Summer Highlights

Summer Highlights

Summer is always a great time for fun and adventures, and my summer at home before flying out to live in Slovenia and serve as a missionary intern there has been no exception!

I was blessed to road trip with my roommate, go on hikes with my family and friends, played with my puppy, and spent a lot of time curiously (and, truthfully, sometimes with panic!) pondering what this next great adventure will hold. It starts this week!

Enjoy some of the highlights!

 

Expectancy

Expectancy

At the beginning of each year, it has been a popular thing to pick one word to encompass all that you are resolving to do in the year to come. The idea is to end the ceaseless cycle of broken resolutions that are abandoned and unfulfilled a mere two weeks into January. One word might provide clarity and vision for the twelve months ahead.

I picked a word once a few years back. I don’t remember what it was or if it actually made a difference in the way I lived my life. I don’t even remember which year it was. It obviously made a big impact.

This year, however, a word keeps springing to my mind, unbidden and unlooked for. As I think about what I hope will happen this year, I have this calm, hushed sense of waiting and looking forward. It’s going to be intense, unexpected, and amazing. I don’t mean that I expect it to be glamorous or famous or publicly notable. I mean that I have a feeling God is going to be working in my life this year in a way I can’t know or imagine. Whether that manifests to others, or it stays in the secret corners of my heart, I’m peacefully waiting for it.

Expectancy.

This year I will complete my sophomore year at Bethany Global University. A year and half of college finished and just over two years to go. My time here at Bethany has been challenging, exciting, and growing and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time will hold.

Expectancy.

This Summer I will return home for several months with the task of engaging others in the story that is unfolding in my life. I will be asking people to link their prayers to mine for fruitfulness in the journey ahead. I’m looking forward to connecting with people and sharing the excitement of the mission I’m stepping into.

Expectancy.

In September I will move overseas to the European country Slovenia for sixteen months. I will be learning the language, building friendships, living with a team from college, and ultimately extending the love of God to a small portion of the humanity that bears His image. It will be adventurous and incredible, but it will also be challenging and I know that I will learn to rely more heavily on God. I look forward to learning how people in other cultures think and interact.

Expectancy.

In all reality, I have no idea what will happen this year. I don’t know what fears, anxieties, challenges, or setbacks I will face. I also don’t know what joys, cherished moments, friendships, and prayers will ensue. Yet somehow I am still just sitting here in peace and looking forward to climbing the mountains and sliding down into the valleys of the unexpected because I know that God will be moving through it all.

I’m expecting to see God move this year. He is always at work, continuing the restoration of Creation, but this year I have my eyes peeled and my heart opened to see it.

What are you expecting this year?

 

View More: http://featherbrowning.pass.us/taneil

 

Do you Trust Me?

Do you Trust Me?

“Do you trust me?”

My heart is pounding, I’m already stiff and sore, and I’m biting the inside of my lip to give me something else to concentrate on other than how much I hate what I am doing.

“Yes,” I reply instantly. It has taken time to give that trust, but the answer comes more easily now.

“Do you think you can do this?”

This is where I pause. I have already cried. My eyes are still wet with residual tears. I have already slammed through my normal barriers. I hurt and I don’t want to hurt anymore. Everyone told me this would be fun, but so far, it’s one of the worst “fun” things I have ever volunteered for.

The hesitation seems forever, but finally, I push myself again to say, “Yes” with determination. This event is trying to teach us how to respond to adversity with right attitudes, and I guess some of that teaching is sinking in after all. In that moment, though, saying “yes” through gritted teeth is as positive as I can get.

“I think you can too.”

And I do it.

This is a real event that took place several weeks ago. Once a year my college puts on an event where students choose to take part in a challenge to stretch themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Students volunteer to tackle their own responses to adversity and life’s challenges in a setting that provides encouragement and edification, as well as team-building.

It was the first night that was the hardest for me. It involved a lot of strength training and stamina, two things I am particularly lacking in. Every other moment of the event was still difficult, but it was hard in a good way. We ran, marched, lifted “logs” (see below), stood at attention, ran obstacle courses, worked through puzzles, and slogged through a deep, muddy ditch. It was hard, it was great, I finished the whole thing, and I would totally do it again. I do not regret taking part in this event because it stretched me beyond what I thought I was capable of in a lot of ways.

Do You Trust Me?
I’m in the back of the four girls holding up the log

I have been processing the event ever since. Typically I am not a slow processor, but for some reason, I am still struggling to figure out what I actually learned from this event. Something I can’t place my finger on has been sticking with me ever since.

Do You Trust Me?
Coated in mud to the waist!

The conversation at the beginning of this post took place took place between a leader and myself as I was struggling through the hardest part of the event. Recently I was thinking about those words when all of a sudden I pictured the conversation taking place between me and God.

“Do you trust me?”

My heart is pounding, I am stiff and sore, and I’m biting the inside of my lip to give me something else to concentrate on other than how much I hate what I am doing right now.

“Yes,” I reply instantly. It has taken time to give that trust, but the answer comes more easily now.

“Do you think you can do this?”

This is where I pause. I have already cried. My eyes are still wet with residual tears. I have already slammed through my normal barriers. I hurt and I don’t want to hurt anymore. Everyone told me this experience would be good, but so far, it’s one of the worst “good” things I have ever volunteered for.

The hesitation seems forever, but finally, I push myself again to say “yes” with determination. He wants me to face adversity with fortitude, and I guess some of that teaching is sinking in after all. In that moment though, saying “yes” through gritted teeth is the best I can do.

“I think you can too.” His voice is gentle and He smiles encouragingly and pats me on the back.

And I do it.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  ~Philippians 4:11-13

The Father Loves Me

The Father Loves Me

Slipping over the horizon the golden sun disappeared for the night, and a warm twilight descended in its place. I stand up, my hands reaching to stretch my aching back as I survey the field. It had been a good day’s work. I call to the men that it is time to quit for the night. Although they are tired, the men joke and laugh as they make their way to the edge of the field to head home. They throw a goodbye over their shoulders at me as we part ways.

Watching them go, I turn back to survey the field in the deepening evening. We are doing good work here. I know that my Father is going to be pleased to hear of how much we have accomplished today. This field is only a fraction of the fertile and productive land belonging to my Father. I recall with pride how He had slowly turned more and more of the responsibilities of the land over to me. Now, I am the steward of most of the estate. It is my life’s passion to ensure that my hard work and dedication will prove to my Father that He had made the right choice in honoring me with this charge.

Continuing my contented reflections, I walk back to the house. Life is good right now. I know I am exactly where I need to be and what I should be doing. Not many people can say that. My life is predictable, down to the smallest details, which is one of the things I love about it. Tonight, for instance, I will walk into the house, wash up from the dusty labors of the day, and dine with my family. I picture my Father presiding at the table, but then a shadowing cloud darkens my thoughts. He will set an extra place again, as usual. I shake my head to clear it. I will not let a small irritation like this ruin my idyllic evening.

Nearing the house, golden streams of light burst upon my eyes, momentarily blinding me. Loud music assaults my ears and looking to the house I see crowds of people moving in and out. I stand still for a moment attempting to understand. What in the world is going on? Father didn’t mention anything to me about a party and He has never forgotten to tell me about such things in the past. I move towards this bustling, bright beacon again, quickening my pace. As I enter the courtyard I am jostled as servants hurry to fulfill the seemingly insatiable demands of the partygoers.

I interrupt one of the serving maids as she stops for a minute to collect her breath before diving back into the happy throng.

“What is all this? What is going on?”

“You haven’t heard?” Her face assumes a joyful expression. “Your brother has returned!”

She smiles at me, waiting for my expression to mirror her own. Instead, my mind reels. My brother? Home? The maid begins to move away and it takes several minutes for me to remember to ask one more question.

“But why the party?”

Too late; she has already disappeared into the crowd. My call attracts the notice of several partygoers, however, and they greet me.

“There you are! Join us! Isn’t it wonderful?”

I nod and wave to them, but still stand in semi-shock. After all my brother had done, how can Father be throwing him a party? My brother had all but stabbed Father in the back as he had demanded his inheritance, and then disappeared. We heard months later that he had squandered it all in the vilest of ways, and was left a pauper on the streets. After that, we heard no more about him, even though Father always asks for news from travelers.

Fathers steps out of the house, clapping guests on the back and beaming at everyone He sees. Someone whispers in His ear, and His face lights up as He turns pivots toward me.

“Come!” He calls excitedly, beckoning and taking a few steps closer. “Your brother has returned! Come and see him!”

My numbness finally wears off, and bitter anger takes its place.

“Have you lost your mind?”

I throw the words blindly over my shoulder as I spin and stalk out of the courtyard. I’m not sure where I am going, but I would rather be anywhere but in that house with those people.

I sit down under a tree not too far from the house. I can still hear the merry making in the distance. All I feel is bitterness. I am the one who has worked hard and faithfully for my Father. I have done everything He has ever asked. Even in the village, I have a reputation for being very devoted and diligent. I have never asked Father for anything that I knew I didn’t deserve. Yet here He is holding the biggest party I have ever known Him to throw, and all in honor of my good-for-nothing brother.

Footsteps sound behind me, and I turn to see my Father walking through the darkness to find me. I say nothing, but He comes and sits down beside me.

“What’s wrong?” His tone is gentle and loving, which irritates me even more.

“I am over here breaking my back for you and you never even hosted a small dinner party for me! He comes home, life in shambles, and you invite the whole village to celebrate. I have spent my entire life trying to please you and do what you want and require, but He goes and does the exact opposite and you reward him! How does that work?”

Father is silent for a few moments before He answers.

“You are right. Your brother has done nothing to deserve praise and recognition. But the thing is, I love him. When he rejected my love, I was heartbroken, but I can’t force either of you to love me or even accept my love. You must choose that for yourselves. Your brother returning to me means that he is ready to receive my love and all of the benefits that come with being an honored child in my home.”

“My question is the same! I have never rejected you, never trampled your name in the mud, and never disgraced you. What more do you want from me?”

I feel Father smile in the darkness. “Instead of choosing me you chose serving me. I have always longed for you give up your ambitions and hard work to simply love me. You don’t have to make me money, you don’t have to run my estate perfectly, you don’t even have to keep up my reputation. I have tried to tell you this multiple times over the years, but you have never listened. All I have ever wanted is for you to spend time with me and love me.”

The words softly sting. I struggle internally for a few minutes. Angry adrenaline is still rushing through my veins, but Father’s mild admonition and plea catch at the corners of my heart.

“But that’s what I have been trying to do! Isn’t all my hard work proof of that? I don’t know how else to prove I love you.”

Father’s tone is still tender, but it has also adopted a sense of urgency.

“You don’t have to prove anything to me! I already love you, and I always have! Don’t worry about the work. It’s important, but it will get done. Don’t worry about your reputation. I don’t care what other people think of you. You are my child, and I love you no matter what.”

I ponder these words and the bitterness begins to slowly ebb away.

“I want to love you more, the way you want, but I don’t know how.”

Once more I sense Father smile, His excitement palpable.

“I thought you would never ask. Don’t worry, I’ll show you.” We stand together and He throws His arm over my shoulder as we make our way back to the house. As we go, I am not sure of anything I used to be secure in anymore. I can’t rely on my hard work, on my routine, on my reputation, or even on my own common sense. There is only one thing I know for certain, and that is that my Father loves me.

 

A Day in the Life of a BGU Student

A Day in the Life of a BGU Student

For my friends who have heard me say that my life at Bethany Global University is really busy, here is what a typical day might look like for me.

Every day starts with getting out of bed, but some days are easier than others. One of my roommates and I are still in the process of adjusting our day to wake up at 5:30 am to get some exercise. The waking up bit is kind of a struggle, but we’re getting there.

IMG_8397

7:00 am – Breakfast

Breakfast is usually pretty simple. The cafeteria serves scones, pancakes, breakfast burritos, etc. I typically try to stay away from the more carb-filled fare, so opt for two hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and a piece of fruit.

8:00 am – Practical Training

Every student at BGU is given a Practical Training (PT) assignment. Basically, we work for the school to pay for part of our tuition. For my PT assignment, I am the assistant for the director of the Master’s degree program, so my mornings are usually full of office work.

12:00 pm – Lunch

1:00-2:00 pm – Class

From 1:00 or 2:00 pm (depending on the day) to 5:00 pm you will find me sitting a table in class, furiously taking notes so that my fickle memory won’t be the only thing assisting me when I am working on homework later on.

Right now I am taking Theology and Personal Finance, and both are challenging for completely different reasons. Theology has been intense because it is the study of God, and that ain’t no small thing! Personal Finance is challenging simply because I am not a fan of the finance guru who publishes, directs, and stars in this online course.

5:00 pm – Dinner

The last meal of the day is the refueling stop for all of the mental energy I exerted in class.


Depending on the day, my evenings are filled with homework, PX (Exercise), or Life Group. Life group consists of getting together with other girls on my dorm floor and either having a thoughtful, edifying topic to discuss, watching a movie, or going out to a museum or event together.

None of this includes time to talk to friends and family back home, exploring the Twin Cities with friends and roommates, investing in Church community, an outside job, or indulging in personal hobbies, movies, or reading.

When I write it all down like this, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m certain this is the busiest schedule I have ever kept in my life. The great thing is, I am really enjoying it! I have never been very good at keeping to a schedule before, but the importance of each and every item in the planner helps to keep me accountable.

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.” – Victor Hugo

 

Feeling Loved

Feeling Loved

My shoeless feet padded softly into the sanctuary as I followed students past a sign that read “You are in a severely persecuted area. Please enter the sanctuary silently and take a seat on the floor.” We hushed as we entered, our eyes eagerly taking in the empty floor and the partitioned wings to keep the crowd centered in the room. The worship leader stood at the front and silently gestured for us to squeeze together as much as possible. Expectation hung tangibly in the air.

This was the last stop in Bethany Global Universities Campus Preview Weekend Mission Experience (Yikes, that’s a mouthful!). Twice a year the campus organizes an exciting weekend for prospective students to participate and see what life is like at BGU. Starting at 5:20 pm we scampered around the campus, eating dinner along the way. A sophisticated chocolate macaroon melted in my mouth as I heard stories of the refugees from Africa that arrive in southern France. An incredibly brief lesson in Bollywood dancing left the whole group laughing and ready to hear about the 1.2 million desperately lost and precious people of India. In “Thailand”, I sipped my first Thai tea and I learned about the need in Thailand for missionaries ministering through teaching English. Everything made me yearn for far away places and the experiences where you think you go to teach but wind up being taught.

So as we sat in the quiet sanctum of what we learned was the BGU version of an Asian house Church, I was ready once again to hear stories of God’s amazing power at work in the lives of the faithful. It began with worship and our song became a united offering to God. The songs were more contemporary but were accompanied by only a single acoustic guitar. The swelling chorus of voices rang through the room and up towards the vaulted roof of the Church. Being able to actually hear the voices of those around filled my heart to the brim with joy. Just when I thought the worship was good, it got better. “It Is Well With My Soul” echoed around me, reverberating through my mind and threatening to have tears splash down my face. The Lord’s presence claimed our congregation that night.

As per usual for Preview Weekend, a guest speaker blessed us with words of wisdom and tales of God’s mighty work in the world, but towards the end, he requested that we all pray individually that God would reveal to us the next step in life that He has planned. As I prayed, my voice a quiet murmur amidst the passionate pleas of the students, the amazing love of God washed over me for the first time.

It is one thing to know that God loves me, but it is a completely different matter to know that He loves me. To know in my spirit that His love for me is everlasting. It is something new to realize that His love is far greater than the wrath that has continually shaped my conception and relationship with Him in the past. I will certainly not always feel the blessing of His love, and it may be something that I will have to remind myself of day by day and moment by moment, but I don’t want to ever lose sight of the unreachable depths of His love for His people.

As I sat in that room tonight and the words of “How Great Thou Art” swept through my soul, I began to feel the Lord sweeping through my life and removing all of the cobwebs of misconception and the dust of guilt and despair. It’s going to be a process, but when I think of spending the rest of my life falling deeper in love with God I couldn’t choose anything else. (Not that I want to get into all of that mushy-gushy, Jesus is my boyfriend nonsense…)

Tonight, tomorrow, and forever: God loves.

Moving to Minnesota!

Moving to Minnesota!

Of course I have to do a picture post of my trip across the country! There aren’t that many, I promise.

It took a little longer to get out of our black hole of a driveway at my parent’s house. It was snowing on top of a foot or more of snow, and I had to shovel the driveway to get out. Once we got out of Oregon though, it was pretty much clear roads all the way.

img_1221

On a whim we decided to stop in Spokane to visit something historic. I’m not sure we even made it to the historic site, because we got distracted by the enormous red flyer wagon that we stumbled across!

spokane

Another distraction we found was Atticus Coffee. Since it was named after Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird it was a very literary themed little coffee house with books, and tea, and quotes, and basically everything a book lover could want.

img_1222

I visited the states of Montana and South Dakota for the first time. Montana was so beautiful!

montana

We did a little sightseeing along the way as well. Driving through South Dakota we stopped to see the Crazy Horse Memorial. I didn’t even know it existed until the day before we stopped to see it, but I thought it was more meaningful than Mt. Rushmore. It is being built memorialize Crazy Horse’s famous words, “My lands are where my dead lie buried”. It has been a work in progress since 1948, partly because it is funded only by admissions and donations.

crazyhorse1

Then of course we did stop to see Mt. Rushmore. It was also very impressive. I think my sister and I were almost giddy with excitement to see in person such a famous landmark!

mountrushmoremountrushmore2

After Mt. Rushmore, we backtracked about twenty minutes to return to Jewel Cave Monument, which we discovered as we drove through the Black Hills. We were able to take a tour which lasted about an hour and twenty minutes, and it was such a neat experience! It was difficult to get any good pictures though.

southdakota

Finally we just finished driving through South Dakota and into Minnesota, and here I am! Orientation started today, and has kept me pretty busy. As has the misplacing and recovering of my purse in a thrift store. I am almost completely unpacked in my dorm room. I have two roommates, and we are just starting the process of getting to know one another, which I am very excited about.

All in all, I am just beyond blessed that I have this opportunity to explore a new place and to learn new things. I am also glad that I made myself take this opportunity.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~ William Arthur Ward