Thursday, May 5, 2016

21 in Italy

It's the strangest thing returning to a place after a year- nothing has changed, which makes me acutely aware of the ways in which I have changed.

Something I learned:

"Grace is opposed to earning, not effort."

Something that brings purpose:

"As He died to make men holy, let us live to set them free."

Saturday, February 20, 2016

From Oxford

Dear Daughter,

I've been thinking a lot about purpose lately. College does that to you...or maybe growing up does that to you. I don't know, but I want to know my purpose. I don't mean whether I'm going to be a doctor or a philosopher or a politician or nurse (hopefully I will do none of those things)...I mean my purpose-where my gaze is fixed. My end goal. My aim. I want to know my all-consuming all-encompassing drive.
You see, I think, the moment I surrendered to Jesus, confessed my sin, and admitted that He was God it was a wonderful moment, but it wasn't the end. There will be times when you will have to decide again. No, your eternal destiny does not ride on these moments, but your contentment on earth does. Life is a series of decisions.
If you're like me then, when you're in your twenties, there will be time when the world is REALLY loud. There will be a time when you realize that non-Christians are not necessarily mean and you have a gay guy friend who you love dearly. Maybe you'll like a man who doesn't love Jesus. There will be a time when you're mad at God because hell doesn't make sense and doesn't seem fair. You'll be mad at God because you feel lost-like a little girl who loses her Dad's hand in a crowd and then grabs the wrong man's hand, only to look up to see a stranger's face peering down at her. You'll feel like he has left you alone to figure it out. Nothing seems to be making sense and He doesn't seem to care. You'll feel abandoned.
SO. Here is my note to you during those times....
It is easy to become numb-- numb to curse words, numb to drunkenness, numb to being degraded as a woman, numb to the homeless, numb to the suffering around you, numb to the Holy Spirit speaking to you each day.  At the same time, it is easy to become disillusioned-- disillusioned with other people's goals for you, disillusioned with money and school, disillusioned with other people's priorities that lead you to question your own.
This is hard, but necessary. You see, I don't grow up in the world my parents grew up in. Yes, they still had to chose to follow Jesus, but it was more the status quo. The insults of "bigot" and "intolerant" and "ignorant" were far less common. You, I fear, will grow up in an even more hostile environment. I find myself being so weak...afraid to stand up for the relationship that I claim is most important.
As I've questioned God and my priorities I've realized that I have to choose. More and more each day I have to choose. I have to choose him- to be sold out, surrendered, ready, actively laying down my life, all in. Living and walking with Christ is not one moment with tears kneeling beside your bed. It is a lifestyle that cannot be half-assed (sorry for the language...) . The world doesn't allow you to truly follow Christ and fit in at the same time. This I have realized to a greater degree than ever before here in Oxford. I don't fit in. I just don't fit quite right....and that's okay. I look around and I see people searching for worth in knowledge, in love, in achievement, and in their own abilities. What freedom there is in admitting that I am weak! For freedom Christ has set us free! He is our righteousness, worth, and hope, and He never changes. Do I still question? Yes. But I know that a life spent following Christ is the most fulfilling. I know that He hasn't left me even when my emotions tell me otherwise. He isn't about conventional religion. He is about glorifying Himself through displaying his power in our weakness and bringing us ultimate contentment in the process of surrender.
All this to say- the more I surrender, the more freedom I experience. I'm not sure about anything at this point (I'm only 21 for goodness sakes) but I THINK that your
purpose is found in the surrender.
P.S. Oxford is nice. It rains a lot. I sprained my ankle badly. The accents are wonderful. I study a lot (as expected) although probably not as much as I should. The architecture is breathtaking.

Friday, January 15, 2016

So I don't forget...

Life music: age 21.
James Morrison, James Bay, City and Colour, The Head and The Heart, Regina Specktor, Josh Garrells, Mumford and Sons, Tallest Man on Earth, Adele 25 (duh.), Ellie Goulding Delirium (only song: codes), Augustana, Phil Wickham, NeedtoBreathe, Penny and Sparrow, Bon Iver, Damien Rice, Ray LaMontagne, John Mayer, James Taylor, and the occasional Ed Sheeran song, Sia (song only: elastic heart), Matt Wertz, lastly:slightly embarrassing, but for honesty's sake: Justin Beiber's Purpose

new adventure, different purpose

As I've read back on my blog lately I can't help but laugh...mostly because the issues that felt so life-altering have been put into the perspective that time inevitably brings. As I begin this new adventure in Oxford, England I find myself drawing parallels between current me and the 20 year old girl who flew to Milan only one short year ago- heartbroken, confused, excited, afraid, and eager to experience what the world had to offer. Is it possible to be a different person within the span of a year? It must be. Sanctification is a crazy thing. My posts start out sounding a bit like a person who's lived a long life and is offering some invaluable wisdom, but they become progressively more personal
I read my Bible and pray less, but I love people in a realer (not a word, but I like it) way. And I love Jesus more. This, at times, is incredibly frustrating. 
In high school I had high hopes for 21 year old Anna. She would be praying at least two hours a day and constantly quoting scripture. But, God never works like we plan. In my mind, as my love for God and my knowledge of grace grows, so does time spent with Him. I believe this to be true as a general rule for those with an established faith. However, He has a way of stripping away any source of pride that hinders us from falling on our knees in humble adoration of His accomplishment on the cross. 
In Italy I realized that I didn't want God. I wanted what God gave me. I didn't want to walk with Him, know Him, hear from Him, or sit in the silence to hear about a Love that couldn't be earned...a Love that isn't legitimized by any effort on my part. When I failed I wanted Him to be disappointed until I could work back into favor. 
I could talk about grace all day long, and I did....but never once did I consider its implications. Never once did I ask myself- do I REJOICE? God's grace was enough for THAT person, of course, but it couldn't be enough for me. I couldn't just offer myself to God, bringing nothing. However, I quickly learned that I have nothing of worth to present to the King- my heart wasn't pure.
Yes, this trip will be different than the last. Instead of breaking my perfect lifeless Christian routines and reminding me that I'm human and it's okay to feel things (Thank you Italia), I think He's going to show me how to surrender my humanness to His plan. I think, now that He's allowed me to experience what is empty (the world and everything it offers) I think He's going to show me the beauty of intimacy with Him. I sense this shift from legalism to grace already, and my prayers have shifted from lists to tears...tears of thankfulness and release. All the tears I held in for the sake of "being strong." All the tears from YEARS of attempting to be a "good person" and the disappointments of failure. Tears for my friends who don't yet know Jesus....and, finally, tears because He can handle them. Unlike any man in my family, He can handle tears. 
He waits. He waits for us to come with nothing, eager to embrace us when no one else is.
May we be brave enough to discover our own depravity and fears; and may we turn to see Him waiting.