday life unfolding and humans entertaining the thought, “Is this all really happening?”

Mary and Joseph just wanted to be married; they wanted to follow the cultural norm of their day and be together. And yet when asked to unwittingly enter into the grand story of history by carrying and caring for the Savior, they obeyed. In obscurity they obeyed solely for the Lord.

This obedience did not net them any gain, it actually brought pain. Mary was basically exiled to Elizabeth’s and Joseph’s reputation was tarnished. They submitted to the Lord’s plan for His glory, not their own. Part of the frustration with obedience in obscurity is that while you are in the midst of it, no one is patting you on the back, sometimes no one is encouraging you, sometimes you know that God sent you this task and you must obey. So, you put your head down and do the work. I wonder if Joseph felt this way. His obedience was significant, and yet we know so little about him. Ironically, his obscurity and his obedience are what he is known for.

The cast of characters God used are a picture of obscure obedience. The shepherds were just a group of guys going to work the night shift. We do not even know their names, but we know they obeyed. The Wisemen saw something they could not understand, so they sought the truth. And the Truth they found would soon be more than overwhelming than the star they originally followed. Elizabeth knew that her child would make the way for the Messiah growing in the womb of her little cousin. Her knowledge of the story was minimal, but she loved Mary and obeyed the Lord.

The Advent was their lives, not a story they listen to annually. It was the obscurity that makes it beautiful.

My takeaway for the twenty-first century is this: put your head down and do the work, follow in the path of Joseph and Mary. Your labor will not be in vain; the Lord sees your obedience and He delights in your obscurity, join in song like the shepherds. The truth of Lord is why you do this, so His mysteries can be discovered, so seek like the Magi. Speak love into lives and continue to obey like Elizabeth did. Find the beauty in the obscure this Advent.

Written while listening to my Christmas 2017 playlist

Hills and Valleys

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I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place
And I have held the blessings
God, you give and take away

Every year as fall begins, the colors change and there is the perpetual scent of bonfire in the air. Every year, I curl up with a coffee or hot chocolate and marvel about my year and that it is coming to an end. But this year, I cannot wait for it to end, this year has been filled with valleys.

I know that I should be anticipating the ascent, the climb up the hill to a place where the sun can be easily seen, but honestly I just want to get 2017 over with. This past year began with a tire blowing out on the highway, continued with surgery and rounded out with the loss of my grandmother. As the year progresses, the valley has only grown deeper, and the climb seems like a lot of effort just to roll down the other side to a new valley. But in the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there.

This is why I have not written about myself lately. I have been struggling with my health since May, and after a summer of fatigue and pain, my doctor finally was able to pinpoint the cause. My gallbladder had to be removed quickly. While all that was happening, my family in Michigan was learning about a special form of dementia that my grandmother had been diagnosed with. It was rapid and tore away her mind and her physical body. It devolved quickly and she passed away a few weeks ago. But when I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

With everything going on, writing has not been a priority. Yet as I sit and type this, I am reminded that no matter how bad these things—tires and gallbladders and dementia—seem, they are all temporal. Tires can be replaced, gallbladders can be removed and dementia will eventually end. There will be pain, there will be sorrow, but there will also be healing. Because You’re God of the hills and valleys! Hills and Valleys!

I want this valley to end so the healing can come, so the joy will be obvious and the pain will be lessened. The joy and the pain of it all is what makes it life. I am constantly looking for moments of strength to begin the journey upward, because I know the valley can seem deeper than it actually is. I know that life will fade, but joy makes way for hope. And I am hoping for a mountain top experience. Because on the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there.

I am not naive to believe the hills are pain free; this year has truly prepared me for just about anything. It has also caused me to put my trust in the Lord, who is not temporal but is eternal. I have had to hope in the Lord, who is not safe but is good. I have had to place my faith in the Lord who in not distant but is near. I pray, Father, you give and take away every joy and every pain, through it all you will remain over it all!

I am not looking for a way out of this year; going through it all has made me stronger, softer and an encourager, but I am looking for for this leg of the journey to come to a resting place. And, I keep singing, No matter what I have, Your grace is enough no matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love.

Lyrics from Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells, this song has brought me to tears and reminded me to hope in the goodness of the Lord.

Representation

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When I think about the future of the church, I sometimes get overwhelmed with possibilities. As a woman who preaches and teaches the Word, I struggle with the lack of female representation in the Church. I struggle with knowing how to live out my call with very few women to watch. I struggle with my own insecurities when I hear men say that they “recognize women in leadership and pastoral positions.”  I struggle with that being enough, because I want to see how other women do it, I want to see something beyond recognition. I want to see representation.

Recognition is saying, “I acknowledge you.” Recognition is passive. Recognition is not saying you are a valued voice and member. Recognition is not an act of equality, it is an act of legality. Recognition is not enough.

Representation, on the other hand, is actively making space for a voice is that is needed and trusted and valued. Representation is not tokenism, but is a show of respect and honor. Representation is an act of equality, especially in the Church. In the Church, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Representation is what Christ did when He rose from the grave, and gave the good news to the women! He defeated death, abolished the Law, established a new way and He gave that message to women. These women were the first people (other than Jesus Himself) to proclaim the resurrection.

Representation is the woman at the well, whose garment of shame became one of righteousness. Her dignity and voice were restored so that she could go and transform her community from the inside.

Representation is what the two twenty-year-old girls I sat with this weekend long for. They know God has called them, but they do not necessarily know to what, because of a lack of representation. They understand recognition, but they want to see the call lived out.

As I sat with these two amazing and Godly women, I knew I had to step up my game. As they shared their hearts and their minds and we fellowshipped, I thought, If this is the future of the Church in America, there is hope.

As I sat with them, I realized that the women who I looked up to have paved the way. They have toiled and shed tears and blood, and had backs turned on them so that I can stand in a pulpit. They have been talked-down to and mansplained and been “recognized” so that I can have a seat at the table.

As I sat with them, I was encouraged and challenged. I have been asking myself, “What am I willing to go through so that these two women can answer the call on their lives?” I am not sure, but I know that I am willing to walk alongside them and see what fire comes, what joy comes, what pain comes and what representation comes.

*The church leader that said this did not in any way imply anything negative. He is a dear man and a champion of women, it just got me thinking.

A Broke Student’s Guide to Giving

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So you’re broke? But you still want to give back, and not just tithing to the church. When I was a college student I felt perpetually broke. My heart for the poor seemed to be overshadowed by my need for textbooks, food and tuition. Now, ten years later, I am a missionary who still has a tight budget, but has learned about new and creative ways to give not just dollars, but also time and other needed resources.

So here are a handful of practical ways the average student can give back.

Micro-giving

Micro-giving is the future of fundraising. There are many apps that rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar and automatically gives the extra change to a non-profit of your choice. You can set limits daily or monthly. His Kingdom Funding is seeing great success in these “round-up” accounts.

When you are already spending, what is an extra 37 cents?

Sign up for shop-to-give services

AmazonSmile is the best example of a shop-to-give service. You sign up, pick the charity of your choice, and then buy your normal stuff- and Amazon gives a percentage of your purchase to the charity you picked. There is no extra money coming out of your pocket. Just know that your items are doing good!

This is the simplest way to give, you literally do nothing different. You shop, they give!

Volunteer your time (and gain experience in your field)

At the organization I work with,World Impact, we have medical clinics and many of our volunteers are in med school. The beauty is they get to work with a physician and learn about high risk communities. The student gets practical experience and the organization gets much needed help.

For the past 3 years I have spent many hours with marketing students from Pepperdine University. They are tasked with aiding me with relevant market research that provides best practices and surveys of millennials that I do not have daily access to. And I hope the students get something out of this, I have seen some of them in their jobs after graduation and we have reminisced and they have thanked me- one even went into nonprofit consulting! Many nonprofits need skilled workers in their offices, schools, clinics and after school programs

Even an hour a week can make a difference.

Shampoo, body wash, tampons and toothpaste

Buy two, donate one. Homeless shelters, street outreach teams, food pantries, churches, homework clubs, camps and even pregnancy centers need every day toiletries. There are always kids, teens and adults that go without, so when you head to Target to grab a bottle of Suave, pick up an extra one. Start a basket on your dorm floor and once a month take it to the donation spot of your choosing. Pray for that ministry and find other ways to connect your floor mates to the outreach they do.

These simple acts can be a game changer.

Get social

So many times we think giving needs to be a huge act, while in reality any amount helps—even using your social media platform to promote a charity you love. If you run, run with a purpose. If you do direct sales, give a portion of the sales one month a year. If you write for your school paper, find ways to tell the stories of alumni who are active in steering change.

Giving also does not need to be a solo effort. Get together with a group of friends and pool funds to sponsor a child, or put together a campus awareness event. Gather monthly and pray for missionaries, nonprofits and those in need. Plan and sponsor creative service events to raise funds, or go together to volunteer at an organization.

Small, creative ideas can make a big difference.

Just give

The bottom line is, if you are willing to look outside the box, there are plenty of ways to give back. The Lord will direct your heart. And in the words of a dear friend of mine, “Where your heart is, there your wallet will be also.”

Shattered Glass at My Feet

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I have spent much of this year on the verge of tears. I have been trying to see the positive, to see God’s hand of provision. I am thankful that my health is intact, but most days I wonder what else can go wrong? I have been struggling with how to respond to the negative, and how to celebrate the positive when it often occurs moments before a hardship.

Now I want to be clear, no one has died, I still have a home, a job, and an amazing community around me. I am not Job or David on the run. I am just having a tough season for me. I know that many of you are going through much pain and loss and hurt. This is just where I am and what I found this morning.

I ran through my normal routine: I got dressed, did my makeup, grabbed my lunch, found my keys, locked up the back door and headed to the car. Then I saw it, I realized my car had been broken into. Surprisingly, nothing was stolen. It still runs. But the shards of broken glass litter my driveway, my front seat, my yard. These fragments are but a reminder of why I live in the neighborhood and why I work with World Impact.

It has been eleven years of this urban living, each day new and exciting, the unexpected always lingering in the background. I have never grown tired of the lifestyle or this place. There have been moments of soaring joy and intense pain—and yet I have never thought about about leaving. This morning’s driveway findings do not change a thing. The odd pain and struggle of this year do not change a thing. These events have not made me rethink my calling, and much worse could have happened. This event, while annoying and costly, did not actually hurt anyone. In fact, the broken glass made me more committed than ever to incarnational living and the life transforming work of the Gospel.

Today might not go down in history as an important day, nothing about this day is that special, but today I choose to recommit to following Jesus in the city. To see people as He sees them. Christ, while on earth, was all about the potential of the broken, the inner workings of the shattered, and the worth in the damaged. I need to be about that also. When the sun hits the glass splayed across my backseat, the sparkle is like that of diamonds. I want to see the worth in the broken.

So, as I see the shattered glass at my feet, I think of how Christ would have reacted, with love and forgiveness overflowing. My heart breaks for the pain the person who caused this damage must be in. I want for them to find peace, I want for them to be creative not destructive, I want for them to build community instead of destroy, and I want them to know life and not desperation. So, while I clean up, I will pray for my neighborhood. While I sweep the glass into the dustpan and pick up the pieces of my splintered year, I will choose joy for myself and hope for my community.

Advice

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I am turning 36. I am officially entering my late thirties. It seems impossible—I was just 22, beginning my somewhat “adult life,” but alas I have been adulting for a well over a decade. With that in mind, I thought I would impart ten pieces of advice I default to. None of these are groundbreaking, they are pretty simple and quick. So, here are Candy’s wisdom, advice, and life lessons.

What you do not post online is just as important as what you do post. Your social media is a digital record of your life. Just because it happened does not mean you need to archive it; some memories can just be for you and some poor decisions do not need to be shared.

“Make space for someone if that is what you want.” -Sumi Flanagan. Sumi is a dear woman who led a mission trip I went on in high school. We recently reconnected and she imparted wisdom and encouragement. She has been in full time ministry for decades and I have always admired her life, and she encouraged me to be more open and to intentionally make space.

Bloom where you are planted. The Lord may lead you to unexpected places, and when He does, grow healthy roots and produce beauty. In the chaos, in the pain, and in the mundane seek the Lord and create beauty.

Obedience is rarely easy, but always worth it. We all know hindsight is 20/20, but trusting in a God who has proved Himself faithful for 4,000+ years of recorded history is just plain smart. He is faithful when we are not. He is good when we are not. He is forever when we are not. Obey and trust that He knows what He is doing.

“You’re an everybodyist.” -my mom. Be an everybodyist. Be inclusive. Love people. Never intentionally leave someone on the outside. Jesus was an everybodyist, the Church should be, and I try to be this way daily.

“I’d rather be alone than with the wrong man.” -Lady Mary. I might struggle with my singleness, but Lady Mary hit a homerun with this piece of dialog. Nothing could be more true; I will always prefer singleness to being in the wrong relationship. I am not saying that marriage is easy, but it might seem easier if you are with the right person (although, I have no experiential evidence to back that up).

“Community should refine us, not consume us.” -Erin Lane. I read this maybe a year ago and it has taken about that long for me to lean into it. Find, make and keep friends who sharpen you, encourage you, pray with you, all while allowing you to be who Christ has called you to be. Good friends are hard to find, so when you do hold tight.

“Clothing should skim not cling.” -Oprah. LOL, she said this over 20 years ago and whenever I get dressed I still think of it. Dress however you want, this is just my go-to rule.

Love what you do. There will be seasons of life when this might not be true, when you gotta pay the bills. But if it can be true, make it so. I have had the honor of working for World Impact for eleven years. I love what I do (most days). There have been tasks within the ministry I have not loved, but I saw how it added to the vision and empowerment of others, so I did it. But for 80% of my time with WI I have loved every second of it.

Follow your calling. The Lord will call you to do some crazy things and you have His authority to get it done. When He gives you a vision, a dream, a task, He will provide the way to accomplish it. At thirteen I heard God call me—a suburban kid with no city experience— to Urban Ministry and I believed it. My parents prayed for it, and now I am living into it because Christ made it happen. He will part the Red Sea for you, and if needed He will decimate the opposition like He did with Pharaoh’s army. So we have no excuses; we can move forward and not look back.

So this is the advice I have for you, this is the wisdom of the old being handed over to the young, take it or leave it.

A Checklist for the Selfish Single

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Dear Christian Single Ladies-

Today I forgot to bring my headphones to the coffee shop (the worst!). But my forgetfulness instead plugged me into conversations and eavesdropping. I have been thinking about all the blogs and articles I have read that tell single people what we should do with our free time, like we have all the “free time” in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely have enough time to write this blog, let alone partake in a list that mostly benefits others. But today, I encourage you to unplug, listen to the world around you, read a book, engage, and be selfish. I even took some of my time to put together a selfish checklist—something to do with our eternal amounts of free time—let’s check some of these off.

Selfcare. Be selfish with time for yourself. Put on a face mask, maybe paint your toenails, watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek, and laugh. Carve out thirty minutes a week to focus on yourself. Take a yoga class, go to the pool, seek space for you. Be intentional about setting aside this time, don’t just do it when other plans fall through. You are worth the time to pause.

Read for Fun. Be selfish, pick a book that isn’t all about work or school. Shift into a different gear and give your brain a rest. Just read a book for fun! I just read The Animators, The Hate U Give,  and Sleeping Giants. They were so different from my life that they gave me an escape, while also challenging my mindset. Books are friends, too.

Read for Growth. Be selfish with your beliefs. Pick a topic and grow in it. A few years ago I wanted to define my theological position on women in ministry; so I read and read and read some more, until I came to a conclusion—a biblically sound conclusion. Last year I wanted to understand more about Christian discernment, so I read and learned so much! Figure out your beliefs.

Explore. Be selfish with the place you’re planted. Love where you live! Learn all the ins and outs of your community, become an expert. Find the best coffee, best tacos, favorite food truck, most epic music venue, local bands, artists, and bookstores. Be adventurous in your hood.

Build. Be selfish with your friends. Build into people, whether it is mentoring tweens or being mentored by an older woman. Seek out healthy singles and couples who speak truth into your life and who you can bless with childcare, spontaneity, and vicarious living. My married mama friends are some of the most loving, sacrificial people I know, and they always have awesome snacks! Relationships are worth the time.

Boundaries. Be selfish with the lines you drawn in your life. Set your boundaries and keep them, with men, with friends, at work and in ministry. Define things and let go of ambiguity. Learn when to say no and when to say yes, because both matter deeply.

Do Nothing. Be selfish with your mind. Literally do nothing. Once a week I will just lay in my hammock in the back yard, sometimes with headphones, sometimes without, and I will just sway and pray. I listen to my neighborhood, dogs barking, cars driving too fast, sirens in the distance—the whispers of my community. While doing this I find myself praying for those who live around me. When music is playing I drift in and out of praise, looking through the leaves to the stars. That hammock has been a place of peace. Take some time and do nothing.

So single ladies, use your free time to be selfish 😉

*This blog was written while listening to GoodBye Party playlist