19 February 2016

A New Kenyan Adventure!

As you might know, I moved to Kenya in East Africa in July of 2011 and have been teaching at a Christian international school in Nairobi ever since.  Shortly after arriving, I became acquainted with a ministry organization called BlueSky.  Over the last few years, I have learned more about their ministry, and in 2014 I started volunteering with BlueSky by leading a small discipleship group for high school girls each week.  About six months ago I began exploring the idea of joining the team of BlueSky Kenya on a full-time basis, and after months of seeking God’s direction, I’m excited to say that I will be joining that team in late July as Operations Director of BlueSky Kenya!

BlueSky Kenya exists to grow the global church and its influence by engaging the multinational community in Nairobi through meaningful relationships and experiential learning.  Through the platforms of summer camp, adventure programs, a climbing gym, and a consulting firm, the team at BlueSky works to engage the nations that live in this international community.  Besides Kenyan citizens, our community is comprised of British Kenyans, Kenyan Indians, South-Asians, and expatriates, diplomats, missionaries, businessmen and women, and NGO workers from all over the world!  People from these demographics often face unusual challenges because many of them are not here long-term, and because of that, it’s often hard for them to feel like they “belong” anywhere.  In addition, youth ministry in churches is not prevalent, so by providing summer camp, Sunday-night youth group, and weekly discipleship groups, BlueSky has a solid outreach to students in this community.  You can see that God has provided a perfect time and place for us to be sharing the good news of Jesus!

As I think about this new journey I’ll be starting, I can see how God is combining my past experiences, specific skills, and gifts for this new position.  While my professional training is in education, I’m excited to use many of the same skills it takes to run a successful classroom—such as idea development, organization, and communication—in my role at BlueSky, helping to further the mission and ministry that have been established.  As Operations Director, I will be helping to give leadership to some systems that are already in place and working to design and implement some new policies and procedures.  Much of my initial focus will be in the areas of human resources, customer service, and event planning.  While my work will be a bit more “behind-the-scenes” than some of the other staff members’, my hope and prayer is that God will enable me to use the gifts He’s given me to serve not only the students and clients with whom BlueSky works, but the current and future BlueSky staff was well, releasing them from some of the responsibilities they’ve had to pick up and freeing them to spend more time in the relational ministry to which they’ve been called.

In the coming months, I will be working to build a prayer and financial support team.  If you would like to be added to my mailing list, please visit this form to provide your contact information.  (Your information will be provided only to me.)  If you would like to go ahead and set up a financial donation, visit this page and click the "Engage by Giving" link on the right.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement as I begin this next chapter!

I'd love to answer any questions you might have!  Feel free to contact me or visit www.blueskyglobal.org or www.blueskykenya.org for more information!

23 October 2015

Random Thoughts on Major Decisions, Gifts, and Waiting on God

It's me again, back for my semi-annual blog post.  Scrolling through my blog page I see that I missed the opportunity for the annual "Wrappin' It Up" post in May.  Ooops.  Sorry 'bout that. Hope you haven't been sitting around waiting for it!

Something happened today that's had me thinking, and sitting down to write and share about how God's using it to teach me more about Himself seemed like the right thing to do.  This afternoon I've felt dumbfounded, bewildered, amazed, and humbled by a gift I was given out of the blue.  It's gotten me thinking about just how often I've seen God speak to me through gift after gift the last few weeks.  A little background information:

It's contract-renewal season here at Rosslyn, and even though our current contracts extend through June, because of all that's involved in hiring for an international school, our HR department needs to know by November 1 if we plan to stay after this year.  Not everyone's current contract expires at the end of this year, but there are A  LOT of us in this boat right now.  Needless to say, there's been some extra tension among our staff members as we try to seek God's leading and discern His voice and direction for our futures.

It's not a secret to most people around here that I'm ready to move to something out of the classroom.  I love Rosslyn, the students, the parents, and my co-workers here, but I've reached a level of internal exhaustion that makes it hard for me to think about teaching another year.  However, I'm not ready or wanting to leave Nairobi, and it seems like I have some other options in the area, possibly at Rosslyn and at a couple other organizations.  And I haven't actually resigned from teaching yet, so that's still on the table.

During the last few weeks it has been very easy to get caught up in this decision-making thing, which many of you know is not my forte anyway!  The stress of major decisions, with possible life-changing implications, can make daily life worrisome.  While it's been nice to have options beyond this year, I have NO idea which of those (or any others that might come along) I'm supposed to choose next.  During this time of earnestly seeking God for answers, it has been frustrating to feel like I'm not hearing anything from God and worrying that I'll miss what He's trying to tell me (even though He has never failed me in this area in the past!).

Several of us went camping last weekend, and one of my favorite parts of our camping trips, which seem to always fall over a Sunday, is "Camping Church."  :)  My group of friends includes talented musicians and a "preacher," so we are set for "church" around a campfire!  Last weekend, knowing that many of us are working through this major decision, Matt shared from Psalm 32:

v.8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you you with my loving eye on you."

In the midst of waiting on God, it is SO easy for me to forget His promise to guide us, to think that I need to take things into my own hands, or that if I worry about something enough I'll get an answer.  In this verse, God says, "I WILL instruct you in the way you should go."  There aren't conditions attached to that, nothing that says He'll only help us if we're good enough, or pray enough, or do as much as we can for ourselves.  If our hearts are seeking God, He WILL do this.  It's a promise.  

Which brings me back to my thoughts for today.  I still don't know what to do.  I don't feel like I yet know what my next step is to be.  But one thing I have been so conscious of in the last few weeks is the gifts God is giving me.  They haven't been huge, or expensive, deserved, or even material things at all, but the countless unexpected and meaningful moments I've had with friends over the last few weeks have been some of the greatest gifts God could give this "quality-time girl" right now.  They've been repeated and regular reminders of God's gift of friendship.  Then I think about some of the other gifts I've received in the last year, and I'm just kind of blown away by how God has used those things to love on me a little bit lately.

Today I received another gift, one that was hard to accept, in a way.  It was out of the blue, from someone who's not nearby. It was so humbling, and I feel entrusted with something special that I shouldn't squander.  It's not even something I desperately need at the moment, that I'm aware of, although it could be God's way of providing a future need.  It was just one more way of God reminding me that He IS real and He cares about every detail of our lives, enough to put me on the heart and mind of someone else.  I LOVE being part of surprises for other people, and this afternoon I've just been wondering what kind of joy God must get out of surprising His kids with gifts for no foreseen reason at all!  

I pray that over the next weeks and months, as I continue to earnestly seek God's guidance, that I won't miss His gifts. That I won't get so caught up in looking for "an answer" that I miss what He's saying to me about other things, or the way he's meeting my needs every day. That I won't forget that He knows every detail of my life, and He promises to direct me in the way I should go. I pray for Him to guide my footsteps, and that in whatever way He takes me next, it will be for the glory of His name.  

"Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name 
lead and guide me."  Psalm 31:3

(To the one who gave my gift today, I pray for a generous heart like yours!  Know that God is already using it to teach me more about His love and goodness, more than you will ever know!)

29 March 2015


For the past few months, there's been a song that I just can't get enough of--Multiplied by Needtobreathe.  I listen to it on repeat at home, I listen to it on repeat in the car, and I find myself humming the first few lines on a fairly regular basis.  As I was thinking about this today, I wondered what it was about this song that just won't quit, and I realized that as much as I love the music of the song, I've never taken time to truly reflect on the lyrics.  So this evening I've taken some time to do that.

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

The first thing that resonates with me is the sense of hope contained in the first few lines.  I'm not sure that's even the best way to describe it, but I think what gets me is the reminder that the sheer depth and breadth of God's love has nothing to do with who we are, but everything to do with who He is.  His love IS radiant, we CAN'T contain it, and it DOES seek us out.  There is great hope in that--and great relief--that our mistakes don't change God's character or His heart.  Despite our sin and ability to "cloud the lens" sometimes, the radiance of His love remains brilliant. 

I also love the idea of the last line of the chorus, as it sums up the essence of the song.  Co-songwriter Bo Rinehart said this:  

“The first line from my favorite hymn sings these words: ‘The Love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.’ If we spent the rest of our life singing Hallelujahs, it still wouldn't amount to what God truly deserves,” says Bo. “I need God, even in worship, to help make what little I have to offer worthy of him. This song is a prayer. ‘May this offering stretch across the skies and these Hallelujahs be multiplied.’ Also, God cannot be contained. He has no limits. Then, couldn't God use us to spark his exponential ripple effect into motion that could change the entire world? ‘May these Hallelujahs be multiplied!’”
from http://www.wordlabelgroup.com/needtobreathe

I love the idea of our Hallelujahs being multiplied, because he's right!  No amount of time would be enough for us to give God the praise He deserves, and we can simply pray that as our words feebly attempt to convey what our minds and hearts know, our praise will be multiplied and used for His glory here on earth.  

Over lunch today, three of us were talking about the new heaven and new earth God will create someday.  We discussed ways we've always pictured it and compared those to things we know from Scripture.  I think our conclusion was that we just can't even imagine what is in store for those who know Him!  We wondered about ways in which will be able to worship, and about how as we store up treasures in heaven and add "jewels to our crowns" so to speak, during our lives here on earth, that it will be something so different from how we might perceive those ideas on earth.  Our stored treasures, our jewels, our hallelujahs, will simply be greater gifts we can offer to the King in worship--and oh how we pray he will multiply those as well!

As we've entered this week between Palm Sunday and Easter, it's one more reminder of God's great love for us.  My prayer is that as I contemplate that, and what His death and resurrection truly mean for me, for ALL of us, that I will approach God with a thankful heart.  That I'll sing His Hallelujahs, and that they'll be multiplied to be evidence of His radiant love, mercy, and saving grace.

20 November 2014

Rosslyn Academy Christmas Project 2014

One of the many things I love about Rosslyn is the way our community comes together at this time of year to fund raise a LOT of money that we simply give away!  We do this through our annual Christmas Project, which is now in its twelfth year.  I've had the privilege of being part of the CP Committee for the fourth year in a row, getting to help select the organizations, visit their sites, and advocate for them to Rosslyn!  I'm excited about this year's project once again!

Today we launched our 2014 Christmas Project with an all-school chapel where we gave a re-cap of last year's project, introduced this year's project, and even provided a bit of inspiration from some former Rosslyn staff members who are now in various places around the world.

If you're interested to know more about our project, and how you can give, take a look at these videos!  There is also more specific information on Rosslyn's website, available by clicking here.  The organizations have all gone through a vetting process, and members of our committee and/or Rosslyn community have visited the sites, so you can be confident that your money will go directly to these organizations for the intended purpose!

For those residing outside Kenya, gifts may be made out to Rosslyn Academy and mailed to Rosslyn Christmas Project, c/o Mr. Dan King, 1785 Pleasant Stream Road, Trout Run, Pennsylvania, 17771, USA. Mr. King will issue receipts.

Update on Last Year's Project

Introducing our 2014 Christmas Project!

Some inspiration from friends of Rosslyn!

18 May 2014

Wrappin' it Up...Round 3?!

How is it even possible that I have now lived here in Kenya for almost three years?!  It's pretty hard to believe, and the time has flown.  When I first interviewed for my position here at Rosslyn, I was a bit caught off-guard when I was told that the initial commitment was for three years.  I was thinking two, and for whatever reason, three years sounded SO much longer than two!  But here I am, finished with my first contract, and I'm so thankful they asked us to commit to three years, because it's just long enough to make this place begin to feel like home.  I'm also happy to say that I've signed on for another contract--two years this time--so after a summer away, I'll be back in August for my tenth year of teaching! (Another stat that's hard to believe!)

I realized a few weeks ago that it has been a YEAR since I've written in this blog! I figured that as this school year winds down I'd take a chance to recap some highlights from my third year in Kenya and what God's been teaching me lately.  This post, Part 1, will be the highlight reel.  So here we go...

I began my third year of teaching 5th grade here at Rosslyn back in August with twenty-four students.  I forget the exact number now, but I think that collectively they've lived in eighteen countries, or something like that.  I love the diversity of our student body!  For those of you still wondering just what it looks like to teach at an international school in Kenya, check out this new promo video that was just released in the last few days!  It beautifully captures what it's really like to work here (if you watch carefully, you'll see a familiar face)!  One of the highlights of my time with this class this year has been seeing them develop a passion for social justice issues around the world--modern-day slavery and human trafficking, imprisonment due to false accusations, child abuse, etc.--as we've talked about God's heart for the poor and oppressed.

My kids are In It to End It!

We've been blessed to have representatives from International Justice Mission (IJM) speak to our class.  For nearly six months the students prayed for two men in prison here in Nairobi, falsely accused of robbery with violence and facing a life sentence.  Their trials and judgment days kept getting delayed, and even the IJM attorneys and staff members were nervous about the outcome.  However, during our spring break week, we received word that both men had been acquitted and were released!  I wish you could have seen my class's reaction!  They literally started singing and dancing in celebration for Anthony and Silas.  (You can read their full story here--my class even got a shout-out in it!) Our involvement with IJM (for this year) culminated with my kids taking on a service project to help plan a celebration event for nearly thirty children from here in Kenya who have been victims of (often violent) sexual abuse. The children have completed a counseling program, and to reward them for their commitment to the program, IJM had a "graduation" ceremony for them.  My kids planned the crafts, prepared the materials, wrote instructions for games, made personal cards, and then earned the money to donate to purchase supplies.  We were happy to hear that the children had a wonderful time, and I'm so proud of my kids for caring about people they will most likely never meet, and from whom they will receive nothing in return.  I'm excited to see how God uses them in the future!

My class of crazies.  :)

As many of you know, September brought the Westgate Mall tragedy to Nairobi.  While we heard countless stories of the ways in which God protected so many members of our school community and friends, we were not left without some scars.  Several students and staff members were in the mall at the time of the attack.  One student was pretty seriously injured, and he and another student each lost a parent.  Many students knew others who were inside or injured or killed, and so that was a very heavy thing to help young children process (while we were still processing it ourselves).  I remember one of my students expressed his fear that the same thing would happen to his parents and being afraid to be separated from them.

Westgate Mall Attack

One of the beautiful things that came of this was our campus' See You at the Pole event--a time when students around the world gather at their school's flagpole(s) to pray.  This year's event came just after Westgate, and it was incredible to see how students and parents from many beliefs, denominations, and religions united at our flagpoles to pray for healing and protection for this country.  Today the Westgate Mall sits empty, broken windows still open, bullet holes showing on the outside.  It just looms on its street as a reminder of what happened there.  It's pretty surreal, even now, to think of what happened to somewhere I visited several times a month.  Recently there have been some smaller attacks around Nairobi, the last happening just Friday.  Sometimes it's hard to find the line between being cautious and living in fear, but we know that the battle is not between flesh and blood, that it's something much deeper, much greater than our eyes and minds can perceive.  So we pray for God's protection, for His peace to come come to Kenya, and that ultimately people will come to know Him because of it all.

Rosslyn "See You at the Pole," September 25

This school year also provided some new and sometimes-challenging opportunities for me.  Each year each of our schools (elementary, middle, and high) host a Spiritual Emphasis Week (SEW) when class schedules are different and there are daily chapel and small group times.  In previous years the school has brought in a guest speaker for the week, but this year the event leaders decided to use "in-house" speakers for the middle and high school SEWs.  I was asked to speak for one of the five high school chapels about friendship with God, and that definitely took me outside of my comfort zone!  I've spoken to large groups a handful of times, but only for a couple of minutes at most.  They wanted me to speak for 20-30 minutes to this group of "scary" high-schoolers AND their teachers (my friends and colleagues)!  I can talk to 10- and 11-year-olds all day, but these high school kids are a whole new ballgame for me!  (Let me just say, if you'd meet some of our high-schoolers, you'd be scared too, because they're pretty amazing, intelligent, and talented people!)  Two nights before I was to speak, I was panicking a little bit (ok, a lot) because it just wasn't coming together.  Thankfully God used a couple people at that time to calm me down and remind me why I was saying anything in the first place--that He and His work in my life was the focus, not me.  Anyway, with their encouragement and God's help, I did it, I survived, and I'm glad I accepted the chance to grow through that process.  I pray that God spoke through me to draw these kids closer to Him.

Another new, big thing for me this year was chairing our school's Christmas Project Committee for the first time.  Each year from Thanksgiving week until we let out for Christmas break, our Rosslyn community engages in a school-wide fundraiser to give money to selected local organizations.  This year our committee selected three amazing organizations to support: Initiative for Learning Disabilities Kenya, Jacaranda Kids, and Future Hope and Baby Centre.  Over the course of four weeks, our school raised approximately $17,000 for ILDK and Future Hope and donated $3,500 worth of brand-new shoes for Jacaranda Kids!  It's an incredible experience to see everyone come together and be so generous for something where all the money is given away.  With the funds we raised, ILDK was able to complete construction on and outfit a special needs unit at a local school--something that is desperately needed here in Kenya.  Future Hope was able to pay moving expenses for moving their orphanage to its new property, fence the property, build a kitchen, and build a boys' dormitory.  Chairing this project was a LOT of work over a 3-month time period, but I had an incredible team, and God was clearly in the whole thing.  Having many of the children from the organizations here for our Christmas Project chapel when we presented the organizations with their funds was such a special experience!

 (Did I mention how many times I had to speak to audiences of hundreds of people during this project?!  Eeek!)

Children from Future Hope and Baby Centre singing for us at
our Christmas Project Celebration Chapel.  Precious!

There are a few other highlights from this year.  One of those was getting to lead music at my church here once a month with some of my closest friends.  That was one of the last pieces of my "old life" that I was missing here in Kenya, so I've been so thankful to have that opportunity.  Thanks to Audrey for including me!  Another fun thing was getting to be a small group leader for a Discipleship Now weekend hosted by BlueSky Youth.  This was the first event like it here, and 80 students from 6th-12th grade were involved in activities at BlueSky, Rosslyn, and host homes from Friday night through Sunday morning.  I got to lead the sophomore girls' group, and I enjoyed getting to know them (more scary high-schoolers!).  I hadn't been directly involved in student ministry since I'd been here, so it was fun to be able to participate in that weekend.  I also had the opportunity to be a co-presenter for a workshop at ACSI's International Christian Educator Conference Africa that was held in Kijabe in April. While I've led workshops in Kentucky and Kenya within my own school or district, this was the first time to teach educators from around the continent!  We had fun and received positive feedback, and I was thankful for that opportunity for my own professional development.

BlueSky D-Now Weekend at Rosslyn

While sadly I haven't done much (ok, any) travelling outside of Kenya this year (yet!), I've had the chance to visit a couple of beautiful places within Kenya, and I've been able to make two visits to Makutano, the village that inspired me to move to Kenya in the first place.

 I've had two long-weekend stays at L'ol Dacha, a beautiful getaway in the Ngong Hills.

View from the main building at L'ol Dacha in December

Sunset over L'ol Dacha in February

I made another trip to Crescent Island in December.

Crescent Island animals

Visited Makutano in January and March.

Audrey drew quite the crowd when she joined in their game!

Love these smiling faces!

And spent Easter weekend camping at Tiwi Beach along the south coast.

"Home" for Easter weekend

My three amigos, Easter Monday morning

Well, that wasn't in a nutshell, but I think that covers some of the most memorable parts of my third year here.

01 June 2013

Wrappin' It Up...Round 2

Here at Rosslyn we've just finished another school year.  I can scarcely believe I've already been here for two years and that I'm completing my eighth year in the classroom!  I'll be heading back to the States for a visit before too long, but before I leave, I wanted to take time to reflect on this year.  This is the post I sat down to write two weeks ago, before I got distracted by my thoughts on identity, when I ended up posting about that instead!  We'll see if I can get a little further this time...

As I think about how things have been different this year, I can't help but focus on God's faithfulness.  When I got here at the end of July last year, there were four things I was praying would be different for my second year.  I have to tell you that God answered every one of my prayers beyond what I could have hoped.  While these things have been obvious to me all year, I've felt that it's important to put these things into words here at the close of the school year as evidence of His faithfulness so I won't forget!

1.  I prayed to find a church where I could get involved and feel like I was a part of it, and be challenged spiritually in the meantime, because that was such an important part of my life before I came here.  I began attending ICF, the church that meets here on our campus.  For several reasons that aren't really important, I had been a bit skeptical about attending there, but I have to say it has become my church home away from home.

2.  I prayed that God would give me deeper relationships this year.  The first year after a big transition is hard, and I tend to forget how long it really can take to develop genuine friendships.  While I truly felt blessed by my friends here last year, I think we all (myself included) quite often kept things very surface-y and we didn't open up and trust each other as much as sincere friendships require.  After another year of doing life with people, I can honestly say I don't feel that way at all this year.  One big factor in that was my small group of girls.  I love how God arranged this group.  There were six of us, from four countries (U.S., Canada, Australia, and Kenya) on three continents, and only two of us were even here last year!    We met on Thursday nights throughout the year, first studying a book, and then reading through the book of Isaiah.  Each week we spent at least the first hour just catching up on each others' lives, laughing a lot of the time.  We also dedicated part of the time each week to pray for each other.  Having the accountability and support from them this year just made such a difference to me!

My small group girls.

These next two might sound a bit odd, but trust me.  I love our Rosslyn community, and these are in no way a reflection on it.  They just demonstrate my desire to challenge myself to get outside the bubble to experience more of life in Nairobi.  

3.  I prayed I would meet people/make friends who weren't a part of the Rosslyn community.  There are SO many people here from around the world, and many of them are doing amazing things to serve God and people.  It can be very easy to stick around our campus and forget about how God is working in other places.  This is a request I'll continue to pray, but I love how God began to answer this year.  I met two other girls from Kentucky last fall, and while we didn't get to spend a lot of time together, it was fun running into them occasionally and just knowing they were here!  Two people who have become some of my closest friends aren't directly connected to Rosslyn either, although the story of how they almost were is pretty cool--especially since we met them anyway!  I think we were all just destined to be friends.  :)  Spending time with them and learning about their ministry project has been great.  There are others I've been able to meet and get to know this year as well, and I pray that God will continue to open doors in this area next school year.

4.  I prayed that I would be able to become more involved in non-Rosslyn activities and ministries.  This is also something I want to pursue more next year, but I'm satisfied with how this year went.  I've been able to make several visits to the Vapor Sports Center in the Kawangware slum.  If you don't know about Vapor, you need to!  (www.vaporsports.com)  Getting to know the director at the center and spend time with some of the kids out there has been special, even if has only been 4 or 5 times throughout the year.  Over spring break I got to visit the ministry site of Kawelle (www.kawelle.org) in Vumilia, one of the IDP camps that was created after the election violence of 2007.  (Kawelle was started by the friends I mentioned in #3!)  It's pretty incredible how God has arranged the circumstances for this project, and He's also put some amazing people in place to help it grow.  While I was only able to make one trip up to Makutano this year (sad!), it was still encouraging to see how God continues to bless Village Project Africa.  Seriously.  Too many stories to tell about perfectly-orchestrated circumstances, finances, human resources, etc.  We met an incredible boy named Brian while we were there, and it's just so exciting to be a part of what God's doing.  In non-ministry-related things, I was able to once again sing with the Nairobi Music Society during first semester, performing Handel's Messiah in October and a Christmas concert in December.  More recently I was invited to play with the Nairobi Orchestra for a spring concert accompanying the Nairobi Music Society in their performance of Jenkins' The Armed Man and Brahms' Requiem.  I hadn't played flute in an organized group for sixteen years, so that was both fun and challenging!

Besides these four major requests, there were other smaller things I'd hoped for, and I could tell you all kinds of ways God answered those prayers too.  I've had multiple chances to grow personally and professionally, for which I'm also thankful, and it appears that God is already opening doors for more of those things for next year.  I've also had some amazing travel experiences--going to Passion and rafting the Nile in Uganda, an educators' conference in South Africa, a trip to the coast in December, and two trips to major parks I wanted to visit here, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli.

I am constantly affirmed that this is where I'm supposed to be right now, and I am so thankful for the support of my family and friends who trust God enough to be ok with me being here, even if they don't like it so much.  I'm thankful for this school community that is so supportive and encouraging.  Most of all I'm thankful that I can look back and see the hand of my Heavenly Father at work throughout the last year, both in my life and the lives of those around me, and in the gifts He's given, both big and small.  Great is His faithfulness.

19 May 2013

Just Who Do You Think You Are?: Thoughts on Finding Identity in Christ

Identity in Christ.   A  lot of us hear this phrase batted around, but how often do we take time to think about what it really means, or if we're applying it to our lives?  This is something that God has been bringing to my mind over and over again in the last month or two, through different circumstances and conversations.  The whole topic of finding identity in Christ is something that I've become passionate about, especially for girls, as I've grown in that area myself and as I've observed how much it affects our lives.  Let me see if I can put my thoughts and what I've learned into words...

Identity in Christ was something I'd grown up hearing about, and as a college student and young adult I would have told you that I had my identity in Christ.  However, looking back, I think I knew much more about God's identity than MY identity IN Him (and if I had truly known Him, those two would have gone hand-in-hand).  It wasn't until my late 20s that this became something I HAD to work through and truly begin to discover for myself.  It didn't happen overnight, and in fact, I truly believe this is a lifelong process--one of those "good works" that has been started in me and will be carried out until the day when I am made complete in Him (Philippians 1:6).  But I do think that I have come a long way, and I have to say, life is so much better on this side of the issue!

About a month ago, a friend gave me the chance to teach one of his high school Christianity and Culture classes here at Rosslyn.  We batted around a few ideas, but this topic came to mind one night and stuck.  To open the class, I asked the students to write a bit about who/what they felt the world expected them to be--how they felt defined by family, religion, culture, media, friends, etc.  Some one-word responses of theirs were nice, smart, successful, irresponsible,  and beautiful.   It wasn't hard for them to quickly generate a list of what they thought they were SUPPOSED to be.  I then asked them to write a bit about how well they felt they measured up to those expectations.  I didn't read their responses, but it was pretty easy to see simply from their physical reactions to the question and the way they were writing that for most of them, they felt pretty inadequate.  We could all generate our own list of what we feel we're expected to be, and I'd be willing to bet that most of us probably think we don't measure up.

At all stages of life, we have questions and doubts tied to who we are (or think we are): Why am I here?  Why can't I be more like....? I'm a bad student.   I'm a bad parent.  I'm not smart enough.  Who will love me?  Why have these bad things happened to me?  I don't fit in.  Why me?  Why NOT me?  I can never be forgiven for that.  I'll never be good enough.  Who am I?   The list could go on and on.

So many times we try to find our identity--and the answers to these questions--in other things:  possessions, careers, relationships, status, family roles, appearance, activities, adventure, successes, failtures--we even define ourselves by the LACK of these things.   While it is very true that our personalities, relationships, roles, and life experiences play a large part in how we perceive ourselves and interpret and interact with the world, more important than any of these is the reality of who God has created us to be and who He says we are, because even when our circumstances change, the truth of who we are in Him never will.

Consider the life of Moses in these words by Rick Warren:
"In Egypt the baby Jewish boys were condemned to die, so [Moses'] mother put him in a little boat in the Nile River. It happened that the daughter of Pharaoh was taking a bath, and she took this little boy back into the palace to raise him as her own son.

Moses had an identity crisis. He was born Jewish, but he was raised Egyptian. He had to ask himself at some point in his life, 'Who am I?' This was quite an important choice because it would determine the rest of his life. He was in line to be Pharaoh. If he said, 'I'm an Egyptian' and faked his heritage, he would live a life of ease. He would have an outstanding career. He would have fame and fortune.
If he said what he really was — Jewish — he would be humiliated, kicked out of the palace, and sent to live with a bunch of slaves for the rest of his life.  Yet Moses saw his people being badly mistreated as slaves, and he could not be silent...So he made a decision that cost him the next 80 years of his life.

Hebrews 11:24 says, 'By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter' (NIV). The word 'refused' in the Greek literally means to reject, deny, to totally disown. Moses cut himself off from a promising career as an Egyptian, and he refused to live a lie. Instead, he wanted to do what God had made him to do."

After reading this, I began to study the life of Moses a little more.  In Exodus 3, Moses had his encounter with God at the burning bush.  God had given Moses instructions to go to Pharaoh to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  In Exodus 3:3, Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"  God's response?  "I will be with you." Um, God?  You didn't answer his question!  Moses, trying to rephrase his question, said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?'  Then what shall I tell them?"  God's response?  "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Moses began with a question about who he was.  God answered by declaring who HE was.   I think that is the first thing we have to get straight when searching for our identity.  Who is God?  When we know that, THEN and only then can we begin to understand who He has created us to be--which makes sense since we're created in the image of God.  If we don't know the original, we have nothing by which to process the image. 

After we develop a healthy understanding of Who God is, we can begin to understand what He says about who He's created us to be.  For starters, here are some things God says about YOU.  As a child of God, you are:
  • chosen, God's special possession (1 Peter 2:9)
  • a new creation, reconciled, Christ's ambassadors, the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17--21)
  • fearfully and wonderfully made, seen by God (Psalm 139:13--16)
  • a dear child, forgiven (1 John 2:12)
  • alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13)
  • redeemed (1 Peter 1:18--19)
  • not fearful, but powerful (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • have freedom and have been given confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
  • created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)
  • God's handiwork, created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • chosen to be holy and blameless, adopted (Ephesians 1:4--5)
  • precious and honored (Isaiah 43:4)
  • known by God (Psalm 139:1--4)
  • beautiful (Psalm 45:11)
  • LOVED. (John 3:16)
I asked the students to compare the first list they wrote--the things they thought they were expected to be--to this list.  I asked them what they noticed about the differences between the two.  One girl finally spoke up and said that in the first list, the words denoted things that WE had to do or become to earn a reputation, but in the list of words of who God says we are, those are things He has done for us. A pretty profound observation.  The reality of who you are has nothing to do with you. It's not about how you grew up, where you're from, what you look like, how well you perform, how much stuff you have, how unloved you feel, or how much you've screwed up.  It's about God, what He has done for you, and who He says you are.

So what does this mean for our lives?  We have to stop looking to people and things to fulfill us.  NO ONE can ever do this for you--it's only God.  When you look to people, and activities, and success, and stuff to help you find your identity, you will be sorely disappointed--and probably miserable--because people will let you down.  Activities will end.  Successes will be forgotten.  Stuff will break.  What DO we do?  Look to God.  Spend time with Him.  Find out more about who He says you are.  Ask Him to TELL you who you are!  Spend time with others who are finding their identity in Him because they'll help point you in the right direction.  Separate yourself from influences that detract from or are in conflict with who God has created you to be.  Find your strength, your confidence, your contentment, your peace in Him.  Doing so will not only make your life more fulfilling, but you'll be bringing glory to God in the meantime, displaying his artistry and workmanship as His creation.

For some final thoughts on this, check out this video:

Side note:  One of my favorite things about God is the idea of being redeemed--purchased, bought back--from what once mastered us.  While typing the list above, I was reminded of this song by Big Daddy Weave.  If you don't know it, and believe it, you should.