On Turning 25

ywsy97_rk1o-brooke-larkToday is my 25th birthday.

I’ll be honest with you, I have been dreading this birthday.

I’m sure 25 will be great!

There are already things in the works that have me so excited. I have started a new job with a company I am passionate about in an industry I’ve dreamed of working in. I have booked a flight to Italy with a dear friend and am so excited to have adventures in Umbria and Tuscany. I am exploring  conferences and learning experiences. I have a great pile of books to work my way through. I have finished the first draft of my novel and am resting for the month before I tackle edits.

This is a season rich and rife with possibility.

And still, until recently,  I was dreading this day.

My parents got married when they were twenty-five.

As a kid, I just thought that was the age at which one got married. Like going to Kindergarten at five. Or getting an American Girl doll at eight. (I basically thought everything happened by age and it was all a right of passage. What can I say, I’m a sucker for structure…)

I did eventually learn that this was not the case in life. Everything happens within God’s timing—I really do trust that. It’s just that from a young age, I thought life would look really different.

My good friend—and now boss—was telling me about a blog post she read that unpacked the ridiculousness of a bucket list. This inspired my friend to make a 50 before 50 list.

She showed me the pages of her notebook filled with things she always wanted to experience, or learn, or accomplish. Things she no longer wanted to do “someday” but wanted to make time and space for in the coming years.

I loved reading and seeing how this breathed new life into the season ahead. I wanted some of that.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been jotting down ideas for my own list—my 30 before 30. And It’s all over the map (sometimes literally), but it’s made me really excited for what God may have ahead in the coming months and years. It ranges from big adventures:

  • Exploring Italy
  • Going with friends on a spontaneous roadtrip
  • Learning to rockclimb

to small pursuits of maturity

    • Read a Russian novel
    • Find a workout routine I actually enjoy
    • Learn to make sushi

and small risks:

      • Take a dance class
      • Go for a nice dinner by myself
      • Learn to give and receive grace

A wise pastor in my life has always called one’s twenties the decade of dreams. Where God has gifted us dreams, there is no need for dread. Dreaming small and big dreams for the half-decade ahead has been a good chance to reflect on ways to pursue Shalom in my life and my community. It was has been refreshing to pray to dream God’s dreams and to think on what brings me joy.

So here I am at 25. I am not married and my long-lost third grandmother did not come out of the woodwork to tell me I am a princess of an obscure but charming European country.

And you know what? I’m really okay. Not just okay, I’m excited.

How are you pursuing joy and growth this year?


Joy and the Shepherd

I accompanied a friend and her wonderful family to a wedding a couple weeks ago and had such a splendid time. Everything was so beautiful and the reception was such a blast. I love dancing like a weirdo with great friends. I had not seen many of her family members in a while, so there was plenty of catching up over dinner.

While describing to her mother where I am at in life, I found myself feeling like a cheese-ball. All I could talk about was even though this season was pretty ambiguous, things were actually really great and God had been so faithful. I kept repeating how great God was in this midst of the unknown. If I was hearing me talk, I would probably have rolled my eyes. (Inwardly, of course.)

Except that I was being totally honest.

 Which was a shock to me. I was happy. No, not happy–Joyful. God has been so wonderful in the midst of all my I -don’t-know-where-my-life-is-headed-this-is-so-confusing meltdowns. He has allowed me to be angry with him and to pray through that to a place of peace and trust.

I’m not going to lie, this has been one of the most difficult seasons. It has been–and continues to be–an inward struggle. What will I choose today? Contentment or worry? Trust or control? I don’t often choose correctly. But it’s a moment by moment choice. I am always welcomed to choose to turn.

The pastor at my church spoke this week, using his grandchildren as an illustration. Last year he challenged them all to memorize Psalm 23 and to reflect on the question ‘Who are you tempted to follow as your false shepherd?’ And this wasn’t just a question they had to answer once, but think on for the entire year.

I’ve been thinking on it for the past week as I meditate on the Psalm. Who am I tempted to follow as my false shepherd?

As God and I have been wrestling for the past couple weeks, it has become very apparent that I demand control. I want things my way and in my timing. If I cannot manipulate to make that happen, I fret about all the possible outcomes and dream up ways to compensate. I become consumed by what I cannot control or have or make yield to me.

I hold a death-grip over what is not mine.

But the Lord is my shepherd! I am just a sheep. It is the shepherd’s job to provide for his sheep. To lead them beside quiet waters, to make them rest in green pastures.

He is making me rest in green pastures in this stage of limbo. To slow down and rest in what he provides and nothing more. And it’s hard. I want to get up and go and make my way. But I am just a little sheep.

I must hand over my want for control and rest up. To take in God’s grace and the wisdom from his people and his word and prepare for the unknown next. So I have begun to open up my fists and let go of what I have wrongly grasped.

And what have I found in the handing over?


I wish and pray for the same thing for you, my friend.

So what about you? Who are you tempted to follow as your false shepherd? I would love to hear in the comments or by email! Tell me your story!

Postcards from Camichines Part IV: The Work of Beautiful Hands

It’s been so fun working in the school throughout our workday. On Tuesday, I got to work with a reading group of third grade boys. So much fun! Yesterday, I taught a writing lesson for the fifth and sixth grade kids. We learned about dialogue and action tags vs. dialogue tags. It was so fun and their energy was contagious. Their excitement for learning and for life and for each other has made this week a blast.

Learning sign language!

One of our awesome team members has a gift for sign language. She has translated for a few years in our worship services and has been down here teaching the kids some signs to go with some worship songs. They have been so excited, asking her about additional signs throughout the week.

Today, those of us working in the courtyard were called into the classroom during their music time. They wanted to show us what they had been working on all week.

They sang ‘Our God is an Awesome God’ and signed along with it.

I began crying halfway through. This was it. This was why we were here. This is why Ranchito con Esperanza exists. Seeing those kids so excited to sing and sign–showing us what they had been learning and worshiping at the same time–it was so beautiful.

These kids have been rescued and are being raised in this home that they may one day go out and be game changers in the name of Jesus Christ. That is a powerful vision.

Me attempting to get some sun in the middle of the corn pile.

Our team has been discussing how easy it can be to get caught up in the mentality of our tasks or discouraged by the monster pile of corn. (The new monster pile of corn, mind you. This one we have to go through kernel by kernel.) It’s these kind of moments that give a glimpse of what it’s all for.

Hebrews 11 talks about the great men and women of the Old Testament who put their faith in God, looking forward to the coming of Christ and never getting to taste that vision in their time. Our team is down here for a week. Such a small blip in the operations of this place and in the lives of these kids.

These barrels of corn should make a years worth of tortillas.
(The best tortillas ever, at that!)

But this work needs to be done. Even what we’re doing with the corn. By husking and sifting and sorting, we are helping them prepare and store the corn that will make tortillas for the next year. In very small, and seemingly insignificant ways, we are laying just a stone to help build the reality of the vision that has been cast for this ministry. But hopefully God will allow our stone to be build upon further.

Seeing these kids sing to Jesus, both with mouth and hands was a wonderful picture of what we want to help Ranchito con Esperanza strive for. We want to see this ministry build these kids up in faith so that they may in turn build up communities for Jesus in the future.

This week has been such a beautiful glimpse of the father. My heart is full. These children, this team, and this beautiful place are all more than I could have ever asked for. I am so grateful for the impact these people have made on my heart and am excited to see what God shall do with this place in the coming months and years.

In His name,

The Obstacles to My Enjoyment

The weekend after I was laid off from the internship, I led on a youth retreat. Not exactly how I wanted to spend that weekend. I would have preferred to spend those couple days wrapped in self-pity and a blanket in bed with kleenex and what was left of my chocolate supply.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my girls! But I felt like I had just come off of one of the more hellish weeks of my life. Not only had I been laid off, but I was denied a promotion at my second job. 

And I felt lost.

The speaker for the weekend presented us with a quote from Larry Crabb that put it all in perspective for me:

We cannot count on God to arrange what happens in our lives in ways that will makes us feel good. We can, however, count on God to patiently remove all the obstacles to our enjoyment of Him. He is committed to our joy, and we can depend on Him to give us enough of a taste of that joy and enough hope that the best is still ahead to keep us going in spite of how much pain continues to plague our hearts.

Let that sink in. Read it again.

God does not want me to feel good. He is not out to make my life happy. He desires so much more for us!

God has taken captive the events of our lives, even those that were meant to be broken and twisted, and is bending them to his glory! He is a passionate father, seeking to remove every obstacle in order to be in right relationship with us.

His plan cannot be foiled! His love can only be ignored for so long before we are aching for it again. He is committed to our joy. He desires us to take joy in the plan he has laid out for us. They way is going to be hard. It is not always going to be the most comfortable or even bearable at points. But it is the end goal that gives us hope.

This does not mean He expects us to be happy all the time. To be honest, I am not happy right now. I still feel lost and a little sad. But there is joy in this season. There is a quiet moment each day when I am asked to come and be still with my father. A moment to refresh myself in the joy He has given me–a moment to realize that life is not about my comfort, but my enjoyment of the father.

God is not an ego maniac, forcing us to mindlessly worship him with happy faces even when life sucks. He is a father who yearns to be in relationship with us where we are–happy, sad, downright pissed. His desire is to be enjoyed by his children through their trust in His way, even when that way gets hard and uncomfortable. His desire is to be relied on in those moments. To be given a chance to comfort and guide his children through the dark and show them the light that is ahead for them.

Therefore, since we have been justified<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> through faith,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> we have peace<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> by faith into this grace in which we now stand.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> And we boast in the hope<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”> of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(J)”> does not put us to shame, because God’s love<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(K)”> has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(L)”> who has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5

Friend, I encourage you to sit down with the father today. Remove the obstacles that are keeping you from enjoying him. Find peace and a taste of joy in that quiet moment with Him.