Saturday, June 22, 2013

What Do I Really Treasure?

Streit Ladies at my Bridal Shower (Eleanor on the far right).

Just over two years ago, one of my besties, Erin, made me feel so loved by throwing me a princess-themed bridal shower.  There were lots of friends, lots of presents, lots of pink.  But I was thinking about the thing I got that day that meant the most to me.

My good friend Eleanor came.  In lieu of a gift, she presented me with a hand-written letter.  I think she said, "It's the thought that counts," or something as if she needed to apologize for it not being enough.

The letter thanked me for our friendship.  It highlighted some of the moments we'd shared that year.  It said that I was one of the reasons that Eleanor now walks in relationship with Jesus.

You see, I'd spent that year living in the college dorm Streit-Perham.  A couple of dear friends of mine moved in alongside me.  We watched movies with girls, giggled, played dinosaurs with them, and got to know and love them.  We sought to find out their life stories and where they were at with God.  Some, like Eleanor, had never met Him, and maybe didn't even know that was a possibility.  Despite this, Eleanor began coming to Cru's weekly meetings, our bible study, and even attended a full-weekend retreat with us.  She was seeking God and He met her there.  I just sort of came along for the ride.

I loved all the gifts I got at my shower.  Many of them I use on a daily basis.  But that letter is by far the thing I've treasured the most.  I keep it in the glove box of my car, to this day, and pull it out when things seem dark.  I can hardly read it without tearing up.  I am in the middle of battling my materialistic tendencies, and this reminded me that there are things far more valuable than, well, "things."

I thought that was such a sweet picture of this verse:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Because, as much as I love things, and believe me I REALLY love things, knowing that I had been a part of someone coming to know God in a real and personal way, was far better than all the material gifts I'd received.  As I decide where to invest my time and resources I pray I remember this:  all the pretty Earthly treasures I could ever acquire are nothing next to knowing that I've stored up even one little treasure in heaven.  So I'm asking myself lately, "What do I really treasure?"  

How about you?  What do you really treasure?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Accumulating Possessions

"Accumulating possessions can make it hard to move around a lot,"
the sweet southern preacher lady  said to me.

I was at my sister's church and had just told her pastor about our upcoming jobs in Seattle.  Pastor Nan asked, "You guys haven't accumulated a lot of possessions, yet have you?"

This summer, Philip and I will be moving into the city.  We will be working as Summer Academy Teachers for the Union Gospel Mission.  Working in the inner city is something we've been dreaming of for years.  It's all a little nuts.  Phil's graduating class had a whopping twelve people in it.  I grew up in a town with more cows than people.  But we believe it's where God is calling us.  My heart is to bring justice to those who are oppressed.  I want to be a part of God scooping up those who have been told, "You are worthless,"  and redeeming in them the eternal value that we all have as priceless creations.  Philip and I are excited to love in bold ways--across culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status.  All of these people who are different than us fill the city in abundance.

We don't anticipate this being our last move either.  Owning a home is a very low priority for us right now.  Philip has pre-dedicated one year of his life--and mine by marriage--to ethnic ministry.  We hope to spend at least one year in New York.  We want to be open to God leading us wherever he sees fit.  We want to go on adventures.

There is, however, something else that my heart wants.  Stuff.  Furniture, art, clothes, and all things cute.  I often feel tempted to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need.  To think that my love for things could be an obstacle that keeps me from living God's better story for my life.  That sickens me.

This summer we will be living in UGM provided housing.  That means we will only have one room to ourselves. The rest we will be sharing with Mission interns.  Sure I will still get to decorate and bring along some of our precious possessions.  But many of our things will have to be stored in our parents' basements.  I hope to one day have a healthier relationship with things.  I want to enjoy them in light of knowing that they can never fulfill me.  For now though, I think it's good of God to separate me from these things that moth and rust destroy for awhile.  I need to release my grip on them before I wind up looking like this.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Non-Tacky Vacation Souvenirs

Problem:  you don't want to end up with a bunch of cheap, plastic crap that will just sit in storage, but you want something to commemorate your adventures.  Solution:  come up with your own creative ways to incorporate mementos that you'll actually want to display in your home.  

When we took a mini-vacay to Leavenworth during spring break, we picked up a vintage bottle.  The great thing was that it had a lid that easily came on and off.  That gave me idears...  We were headed to Ocean Shores with my fam bam towards the end of the week, and I thought it would be fun to fill the bottle up with sand.

 I don't know if I'll ever forget the process of filling that little bottle up.  The siblings and I decided to make a trek out to the ocean even though there was practically a monsoon going on out there.  My husband basically risked life and limb.   He and my brother valiantly stayed out on the beach with wind blowing rain into their eyes and causing them to stumble across the sand.  The opening in the bottle was small so it took much perseverance to get sand all the way to the top.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I would've been satisfied with the bottle even half full.

The other day, Mom gave me some maps that a teacher friend was getting rid of, since she knows I like to use them for projects.  I cut a heart out of a section of the map where our trip to the Ocean was.  I punched a hole in it and tied it to the bottle with a bit of twine.  Voila!  I think it's cuter than just a little tag that says "Ocean Shores," and yet it still serves the purpose of labeling where the sand came from.  This is a great memory from our trip, and I can display it without shame.

I got these colones, Costa Rican currency, on my mission trip.  Yep, a trip to Costa Rica will cost you an arm and a colon harhar.  For some reason, I've been carrying them around in my wallet ever since.  It was time to give these guys a proper home.  I grabbed a little picture frame from our wedding and put a small piece of craft paper behind them.  I think it'd be pretty in a bigger frame, especially with lots of coins from other places.  We have a lot of travel-themed decor (suitcases, maps, photos) so this fits in nicely.  

We also buy mugs everywhere we go.  We think it's fun and quirky to drink out of our hodge podge of mismatched mugs.  Admittedly, they might be on the tacky-side, but we use them all the time.  My main goal is not to spend money on something that just sits and collects dust.  Plus, when you're apartment dwellers, you just don't have the space for extra junk.  I'm trying to live by this motto with the things we own:

"Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"  --William Morris

Aaaaaand just for fun here's the whole set-up plus what I wore today.

How do you preserve your memories without becoming a hoarder?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Living, Breathing, Church.

I spent the night at my folks house as it is half way between here and a wedding hubs and I attended over the weekend.  My brother, our foreign exchange student, and Phil always have so much fun together.  They decided to walk to the park for some basketball.  As a wrestler, I objected, but it was better than staying home watching survival shows with my dad, so I joined.  We played some two-on-two for awhile, but I quickly grew tired.  As it turns out I am WAY out of shape.  It doesn't help that I don't really like basketball--I could play soccer for hours, and not notice the fatigue.  I sat in the grass watching as they spent the remainder of the time playing a game of 21.

Across the park I spotted someone I knew.  Not uncommon in a tiny town like the one I grew up in.  It was one of those moments when you see someone you haven't talked to in awhile and kind of avoid them because you're not sure if they remember you.  Maybe I'm the only awkward one that does things like that.  I flashed back to the last time I really remembered us spending together:  I had invited her to have  a picnic lunch with me at this very park.  I was  involved with Cru and freshly gung ho about discipleship and evangelism.  The usual drill was to ask someone out to coffee, but this was as good as it was going to get in li'l ol' Warden.  She was a few grades behind me.  I knew she was a Christian and I wanted to ask her about her experience with God.  A small part of me hoped to ignite in her the enthusiasm I had just found myself.  Looking back on it, I regretted that meeting with her.  "That was probably a little over-zealous," I told myself.

"Hi Chelsea!" she approached me cheerily.  She began asking me questions about my life, my relationship with God, my marriage.  She shared her journey with me and asked my advice.  But then she said, "You know, I was just telling my mom the other night that talking with you about how relationship with God is more about what we do outside of church and youth group was a pivotal moment for me.  That was a real turning point in my life."  It encouraged my heart to hear that I'd played a small part in helping someone who now walks with the Lord.  As we chatted more I took a risk and became vulnerable with her.  It was tempting to hide my current condition and remain that mentor hero in her eyes.  But I shared that I had been struggling this year--during my intense Master's Program--to spend time with God like I used to.

She boldly told me that God doesn't see me as a failure.  That I am not far from him because he lives inside me.  And that she believes that a new season is coming for me.  I felt the same way.  Then, she prayed for me in English while her mom prayed for me in Spanish.  It was beautiful.  Tears streamed down my face as I basked in the spirit of the Lord.  Truly, where two or more are gathered he is present.  It felt like the Lord orchestrated this meeting to give me the encouragement that I needed, as I transition into this new season of my life.  Those tender moments gave me much hope.  And, like me after the picnic we had years earlier, she probably has no idea how much it meant to me.  It's a beautiful thing when God's people take care of one another.  I believe that this is what the church was designed to be like.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

God is Not a White Man.

Have you seen this yet?  Even especially if you don't believe in God, or have had a bad experience with religion, would you take a minute to watch this?  If  I could choose one thing for people to understand about my faith, perhaps it would be the message conveyed in this whimsical video.  

"God loves everyone Atheists and Charlatans, Communists, and Lesbians, and even old Pat Robertson."

What do you think?  Have you experienced God in this way?  Would you like to?

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