Shine

Andy planned the majority of our date on Thursday. We went to our favorite spot on the beach and picnic-ed, eating way too much of some of our favorite foods. We walked down to the water, and I squealed as the cold water hit my toes and he tried to convince me to walk in deeper. He had to do a lot of convincing that night, convincing me to walk in the water, convincing me to climb to the top of the dune, convincing me that it’d be worth it.

There was one thing he didn’t have convince me to do.

Say yes.

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Along with celebrating with our families and friends over the weekend, we began researching venues and I promptly realized that this whole wedding planning is not going to be super easy. There wasn’t a place that I fell in love with, and some of the places I refrained from falling in love with because my parents would not fall in love with the price tag. I’m 100% NOT a decision maker, and the endless lists of decisions that have to be made in the next year threaten to pull me down. An officiant? A photographer? A dress? Flowers? Cake? Food? Decor? Yikes. I have a color scheme and and fiance who cares for me so well, who reminds me to shut the laptop and take a break to play Ticket to Ride and go for a walk. I’m telling myself that that’s all I need at the moment.

Everyone wants to see my ring, dainty and fairylike and a bit too big, and every time I stare at its sparkle and shine, I know that the wedding doesn’t really matter. Not in the long run. Andy matters. Serving and loving him matters. Honoring God with our marriage matters. My ring is a symbol of our dedication to each other and to Christ, of our desire to be one, to worship Christ with our lives, to raise our family to be His. This bit of earthly shine reminds me that I’m also the bride of Christ, that His kingdom will last forever, and it’s living for eternity, not for our wedding, that really matters.

I can’t wait to be Mrs. Sivils. Our wedding day will be wonderful, but it’s the life afterwards that really matters. May I live those days, these days, and every day for His shining glory, and His glory alone.

Adventure & Vacuums

“God designed us for adventure because He knew following Him would be one.” – Jennie Allen


I had settled into the big, pink, 90’s lazyboy that dwells in our loft, the one that’s become “mine” through the hours of homework and reading and writing and texting and internet browsing and thinking I’ve done there. Jess Connolly’s “Wild and Free” was less than two weeks old, and as I sat with it in my hands, the doubts and misgivings filled my heart.

“Do you really want to be wild?”
“Free sounds nice, but will this just be crazy? I don’t like crazy. I don’t want to be crazy. At all.”

Doubts and all, I opened it.


While driving home earlier in the day, my sister said something like “Doesn’t hiking through the mountains sound like so much fun?!” I didn’t have to think about my response. No. No, that sounds exhausting and hard and buggy and how would you wash your hair? I don’t want to do anything that difficult. She’s always been the more adventurous one, the go-getter, the roller coaster fan, and 50* water swimmer. Me? I’m more likely to tell you “Look at this freshly vacuumed room! Isn’t it delightful? Lets just sit here with a new book and enjoy it.”

Adventurous to me is ordering a different soup at Panera or parting my hair on the right instead of the left. It’s parking in a different row at school or sending the Facebook friend request or wearing grey capris instead of denim skinny jeans.


I opened the book to the foreword by Jennie Allen and only got a few paragraphs in before that quote made me stop. “God designed us for adventure because he knew following Him would be one.”

How much of His adventure do I miss because I’m too busy looking at my pretty, clean carpet? I don’t want to miss His plans for me because I’m too scared to say “yes”.

Being adventurous scares me. Being wild and free scares me. But life isn’t about staying in our comfort spots with our vacuums and our wifi. We have to leave what’s familiar, to pursue Him everywhere we are, to let the experiences He draws us into bring us closer to Him, even when it’s not a “church thing” or a “mission opportunity”. The world is our mission field! Let’s find Him in the every day, in the view from the new restaurant as you watch the sun go down, in the vastness of the waves at the new beach you visit, in the face of every person you see on the day trip to Chicago. Let’s go on adventures and find Him there, even if it’s terrifying, even if you don’t want to leave your house, even if you have to be wild and free to get there. Life with Him is a big ol’ adventure. The day may start with your heart pounding and your eyes wide, but ending it with peace and thankfulness and the whisper of “I’m so glad I did that.” will make it all worth it.

Sign me up for the next adventure, Lord. You might have to tell me to open my eyes and unclench my hands, but I want to see you.

Boys Need Sponsors Too

I didn’t plan to sponsor a boy.

I’m an eighteen year old girl. My house is mostly girls, with a ratio of 6:2. I curl my hair and love my dresses and books and stillness and I want to be a wife and mommy and holding babies is about the best thing ever. I don’t really know how to “do” boys. I knew going into sponsorship that letter writing would be mandatory for me; I’ve read too much about the delight children take in their letters (and the disappointment in an empty mailbox) to only give the money, and not my time and words. How could I write letters to a boy? be encouraging to a boy? love and support a boy?

Nope.

Not for me. Leave the boys to people who know boys. I’ll sign up for a girl, thank you very much.

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Every year, I follow the Compassion bloggers as they fly across the world and see the work Compassion is doing up close. They visit the centers and attend church and meet their sponsored kids and see homes the size of our pantry. They see the poverty and the struggle. They see the light and the hope infused into the Compassion kids from a thriving relationship with Jesus. They see the difference sponsorship makes in the life of a child firsthand.

And then they go back to their hotel and write about it. I read each post and it burns me up.

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Kids are my holy fire. Everyone has a passion, something that riles them up and the older I get, the more riled up I get about kids. Mistreated kids. Kids in poverty. Kids in need of safety, physical safety, emotional safety, and most of all, spiritual safety. I want every child to grow up with their basic needs taken care of. I want them fed and clothed and warm and safe and loved.

I want every child to know love.

The love of a family.

The love of a church.

The love of God.

This is my fire.

——-

I kept the list of waiting children up in a computer tab while the recent Compassion group was in Ecuador, refreshing it every so often, loving to see the number go down and thinking about how so many children’s lives would be changed. Someone wrote about seeing a child’s face when he got to the learning center and seeing his name on the sponsored list. Joy. I want to be a bearer of such joy.

When you open the list of waiting children, it defaults to being sorted youngest to oldest. There are adorable one year olds on that first page. Trust me, my heart melted like most people’s do. But I sorted by longest waiting, and that tore up my heart too. Some of those children have been waiting for 367 days, over a year, for someone to pick their name from a list and say “I believe in you. I support you. I love you.” That fact alone got me going.

But they were all boys.

Over the next few days, I would refresh and scroll through a few pages and every time, my heart would pound with injustice. Boys. Boys. All between the ages of 6-10. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

They might not be “cute” like the little kids. They might not be sweet and easier to write like the girls. (Please note: the gift of being sponsored from such a early age is an incredible blessing! And I love the work Compassion is doing with girls, teaching them and protecting them and enabling them to work good jobs and care for their families. I don’t want to bypass that work at all, and if you sponsor young children and girls [my family does too!], you are doing the Lord’s work and loving them well and I’m so grateful for you!) But boys need sponsors too! It’s such an important age (isn’t every age?) for a boy, an age where he can understand that he is valued and loved, where dreams take root and the faith of a child is established and the direction of life is formed.

At the time of this writing, there are 558 girls waiting to be sponsored. There are 1156 boys.

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I’m not the “prime candidate” for sponsorship. I’m a college student, whose main source of income disappeared with the start of the new year. I’m in the stage of life where things change really fast, and my life will probably look vastly different a year and a half from now. I hesitated, knowing that unpredictable times and unpredictable income doesn’t really make $38 a month look “smart.” But that’s what the world says. Jesus says, “trust Me with your everything.”

I scrolled. There was one sweet little face I kept coming back too, and when I clicked his name and asked God, He told me yes. A few minutes later, Karlos was mine, the first of the sponsored children I plan to have over the course of my life.

It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

So here I am, sitting at my kitchen counter, my laptop, my tea, printing pictures and writing my first letter to my sweet little boy in Columbia. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know this. Boys need sponsors too. They need people pouring into their lives and being the hands and feet of Christ to the world. So 6 year old little Karlos for me. I might not know boys well, but I know Jesus. He loves him. And so will I.

Boys need sponsors too.

Weight

Laying on my bedroom floor, I was thinking about 2016 when I heard the whisper through my head.

Be careful.

They were wise words. Unconsciously, I was laying down bricks, weighing down next year with expectations.

All the credits I want to have by next December.

All the plans I want to make after a ring slides onto my finger.

All the hours I want to work and the savings I want to accumulate.

All the clothes I want to wear and ways I want to do my hair.

All the essays I want to write.

All memories I want to make.

All the coffee/lunch/beach dates I want to have.

All the healthy food I want to eat, and the strength I want to gain, and the miles I want to run.

Basically, I want to be all the things. I want to be the cute, fit, smart, all pulled together, engaged girl after the next 12 months. And that’s a lot to dump on a year that hasn’t even started yet.

My ways are not your ways, nor are My thoughts your thoughts.

I can’t do it all. There’s no way. My way looks an awful lot like being up at 6:30, powering through a workout and having time to make a decent breakfast and spend time in the Word and still dress in skinny jeans and oversized sweaters and chunky jewelry and unchipped nail polish and curl my hair and make it out the door by 9:15, where I’ll ace my classes and eat healthy, packed-the-night-prior lunches and dinners, leave in a truck that doesn’t have trouble starting in the cold, come home without freaking out on the roads, have tons of energy to spend with my family, cook and pack the next day’s food, and still be showered and in bed by 10:30, interspersed with days of homework and nannying and seeing my family and boyfriend.

And… that all sounds horribly overwhelming and a way to run myself into the ground. My impression of what I need to do and be in order to be perfect… isn’t me. I’m not a perfectly put together person. I’m never going to be. There will always be more that I feel like I need to be, always more to make me a better student, a better friend, a better girlfriend, a better nanny, a better daughter, a better Christian.

Yikes. There will always be more, and it will never be enough. I can’t do it all.

“You can’t simultaneously do it all and do life well.”

In my six years of babysitting outside the home, one of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned is that no one is the perfect mom. Some are good at keeping their house really clean; some are good at working from home. Some are good at letting go of expectations and getting to their children’s hearts; some are good at putting together cool unit studies for every week of the school year. No one is good at everything, but each one has a place where she excels.

And these women still do life well.

I want to do life well. I want to let go of expectations and be okay with the sweatshirt and ponytail and a layer of mascara some days when I spent time hanging out with my twin sisters over breakfast instead of in the closet getting ready. I want to be okay with releasing the “I’ve never studied enough” mindset and putting down the study guides in favor of talking with my sisters in our room. I want to give up sleep for Scripture. I want to sometimes let the hair go undone (even if I’m getting 6 inches cut off on New Year’s Eve and if that isn’t a sign for 2016 being the year of put together hair, I don’t know what is) and laugh over Sunday morning pancakes with my family. I want to live each moment with Andy without wishing we were at a different place in life, and knowing that this dating stage doesn’t last forever.

I want to live.

I don’t want to remain stuck in the battle of never enough. I’m not the girls I pass in the hallways of school, seemingly with perfect bodies and outfits and hair and lives. I’m me. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, I don’t spend tons of money on new clothes, and the five pounds I’ve lost in the last two months is a result of not eating when I’m busy or unmotivated, not because I’m eating healthier or working it off. I don’t have the time or desire to spend hours in the gym, or hundreds on clothes, or never eat anything but “clean” food.

I’m letting go. I’m releasing those expectations, bit by bit. I will take baby steps in many directions, relying on the grace of God rather than my own strength, and I will know that when I let all the “I wants” sweep over me again, that I’ll need to remind myself that I’m me, and that’s enough.

I am loved.

And wherever you are in life, whatever you’re good at, wherever you feel like you’re lacking, you are loved with a Love that fills those places up and equals us all in front of the throne of the Kings of Kings.

I am a child of God.

And so are You.

2016 can’t change that. Your goals and resolutions can’t change that. Let’s live well; resting in His strength, His plans, and His will.

Happy New Year.

Tension

I’ve been truly exposed to the world this year.

College will do that to you. I feel continually assaulted by the dress, the standards, the disrespect, the language. Oh goodness, the language. It’s continual and nasty and violent. I come home from school feeling slimy and dirty and gross. Sometimes things pulse in my mind, over and over, a drumbeat of dirtiness, and the only way they’ll go away is by claiming the name of Jesus, over and over and over and over again.

Jesus.

Jesus.

Jesus.

It makes me wonder how it was in Israel, in the rest of the world, those cold winter nights over two thousand years ago. They didn’t have a name to call on, no glimmer of hope shining into the darkness surrounding them. I know I would’ve been discouraged, “Where are you, Lord? Aren’t you coming to save us?” when His perfect plan had already been set into movement and He was whispering back “Just wait, my child. Just wait for what I’m about to do.”

And then He came into the filth. Into the darkness. Into the mess. And that star shone down and angels illuminated the sky, foreshadowing the way the Light of the world would illuminate our hearts. The King was here. His plan was set in motion.

Most of the world remained unaware. They were still living in the tension, still weary, still dirty, still worn, still praying and waiting and living on the edge of desperation. They needed a silent night.

I’m living in the tension. I’m living smack dab in the filth and the world and longing for the Light to fill the halls and purify the hearts and hear everyone raising one voice to praise the Lord. But it’s not yet. It’s a battlefield, and though it seems like the enemy has the upper hand, my King is on His way.

Until then, we fight. We pray and fast and purify ourselves and live there in the stretching place, shining our little flames until the whole world is filled with His splendor. It’s hard and exhausting and what I wouldn’t give for a silent night?!

But the battle isn’t over. So we fight.

Come, Lord Jesus. Enter in. We’re ready and waiting. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Quiet

I spent two hours in the outside world today. I smiled at the library lady, was quite friendly with the women in the Target fitting rooms and checkout counters, made small talk with the guy at the credit union. I genuinely like to be friendly and sweet, wanting Jesus to shine through my actions and words even if He doesn’t come up in conversations about depositing checks and whether or not my coupon app works with the sale (it does.). But when my truck pulls up our long, winding driveway, I turn it off and sit in the silence for 10 minutes before I even open the door.

Last week, my alarm went off early and I visited my favorite smoothie shop before driving the hour to my boyfriend’s grandma’s old house, where we ran errands and moved furniture and packed glassware while his parents ran the garage sale and sister and grandma cleaned. His family is wonderful, but constant communication and continual doing ran me down into almost utter silence and complete loss of appetite by 9 o’clock at night. My boyfriend drove me halfway home because he didn’t want me driving like that. (and by the time we reached his house, time with just him had me more energized and slightly alive again.)

I am an introvert.

A full-blown, completely shut down when overstimulated, make-myself-sick-sometimes introvert.

This can make things exciting when I’m around people for more than 4 straight hours. Yet, I’ll be spending 16 hours a week at college, 18-22+ hours babysitting, along with church and spending time with my family and oh yes, my boyfriend would like to see me occasionally. Friends? Um, how does Christmas break sound? I’ll meet you for white chocolate peppermint mochas then.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to give myself time to “be still and know that [He] is God” while gearing up for a crazy busy schedule that doesn’t show signs of slowing down. At the same time, I need to not be continually withdrawn or distracted, closed up in my room. The people in my life deserve my love whether or not class was completely exhausting or H only napped for half an hour. When it comes down to it, it’s not about me. That statement probably infuriates a large portion of the population, but it’s true. It’s not about me.

It’s not about me.

It’s about taking time to notice my little sisters and how our conflicting schedules hardly give me time to see them. It’s baking cookies or reading stories or just listening. It’s about being fully present at dinner and not just heading straight upstairs afterwards. It’s about a phone call with my boy or going out with him and not letting everything I have to do hang over my head. It’s about loving people with the love of Christ, because when my strength is gone, His is the only thing getting me through. He is the reason why I can’t hide, can’t dwell in my selfish wanting to be alone and alone 90% of my time.

This might sound messed up to some people. And yes, there’s definitely a balance between working/overstimulating myself to the ground every day. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and need to be wise with how we handle our bodies. But the Christian life involves giving up your desires, for the sake of others and for being Jesus to everyone you encounter. He Himself had times of wanting to be alone, and instead ministered to the people around Him. He also withdrew to spend time with His Father consistently. I want to learn from His example. I want to find balance the way Jesus did.

Some nights, I’ll turn off my phone and shut the door and just plug away at school all evening in the quiet. Some nights I’m going to seriously mess this balance thing up and cry in the shower before bed. Some nights, I’m going to feel like I’m drowning in homework and housework and noise.

But I know a Lifeguard. He’ll pull me up and stand me on the Rock and wrap His arms around me as He whispers “Rest, my child. You are Mine. It’s going to be okay.”

He made me to be quiet, so quiet in His arms I shall be.

(written a few weeks ago before fall began.)

Freedom

Wednesday morning, my business professor told me, “Some people say money doesn’t make you happy. That’s crap. Money makes you happy. And it gives you something you can’t get anywhere else. It gives you freedom.”

My instant thought was “I’ll take my freedom from Christ, thank you very much.” As I pondered his words throughout the day, I considered how binding living by them would be, how the continual pull for “More money! More freedom! More happiness!” would drive and overtake you. How thankful I am that I don’t have to live that way! What a blessing it is to be free in Christ, and to rest in the assurance that He is enough, His death is enough, that He has paid it all. We don’t have to buy our freedom. He purchased it with His blood. I can never earn it, and that’s the pure, incredible beauty of it all.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 2 Cor. 2:17

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5