The Blog Awakens: Writing Prompt

Hey all!

Amy and I were reminiscing the other day about how great this was. Now that we’re all spread out and don’t get to see each other much, she suggested a writing prompt. Don’t feel obligated, but if anyone feels like weighing in with a response to this prompt, I’m sure all of us would enjoy reading each other’s thoughts again. This is ambiguous, and I haven’t tried it yet so I don’t know if it will actually be fun or helpful. But take a crack at it in the comments when you feel like doing so:

What are your blindspots?

And feel free to throw your own writing prompts on here too. Creative writing? Devo style? A question about a passage or an idea? Let’s hear it!



Love Does – Lauren’s Final Thoughts

Whew. After so many moons, I’ve been able to sit down and finish Love Does. Here are the pieces of each section that most poignantly struck me.

Chapters 16-20

Page 112: I love grace, especially when it blossoms between unexpected characters or in unexpected, normally grace-sterile places. I loved the story of the shiny penny. It’s an exciting prospect to look for opportunities to make this kind of thing happen more often.

Page 128: “Ten-year-old adventures” — I loved this whole chapter. I want to do this with my kids.

Chapters 21-25

Page 142: “I think God passes by me a lot, and it serves to show me the direction He’s going. We don’t always know where He’s headed or what to expect along the way. But I think direction is the point, the part, and whole of it. He wants followers, not just onlookers or people taking notes. Plus, I think God knows that if I found out more than just the direction He was going, I’d probably try to beat Him there. And if He spoke to me with something audible, I’d probably mess it up and mishear Him.” I love this. God is a doing, moving, action-oriented God. We weren’t meant to take up office as an observer in a lab somewhere. We were invited into the fray — into action. I love this insight.

Page 149: I loved the “The Puppeteer” rubber band story and the object lesson he painted. I love both implications: a) the extrapolation about how we often hang “prints” of ourselves out for everyone to see and keep our real dreams, emotions, and character hidden away somewhere. But locked away in a closet, won’t our real selves atrophy? After remaining unused so long in the dark, would we even recognize our true selves? And b) God knows we’ll get dinged up. And He loves us even more for it. The bruises and scars can act as testaments to what we’ve learned and how God has redeemed us through our pain and failure.

Page 155 (the story of the sextant and nautical navigation): Goff made a couple points here that resonated deeply with me. The first was the idea of taking a bearing from a few dependable points. His examples included Jesus and the truths found in the Bible. My first year out of college when I had recently moved to St. Louis, I really struggled with depression. Some days were extremely difficult to keep my head above water. At some point when I wasn’t completely down in the emotional dump, I made a list in my journal of about 20 truths that I believed to my core. After that day, when I was having a particularly hard time I would go back and read that list over and over, deciding over again that I believed them. That was a huge help to me and helped me weather that storm.

The second concept from this section that resonated with me was his idea of having a “cabinet” of people whom you rely on to provide dependable bearings in addition to God’s word. Amy, it made me think of David and his “who has a seat at your table” concept. It’s important for us to think through from whom in our lives we can receive truth. Deciding who will be your primary influencers is critical and will shape your life in ways we probably don’t realize now. I’m still working on doing this.

Chapters 26-30

Page 199: I loved his blurb about the group of guys he has in his life that instituted “Bible doing” instead of Bible study. He did concede that study of the Bible is important, which is true — however, I love this concept because becoming more literate about the Bible is moot until we couple it with action. How should we institute this in Bstud?

Page 204: I loved the “palms up” concept. Jesus is incredible. And He did this really well. And I don’t. I am quick to defend myself, to reason and rationalize and justify. Even if I don’t always voice it, those are my first internal reactions whenever my ability, judgement, actions, or character are questioned. I love that if Jesus, who had every right and ability to defend His “honor” and preserve His standing among the powers that were, didn’t fight back or testily defend Himself, there’s absolutely no reason I should ever feel entitled to a similar reaction. If Jesus knows my heart, that’s enough. I’m not in this world to please, impress, or appease anyone but Him.

The Power of Words.

I am still devastatingly behind in reading our book. Bear with me.

However, I read Ch.12 about Bob’s little league baseball game. Of course sports are something we can all relate too. Yet as I reflect, the purest moments of my basketball career were not always the winning games or goofing off with teammates. Some of my fondest memories of basketball were the words spoken to me by coaches, teammates, and my parents along the way.

There is no doubt in my mind that my high school basketball coach helped shaped me into the type of person I am today. As he attempted to find a role for me on the team, he allowed me the opportunity to learn more about myself. I took every compliment and bit of constructive criticism to heart. Our last conversations during my senior year were less about basketball and more life. Then our senior night banquet, my coach presented me with the highest-esteemed award outside of MVP–the Bulldog P.R.I.D.E award. It stands for Performance, Responsibility, Integrity, Determination and Enthusiasm. Receiving the award caught me by surprise. I was not the starting post player for the team and was always in the shadow of the great Dani Bunch (who you can now find on local news all the time because she’s competing for a spot on the Olympic track team).

The award meant a lot to me and still does. I was overwhelmed knowing the coaches and my teammates agreed that I exemplified those qualities. I still have the little trophy set next to bed, every now and then it reminds of the type of person others see in me and the type of person I always strive to be.

Although, I put a lot of weight into what my friends, family, coworkers, and mentors think of me; I often forget about who’s opinion matters the most, God’s opinion. What words does God use to describe us?

Beloved. His children. His chosen. 

This is what God thinks of us. He loves us. But ownership to God not only gives us a sense of belonging, it gives us purpose. As Bob said, “the words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life.” It’s so important to allow go to shape us into the person we are meant to be. Though we can’t talk to his face, he tells us what he thinks of us through his Word. Afterall, he is the author of life.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(Ephesians 2:4-10)

God has big expectations for us, but through faith and prayer we can strive to meet them.

Oh alright, let’s reminisce.

I enjoyed reading your yearly reflection posts! We all live such crazy lives and do not get adequate time to hang out, so it was nice learning more about each of your years.

For me I originally considered this year anticlimactic. I’m still in the get-up-and-go-to class-5-days-out-of-the-week phase of my life. I still dream of the sunny days when I get up and put on professional clothes, instead of my usual sweats, and go to work. When I get to make an impact of peoples lives, make an actual paycheck, pay off my ever accruing student loans, etc, etc. I am so ready for my next phase.

Here we go.

School-This last year of class has had its ups and downs as usual. Occasionally, I may or may not call my mom crying. Whatever. I wish I could say that I trust God enough to trust I am smart enough and diligent enough to pull this whole pharmacy thing off, but there are still times where I doubt his plan. I can say that I have learned more than I ever thought possible and I am still learning. That part I love. Each week I face new challenges, most the time I have no clue how I am going to pull myself through it. Each week I make it through. Praise Jesus! The pharmacy journey continues onto 2016!

Work- Summer 2015 I started my new internship at CVS after saying goodbye to my dearest Starbucks in December of 2014. The transition was rough for a while because there are a lot of moving parts to a pharmacy. There is still a lot I need to learn about drugs and insurance companies. It was hard going from a job that I felt completely comfortable in, to a job where I knew almost nothing. Also, add in the fact I’ll be the one in charge of these bad boys in a couples years; I felt a lot of pressure to be better. I learned I was being harder on myself than necessary, my coworkers have told me a few times that I caught on really quick.  My boss and some customers have complimented me too, which gave me a morale boost. I really like the pharmacists I work with and I have learned astronomical amount so far.

Family-as you may know my family is huge and loud and all up in each others lives. I miss them terribly most of the time because I live the farthest away. 2015 we married off my sister to her knight in shining armor, Jason. I am loving getting to know Jason more and more. He was a missing piece to our close-knit group. My other cousins have little kids ages ranging from anything less than 7 or so. I enjoy watching them grow and get their own personalities; they are such a refreshing treat each time I get to see them. My mom is still struggling with her health, but we are continuing our work together on that. The biggest news in our family, naturally, was the announcement of my little niece, Miss Daisy Adele Burgener! I am beyond excited so I will spare you the 5,000 word expose I could ramble on about her.

Love life- LOL, so it’s weird I even have information to share in the “love life” category. But sure, let’s do it. You all know most of this part. Anyways, I broke up with Ette this year, which I know was for the best. We were in different places in our lives, we were going different places, and in the end I knew it was not meant to be. I prayed about it and asked advice from my family. It was the best move for the both of us, I just wish he felt the same way about that. As far as I know, he’s back in grad school taking online courses at SIUE and doing great. Which is awesome….Anyways, Schwaar can attest to the fact I had vowed to stay single for the remainder of pharmacy school. haha. Ok, well I tried. Matt had reached out to me to go to wedding with him in October. So I said, sure why not? We’re good friends, that would be fun. And it was fun. And we got along really well. And then he got all serious and shared thoughts and feelings. And then I shared my feelings. And his name is Matthew. Yeah… I held out until the end of October, but then we decided to be together. We’re doing great, dating 7 hours apart is not the easiest, but it forces us to get to know each other on a “intellectual and emotional level” (his words not mine). So um, yeah that’s that.

Ted- Ted got stolen. Ted got beat up inside and out. Ted was forced by hoodlums to attempt to outrun the cops. Ted lost. Ted sat cold and alone in the City Tow for a month. Ted is now a total loss according to the insurance. They took Ted away. Ted is gone. Spoiler alert for 2016–I now have Fredrick (Freddy for short). He’s a ford fusion and we’re getting along great, but he smells weird. We’re working on it.

Me, God, and everything else- Prayer life is a rollercoaster. Some days it’s great and other days it’s not. The last year I felt like I lost some of the relationship I had built with God while I was at MOBap. I want to get that back in 2016. I am still working on trusting God and his plans. I’m learning how to pray and listen vs. worrying and “figuring it out on my own.” As always, I am thankful for our bible study and particularly thankful for each of you. I love the dynamics of our little group, we are all so different in our lives, yet we come together as a community in Christ. It is truly something special.

My prayers for 2016 go out to all us, that we may reflect on our past and see how awesome our God is; and let this epiphany fuel our passion for Him. Let his work be done through us, so that this year is greater than anything we could imagine. For God’s plans are greater than our own. Praise God for the gifts of life, love, and opportunity; praise God for another year. Let’s do this thing, 2016!


Plans: Me vs. God

“Planner. Type A personality. Likes to be in control and know everything that is going on.”

If you ask anyone that knows me, I bet that they would say that describes me pretty well. In some situations it is great. My teammates relied on me for flight info, bus times, and practice schedules. In some situations it is quite the opposite. I make a grand plan that comes comes crashing down and I get crushed.

As I’ve been on my journey with God the past few years, He has shown me that His plans often out-rule mine. I said I would never go to ISU — my grad school degree is from there. I told people that I was 100% not going to start my job at EY — I just had my 2 year anniversary a few weeks ago. Those were big life decisions I thought I knew what was going to happen, when in reality, I was operating in a place totally apart from God.

I tend to do this a lot. Trusting in God and having ‘my’ plans mirror His plans are not my specialty. They are actually quite the opposite. He often has to re-teach me this lesson. I am currently going through a stage of re-learning that lesson.

In 2015 I made a lot of plans. They were exciting. They were grand. Mostly importantly, they involved God.* Marrying the guy I was dating (he loved Jesus with his whole heart, so it was perfect) What our first house together would look like (and what verses were most important to have as centerpieces on the walls). When we would have kids (and the Biblical names they would have). What kind of jobs I could do while staying at home with the kids (and what kind of ministry we could have from our home). They were all great plans and they all involved God. But there was one problem, they were not God’s plans.

Yikes. Talk about eye-opening. I took things into my own hands. I got so focused on the plans and making sure God was in them that I forgot to check with Him first. Cue my plans crashing down and me being crushed. This time I fell hard. God needed to get me to a point of hurting, loneliness, and vulnerability so He could get His point across.

How often do we make plans and justify them because they involve God, instead of listening to what His plans actually are? Sometimes His plans aren’t what we want to hear at the time, so it is easier to make other plans that just involve Him. Other times we think we are following His plans because He is a part of them, but we aren’t taking the time to pause and actually listen. God has opened my eyes to just how much I do this.

Thankfully He is also teaching me. We are 23 days into 2016 and I haven’t made any grand plans yet! (Ok, so that’s not the point). His ways are so much better than ours. He knows exactly what we need even before we realize it. He is going to work His way in our life. God is God. We are not God. We have to be willing to pause and rest, spend time with only Him, and give our heart fully over to Him. Once He has our heart, He will begin to mold it so that its plans will mirror His plans.

It is a really odd feeling for me to walk around not having plans for where this year will go. I could continue to do exactly what I am now, I could get a different job, or I could even end up in Africa. Only God knows. My job is to be obedient to Him each day and trust in Him and His plans. Right now, this looks like not letting myself daydream, because that is when the plans start to come into my own hands. I am fully confident He will deliver in a way that is far better than I could have imagined anyway!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

*Lesson learned: that was not the most important thing like I thought at the time 🙂

2015 According to Schwaarshmellow

Here goes my 2015 encapsulation post!

It’s interesting to look back. A lot has changed, and a lot hasn’t. At this time last year, I was employed by TeeTurtle, assistant coaching for a collegiate basketball team, and living in downtown Saint Louis. I had a great network of people around me that I love (and still do). I was living with one of my best friends in a really nice condo in the Central West End. I had just been given a raise at my job. And yet I was still frustrated at my situation and didn’t want to be there.

I spent the first half of my year in that context. The weather got nice, I spent a lot of time outside, and I got to hang out with all of you which was awesome. Then God opened the door to a complete change of scenery and I got to experience one of the most formative trips of my entire lifetime over the summer.

I returned from my travels on a prayer and a sliver of a plan. I arrived, plugged into TIU as an assistant coach the day after I returned, and (more slowly that I was satisfied with) pieced together a life around that position. My current snapshot: I assistant coach at a great program and am learning much. I get to experience project management in a laid-back, informal work setting when I’m not in the gym. I live twenty minutes from my childhood home and have seen every member of my family more in the past 18 days than, it could be argued, in the entire last year. Good friendships are budding in Chicagoland and the thought of staying in this area a bit longer isn’t so repulsive any more — in fact, I don’t think I’d mind it at all if I found a full-time job. The opportunity to coach remains wide open and I would love to pursue that for next year. And yet I feel a searing itch to solidify my next step. My situation feels temporary and I want to nail down what I’ll be doing next. Always the same refrain.

A few of the most significant things I learned in 2015 (though there are many more):

1. God is always faithful and won’t let you drop.
2. No matter how many times I can tell myself that is true, it’s difficult not to worry or try to set up my own safety nets and “plan B’s” in the meantime.
3. I was (am) really bad at letting other people be in charge. That’s something I need to continue to work on this coming year.
4. In order to build relationships with people I don’t necessarily understand or that I wouldn’t naturally gravitate towards, a huge dose of humility and also being willing to be friendly and loving even when I can’t expect any response back is the only way to win hearts over time.
5. I’m not always confident in my abilities. I can’t say for sure whether I can realistically achieve everything I want to do. I believe that at some point here, I will approach a crossroads where I need to decide whether I want to step up to the task or settle for something less. And I honestly don’t know what the end result will be.
6. I love love love traveling. Period.
7. I love teams. Whether or not it always looks like basketball, I always want to be part of a team.

Goals for this coming year:
1. I want to get better at knowing the game of basketball and being able to recognize and synthesize much more information more quickly when I’m watching it.
2. I want to get stronger. I would love to be able to do multiple real pullups in a row by the end of the year.
3. I need to establish a more concrete prayer routine. I’d like to make some time amount of prayer the first thing I do every morning. You guys can check in with me on that if you think of it.
4. I would love to travel internationally again this year.
5. I’d like to land in a situation where I make a regular paycheck (OR a graduate assistantship would be fine too) and feel like I’m doing something that matters.
6. I’d like to do more music outside of worship band. Whether that looks like my next placement being in Nashville or simply finding some people wherever I end up (or here in Chicago) to play with, I’d like to be around musicians again.

Hm, I’m sure nothing gets you guys more invigorated than reading itemized lists! 🙂 But hopefully that’s a bit of a snapshot for you guys. Love you all, and will hopefully be able to write more soon.


AND we’re back….

Hi all. My post on section three (chapters 11-15) has been a ridiculously long time coming. My apologies. Here goes:

Looking back through these chapters, the most central theme that strikes me about each of them is this: God is in the “better”. He chose us while we were messed up and worthless and instilled in us hope, future, and potential. He recognizes that we have dreams and goals for our lives and encourages us to dream, but ultimately He has plans and dreams for us that far surpass anything we could have come up with on our own. He has placed joys and pleasures in this life, but when we seek Him and not those fleeting trinkets, He makes not only His very self available to us but also brings the earthly joys He has made for us to life when our ultimate satisfaction is in Him alone.

I think my favorite part of these several chapters was (not surprisingly) the quote Bob included from C.S. Lewis: “‘It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.'”

I’d be interested to hear what C.S. Lewis meant in his use of the descriptor “half-hearted”. Perhaps he meant that no matter how desperately we pursue fleshly pleasures, our deepest heart will always betray us by never being satisfied, for it knows that nothing but God Himself will satisfy our “God-shaped hole.”

Practically speaking, how does one live every moment in this paradigm? I only need remember my stress and frustration about what “I need to do to continue to improve my situation” to know that I have a very long way to go before I can confidently say that I believe this concept through and through. But this is what I need to get through my head: God has better for me. He IS better for me than my pursuit of my own ambitions and goals. He believes better OF me than I do sometimes. He knows better what I need and where I can make an impact for Him. God is better.