Sunday, September 30, 2012

To Cute Not to Share

I don't know about you, but I love hearing proposal stories! While some can be over the top, I also think others can be a beautiful demonstration of creativity.

Which is why I had to share with you this video of how Brad proposed to Emily - so creative and clearly straight from the heart. Be sure to watch until the end, because even if you don't know them, how everything ends is especially beautiful!

Brad was a friend in undergrad and we traveled to Africa together back in 2009.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Statement of Faith

This week is incredibly busy - so in place of a To Be a Woman installment I'm substituting a statement of faith that I recently had to write for a job application. 

“In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm”

There is no worship song or hymn that describes more deeply my passion for Christ and faith in the Lord than “In Christ Alone.” Though my spiritual journey has neither been easy nor flawless, it has been blessed. My Christian faith defines me. It molds every aspect of my life and is my sole purpose for living.
“And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ”

            I am incredibly thankful to have been born to parents who loved the Lord and sought to raise their children in an environment that stressed the importance of faith and God’s grace. Initially members of the Christian Reformed Church, my family joined a local Evangelical Covenant Church, during my early elementary years. Along with active church participation, my parents’ believed strongly in faith-based education and I consequently had the opportunity to attend private Christian schools for the duration of my primary and secondary academic careers. Surrounded by biblical teaching and guidance, I officially accepted Christ as my personal Savior when I was eight. I could not have asked for more loving parents and firmly believe that their faith and spiritual guidance was a defining factor in the development of my own relationship with Christ.

            Shortly before beginning high school, however, I began a long, arduous journey with severe spinal problems. The pain resulted in physical and mental exhaustion and I quickly found myself questioning God’s presence and provision at a time where it felt as though my young body was failing me. Around that same time God brought an incredible woman into my life. Melissa became my mentor and challenged and encouraged me to dig deeper into my faith rather than allowing questions and pity to separate myself from the love of the King.

At 17 I graduated from high school and moved across the state to attend a small Christian liberal arts school – Calvin College. I chose to attend Calvin because I wanted to continue my academic studies from a Christian worldview perspective. Additionally, attending Calvin allowed me to continue to take the religion and theology classes I enjoyed in high school while pursing a major in psychology and minor in communications. My years at Calvin were pivotal in the development of my faith. It was at college that I learned to truly make my faith my own. I not only learned to set values and boundaries for myself based off my convictions, but also how to remain steadfast to those beliefs when peer pressure and life temptations came knocking. Furthermore, I realized that spiritual growth was only going to happen if I made it a priority and strived to let my faith be the driving force behind everything I did (Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.”). Finally, my time at Calvin provided me with the opportunities to study abroad in Kenya and co-chair an Embrace AIDS taskforce that raised funds and awareness for those suffering from AIDS worldwide.  Both experiences not only introduced me to others who strived to love and praise the Lord in seemingly hopeless situations, but also drew me into a world I previously knew nothing about – international human rights.

In August 2010 I walked through the doors of Wayne State University Law School with the passion and determination of a na├»ve first year law student. I was confident that I would be a successful, powerful attorney who advocated for international human rights. Yet I quickly came to realize that God often has bigger and better plans than we can imagine for ourselves. The last two and a half years have been some of the most rigorous of my life. I have been academically, mentally, physically, and spiritually stretched beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I learned what it means to truly trust in God and lean on him when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. More importantly, I found that while my dreams were to work with missions on an international level, in the present God was calling me to learn about justice in my own backyard – inner city Detroit.

Currently I feel solid in my faith, although I realize there are always opportunities to grow and lessons to learn. To this day I continue to meet with my spiritual mentor Melissa on a regular basis. A decade older than me, she has become even more of an accountability partner as I have matured in my faith. Since returning to the metro-Detroit area for law school, I have also returned to my childhood church, where I have been active in the youth and women’s ministry programs, worship team, and co-founded and lead a post-college and career group. Recently I have felt the desire to dig deeper in my scriptural studies in a more formal setting and have since joined a local Bible Study Fellowship group studying Genesis. Additionally, since January I have been following a devotional schedule that calls for reading from the Old Testament at breakfast, Psalm/Proverb at lunch, and New Testament around dinner. This study has been an incredible blessing in keeping me focused on remaining in the Word throughout the day, rather than just during a specific devotional time.

Proverbs 31:8-9 has become my life verse – “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” A friend had the verse framed for me at the beginning of my law school career and it has hung above my desk ever since. It reminds me of the advocate work I have feel called to and the responsibility I have to further Christ’s kingdom.

“No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man
can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dress to Impress?

I overheard/was part of an interesting conversation today...

I walked up to a table at school and bent over to sign my name on a sheet. I had to fill out a few things and so I was bent over for a couple of moments. While I was straightening up this conversation occurred between the man and woman who were manning (and subsequently sitting on the otherside) the table:

(For the record I was wearing this dress with a trenchcoat over it).

Guy: I'm glad that group of girls with the low cut shirts just left - I was like woah! Super awkward.

Girl: What does it matter to you? Just look away.

Guy: I know, I try, but seriously - (acknowledging me now) I'm married and take my toddler to this tots class at the library and the moms are bending over to pick up their kids in these shirts that let everything hang out. I'm like, seriously - you are with a bunch of kids! Who are you trying to impress?

Me nodding in agreement

Girl: So are you saying that girls are supposed to take "responsibility" (very sarcastic) for your thoughts and actions and curb how we dress? If it bothers you, look away.

It was interesting. The girl was obviously very offended by the guy's thoughts on the matter (or even brining it up as an issue in the first place). When I commented that I thought it was a woman's responsibility to be conscious and respectful in how we dress she gave me looked that clearly indicated she disagreed.

Personally, I was impressed the guy mentioned it at all - and I thought that was neat. Other than my dad and brothers, I don't often hear male opinions about modest clothing...especially in a non-religious setting. I think there is a lot more to dressing modestly than just the argument that "girls need to dress modestly because guys are more physical and we should not be a stumbling block", but clearly, as demonstrated in this conversation, there is some truth behind such an argument.  Plus it's not just guys - as a woman I don't have any desire to have a full-on view of another woman's cleavage or backside.

When I think about my personal views about modesty I think about respect.

-RESPECT for my future husband by guarding my body for his eyes only

-RESPECT for those around me by not dressing in a manner that is distracting or offensive

-RESPECT for God by honoring the body he gave me

-RESPECT for myself - I think it is pretty safe ot say that we live in a judgemental world where people are frequent to stereotype other individuals and make presumptions based on first impressions. How you dress and conduct yourself makes up a big part of those impressions. I want people to respect me - so I dress in a way (or at least I hope) that is worthy of respect.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Women's Retreat 2012

There is something about being by water that I find to be incredibly calming.

This weekend I headed up north to our church denomination's Mid-West camp for a women's retreat - which is located right along Lake Michigan (one of my top 5 favorite places ever).

It was an interesting experience. Each fall one of the churches that attends the retreat "hosts" it. Last year my church hosted the retreat and the planning committee was lead by one of the younger women in our church. The result was a very vibrant weekend that was both challenging and spiritually renewing. I have no bias as far as which church actually does the planning, but many of the complaints in prior years have been that the retreat catered towards older women....and that was def my experience this year. 

I did however, immensely enjoy the fellowship and location and spent a lot of time talking with others on the lakefront or going for walks (in between the numerous craft sessions....although I did learn how to make some pretty cool coasters out of bathroom tiles!). On top of everything there were 2 individuals I haven't seen in several weeks that attended the retreat - our last parting had been very difficult, but I can honestly say that having the chance to clear things with them and share tears and hugs was worth the entire trip. God works in such incredible ways.

Friday night after the opening session they had boxes and boxes of scrapbooking materials in the dining hall for women to gather together and decorate journals with. 

11 p.m. + dessert + scrapbooking + a bunch of women who clearly don't have enough opportunities to release their creative outlets = slight mayhem :)

If you look really closely at my friend Jenna's left hand you might notice an EXTRA special piece of jewelry there - my childhood friend Jason proposed to Jen a week ago....way to go Jason! You picked a great girl. We had a LOT of fun making wedding plans during the 10 hours we spend in a car.

My creeper in the background is my friend Becca. She worked at camp this summer and was back volunteering for the weekend. Becca was in my small group for 2 years when I worked with the high school youth. She has had a couple of difficult years and it was incredible to see how this summer and surrounding herself with a close group of encouraging Christian friends has transformed her.

Jenna and I in chapel - I promise....there were other people there that I hung out with! Jen is however a braider extraordinaire. I wish she could just drop by every morning and fix my hair for me! It sure would save alot of time :)

And a slightly blurry/squinting in the sun pic of all the women from my church who attended!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Little Bit of Family

I love Labor Day weekend. I think it has something to do with the fact that I always started school the week before Labor Day – so a 3-day weekend seemed like a blessing to help ease back into the school year.

Normally Labor Day is pretty-low key for my family – some BBQ, a last trip to the beach, etc. But this year our weekend could pretty much be summed up with one word – “baseball”

Friday night my brothers and I took my dad downtown for a birthday Tiger’s game. We gave the gift to him back in April, but were waiting for a good game later on in the season when it was closer to the playoffs. We ended up catching a “pivotal” game (at least according to my brothers) - apparently it has something to do with determining the Division champ and going on to the playoffs) with the White Sox vs. the Tigers.

Before the game we grabbed dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant downtown. One of the things I love about Detroit are all of it’s hidden surprises. A lot of times people underestimate the city, but there are some real gems – including some great restaurants. My brother was the only one who had been to the grill before, but we all agreed that the rest of us would make a repeat visit soon. Hands down this place served the best Schwarmas that I’ve ever had. The game was great, but what I loved the most was being with 3 of my favorite men.

Saturday morning (and in between baseball events) my dad, sister-in-law, and I drove to the west side of the state to run a 5k for a fundraising even for the adoption agency my sister-in-law works for and that processed my niece’s adoption. I know that a 5k isn’t much, but this was the first official race I have ever run in (meaning the first time I pinned on a number with those magnetic strips on the side that calculates your time). Plus, I am not a runner. No really, that’s not an exaggeration. I hadn’t exactly trained for this race so I wasn’t so sure about how things were going to go, but I actually was able to run the whole time and finished ahead of my dad and Heidi.

After driving back from the race, my dad dropped me off only to pick up my Grandpa to drive 4.5 hours away to watch my cousin pitch in his first AAA minor league baseball game! Gerrit has quickly moved to the top minor league level in under a year and his most recent move happened this past Tuesday. So while my dad and Grandpa joined my aunt and uncle at the stadium my mom, Grandma, and I watched the game from home (where I realized what an intense fan my Grandma has become!).

The rest of the weekend was understandably filled with baseball talk....but we did manage to fit in a birthday BBQ and parade/art festival on Monday. However, I think I have officially decided that "parade" is simply to meek of a word to describe the 20 minutes I spent dodging candy bullets and collecting political stickers. Seriously, if you haven't been to a parade in awhile I'm warning you. Jolly Ranchers propelled at high speeds can be dangerous - and if the candy doesn't get you the mass of children swarming to get said candy that just happened to fall right in front of you certainly will!