death has lost its sting.

The past few days I’ve spent with Abbi, Faith, Mrs. Smith, Christie, Kevin, Jared, Nate, and countless springboro kids and family lamenting and celebrating Mr. Smith. It has been such a beautiful reminder of our hope in Christ and our calling to lead others to that hope during our time here.

Mike was like a spiritual father to many of us. He and Kristi brought me into their family as a sister and daughter and shepherded me as their own. In the past couple years we have all spent time in their home, we have not only gotten countless words of counsel and truth (crazy I just came upon this post from last year!), but a model for our future marriages, families, and life following Christ. Mr. Smith passed off the torch to a legacy of guys who are now godly men. He gave Abbi and Faith rich soil to receive Christ and the life tools to “put in their backpack” now that they are ready to make their own decisions. He wasn’t ashamed to show affection and speak words of adoration to his bride in front of us and he showed us what it looked like to have a healthy, loving marriage. The love he has given to his 3 girls and extended to us gave us the clearest picture of the Father. And the number of men that showed up today whom he spent years witnessing to gives me confidence that many will be saved through his creed and selfless love. He made all of us want to be conformed into the image of Jesus.

As Sojourn sings, We come to preach the Savior’s name and triumph in His blood! With joy we tell the scoffing age, “He raised and left His tomb!” And this is our hope in the gospel! As Christians, we not only die a death like Jesus when we crucify our old life and live for Him, but we will be raised as He was raised! (2 Corinthians 15) We long to be at home with the Lord, as Mr. Smith is now in glory (2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

And so as Mike cheered to Abbi as she jogged, only hours before he left to be with Jesus, he would yell out to us: “You’re looking strong! Keep running!”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Sojourners

On Friday, I got to spend so time with  Mr. & Mrs. Smith and learn from their wisdom and love for the Lord. So. Refreshing.

Mike was talking about camping and how the reason he loves camping so much is because it is such a beautiful picture of the already-but-not-yet-tension: we are not of this world because we are sons and daughters of God and co-heirs with Christ for the Kingdom, but we still live in the world of sin. We know we are awaiting a house, but for now live in a tent. Jesus describes it like this when he prays,

“15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17).

It says of those who have gone before us in faith that they viewed themselves as exiles and strangers on Earth. They kept their eyes heavenward as they knew they had a homeland and a better country awaiting them in the Kingdom of God.

13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11)

All of this reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:

1For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

I left longing to be with Jesus- Longing to not only have the Spirit sustaining me, but to be further clothed with a new body that will last forever in the presence of God. I long for the mortal to be swallowed up by life; for death and sin to not only lose their power and sting, but be put away forever. We are sojourners, living in our tents that are uncomfortable and burdensome, knowing in our souls were made for another country. And that country is going to be so good! Lately I’ve been thinking about how the reason I struggle and fight to give up idols is because I just really don’t believe that Heaven and living forever in the presence of Jesus is all that it’s cracked up to be. I still believe that I have to make my “best life now.” What I’m really trying to do is have the most comfortable tent I can because WHAT IF  heaven isn’t that great and then I wasted my time here?!  Isn’t that a ridiculous thought? But if we are honest, this is why we are so easily discontent when people or things let us down and don’t satisfy us the way we want them to. Someday when I am standing before God, face-to-face, beholding his glory for all that it is, I am going to look back on my earthly life and shake my head in disbelief at how concerned I was about my tent-life.

Lord open my eyes to your glory! Keep them heavenward. Remind me that to die is gain, but to live is Christ! I am a sojourner, true, but my life is in you. I am here to proclaim the gospel, bring light into darkness, and prepare the way for your kingdom in the good works that you have prepared for me. What a high calling!…. but Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus! We long for you.

Summer in Springboro

Mia & Jenna

With only one week of school left, I’m beginning to pray about what this summer will look like. This year, I will get to spend my third summer ministering in Springboro. It will be different though. Being in the city but not being able to spend time with high school girls or coach cross country will be very difficult and new, but I remember that God is the author and is sovereign over my life and that gives me confidence to walk into this season.

Pray for Abbie, Sarah, Casey, Lauren, Kate, & Hannah

Its been three months since I stopped leading young life at Springboro, but my heart still breaks for the city all the same, if not more than it did when I was a leader.  I guess I thought God would take away my heart for the city, but instead I’m seeing that he is just reorienting my focus there. This summer will look like living and working in a town hard pressed by the false gospel of performance and the idol of the American dream and bringing the Gospel of Jesus with me. Summer will look like nannying and speaking life into two sweet girls who will eventually grow up to be Springboro High School girls, surrounded by all of the pressures and lies of the world.  They ask me a lot of questions about Jesus- pray for redemption in their hearts. Summer will look like building relationships with country club moms and learning about their lives- pray for cool conversations and that Jesus would be made much of. Summer will look like being a servant to my co-workers as I waitress at Max and Ermas- Pray that I would get to share my faith with new friends. Summer will look like fellowshipping with the “senior girls” and speaking truth into their lives- Pray for them to use the summer well and be refreshed in community. Summer will look like reconnecting with Katie and fighting with her to know the love her God has for her before she leaves for college- Pray for truth to reign in her heart! Summer will look like long days poolside at Sycamore country club communing with Jesus and learning from his word- Pray that my heart would grow exceedingly content with Jesus and flee from idols.

Beautiful Katie

I am so excited to be in Springboro this summer. It will look different than before, but it will be so good. I am excited to grow in my view of God and dependence upon him. I am excited to seek out intentional fellowship since I won’t be surrounded by it all the time. I am excited to learn how to do ministry there without tagging “I’m a Young Life leader” onto every conversation I have. I am excited to grow in boldness. I am excited to witness the kingdom coming to the city of Springboro and I am excited to be apart of the work.

Overwhelmed.

She is beautiful.

I am overwhelmed by God’s abundant love and blessing he show me today. My friend Abbi came to the Oaks today and it was a total surprise to me! After the service, while I was back in childcare, she showed up in the doorway and I immediately started crying. It was almost as if I had been waiting to cry those tears of happiness for months.  Abbi was one of my best friends in Springboro.  Her love for Jesus is so evident and the Gospel is transforming her in radical ways. It has been three months since I have stopped leading and it has been three months since I have seen Abbi or her family (who were like family to me when I led).  Getting to grab lunch with them, the Springboro team and the rest of the ambassador team was so sweet of the Lord.  I loved getting to laugh and catch up with the Smiths and I even got some cool time to catch up with Abbi and encourage her in the gospel.  I left crying…still (haha)… not tears of bitterness, but tears of thankfulness; just so overwhelmed by the Lord that, in a season of trial, he would bring such a beautiful afternoon of happiness.

I walked away knowing this: The gospel is that no matter what comes- suffering or blessing- I get Jesus. Today I got Jesus. Tomorrow I will get Jesus. I rejoice knowing that I am loved, God is for me, and He blesses me with himself. Hallelujah!

What does Ministry look like after Young Life?

Alania, Me, & Caroline at the Reds Game

This has been a question I have been praying about A LOT these days.  I’ve been unsure, overwhelmed, and battling feelings of worthlessness. But God blessed me tremendously this weekend when I got to hang out with my good friend Caroline and her friend Alania.  Caroline is someone who does ministry really really well.  She doesn’t only love people and share the gospel in the confines of New Miami, but she even seeks out her classmates and catches a vision for who they were created to be.  Alania is someone that Caroline got to know through her creative writing class and they became friends.  Long story short, we are all now friends with Alania!  I got the opportunity to go to a Reds game with the two of them this weekend.  On the drive home we got to talk about Jesus and how his righteousness given to us is the ONLY thing that gives us right standing with God. Jesus offers us this grace through faith that on the cross God exhausted his wrath on him for our sin.  Alania didn’t know the Lord before this weekend, but after that conversation and her honesty and Pastor Bryan’s bold words on Sunday at the Oaks, I’m pretty sure she sees her need for a savior and has claimed Christ.  Praise God for how he moves and redeems and also how he blesses the Saints to be a part of his work!

Getting to share the gospel was an answered prayer and such a blessing.  I’m starting to see how God wants to use me to build his Kingdom right now, even without a formal ministry title.  I don’t have a context.  I don’t have events.  I don’t have a team.  But I have been made new by the Gospel and that gives me the ability to love people and speak truth.  I want to love people and I want to speak truth.  Pray with me that I would grow in confidence to seek people out and form friendships.  All of a sudden, high school girls seem way less intimidating than they used to…yikes.

God is moving.

Speaking of high school girls, I miss being a young life leader sometimes.  Last night I got to help team Boro make a track with segments of songs for a need talk.  I loved serving them in that way.  Tonight I got to sit on my roof at the 8-9 hour and pray for the city, for kids, for the team, and for club.  It was so good and my passion for the Gospel to radically change the city was relit.  Like Christie so beautifully reminded me last night, God is just teaching me how to serve behind the scenes.  I don’t get to be up front, see fruit, or even receive love from girls, but I am getting to learn how to love and serve the city in the way God has called me to in this time.  I still have a heart for Springboro and for the girls I love, but God is ripping away my desire to be relevant and seen.  God, You are good and you do good. Enter into this broken city and into the hearts of people who live there!  They are being fed a false gospel of performance and materialism. Open thousands of hearts to know the gospel of grace and worship you as King. Amen.

Who I used to be.

I wanted to start this blog as an expression/processing center as I work through this season of refinement that God has placed me in.

I’ve been a Christian since high school, but it wasn’t until about 2 months ago that Jesus became my only identity, my only claim.  I used to be a lot of things.  A best friend. A girlfriend. A discipler. A busy person. A happy-go-lucky, always-try-to-please-everyone kind of girl. But the thing so many people in my community tagged me with was “Springboro Young Life Leader.”

I used to be one.

Now I’m not.

I was asked to step down from my position as a Young Life Leader due to not adhering with the Young Life code of conduct we sign.  Even though the period of sin was in the past, repented of, and held accountable for, nevertheless, it was the will of God that I be asked to stop.  This was nearly two months ago and that sunday, my world was rocked. My heart is still recovering from the blow.  Relationships with girls had to be severed. A bible study of sophomore girls that I had built up in the Gospel for a year was handed down to my co-leader. Cross country girls that I have practiced with and cheered for the past two years will never see me again. My team now runs alongside each other for the city…without me. The area of my life that brought me the most joy, lead me to the most prayer, and made me most passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taken away.  Why? Why did you choose to discipline me so long after my time of rebellion? Why do I have to be exiled, without the oppertunity to have occasional contact with girls who I, not only led and discipled, but had deep fellowship and friendship with?

I thought things would begin to make sense by now, but I still sit here today, asking myself the same questions…

On the morning after I was asked to stop leading, I remember reflecting on the Lord’s will.  In the midst of tear filled eyes I journaled:

Jan. 24, 2010– God you are so faithful. You are my strength and my portion forever. Even when my heart condemns me, you are greater still.

Lord thank you that your will is being done.  Even though that period sin is in the past, Lord the idols are still here…just manifesting themselves in less offensive ways.  Your discipline is just, but it is also loving like a Father.  What a BLESSING to be disciplined in such a way to make me more holy, pure, and in love with you.  I will know you so much through this and you will change my heart to rely on you alone.

Lord so many idols are threatened: Reputation, People’s View of Me, Control, Ministry.  I have nowhere to go but you.  Mark 10: I knew that the one thing that would be hard for me to sell was my reputation.  Here it is God. You have broken it and I am holding up the broken pieces and ready to follow you. It will be hard and I fear people who don’t understand the Gospel and will only judge, speculate, gossip, and slander so that they can be exulted over me in my sin.  Hold me Lord and set my heart to know that my identity is in you alone.

Jan. 25, 2010– Lord my heart is heavy right now. I miss my girls. I can’t even say goodbye…I’m so sad. I was telling Kevin about how they are starting to hang out with each other outside of bible study and how I feel so passionate about discipleship and how God blesses and encourages me through them.  Why do I have to have this taken away? It’s such a good thing that points me to you and I just feel like I’m starting to doubt your goodness. Restore to me my sight lord! You are better than you blessing. Please God release me from bitterness or sadness.  Lead me to find peace with your will.

Grow me in prayer Jesus.  I pray for Springboro and your redemption there.  Change girls hearts and draw Abbi, Corissa, Natalie, Sierra, Rachel, and Christiana’s hearts nearer to yours.  By the power of the gospel, sanctify them.  You are so good.

I feel peace to keeping moving forward.

Jan. 27, 2010– God I am so thankful! Today was so hard but now I can rejoice in sight of your work!  I just went to dinner with Christie and just feel so confident that you are going to move through her so much in those girls lives!  I am so encouraged by the faith you are giving her.  Gosh you are going to change her so much and bless her as you blessed me as she sees them fall more in love with you.

THANK YOU FOR HOW YOU ARE MOVING IN ABBI!  I just got her letter and it was so rich and deeply from you.  You have changed her into such a beautiful woman who loves you more everyday and I can see that in her words.  I also see so much of myself in the letter- but in a good way.  The words you spoke from me gave her life and grew her in her understanding of you.  I got to see fruit and that is such an undeserved blessing that many don’t get to see the way I have.  I am so thankful.  I think I am ready to let go of Springboro.  I have had so much passion over the past two years.  I am so excited to find more passion in you alone.  Direct my steps lord.  Where do you want me?  Increase my faith that you are enough for me!

I prayed those things with so much faith. but today that person seems so distant. I think I half believed that this was a big mistake or that some how my “penance” would be paid off quick and easy and I would be able to talk to my friends again–but its been two months and I’m starting to realize I will never be a Springboro Young Life Leader again.

Here is what I am learning…Well, trying to learn.

God is the author of this.  He is good and he loves me.  He is not bringing me through this time to punish me but to BLESS ME.  It is a blessing that I get to know Him better and have more of Him.  I’m trying to learn that even compared to some of the best things in this world, he is better still! I was made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things- My discontentness is really me selling out and starving myself from what I was created to find my utmost joy in!  Do I really count all things as loss compared to knowing Jesus and His SURPASSING worth? Am I this temporally focused that I forget the GLORY that will be revealed to us sons and daughters for eternity? Lord give me back my child-like faith and prayerful heart I felt the day you took this part of my life, and let me eagerly long to invite you to abide in its place!

Not to this, oh God, but to your name be glory.

I love all of this, but Jesus I want to love you more.