My Accidental Blogging Break

At the beginning of 2016, I told myself I’d post a new blog post every week. Looking at my 2016 posting calendar, that’s absolutely laughable now. First I missed a week here and there, but I vowed to cut myself some slack–every ten days or so still kinda counted, right? Plus, I bought a condo, making my spring and early summer very busy.

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Photo Credit: Florian Klauer

Then fall hit, and “busy” took on a new meaning. Over the course of ten days, I went on three separate trips and slept in six different states. Throw in a couple more trips, a load of other work and life busyness, and I felt like I could barely breathe for it all. For some people it would be completely normal, but for me, it was much, much more than I’m used to. As I’ve come to understand myself better, I know I need space, room for simply breathing and calmly experiencing my life, instead of a frenetic pace. I’ve become more comfortable with saying no to give myself the space I need, and generally my current phase of life allows me a nice balance, but this fall it felt like I completely lost it. Even a calendar full of wonderful, fun things can get wearisome at some point.

All the while, I had this simmering guilt in the back of my head over not writing new blogs posts. I was still writing in other places and I was still thinking of ideas to write about, but when I thought about actually writing a new post in the snatches of spare time I had, it stressed me out so much that I ignored it. I thought back to my post in April, “When Your Goals Are Stupid,” and realized I needed to take my own advice: When our goals become a source of stress instead of a source of motivation, it’s time to reevaluate.

So I let it go. This blog wasn’t going anywhere, and I needed space much more than I needed to continue spewing words onto these pages. As much as I enjoy writing here, it was humbling to realize my decision to pause for a while likely had no effect on anyone else’s life. It’s a delicate balance, to hold that reality while also believing it’s not pointless to write because, occasionally, my words do bump into someone else’s life in what I hope are helpful, good ways–and also, I simply like writing here, which has a value of its own. Life has calmed down a teensy bit now, and it is nice to share here again. But objectively speaking, the world does not need this little blog.

 
I have no intention of shutting down this space. The beauty of this accidental break from blogging, though, is how it helped me put this back into perspective. Writing and sharing those words is something I think I’ll always enjoy, but it too can go through different seasons, and that is okay. I’m hopeful I’ll begin writing here more regularly again, but if not, I’ve remembered the world spins madly on all the same.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Has an accidental break from something you enjoy ever taught you anything?

Saying Yes to Jesus (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every few weeks, I write a post for my church’s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on that week’s sermon. In this week’s, I ponder what it really means to say yes to Jesus–which doesn’t always mean selling all our stuff and becoming a missionary, but that’s how I’ve often felt.
Saying Yes to Jesus
When I hear stories of people selling all their stuff and moving to another country to become missionaries, I want to like them. I really do. I want to be able to applaud their sacrifice, their willingness to give up all they’ve known, their dedication to following Jesus even though it seems so extreme. Except most of the time when I hear those stories, I get kind of annoyed at these other people’s piety, and then feel kind of ashamed that I’ve never done anything so extreme for Jesus. Almost every time I’ve gone to another country, it’s been for a vacation, not to serve Jesus.

There are two rather different stories of Jesus calling his first disciples. In the book of Matthew, it takes all of two verses (Matthew 4:18-20):

 

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

The book of Luke records things differently, and I appreciate the perspective it offers. Instead of instantaneously dropping everything to follow Jesus, Luke 5 shows that it takes a bit for Simon Peter to come around to the idea.
Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

All Shall Be Well

Christmas is always advertised as a joyous occasion, and in many ways, it usually is. But there’s an underlying sadness to Christmas, a darkness that is evident in the brokenness and confusion and hurt so prevalent in our world. For as much as the birth of Christ is something to celebrate, there is so much more we are waiting for. I believe wholeheartedly that life with Jesus is better, but better is not perfect. Life with Jesus is good, but not always the kind of good I want it to be, and certainly not an easy, uncomplicated kind of good.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User Markus Grossalber, Creative Commons

There are about a zillion versions of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel out there, but my favorite acknowledge the true somber nature of the words. As we sang it in church this morning, this verse in particular stuck out to me:

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I don’t know the history behind the song, but it seems to me as though it’s written both to Israel in a historical sense–the people written about in the Old Testament, who heard prophecies foretelling of a Messiah–and also to Israel in a broad sense, encapsulating all those who have come to find themselves as part of the Christian story. This verse is where we live.  We know there is a reason to rejoice–Jesus has come!–but there is still much longing, waiting, yearning; for he will he come again to put things right. Gloomy clouds of night, death’s dark shadows–even if we haven’t known these things personally, we see them all around us, and we know them to not be the way things are supposed to be.

Seeing this tension has always been part of the point of this season, but I finally feel like I’m beginning to understand it a little bit. Life is hard, and it will always be some kind of hard, because there is something fundamentally broken about it, the kind of broken we will never be able to truly fix. We live in the complicated time of the now-and-not-yet; knowing Jesus has come, yes, but the world and our lives are far from perfect, even with Jesus as part of them.

“Come, Lord Jesus” are words that get thrown around almost haphazardly at times, but this time of year, and this year in particular, they feel more poignant than ever before. The world feels more fractured than usual, or maybe I’ve just finally started to pay more attention to it. It is weighty.

There is reason to rejoice though, for Jesus has come once and there are beautiful, lovely people working to set things to right in small ways every day. And the end of the story has yet to be told.

In the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Spiritual Friendship: An Interview with Welsey Hill (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. In my latest post there, I interview Wesley Hill on what I think is a very important but often overlooked topic–friendship. While Wesley writes from his perspective as a celibate gay Christian, I think it’s a topic and a conversation that anyone can benefit from. AND, if you comment on the post at the YALT blog, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a copy of his book.

Spiritual Friendship: An Interview with Wesley Hill

I recently interviewed Wesley Hill on his new book, Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian. He draws from Scripture and church tradition to show that friendship can be so much more than watching Netflix and eating pizza with people, but can instead be committed, deep, enriching relationships. The implications are profound for all people, regardless of relationship status. It is a needed reminder that the love in friendship is genuine and important, particularly for Christians who truly mean it when they say they desire close-knit communities. Spiritual Friendship

1.  How does spiritual friendship differ from other friendship? Should we aspire for all of our friendships to fall into this category?

Not necessarily. I like acquaintances and casual friendships as much as the next person. Certain friends you may meet once a month at the sports bar to watch a game together, and that’s great. But with certain friends, making a commitment to one another, to help nurture each other’s love of God and neighbor, can be an important step. It shifts friendship into the category of spiritual brother- or sisterhood. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Scripture says, and that’s something to treasure and nurture when it happens.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

I <3 Doubting Thomas (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every other week, I write a post for my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on Sunday’s message. With this past Sunday being Easter, it seemed a fitting reflection to share here as well.

I ❤ Doubting Thomas

I’ve always felt kind of bad for “Doubting Thomas.” We don’t get many stories about him, and the one we do get is not very flattering. He gets picked on a bit, and you can almost hear the taunts.

Doubting Thomas

“There goes Thomas, not believing what he can’t see…again.

“Oh Thomas, how could you NOT BELIEVE that a guy came back to life after he died? Pffft, get it together, Thomas.”

Sure, Thomas followed Jesus for several years and saw him perform all kinds of signs and wonders, but Jesus was dead now—how could he perform a miracle after he’s dead?

So I guess I feel bad for Thomas because I am him.

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

Your Church Isn’t Your Church (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. Church is a topic I’ve thought and written about quite a bit, and it got me thinking about the way we talk about it–or more specifically, the way we talk about the specific church we go to.

Your Church Isn’t Your Church

We like to talk about things we own; “My car,” “My phone,” “My dog,” and so on. We even talk about church this way, saying “My church has a great youth program” or “Yesterday’s service at my church was really moving.” In a sense, this makes sense—it’s clunky to say “The church I attend” and also implies something less than a full commitment to it. But this terminology, and more importantly, the thought behind it, can become problematic when we start to believe that our church is, in fact, ours. When we start to think that the church we attend and serve in belongs to us, it’s not a far-fetched slide from there to begin thinking that the church’s primary purpose is to make our lives better, to fulfill our whims, and to conform to the way we want it to be.

In reality, whether we’re a staff member, volunteer, occasional attender, or otherwise, “our church” does not belong to us. It is merely a part of the Church, which belongs only and ever to God. And the Church doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

Advent Longing

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sung “O Holy Night,” or heard it on the radio or overhead in the mall. The words are ones I know so well that I rarely even think about them as I sing.

But this year, they are striking me anew. As someone who loves the Christmas season and all its festive cheer, but also reveres the holy anticipation of Advent, I wondered if maybe this time of year would be what I’ve been looking for lately–that elusive “God feeling.” Because despite the commercialism that is so easy to get swept up in, there is still something sacred about this season.

Photo Credit: Flickr User ItzaFineDay, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User ItzaFineDay, Creative Commons

I can’t say that God has showed up in a boisterous, ruckus fashion, clanging his way back into my life with shouts of “I’m here! I’ve been here! Can’t you see me?” In still, small ways though, I have been noticing–and appreciating–his goodness, and the words of “O Holy Night” so beautifully express my, and the world’s, longing for more.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

This year especially, it seems like the world is weary, on edge, waiting for all to be made right–and the song speaks to that as well. Because Jesus wasn’t born just to be a King and a Savior, though he’s those things too. He’s something much closer.

In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger…

Even in the midst of the messes of our lives and of this world, at this time of year, I’m reminded of why this faith I hold so imperfectly, sometimes bewilderingly, but dearly–matters. I’m reminded why Jesus matters. He matters because he brings hope to weariness and brokenness and trials. Because he is making all things new, and reminding me afresh of the truth and beauty of these words.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are there any Christmas carols that are striking you anew lately?

Thoughts of A Recent College Graduate: How Things Change

This past Saturday, I ran a 5k. Not quickly, not with perfect form, and not without taking breaks to run.

But I finished.

Just last summer I scoffed as a friend told me of her recent race, thinking, “I’d never do such a thing.”

How things change.

Though I don’t think I’ll ever be one to greet change with a bear hug and the offer of a hot beverage, maybe I don’t always have  to try to beat it off with a metal bat.

(I’ll leave the possibility of sometimes)

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

(Photo: http://www.annsrunningcommentary.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/woman-running.jpg)

Okay With Cliché

I don’t thrive on Imageclichés, and even my admission of this one is not something I’m particularly proud of.

But it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and as a single person, I get a little sad.

There. I said it.

I’m single, and most days I’m fine with that, but as stores fill up with cards adorned with hearts and “I love yous,” commercials remind people to buy sparkly things for that “special someone,” and restaurants advertise their “meal for 2” deals…well, my singleness settles in with a little more weight than usual. And it makes me a little sad.

It’s not as though I feel like my life is incomplete, that I am somehow only half a person due to the fact that my Facebook relationship status remains “Single.” My life is quite full of family, friends, church, work, school, internship, etc and so forth. I have been abundantly blessed, though I often take it for granted.

Still, there is a piece of me that desires a “someone” to split those “dinner for 2” specials with.

I have been told, and I have witnessed, that being in a relationship is not always a cake walk. Yet the reminders of “You should be happy to be single” come with a sting. There are other times of the year when people get sad, desiring children maybe, yet few people tell them, “You should be happy you’re not a parent; it’s not as easy as you think.”

So yes, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and though I have wonderful people to fill my life with, I’m a little sad that I am not spending that day with “someone.”

And I’m not sorry for being a little sad. I’m not sorry for being a little cliché, in that I will probably eat chocolate, maybe watch a chick flick, and yes, possibly cry a bit. Because those things are cliché, and to an extent, so is my wishing to have “someone” for Valentine’s Day, but those feelings are valid. And I’m not sorry.

More importantly, as a Christian, I do not think there is sin in my sadness over being single. It’s not that I doubt God has a plan for every part of my life, including my relationship status; I believe that very strongly. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have a desire for a “someone” that is currently unfulfilled. It doesn’t change the fact that I have friends, whom I love dearly and am incredibly happy for, that have rings on their fingers while I have none. It doesn’t change the fact my Valentine’s Day will inevitably involve the witnessing of displays of love and affection that will not be meant for me. And it doesn’t change the fact that I will be a little sad.

So this Valentine’s Day, I will be a little cliché. I will not deny it.

And I will be okay with cliché.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Advent: Found

Advent seems to be stalking me a bit this year. The word is not unfamiliar to me; when I was in children’s worship as a first or second grader we would talk about the church calendar, and change the colors of certain things in the room to correspond to the season we were in. I saw Advent wreaths, with the candles representing different things, and the word cropped up in church. 

But I never really GOT Advent. I’m still not sure I completely do, but I think I’m learning. I always figured Advent was just what I usually referred to as “the Christmas season”–that time in between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the tree is up, lights adorn the house, and malls are overcrowded. It shouldn’t be lumped in with that thought though. Advent has its own worth and beauty separate from its attachment to Christmas.

Because Advent is about looking forward. It’s about longing, anticipation, yearning. Much like the way little kids can hardly contain their excitement about opening presents, that’s how we’re supposed to be. Our anticipation is not in vain, because we know that when December 25 rolls around, we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

This is the part of Advent I think I had been missing though: the waiting doesn’t end on Christmas. The eager anticipation of that day is a taste of what I should be anticipating each and every day as I wait for Christ to come again. 

I never got that before. I still don’t completely get it. What happened in a stable as foreshadowing of who will come again. It’s like this important link that makes everything click, that just never really clicked before. It seems so simple now, so obvious. And it’s not that I had never heard this before, of course, but I feel like this year I’ve been hearing it everywhere. So many times that it’s finally, a little bit, beginning to sink in.

What we already have, but not yet in full.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~