the year of shalom

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2017. The year of shalom. Holding tight to the promise that God’s kingdom will come. Not a far off hope but a close reality. A lack of fear. The cool, deep breath of peace. But more than peace. Because shalom is “the world as God intended it to be.” Justice. Love. Equality. Shalom is a culture; it is an atmosphere. It is the changing of the winds of normalcy. It is a push against the status quo. A culture is defined by practices and discourses. And so shalom is not an idea–it is a way of life, a way of being, a way of existing. A love that extends to all without accusation. An even distribution of power that provides confidence to take action. The empowerment of the individual and the strength of the collective. Justice for those who have been oppressed by a system and ignored by the privileged. A confidence that our identity is secure in a God who never moves. Rest in the knowledge that we were not created to be productive but to project his love. And grace. Multitudes of grace. For not only others, but also yourself. The year of shalom. The world as God intended it to be. May we establish it, keep it, and live it in 2017.

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The Ultimate Injustice

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I would describe the season I’m in right now as one where I am learning to embrace vulnerability and weakness. And it’s been a while since I have shared openly and honestly here. Part of that is because life is a whirlwind that never seems to slow. Part is because I haven’t known how to articulate what I have been learning and how I have been growing. This post won’t remedy that. Yet this is me opening my heart to you. I find that God meets us most beautifully in the rawness…

Death is so unfair.

Life is so unforgiving.

As I lie here on the floor, my makeup smeared and my face crusted in dried tears, I feel raw and human. I feel alive. And yet I feel incredibly small and aware of my own insignificance.

I am overcome by the realization that this life is just a passing wind, and I am swept up in it and gone in an instant. Eyes burning and body shaking, I am strangely aware of the realm of evil and the presence of God and my humble yet tenuously balanced place in between.

Jesus wept.

I weep.

Because death is not right. Something is fundamentally wrong with the idea of an end. Jesus came to give life. He weeps because He must go through death and His beloved must suffer through it as well. My comfort in moments like this is that Jesus was completely human and yet completely God. He knew the hope that His death would eventually bring and yet His heart still broke. I find comfort in caring so deeply because Jesus’s heart broke over and over at the injustice in this world.

And death is the ultimate injustice.

My roommate and I have both been faced with the reality of death in the past twenty-four hours. The reality stops everything. For her, a young man and friend she looked up to had his life taken away suddenly. For me, I watch a young boy, who is like a brother, slowly end his fight with cancer. We both weep.

Why does it seem like the young, loving, caring, generous people are taken so soon when they have so much to offer? I want to scream out in anger and shake my fist at a God who would allow this. Where is my faith now?

And then I remember that the whole Earth shook at the death of Jesus. The whole Earth responded physically to death. Because something is not right when life is stripped away. The whole Earth cried out in anger. The sky turned black. The curtain in the temple split in half.

There are no answers. There is only peace and reassurance and hope. I can go directly to God and cry out “why?” For He is not some higher being who is separate from my pain. He has felt the pain, dwelt in the suffering, and carried the injustice.

As I watch this young friend end his fight with cancer, and I cannot be there and am rendered helpless, the only thing I cling to is the fact that I can walk up to the throne of mercy and grace because my God understands. I cling to the fact that justice is coming and right will win. I do not cling to Him because I have faith. I cling to Him because I have nothing else.

And instead I shake my fist at death and declare, “Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hell, where is your victory?” 

In the Aftermath of Easter

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What does the aftermath of Easter look like?

Realistically, it looks a bit messy. Lots of dirty dishes. Piles of leftover food. Floors that need to be swept after all the feet that stepped on them. Easter eggs in the yard that won’t be found until next fall. Exhausted humans.

Spiritually, it looks a bit messy too. On Sunday we relish in the holiday of Easter—the fancy dresses, bright colors, beautiful music, and smiles all around. We sit in the hope of our King who has come to defeat sin and wipe our debt clean.

And then Monday morning hits. The weight comes back. The grey sets in.

I carry the pressures of success. The world says I need to perform and execute. I need to “get ahead.” I carry the stress of education. I begin to measure my worth in numbers and letters.

The world looks dark and feels hopeless. Life throws twists in the road and I blindly stumble around trying to find my way. The headlines are filled with mass shootings, violent riots, and covert bombings. A classmate struggles with depression. A family friend is dying. I wrestle with anxiety.

The beauty of spring is that after a grey and cold winter, color and warmth return to the earth. Each year spring brings new life and with it new hope. The beauty of Easter is that when darkness enshrouds us, light has come. Each year I am reminded that true life is attainable and real hope can be found. To me, Easter coming in the spring represents the way the physical mirrors the spiritual.

Yet the Resurrection of Jesus is not a moment we point to but a constant grace we live in. When the smiles, sun, colors, and music fade, the grace remains.

This is the aftermath.

You were once at odds with God, wicked in your ways and evil in your minds; but now He has reconciled you in His body—in His flesh through His death—so that He can present you to God holy, blameless, and totally free of imperfection as long as you stay planted in the faith. So don’t venture away from what you have heard and taken to heart: the living hope of the good news that has been announced to all creation under heaven and has captured me, Paul, as its servant. (Colossians 1:21-23).

The hope does not end after Easter. The joy is not a passing feeling. Yet each day we must choose—will I follow? Following is not a once a lifetime choice or a once a year choice, it is a daily choice. Jesus has already made you whole. He has already cancelled your debt. But living in that wholeness and accepting the cancellation is a daily decision.

Spring is creation crying out for new life and light. Easter is our hearts crying out for renewed hope and grace.

On this foggy Monday morning, I am holding on to the reality that spring has come and the light is returning—it just doesn’t always look that way. And on this Monday morning where stress and anxiety are attempting to take hold, I am holding on to the reality that Jesus is victorious and my identity rests in Him—it just doesn’t always feel that way.

In the aftermath, I’ll choose to stand in the light of spring and the hope of Easter.

On Turning 20

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An open letter to myself on the eve of my 20th birthday (written February 4, 2016)

I know how you feel. You stare at that number, 20, and it makes your breath catch in your throat. It makes you feel small, scared, and inadequate. It reminds you of that one time you were lost in the downtown of a city and it was raining and you just wanted someone else to take care of you. It makes you think of the friends you see getting engaged on Facebook and then wondering what happened to playdates. It makes you think of “grown-ups” in suits making small talk over hors d’oerurves. It makes you feel like you have to be something you are not.

20. You will be just as close to being 40 as you are to being born, and that is a scary thought. Suddenly articles for people “in their 20’s” apply to you, and you don’t feel ready. You are exiting the teenage years that you were so remiss to enter, and yet now you don’t want to leave. The past two decades are marked by a nostalgia that you never want to forget.

Somehow the number 20 makes you feel like you suddenly have to “have it all together” and be an adult and face responsibility. The truth is, you will never have it all together, you are already an adult(ish), and you have already taken on a lot of responsibility. But there’s always more to learn. At 16, would you have thought that you could take on love and heartbreak, that you would experience inexplicable grief, that a strange town would become your home, or that you would start a life on your own? No, and yet you did.

You are afraid, yes. But you are entering a brand new decade that holds all the possibility of grander adventures and bigger accomplishment and greater joy.

I do not know what this year holds for you. But as you enter year 20, my hope is that you leave no room for fear.

May you never lose your sense of wonder. Getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose your childlike excitement and your relish for life. There’s so much more out there to wonder at and delight in. Do not worry about what others may think, but allow yourself to embrace life to the fullest. You’ve only got one to live.

May you love intentionally. Love people with purpose and take time to love yourself. May your love not be shallow or half-hearted but may you learn to love wholly, genuinely, selflessly, and unconditionally. Know what in life is worth loving and what is worth letting go (people are worth loving, the world’s definition of success is worth letting go).

May you overflow with joy. Challenges are going to come, things harder than you’ve ever faced before. But you are strong. And despite whatever hellish things life throws your way, you can choose joy. Keep smiling. Continue to let your smile be the defining characteristic of who you are.

May you speak and think words that give life. How many times have you heard and spoken the words I am tired, I am stressed, I am overwhelmed, I am so over this? May you choose to speak life into your day, into your situation, into the lives of those around you—words like I am strong, I am thankful, I am blessed beyond measure, I am loved. 

May you dare to step out of your comfort zone. You never know what grand adventures you will have or what incredible people you will get close to until you take that first step. Dare to step beyond the place where your body and soul feel comfortable and into a place where they take flight.

May you find out more about who you are—what makes your heart ache and what makes it sour. Explore your passions and do things that make you glow. May you become more of yourself in this next year.

And as hard as it is to leave this phase of life behind, remember: it only gets better than this.

Happy 20th Birthday.

Straight Outta Summer #2

Straight OuttaI said I would write about identity. I had words to share. And God used them differently than I thought. I had the opportunity to share those words with the Christian community on William & Mary’s campus at Intervarsity. I shared about my struggle with identity and what God has been doing in my life over last semester and the summer. He’s taught me things about who I am and where my worth lies. He’s been speaking truth into my life through the words of authors, artists, and friends. I had words planned out for this “part 2.” Yet as I’ve gotten caught up in the busyness of school, those words have become just typed key phrases and scribbled notes on a never ending to do list.

I’m not going to write those words. Maybe later they’ll come back in the form of a well-organized blog post. Not now.

So, identity. I am a child of God.

Fear not. For I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

~ Isaiah 43:1

Tonight I stood in a huge auditorium that felt like a homey living room and worshipped with hundreds of Christians that felt like family. And I saw my identity declared over and over again.

Forgiven. Redeemed. Blameless. No longer a slave. Free. Loved. Embraced. Child of God.

And words came to me. Words that expressed where I go from here—with the knowledge that I am known by name to a redeemer and savior and creator. So I’ll share those instead.

I want to wake up every morning and clothe myself in love. Choosing to love those who can offer me nothing or who might reject me. Choosing to care about people who may only be passing through my life and may leave me with a broken heart. I will clothe myself in love that people may know that they are special and worthy and enough. I will clothe myself in peace knowing that my God is for me. He has overcome. My future is secure. I have someone fighting for me and by my side. I am not alone. I will claim peace over my life that I may be a safe presence and a genuine soul. I will clothe myself in grace knowing that I am desperately in need of it but have also been given an abundance. I will choose to see humanity all around me—the people who pass me as God’s fingerprints and His workmanship—worthy, claimed, and deserving of respect. I will clothe myself in strength knowing that my foundation is solid. I will not be shaken. I will take risks. I will choose to trust instead of fear. I will persevere.

I will place “Jesus” as a banner over my soul. Because more than anything, when people look at me, I want them to see my Jesus.

Because if I am a child of the most high God, then why should I fear? Why should I worry about my future job opportunities or that exam tomorrow morning? Why should I be afraid of being uncomfortable or outside the lines? Why should I doubt my worth? And why should I doubt others’ value?

Because if the Gospel is real, then when will I stop caring about classes and grades, and start caring about the people sitting next to me in class or the people I pass in the hallway?

If the Gospel is real and I am a child of God, then I will hang everything on the line. Because the structures and systems that I am apart of don’t matter in the long haul. Only this relationship matters. Only the people around me matter. So I will risk it. I will give everything. I will love recklessly and unconditionally. I will wonder at the world around me. I will extend grace. I will trust deeply. And I will embrace the rough spots and the loneliness and the darkness knowing that my God meets me there. He pursued me. And He loves me. He extends grace. He provides safety. He risked it for me.

And He is leading me from glory to glory.

So I will wake

And spend my days

Loving the One who has raised me up

From death to life

From wrong to right

You’re making all things beautiful”

~ “Mercy,” Amanda Cook

This is my declaration of my identity. Phebe.

Unsure of Much & Sure of One

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I am pitiful. After what felt like a few weeks of inactivity, I finally logged on to find out that I haven’t written in 53 days. 53 days?!?! What have I been doing with my life?

I wish I could advertise that I’ve been working on a book that is set to come out next year (titled “Content & Satisfied to the Max”). But the truth is that I’ve been largely uninspired and unmotivated, and I’ve realized that as much as I write about the topics, I have still NOT learned to be content or satisfied.

But I’m writing. Because I need to. Because I’m bored. Because plans got cancelled and I’m lonely. Because you (whoever “you” might be) deserve to hear from me since you decided to follow my shameful blog.

What have I been doing with my life? I’ve been learning and realizing there’s so much I don’t know. I’ve been wrestling and realizing how far I am from the condition I want to be.

For a good month after I came back from school I needed to rest. I needed to separate myself from people. I needed to simply breathe. And I did. I spent two weeks catching up with a select amount of friends, sleeping in too late, and trying to de-stress in the competition fueled place I call Nova. Then the real recovery happened. I spent the next two weeks, surrounded by the people who love me unconditionally, breathing in salt air and washing off anxiety in the ocean. I felt alive.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” – Isac Dinesen

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Now I am back to the grind. My internship is a crazy incredible opportunity to work among bright minds in the nation’s capital. I am stimulated, challenged, and rewarded. The first week I was completely in awe, asking myself almost every day “Is this real life?” Now the daily commute, quiet lunches, and long hours feel like a job (a wonderful job, nonetheless). I’m grateful. Yet I’m also searching for a new place of contentment. Through the past 3 two-week cycles of processing, I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve felt pulled back and forth in the cycles of transition, adjustment, and continued self-discovery. My life since finals has been a series of tensions.

I’m learning that…

I desire to let go, but I hold on tight.

I tell myself that I won’t miss certain people, but I really miss those people.

I feel like I need a break from constant community, yet I crave and need fellowship.

I have mastered the “I’m tired and grumpy; don’t talk to me” look on the Metro, while cringing at the hopelessness I witness in the faces around me.

I have a hard time trusting people, but I tend to (or want to) believe the best about people.

My dad is my hero for working long hours in the office every day and still having energy to share with his family, and meanwhile I barely have the energy to be nice to people.

The more I discover that I enjoy, the less I know what I want out of life.

My burning desire to be independent and make my own decisions is crippled by not knowing what I actually want and desiring opinions around me.

There are glimpses of hope in the world, but often I am simply an observer with no one to share those observations with.

I find joy in helping people, then I go and lose my patience at my perceived incompetence of those around me.

I am drawn to grace yet desperately in need of it.

I am stimulated by intellectual discussions, but lose energy at their inconclusiveness.

I crave time to breathe and think, yet I get bored and unmotivated in the quiet moments.

I claim to be strong, opinionated, and confident, yet I don’t know how to express myself and am rarely satisfied.

In the good moments it is easy to ignore God, and in the hard moments it is challenging to feel close to Him.

If I were to narrow down what I’ve learned since I’ve gotten home, it would be this: I am not certain of anything in this world anymore; the only thing I am sure of is Jesus. 

Over the weekend I read a thoughtful article about the trap of cookie-cutter Christianity and legalistic Christians. (You can read the full article here.) The last few sentences of the article struck me with their resounding truth, and I want to share them with you. These words have met me in my place of transition and self-discovery where I sit face-to-face with my own limitations.

If God’s scandalous relationship with the 12 thugs means anything, then we should expect a variegated spectrum of righteousness and be patient—or repentant—when such sanctification doesn’t meet out expectations. God meets us in our mess and pushes holiness out the other side. Not anti-mixed-bathing holiness. But the real stuff.

The holiness that serves the poor, prays without ceasing, redeems the arts, loves enemies, elevates community above corporate success, and preaches the life-giving Gospel of a crucified and risen Lamb in season and out.

I’m learning to let go of the expectations I have set for others and for myself. At the same time, I am striving for the mission that is laid out through real holiness. And so this blog post is far from publishing quality, but this is me…… the end of the day, exhausted, irritated, confused, struggling, searching, hopeful me….. in my own stage along the variegated spectrum of righteousness.

— Phebe

Bravery, On the Regular

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be “brave.” In many of the worship songs I’ve been hearing and singing recently, there are three common themes: bravery and trust and the ocean.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior”

*Oceans, Hillsong

You make me brave

You make me brave

You call me out upon the shore into the waves

You make me brave

You make me brave

No fear can hinder now the promises you’ve made”

*You Make Me Brave, Bethel Music

You split the sea so I could walk right through it

You drowned my fears in perfect love

You rescued me so I could stand and sing

I am a child of God”

*No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music

Some of you may remember that I wrote a lot about “Oceans” right before I went to Liberia. That became my theme song for missions. I’ve always thought about bravery and trust and going deep and being overwhelmed as things for the mission field. The highest Christian calling is long-term foreign missions, right?

Yet I resonate so much with these songs. I love singing about bravery. Trust is something I’m asking for more of. Going deep is what I crave. Being overwhelmed is a daily feeling.

But I am in college. My biggest worry right now is getting through finals. My toughest health struggle is sleep deprivation. I am relatively comfortable. I have friends. There are plenty of moments of laughter. And I know that in just a week, I will be home. Then why does life still seem hard? And why do I still relate so much to the themes of bravery and trust?

A few nights ago, as I was lying in bed (where most of my deep thinking happens), I realized something. Living life takes courage.

My roommate is one of the bravest people I know. She’s going to school in a different country, away from her family, her boyfriend, and her close friends. She’s taking on Calculus II and all sorts of complex science classes (that I am terrified of) because she has dreams of being a neuroscientist. She keeps trusting even though her family is moving farther away and her friends will be spread out across the world.

The parents I know who are watching their young son battle cancer are brave. They’re pursuing treatment without any proof of results. They’re trusting God for the funds, and opening up their lives to hundreds of churchgoers and distant friends. They’re trying to provide a normal life for their children in the midst of chaos.

A young couple in my Chi Alpha Bible study is brave. Not knowing where the money will come from next year, she continues to sign up for classes and focus on her pre-med degree. He works a job that he’s not passionate about in order to support his wife and make ends meet.

I’m realizing that maybe bravery isn’t just reserved for the mission field.

Maybe bravery and trust is a common theme because that’s exactly what we need.

Maybe being courageous is another every day choice.


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Courage is leaving a wonderful home and loving family to start a new life on my own.

Courage is going to a school where I’m not the smartest and am challenged every day.

Courage is asking God for the big miracles that seem impossible in the lives of my friends.

Courage is approaching God’s throne for the little things and the every day routine.

Hebrews 4:16 — “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Courage is pressing forward in the wake of suicide.

Courage is choosing to see people as more than statistics.

Courage is loving people even when I know they are going to leave my life soon.

Courage is trusting God to multiply the time I spent opening up my room to friends, instead of doing my history reading.

Courage is sharing my pain with friends when all I want to do is roll into a ball.

Courage is seeking out support when my family isn’t there to hold me.

Psalms 27:14 — “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”

Courage is being an open Christian on a secular campus.

Courage is studying hard for finals.

Courage is also choosing not to stress and allowing my mind and body to rest.

(And maybe courage is taking a break from studying to write a blog post that God laid on my heart.)

Psalm 62:5 — “Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

Don’t belittle your life and the calling you are living out. Don’t belittle the daily struggles and the small victories. There’s a reason why our worship leaders are singing about bravery, trust, going deeper, and being overwhelmed — Living life takes a good dose of bravery, on the regular.

Tripping Through Life*

I’ve recently been receiving comments on social media… “W&M cover girls!!” “You guys are the cutest.” “You’re cool.” “Ahhh why are you so perfect?” “You are perfection my dear!”

And from looking on my Instagram or my Facebook, those comments are pretty convincing. My life looks great. I am surrounded by friends. I’m going on cool adventures. My fashion is on point. For example…

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That’s not me. Yeah, that’s me on my good days. I live a pretty great life. I’m having some incredible moments and doing some super cool things. I have wonderful friends, and I am living in a beautiful place. But that’s only part of the picture. I’m here to set the record straight.

You don’t see me when I am hunched over my laptop, furiously writing a paper I procrastinated too long on.

You don’t see me when I am sprint-walking across campus to reach a class just barely on time, because I was finishing a last-minute assignment or slept too late.

Or when I miss an event to help with a local elementary school’s field day.

Or when I am running into the cafeteria 15 minutes before a class.

Or when I am so exhausted that I can’t think straight.

Or when I am so overwhelmed that I want to cry.

Or when I hate the world so much that I want to curl up into a ball and never talk to anyone ever again.

Or when I am so homesick that I think my heart might just shatter.

Or when I am in the middle of a panic attack, taking deep breaths.

Or when I am so stressed that I withdraw into a grey study room for hours.

Or when I am ranting on the phone to my mom.

Or when I’m such a mess that I can’t think straight or talk English.

Or when I trip up the steps… oh wait, there were no steps. I tripped over my own feet.

Yep, that’s me. Now don’t get me wrong, that is not my always. But it is my regular. I’m struggling my way through this life. Relying on Jesus every step (or trip) of the way. Still think I’m cool or perfect?

But my hope is that I would bring glory to God with each stumble. My hope is that I would find joy through the trials. Because, oh, the trials never end, dear friend. Not in this life. I only hope to set an example through my perseverance (not my fashion, hair, food choices, or adventures).

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. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5)

When endurance does its complete work, we will lack nothing. And when we lack nothing, we will no longer need to ask God for anything. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m ever going to get to that point. Not until heaven, at least. So here’s the truth: the trials just keep coming. The messy moments keep happening. Our completion is not in this world.

But we are not alone. When we are so exhausted and stressed that we can’t function, we can approach the throne of God with full assurance that He will answer. He is FOR you.

We process joy in emotions–peace, contentment, satisfaction… But joy is a daily choice to trust. My prayer for you and for myself is that we would learn to embrace the trials and find joy in them, knowing that one day we will reach completion. The struggle is not in vain!

— This has been honest talk with Phebe. Tune in next time to hear me talk more about my messed up life and God’s saving grace!

*I’m talking about actual tripping, not drugs. Get your mind out of the gutter.

take more than a moment to Breathe

Yesterday. Headed south to the Chesapeake beach. But ended up driving north toward New York. Decided to stop at a small, quaint bayside town called Havre de Grace (last exit before the next toll). Spent the afternoon talking, strolling, browsing, sipping, capturing, and exploring. Ended the evening with a brilliant orange sunset and grey paint-dripped walls.

I’m trying to let my soul breathe this week. More than anything, I simply need to suck in the fresh air and be refreshed. For the past month, I have felt like I am constantly racing the clock and always falling further behind. I am out of breath. For the past two weeks, I have felt like I am drowning in an ocean of assignments, readings, and to-do lists. I am gasping for air.

And so, this week I allow myself to breathe. Assignments can wait. Responsibilities can be set aside. God is already speaking His truth to me in the depths of my soul: “Did you trust me? I had you all along…” He is shaking His head at me in amusement: “You think this is funny? It was My plan the whole time.” 

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One of the things I’m doing to let my soul breathe is to take time to read what I actually want to read. Here are a few of my favorite blogs/articles that have been filling my soul with encouragement, beauty, and wisdom.

Cause for Joy: “To a Wanderlust Heart…” This article speaks to a place where many of my friends and I are — a place of longing for adventure and travel.  (It is even so relevant to the adventure I went on yesterday with a friend.) Marli’s words are refreshing to the soul and speak truth to the core.

The Restored Artist: “Lent” My dear friend, Ellie, has written beautiful words on the purpose of Lent and the hope of salvation.

This Momentary Anthology  A friend from school is writing a series of poetry for a month. Her month is filled with short, powerful stanzas about life that touch me deeply.

Chatting at the Sky: “Learning to Walk Without an Agenda” A lesson I need to learn so badly. I’m trying to remember to use my many walks between classes to breathe, recharge, and process. Emily P. Freeman is one of my favorite authors, and her blog always causes me to stop, think, and smile.

Anything you’ve been reading recently? Any suggestions for blogs to check out? Please comment below! I’ll do another wrap-up of what I discover at the end of the week.

For now, take more than a moment…take a long time…to Breathe.

– – Phebe

2015: a year to persist

Last year I chose “grace” as my word for 2014. My goal was to believe these words: “I don’t need to try to be good enough, because Jesus is enough.” Little did I know how that one word would define my year. Grace to get through the stress of senior year. Grace to hand over my fears about college to God. Grace to be humble when God did incredibly more than I could ever imagine. Grace to adjust to a new life at college. And grace in all of my raw and unglamorous moments.

Last year I was challenged by my youth pastor to pick a word to describe how I wanted to live that year. 2014 was all about learning to live gracefully in the midst of life’s ungraceful moments. It was a year for learning to laugh at myself, to find my identity in Jesus, and then to be more confident in who God created me to be. I’m still processing the year, but I do know that it was a year of discovery and transition. The past year was filled with the most change I’ve ever experienced. Looking back, it was one of the best years. In a way, I’m sad to see it go.

Yet today is January 1, 2015.

Time for a new word. This year I choose to persist. When I think of the word persist, I picture someone pushing through obstacles or holding on to a rope that is being pulled upward. I think of an end goal: getting through the obstacles or reaching solid ground. To me, persisting is not about sitting still waiting for the trials to end or waiting to withstand the pressures. Persisting is about actively fighting for something. “Persist” requires effort, work, and motivation. And to effectively persist, one must have hope for what one is fighting towards.Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

In all honesty, 2014 was an easy year. Yes, it was filled with stress, big decisions, goodbyes, occasional homesickness, and finals. But it was also filled with wonderful friends, good news, laughter, music, dancing—all leading to a happy heart.

Yet I also know what I struggled with last year and I can already feel the pressures of 2015. I am looking forward to new adventures and new challenges. At the same time, I know that nothing can equal the past semester. This next year, I need to work hard to achieve my goals. I need to persist.

Persist in school. I eased into college this past semester; now it’s time to buckle down. I’ve set some big challenges for myself. The goal is to not get caught up in the stress, but to instead work diligently knowing that the effort will pay off in the future.

Persist in friendships. First semester was about meeting lots of new people; now it’s time to develop those friendships. Deep and lasting friendships require intentionality. This semester will require me to determine who I should invest time in and how to strengthen those relationships.

Persist in prayer. Recently I have been challenged to pray with more intentionality. I want to pray with expectation. I want to start praying for things that I stopped praying for in the past because of forgetfulness or discouragement. I want to start praying for the requests that have felt too insignificant or even too huge. My single “New Year’s Resolution” for 2015 is to block out an hour each month to pray. It sounds like a little but will take effort to accomplish.

Persist in spiritual growth. I feel like I’ve reached a plateau in my faith, where I am doing the same routine and not stretching myself. I want to rediscover what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ, and like any other relationship, I need to put in work. As part of this exploration, I will be starting a new blog series with my friend Ellie. (More on that in the future…)

So here’s to a new year, no new starts, but simply pressing forward into God’s faithfulness.

– – Phebe