Monday, May 5, 2008

Going home

1905 Lafayette- I loved growing up here!

Greensboro, NC where I lived until I was 16 years old. We moved in to this house when I was 3!

My best friend from Greensboro and her little boy Preston. She lives in Wilmington, NC now.

I got to see Randall, my best friend from growing up. She was my first best friend -we were inseparable from elementary school until my family moved to Charleston, SC my junior year of high school. After a falling out with some of the other popular girls (pretty devastating from my 5th grade perspective), Randall showed me what real friendship look like. It always so fun to go back to Randall parent's house because it always triggers a flood of childhood memories.

They say you can never really go home again. Perhaps it is not only because the place has changed, but because you are no longer the same person. I sometimes watch the show October Road, where the lead character returns to his hometown after ten years. The show is about reconciling who he was with who he has become. For him, it is a matter of finding his true self again through his old friendships and remembering who he was before he was jaded by success.

I was thinking about how it has been the exact opposite for me- I have found my true self since I left Greensboro. Although I have many great memories of growing up, I think back to who I was back then, and I am so glad for how God has changed me and helped me find who He is calling me to be. C. S. Lewis observed, "The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because he made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

Randall's house- the sight of countless slumber parties, KSFDC, dance routines, sneaking out of the house, and go-carting!

Greensboro Country Club right across the street. We practically lived at the pool in the summer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Christopher!

My sister Laurie, nephew Benjamin, and brother Christopher at his birthday brunch

I went to celebrate my amazing older brother's birthday in Greensboro, North Carolina. I have always admired my brother. He has walked through so much, but has one of the most incredible attitudes of anyone I know because his eyes are set on eternity, where every wrong will be made right and there will be no more suffering. One of my favorite memories with Christopher is when he needed to be reminded that there is more to our story than what we experience in the here and now, so he asked me to read him the end of C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle. The last paragraph of The Last Battle says:

"And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."
Sometimes we all need to be reminded that this world is not our home. We were made for eternity, and something in our hearts will always ache for the beauty, intimacy, and fulfilment we will experience when we are finally face to face with the One whose heart we were made for. In Mere Christianity Lewis says, "If we experience desires that no earthly experience can satisfy, the most logical explanation is that we were made for another world. " Christopher's life reminds me that we were made for another world and that this life really is a title page for the real story.

Christopher, I am so glad that you are my big brother. I remember as a teenager you wanted to go into the ministry. I looked up to you, but I did not understand your calling because during my teenage years, I was still in love with the world. God had a different path for your life than vocational ministry, but I want you to know that you minister to so many people with the way you live your life. Now I have found what you found at a young age and also feel the call to ministry- to give my life to Someone and something bigger than myself so that others may discover the profound wisdom of surrendering their life to Him. Thank you for going before me and showing me the paradox of losing one's life to find it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

My Mom and Dad were born 6 days apart- some things were just meant to be. They met at a church reception that my dad did not want to go to. He had a round of golf scheduled with his friends, but his mother made him cancel to go to the reception for the new minister. Little did my dad know that the woman of his dreams would be waiting there! He asked her to go on a date Saturday night, but got confused and showed up at her door Friday night. My mom says it was because he could not wait to go out with her!

I can see why he was so taken with her. My mom is an amazing woman- she is definitely a look a the glass as half full woman. She is like a gold miner who always looks for the best in everyone and every situation. When you want something done, put my mom in charge. She is a go-getter and loves to use this gift for kingdom purposes. She has never met a stranger and will go the extra mile to serve someone she just met. She adores people (I get this from her :)) and has an incredible ability to make them feel encouraged and loved. She has been on the sidelines cheering for me at every important event I have participated in since my first swim meet at age three.

Some of my favorite memories with my mom are: planting daffodils in the front yard, our 2 month whirlwind tour of Europe with my sister (she had more energy than both of us!), making pancakes before church every Sunday, the memories growing up at 1905 Lafayette, trips to the beach every summer, winning a trip to California together for raising the most money for the swim-a-thon when I was eight, The Children's Theater Plays she helped me memorize my lines for, Camp Miniwanca, Women of Faith Conferences, working on countless papers together, watching Hallmark movies, teaching me how to play tennis, the Alpha course in Florida, organizing the Potter's Wheel conferences for Andee, Taryn, Melanie and me, family reunions on Figure Eight Island, our first trip to Regent when we both felt God saying this was my next step, editing my dissertation, laying by the pool at Sea Oaks Beach Club on Easter, hours upon hours of phone conversations, and just being unconditionally loved by her through every season of my life. Happy Birthday Mom- I love you so much!

Nadia and Jules' Florida Vacay!

Nadia and I had an amazing Spring Break in the Florida! We went to the pool and the beach almost every day (it was rough!). We celebrated Jesus' Resurrection with my family, went shopping at the Vero outlets (Nadia used to be a personal shopper- she was mine for no charge!), had brunch overlooking the water, clandestinely went down the water slide at the Disney Resort, drank tropical smoothies, watched the excitement of the adorable kiddies racing for Easter Eggs in their preppy little J.Crew outfits at my parent's beach club, went hot tubbing, ate too many Mint Oreos and Lime Tostedoes, went to Mr. Manatees with Tracy, Rob (they are getting married in October- Congratulations!) and Meg, walked the Boardwalk overlooking the ocean, had several talks about life and friendship over Starbucks lattes, watched a number of chick flicks, tested a variety of key lime pies, soaked up the golden rays overlooking the aqua water, and had great conversations about the Lord and our dreams in life.

One of my very favorite memories from our trip was riding around my parent's neighborhood worshipping Jesus listening to the new Misty Edwards in the pouring rain. You could feel the presence of the Lord in the car with us as we sang of His affections for His people and our love for Him. My parents could not get over how much alike we are- it is such a blessing to have a friend that loves to live each moment to the fullest, loves to have so much F-U-N, and loves the Lord in a similar way. I could not have imagined a better week of vacay or anyone I would have rather shared it with! Nadia and I just booked our tickets to Key West, Florida with our sweet friend Leah for the week after school gets out. Two more months until we reunite in Florida! Here are some fun pictures from our time together...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pursuing God's Dream For The DC Metro Area

Have you ever had the feeling that you were a part of something much bigger than yourself? This has been our story at DC Metro Church. Many years ago God planted a dream in my heart to do life with a community of people that I loved and to be investing my life in eternity. Almost ten years ago God gave my dear friends David and Taryn a dream to plant a life-giving church in the DC area that would impact culture and influence the spiritual dynamics of our country. When I met David and Taryn in grad school at Regent University, we felt a God-connection and felt a calling to do life and ministry together. After many years of praying, training, and seeking the Lord, He allowed this dream to become a reality. Looking back, we can see even more clearly now that our lives have been a series of divine appointments preparing us for September 9, 2007.

Pastor David and Taryn and Their Son Isaac

Thirteen others (Matthew, Andee, Ella, Sophia, David G., Jack, Jamie, Annalee, Summer, Ray, John, Julie L. and Isaac) felt called to move with us to help launch DC Metro Church! Because we have realized the profound wisdom of investing one’s life in the eternal, all sixteen of us packed our bags and moved across the country to pursue God’s dream for the DC Metro area. Once we arrived in the DC area, we participated in a variety of local community events, talked to strangers in shopping centers, and invited our “new friends” to our Vision Nights where David would share the vision God had given us for this area. Within three months, God brought us a team of seventy people (“The Dream Team”) to help launch DC Metro Church on September 9th. It has been quite an adventure to partner with God as He writes the unfolding chapters of the DC Metro story.
Our First Sunday- Septmber 9, 2007

Our vision is to build a God-first culture in the DC Metro area, which God spoke to us through the book of Nehemiah. Just as Nehemiah was called to his capital city of Jerusalem to rebuild the physical walls, we realized God was calling us to rebuild the spiritual walls around America’s capital city, Washington DC. We currently meet in a movie theater and typically have between 150-200 attendees on a Sunday morning with a number of salvations and recommitments to Jesus each week. We have had approximately 96 people dedicate or rededicate their life to the Lord since the launch. We are so excited to be reaching this demographic! There is no greater joy than watching someone surrender their life to the Lord so that they might discover true life in Him and reap the incredible benefits of being planted in the house of the Lord. I love being a part of introducing others to the kindest, most incredible One we can ever know. God’s love has transformed my life, which has now become a journey toward knowing and loving Him more. Every day we are well aware that we are a part of a story much bigger than ourselves, and we count it a high privilege to play our role in His story and to be pursuing His dream for the DC Metro area.

John and Julie Lee

Jamie, Matthew, and David G.

David G., David, Isaac, Jack and Taryn

The Stroia Family!

Members of the Dream Team Celebrating Life Together

Friday, April 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Daddy!

My Daddy is the kindest man I have ever known. I gave him the book The Giving Tree for Christmas because that is who he has been in my life---someone who continually sacrificially gives of himself to make the dreams in my heart come true. His generosity and gentleness have defined who our family has become. It is a legagy I want to live...

Some Interesting Facts about My Dad:
  1. He is a scratch golfer (zero handicap) who can go head to head with the best of the best about golf trivia. He played on the UNC golf team (Go Tarheels!) and has played over 10,000 rounds of golf (He might even beat Tiger in that stat because he has a few years on Tiger :).
  2. He is very competitive. He hit my mom in the head with a racquetball so hard that she fell to the ground during an intense match that he was losing. It was an accident, but they wisely decided to never compete against each other again.
  3. He is a Southern Gentleman who is always looking for ways to bless and encourage others. Last week someone at church told me if they are having a hard day, they go and stand next to my parents because they seem to effuse love.
  4. He was the number one salesman in his company because he has a way with people. He is loaded with personality, a great conversationalist, and man of his word.
  5. As the years of progressed, he has come into a deeper walk with the Lord and a deeper level of surrender. He has been given so many gifts and has been very successful, but has given himself back to God. Like Jim Elliot, he has realized, “He is no fool that gives up what He cannot keep to gain what He cannot lose.”

I am a Daddy’s girl. One of our favorite movies to watch together is Father of the Bride. There are many moments in the movie when Steve Martin reminds me of my Dad, but my favorite is when he gives his daughter her wedding gift. He is embarrassed because the in-laws bought her a much more expensive gift (a new car). As she unwraps the cappuccino machine she says, “I couldn’t love anything more.” Looking at her from across the room, he whispers under his breath, “My thoughts exactly.” My Daddy’s love has been one of the most tangible pictures that the Lord has used to teach me about the constancy of His character and to show me His unrelenting heart for me. They say that 80 percent of women marry someone like their Dad- I am praying to be so blessed! Happy Birthday Daddy!

You are loved!

Monday, March 31, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over

Our fun new mailer that went to homes all over the DC Metro area this past week-exciting! Our desire is to provide a place where people can experience God in a real, relevant, and enjoyable way as we seek to build a God-firat culture in the DC Metro area!

Hello again! I fell into the non-blogging vortex of my overflowingly full life. I have a number of reasons including being denied access to my blog for a while (I thought I was going to have to start over), and my camera breaking (you have to have fun pictures avec your blog- don't worry I have a cute new pink camera now because my last one was under warranty), but the truth is blogging felt like a luxury when I had so many other time-sensitive responsibilities vying for my attention. Over the past two months we have launched DC Metro Groups (I am so honored to oversee this ministry), started Starting Point (a class for new believers I am helping lead), and I have turned in the "hopefully final draft" of my dissertation (hooray!). In the mean time, I have loved teaching Spiritual Formation class at Regent University and loved being surprised by the depth of my sixth grade class at Immanuel (recently they asked me about the origin of evil in the world and the ultimate purpose of humanity being created.)

I have managed to squeeze in some F-U-N including a trip to NC for my nephews 4th "Fireman" Birthday party, a delightful Pizza and Prayer night (Matthew, Andee, Pheobe, David and I got togther to seek God and pray over each other- I love these times!), a refreshing trip to Richmond with my fearfully and wonderfully made (aka very unique :)) friend David to a conference on prayer, and an amazing trip to sunny Florida (to visit my sweet parents, by dear friend Jenny and her husband Ben, and to spend time with one of my best friends from grad school Nadia- pictures of our fabulous vacay will follow soon), and my wonderful extended family Leah, Hannah and Trevor came to visit DC this past weekend. I am pleased to report in the midst of all this fullness, the Lord has been drawing me deeper. Over the past couple of months He has been awakening a deeper hunger for Him. This is an answer to the cry of my heart to know Him more. I am so thankful for this journey and for what He is pouring into my life in this season. My cup runneth over!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Welcome to the World Baby Josiah!

                                 David, Taryn, and Baby Josiah
                                  Did she just have a baby?
                   Matthew and I visiting the Stines at the hospital
               Josiah with his too cute for words older brother Isaac   

 Welcome to the world baby Josiah! He was born last Sunday at 8:30 in the morning (his daddy even managed to race to church and preach an awesome sermon later that morning :). He weighed 8lbs. 1.2 oz and was 21.5 inches long! 

     Taryn and David Stine have been two of my best friends since we met in seminary in Virginia Beach in 2001. God planted a dream to plant DC Metro Church in David's heart 9 years ago. Almost immediately after I met David Stine and Matthew Stroia in Barbara Billick's office in August 0f 2001 (they both married their beautiful wives Taryn and Andee later that year), we realized there was a connection between us that was bigger than ourselves, and we started talking about how amazing it would be if we could do life and ministry together. 

     Here we are six and a half years later planting a church together. It has been my dream for many years to walk through life with my best friends and be a part of something that was investing in the lives of others and investing in the eternal - God is so good! I couldn't have chosen more incredible parents for baby Josiah than David and Taryn Stine. I am so happy for you! 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! I am enjoying my day off work and thought I would share with the words MLK Jr. delivered in a speech. It was not his infamous "I have a dream" speech, but rather about the One who gave him his dream. Here is an excerpt (you have to picture him preaching this to get the full effect :)...

Do you know my King? My King was born King. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. That's my King.

He is the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He's honest. He's unique. He's unparalleled.  He's unprecedented. He's supreme. He's pre-eminent. He's the grandest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. That's my King.

He's the superlative of every good thing that you choose to call Him. He's the only One who can supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the week. He is available for the tempted and tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He serves the unfortunate. He's the Almighty God who guides and saves all His people. He rewards the diligent and beautifies the meek. THAT'S MY KING! 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Fabulous Friends Hannah and David

What I Love About My Sweet Friend Hannah
       She was one of my "bestest" roommates ever. We lived together in Kansas City while at IHOP (International House of Prayer- not pancakes :)) and would talk on our couch almost every night for a few hours without every running out of things to say. We can do "nothing" because if we are together "nothing" becomes fun. She is my favorite person to dance in the rain with, sunbathe in random fields with in Kansas City (we were both beach girls going through withdrawals), and my favorite person to sit across from at Panera (particularly with Alisa when we are practicing our "hellos", discounting Germans, and analyzing the implications of my date's shoes- I still think you can tell a lot by a person's shoes). Hannah sits before the Lord, and when she hears from Him, she steps out in obedience even at great cost. He is her First Love. She has a call on her life to the nations, so I know that the Lord will bless many through her. There are so many things that I love about my friend, but one of my favorite things is how loved she makes me feel when I am in her presence. I love the bittersweet way she looks at me right before we are saying goodbye (although I am not fond of saying goodbye to her) - it is one of those moments I wish I could bottle. Hannah is a gem with many facets that I am still discovering, but she is one who the more you get to know her , the more you love her! When are you coming back to DC Hannah?

What I Love about My Fabulous Friend David

       I love that I have managed to get him saying "fabulous" as a regular part if his vernacular. He is a deep conversationalist, a great question asker and listener- he draws me out in a way that not that many others do (he makes it way above "the above average listener" of seventeen seconds before interrupting- according to David the above average listener can only make it seventeen seconds without switching the focus of the conversation to themselves... How long do you typically make it? :) I first met him when he was in high school through his amazing sister Mary Ruth (who is one of my best friends), but it was our road trip to NY with Matthew Stroia that officially marked the beginning of our lifelong friendship. He is my favorite person to laugh uncontrollably with at staff meetings and my favorite person to get caught in a time warp with at scrumptious Cosi's (Is four and a half hours our record so far David?). He has a tenderness and humility before the Lord but an authority on his words when he prays. The youth at DC Metro are in for a treat to have a leader that will teach them what it means to be one who knows the Lord and His ways in this generation and will model the importance of building a secret history with God. I feel incredibly blessed to call him my friend and to "do life" with him and the other amazing people helping plant DC Metro Church (more about them later :)). 

Thank you Hannah and David for making life richer and more 
F-U-N! I Can't Wait 4 our Next Adventure Together... 

DC Adventures- A Tourist in My Own City


     A couple of weeks ago I decided to be a DC tourist for the day. After all, there are often so many cool things to do in our own backyard (and DC is certainly no exception) that we never get around to doing them simply because they are in our backyard, and we figure we can do them anytime or we feel a little too cool to line up with the droves of tourists in our own stomping grounds. I, however, was becoming embarrassed that friends who came to DC for the weekend had seen more of the sights and knew about the city than I did. Therefore, I unabashedly threw whatever elusive coolness I possess to the wind and became a camera-toting tourist in my own city. 

      My friend David and I decided that if we were going to be tourists, we might as well go all out, so we bought tickets for one of those tour mobile buses that takes you around the city and tells you the history of the monuments and sights (it was a little embarrassing when the tour guide asked everyone on the bus where they had traveled from to see DC and David and I sheepishly muttered, "uh... down the road"). Our dear friend Hannah (the three of us were at IHOP in KC two years ago and Hannah was my wonderful roommate) came into town to tour DC with us- she was our cover for buying the touristy bus tickets, but I must confess that I had secretly been wanting to go one of these tours for months. Unfortunately, Hannah chose one of the coldest days of the year to visit, but we certainly weren't going to let a few bitter gusting winds stop us from conquering the city in a day.

     Some of the highlights were the Holocaust Museum (it was fascinating and yet deeply grieving to my spirit to see how fast a culture could be incrementally and subtly persuaded of the "rightness" of such an inhumane false ideology- a.k.a. brainwashed), the Washington Monument (it is actually two different colors- this is due to a period of twenty-three years in the 1800s when they had to stop building the monument due to the city's limited finances and did you know there has been only one president to up in the monument- good ol' Harry S. Truman?).
     Next we went to the "Pres' Crib"- the DC icon otherwise known as "The White House" (there was a reporter outside who was hoping we would leave after our tenth photo opt, but then he realized we were just getting started- even though we had already tried every photo combination of the three of us short of doing a pyramid in front of the White House. For some reason,  I always have such a hard time convincing others that the pyramid is a good photo option. Any way, the reporter finally asked us politely if we could please be quiet for a couple of minutes while he got a sound check- fortunately I was able to get David and Hannah to settle down :), but I still did not get my pyramid shot), 

   One of my favorites was The Lincoln Memorial (one of our best presidents for sure, who penned the words that would not leave our minds the rest of the day, 'four score and seven years ago!") and of course the prestigious and stately Capitol Building (we got off here for photos because our tour guide assured us that another bus would be coming, but after we realized he was the same guide who had curiously told us different "historical" information about the sights than our other tour guides, we decided that he might not be the most reliable source. We realized that our options (and our coat linings) were thin- we had little choice but to battle the piercingly cold blustering winds, and so we began the walk back to Union Station- I suppose the fun photo opts at the Capitol and the sympathy that you will hopefully give us from our dramatic story were worth it though).

      I am excited for my friends (a.k.a. you) to come and visit DC. I tried to memorize the tour guides' talks so that I can spout off the dates and historical significance of the monuments and museums (or if I forget, I can just make them up- I am pretty sure that is what our last tour guide was doing. Yes, he was the same one who told us another tour bus was definitely coming as he pulled away.) Let me know when you want to book your DC adventure in the wonderful white "grace happens" 4Runner tour mobile.  

Sunday, January 6, 2008

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

I gave my life to Love and He will not let me go. The hymn "Love That Will Not Let Me Go" was written by George Matheson (1842-1906) right before his sister's wedding. He had been engaged himself a few years earlier, but his fiance called off the wedding when she found out he was going blind. He went blind while he was studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who had taken care of him. On the eve of his sister's wedding, he was in a place of despair remembering his unrequited love for his former fiance and knowing that he would be alone after his sister married. Matheson said that all of the sudden these words just came to him like a piercing light penetrating his darkness, and he wrote the whole hymn in just five minutes. Here is an excerpt...

"O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be."

I first heard this hymn in college right after "I gave back the life I owe" and something about it resonated deep within. After years of traveling through life as pleasure-seeking hedonist, I had finally found the Superior Pleasure or rather He had found me. After a battle with my desire to settle for mud pies rather than experience a holiday at the sea (one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes), I capitulated to Love. As Jim Elliot said, "I gave what I could not keep to gain what I could not lose."

A.W. Tozer writes in The Pursuit of God, "Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large, it is yet real." Even though many others have gone much deeper in their understanding and knowledge of our unfathomable God, I know that I want to spend my life pursuing and discovering again and again the Holy Mystery of Unending Love. It was a cold day in February when as twenty-year old Sophomore at Mercer University "I yielded my flickering torch to Him" and found my heart set aflame by the intensity of His burning desire. Something real and indescribable transpired within me, and I cannot extinguish the flame. I gave my life to Love and He will not let me go...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

"Auld Lang Syne"

Well, it is 2008, and I have decided to join the world of blogging. I am not sure exactly what inspired me to take the plunge. After the ball dropped last night and we sang the traditional New Year's Eve song "Auld Lang Syne," "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind," I found myself reflecting on 2007. Different snapshots of one of the most incredible years of my life flooded my mind... 
  • Touring Africa and Europe with Jessica in January and February
  • Celebrating graduation from my Doctoral Program with almost all of my favorite people in the world at the Sandbridge beach house in May
  • Being the maid of honor in my dear friend Jenny's wedding in June
  • Packing the U-haul to move to the DC area to plant a church with some of my best friends- ending my season of six years in Virginia beach to begin a new adventure with God in Alexandria in August
  • Launching DC Metro Church September 9, 2007- Experiencing the goodness of God as we watch Him supply our every need in this journey of faith
  • Becoming a Sixth Grade teacher for the first time and falling in love with my students
  • Our family reunion at one of my favorite places in the world- Figure Eight Island
  • Walking through life with an incredible group of people who have a similar passion to build a God-first culture in the DC Metro area
  • Spending Christmas with my fabulous family in Vero Beach, Florida where the sun is always shining and where I always feel incredibly loved 
    The name of the Scottish folk song "Auld Lang Syne" can be translated as "Days of Long Ago." I have been baffled by the lyrics for years- is it telling us to forget or not to forget?  All I know is that I do not want to forget a moment - the acquaintances, the deep friendships, the memories, and the experiences that have made me who I am today. Perhaps this is the reason for the plunge...