A Night Divine

During this Christmas season, my ears were opened to the truth sung in our traditional carols. The words are often repeated and heard so often that we sing them mindlessly. The music stirs joy in our hearts, but we don’t pay much attention to the actual lyrics. (Or at least that’s true for me.) But this year, on three different occasions, I heard “O Holy Night” and realized how the words proclaim the “reason for the season.”

I copied the lyrics below and put some of my favorite lines in bold.

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

So much of the holiday focuses on the story of the Nativity (which is important indeed). Yet the significance of the story is forgotten in the sweetness of the manger scene.

Jesus was born in a stable, amidst the chaos of shepherds, wise men, farm animals, and two new parents. God incarnate was there in the crowded, dirty, smelly stable. Life is messy. And on that divine night, God joined us in the messiness. He was no longer a stranger to our weakness and chaos.

The significance of the Nativity story is that God chose to be with us in our messed up world. Because He loved us, He joined us. His love was proven; the soul felt its worth. The Nativity story gives us purpose and importance.

As a result, we have hope. The birth in a manger led to death on a cross. The cross broke our chains. And so, a birth defeated death. The hope is that we no longer have to fear the world. Evil has been conquered. 

Because God joined us, loved us, and defeated death, we have a mission: to spread love and peace. There’s a lot of anxiety, pain, and sorrow in the world tonight. Until Jesus comes back, there’s not a lot we can do to get rid of the evil. Yet we can do as Jesus taught us, loving the world and living in peace. I’m not good at it, but I’m reminded of the significance of small acts of kindness.

So tomorrow, as we open gifts, read the Christmas story, and sing carols, let us remember why we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The words of “O Holy Night” say it much better than I ever could. The lyrics are familiar but ring ever so true.

Listen to Rend Collective’s rendition here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnPMWpwGiA8.

Merry Christmas!

– – Phebe

What I Would Tell My First Week Self

Or, 31 things I learned during my first semester at William & Mary

Dear “First week” Phebe,

  1. Despite everything that you would like to believe, leggings and sweatpants will become your fashion staple, and you won’t want to ever take them off. (Plus, you will think you look so cute in them.)IMG_2477
  2. You will look and feel fabulous the first two weeks. And then… you won’t.
  3. Give yourself time. Friendships will not come easily and neither will adjusting to the pace of college. But you’ll get there.
  4. The unexpected friends are the best.
  5. It’s so contrary to how you were raised, but school in college is about learning how to do the minimum well. (Don’t worry; I still can’t do that.)
  6. Give yourself time to be homesick. The busyness immediately sweeps you up and carries you away on a grand adventure, so that you don’t even miss home. But then a month later, you remember the shore and everything you had there, and then you lose it. The littlest things will remind you of your family—embrace it. You don’t have to be strong. You can cry. It’s okay.
  7. Get used to feeling “new.” You’ll feel that way the entire semester.
  8. Spend more time praying and less time making lists.IMG_2667 - Version 2
  9. Invest in your hall. They will be your greatest friends. They will keep you motivated (and distract you) when you have lots of homework to submit. They will go to the dining hall with you, so you don’t have to sit alone. They will tell you that you’re beautiful when you feel bleh. They will be your biggest fans and your constant entertainment.
  10. God is better than you ever could’ve imagined. You thought you were in awe of His faithfulness in high school? Just wait. It gets better.
  11. People are the priority. The time you spend with people will be returned to you. In the long run, relationships are going to last and bring the most joy.
  12. Fraternity parties really are not all they’re hyped up to be. Really.IMG_3218
  13. Let go of convention! It’s okay to eat breakfast food all day, any time of day.
  14. Give yourself time. You’re not going to feel settled at a church right away. In fact, you’re going to spend your whole first semester looking (and who knows how much longer). But through the process, you will learn more things about yourself and the kingdom of God.
  15. Just because you go to bed before 11pm the first few weeks, doesn’t mean you’re going to get enough sleep in college. LIES. You will find school gets tougher and bedtime gets later.
  16. Even though you decided not date your freshman year doesn’t mean that there won’t be cute guys. Okay? They don’t just disappear.
  17. Even so, you will discover that most of them are dumb. Focus on your female friends. But wait! Just when you thought there was no hope for the male race, one opens the door for you. #such is life
  18. Hashtags will define your life.9e47384e51a4cb6b1ea773a7b1f870f2
  19. Deciding to start praying for finals during the first month was a GOOD idea.
  20. Spend more time with the kids from your freshman seminar—they’re pretty cool.
  21. Pretty much everyone here is talented. You will feel average most of the time. Play the comparison game less and love others more.
  22. Being an adult is not easy. You have to deal with mice, dishes, and printers. And some days you just want to scream, “Someone tell me what to do!! I don’t know!!”IMG_2624
  23. God will get you through those rough spots. Prayer is your best power tool.
  24. Don’t check your mail everyday. You’ll just be disappointed.
  25. Finals week will leave you an emotional wreck. It will also be one of the best weeks of college. And by the way, you will not only make it, but you will be victorious.
  26. You and your roommate will become wonderful friends, and you will do pretty much everything together (you’ll even write and perform a rap). Don’t worry.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
  27. Speaking of rap… don’t question the unexpected. Just embrace it.
  28. You don’t have to start completely over. The growth you experienced in high school will remain. Freshman year of college is nothing like freshman year of high school. Yes, there will be awkward moments, but you’ll also feel more comfortable and confident in your own skin.
  29. You’re going to learn to not take yourself too seriously and to laugh at yourself.
  30. Dance more.
  31. You will have doubts, and that’s ok. But just know that come the last week of your first semester, all those doubts will be gone, and you will know that you belong.IMG_3171 - Version 2

Main points: Don’t worry. Give yourself time. And pray.

Your first semester is going to be wonderful!! You’ll look back in December and think, “where did the time go?” Cherish the moments.

Love, “Last week” Phebe

Yet to Come

There’s been a common theme running through the week that I want to share. The thoughts will be brief, because I’m currently procrastinating on studying for Statistics. It’s finals week, and the wear of months of hard work is beginning to show. I didn’t realize how mentally draining college can be. I’m still trying to figure out how this whole adult thing works. Emily and I have been going through random moments of laughter to crying, from extreme joy to cynicism, and from rolling on the floor to dancing on desks. The best way to describe this week would be a “beautiful mess.” We’ve been asked “how are you always so put together?!” It’s Jesus, man, it’s Jesus.

Finals week has held some of the best and worst moments of the past semester. The break from classes has given time for shopping and cooking and spontaneous adventures. The stress has brought us to new lows. But through it all, I’ve felt intensely close to the people around me.

Last night we celebrated the end of the semester with the traditional Yule Log ceremony. After all the joyous formalities (such as President Reveley reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas), the students lined up to throw a sprig of holly into a gleaming fire. “We throw the holly sprig into the Yule log to celebrate the disappearance of your troubles and the renewal of the new year.” As the holly burned, so did the worries of 2014 (symbolically, of course).

To be quite honest though, I’m sad to see 2014 go. There have been many rough moments, but looking back, the blessings stand out most clearly in my mind. Each time I thought no new adventures could be in store, they were. Each time I thought I couldn’t be happier, I was. Life just gets better and better. This week could not have been a more wonderful ending to my first semester at college. I felt so loved, warm, and joyful. My heart overflowed with happiness.

I don’t want this season to end.

But then I got an email this week that concluded with “the best is yet to come.” And today at church, the pastor said that as we go into the holiday season and head into break, remember that God has more to show us. He encouraged us to expect new things to be revealed. He reminded us that life keeps getting better and better. Those words spoke right to my heart.

Life doesn’t end with one good season. God offers more and more and more.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits…” (Psalm 68:19, KJV)

Not sometimes, not only in particular seasons — every day. They don’t stop. We simply have to expect them. Right beside my bed, I have written, “When is God going to blow my mind?” It’s a reminder to look for God’s blessings, aka God-gazing.

And when we mess up, and when life is tough, hold tight to this truth…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamantations 3:22-23, ESV)

Yes, I know it’s not the end of 2014 yet. There are still two more weeks to enjoy! But if you start getting discouraged or feeling regret at the passing of time, remember what C.S. Lewis wrote..

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The BEST is yet to come!

– – Phebe

His Goodness Will Follow You

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Yesterday marked exactly one year after being accepted into the College of William & Mary. I can still remember sitting in my chair, reading the email, looking up at my dad, and sobbing. I can still feel the emotion of that night – mentally and physically exhausted from my trip to Liberia (this was just 4 days after I returned), I think I was feeling a bit more emotional than usual. I was overwhelmed by God’s love and faithfulness.

Looking back now, a year later and a semester in, I can see God’s faithfulness even more clearly. In the months after my admissions letter and even in the first weeks of school, I had moments where I doubted my decision. I saw friends at other schools and missed the community. I wondered “what if?” a lot. But I’ve felt God confirming my decision. And most days I still walk around campus in awe of the place I get to study and live.

I see God’s purpose in leading me here. I’m in love with my school. I think it’s wonderful. And I want to share the love! I get so excited seeing the tour groups on campus, and I love showing people around my “home.” But I’m not about to say that it’s the only choice—for me, or for anyone else. I can honestly say that I would have been happy at other schools.

That’s the wonderful thing about God’s will: there’s not only ONE right answer. There are a lot of good answers. God gives us options. He wants us to make decisions, and He wants to see us happy. The right answer isn’t always the hard or unpleasant one either. Oh heck no. I think as Christians we get the misconception that we are traveling down a thin and rocky pathway with cliffs on both sides, having to carefully navigate so we don’t fall off the plain of “God’s will.” I believe that image is a lie Satan has planted to distract us. We get so focused on walking along the “straight and narrow path” that we lose sight of people. We lose sight of joy. We lose sight of LIFE. And somehow we lose ourselves in the process.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10, ESV

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I went to a new church this morning (Emily and I are still searching for a church home here in Williamsburg), and during the worship service the pastor said, “God’s will is that His goodness follows you all of your days.”

His words immediately made me think back to when I was deciding on a college. With any decision there comes a great fear: Will I make the wrong decision? Through my own search and the wisdom of others, I came to believe that there isn’t necessarily a wrong decision, unless it is one that is from or leads to sin. As long as we are following God, He will bless us.

This doesn’t mean that life is going to be simple or easy or happy (this is something I’ve had to grapple with). We will go through struggles and trials. People will let us down. Difficult and painful things will happen. God is preparing us for something greater. We often can’t see exactly what His plan is in the midst of the trial, but He is preparing us.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:2-4, HSCB

This (above) is the preparation. Yet sometimes we get so consumed with the preparation that we believe that is all God has for us. Preparation is important, but God’s preparation is not His promise. God’s promise is that we will have life abundantly. We are called to walk a set apart life, but we are not called to walk in discouragement and pain. God has LIFE on the road for us, not just work.  We will be prosperous, but we have to go through the preparation stages first.

Now back to God’s will. (I needed to diverge to emphasize that life in God’s will is not perfect.) So, an abundant life, huh? What about all the rules? Yes, God gives us clear commands. The Bible is full of instructions that are part of God’s will. But God has shown us a way to live because living His way leads to an abundant life. He wants to give us the desires of our heart. He delights in seeing His children enjoying the life that He created.

Delight yourself in the Lord, 
 and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; 
 trust in him, and he will act. — Psalm 37:4-5, ESV

As we follow God, our desires will align with His, and then… we are living in God’s will! What a beautiful promise! We don’t have to worry about walking a thin line between the “right decision” and the “wrong decision.” All we have to worry about is committing our life to God and living a life that honors Him. We can make decisions that are going to make us happy (such as choosing a college or a major), and He’s going to take care of the rest.

So to my Early Decision seniors (who just got their decisions on Friday), congrats!! And to those seniors who are still applying and deciding, don’t worry. There’s so much pressure to pick the perfect school. Let me tell you straight up, there is no perfect school. But as long as you hold tight to God’s promises and live according to His Word, He will bless you richly and you will prosper.

Remember, God’s will is that His goodness follows you each and every day. Now go, and live abundantly!