Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"Is This It?" by Rachel Jones // Book Review

 "Is this it?" Rachel Jones asks in her new book with the same title. 

 It is the same question my heart has been asking for what feels like a long time.

 Is this it? 

 Did I really get my Bachelor of Arts to work in a chocolate factory?

 Does the fact I am 25 and living at home make me a failure as much as I feel it does?

 Will I be "the single friend" who watched every friend of hers get asked out, get engaged, get married, and have children while I remain where I am? Single and alone and childless? 

 Is this it? This feeling that I should always be somewhere I am not, that I am failing at adulting?

 Will I ever make enough money to truly be independent?

 Will I always work forty hours per week at a job I'm not passionate about?

 "I'm looking for a book to get you for your birthday," my mom said. "How about this one?"

 I read the description of the book, saw the avocado on the front.

 "It doesn't seem like all of it would apply to you, though."

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 "No," I said. "I want this book." (Not because of the avocado). 

 I needed this book. 

 Especially since graduating from college, those thoughts have been circling. And I don't think I'm alone.

 I was suddenly a college graduate. Opportunities I was told would come my way don't. But still, there are so many different jobs I could apply for, different states I could live in, different places I could go, different things I could be. 

 There are too many choices that I don't want. Not enough of the options I do want. 

 So I begin adult life like a baby bird simply dropping out of the nest. I don't hit the ground. At least not every time. But I'm not really flying either. And I think so many of us in our twenties are feeling this way.

 I wish this book had existed earlier. Because what Rachel Jones does in her book is take all of those circling emotions and anxieties and addresses them in two ways. First, she applies the gospel to them. Shows us how Jesus is more important. What the gospel says to each situation and feeling. She speaks truth into our lives. Then she takes that truth and breaks it down into simple and practical application.

 To that feeling of rootlessness, of not having our own place, Rachel writes: "The priority now is to 'go and proclaim the kingdom of God' (Luke 9 v 60). This is wonderfully liberating. It means that it doesn't matter if you haven't bought a house. It doesn't matter if you never buy a house. You haven't failed at life. Being a citizen of the kingdom of God- and telling others about its King and showing others the love of its King- is what matters. And flexible, no-strings-attached lifestyle brings certain advantages to that end" (52).

 To singleness she says, "Being single now is like missing the three-minute trailer for an epic film that you're going to end up seeing the whole three hours of anyway" (138). For marriage only points us to our relationship with Christ, a relationship we do have that is eternally secure. 

 To being paralyzed by decisions to be made: "Life in Christ frees us to take risks. The Christian answer to the question 'What if I do this thing and then it doesn't work out or I don't like it?' is, 'Well, if you do, and then it doesn't or you don't, you'll still be alive with Christ.'"

 There have been critiques on this book. Ultimately it is praised for its gospel centered focus, but older Christians have said Rachel Jones only relies on her own experiences for the contents of the books and that she is dramatizing what is now called the "Quarter Life Crises".  To which my response is 1) Rachel Jones never claims her book is not based on experience. What else would it be based on? And every experience she shares and wisdom she imparts is backed up by and focused on scripture.  2) If we can't have a Quarter Life Crises then they can't have a Mid- Life Crises. Seriously. All snarkiness aside. Both stages of life are hard transitions. Both require Jesus. And sometimes, more than sometimes, a little bit of appropriate drama is okay and necessary. 

 I needed this book. And if you are twenty something or in your early thirties, you might need this book, too. If you feel lost and hopeless and like you are loosing in the adulting world (or know people who are feeling this way), please read this book.

 "And being a Christian ought to turn our expectations of adulting on their head. If we're following Christ, life's big adventure is not climbing the career ladder or meeting milestones- it's about becoming 'mature and complete' in our faith. So the measure of whether we're adulting right is not whether we've got our own place with a pet, but whether our character looks like Christ's. That's what 'maturity' means- becoming like Jesus, the most courageous, compassionate, convictional, kind grown-up of all time. How do we grow in that maturuty? Through trials" (13).  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Painting and Children and Joy // Colombia 2019

 Friends, I had the privilege of going to Medellin, Colombia again with my church!

 While our pastor was teaching the students, the rest of us stayed at the seminary (who also graciously hosted us) and did a lot of repair work, painting, and renovations. This time I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to take a more active role in the work we were doing. Two years ago I wasn't sure what to do and everything I did do required someone taking time away from their own task to teach me. But this trip I was able to help more with sanding and painting- jobs that still required instruction but that I could then do confidently on my own. So it was fun to feel like I was actually helpful.

 Above is a picture of the courtyard where I mostly worked. This is the finished project after we scraped off the finish, repaired parts of the wall with stucco, then painted. 

 But the highlight of my week was Wednesday. We went to a town about an hour and a half out of Medellin called El Carmen de Viboral. 

 After a few hours of walking around the cute town we met with a little church. It was such a pleasure and an encouragement to get to know them and hear how they came to faith. Before our mini church service, we all sat in a big circle with an interpreter and shared some of our stories. I happened to sit next to a woman a few years older than me. Our conversation never got beyond our names, ages, and work, but I discovered she was also single. 

 It is such a small thing really. But to have the one woman I connected with in Colombia this trip be a Christian single woman like me- it warmed my soul.

 And there was the children. Beautiful children with curly hair, wide smiles, and those large, dark eyes. What I love about children is that it doesn't matter what language they speak. I know what it means when she takes my hand and leads me around the small place they meet for church. I know how to play superheros with a little boy even though we speak different languages. 

 Just a few hours before this picture someone asked me what I was really hoping to do in Colombia. I told them I just wanted to go to a school or an orphanage or daycare and play and love on the kids. How kind and faithful God is!

 And underneath all of this, as we studied Philippians as a team, as we learned how much the Philippians were being persecuted, how the book itself is maybe the happiest book of the Bible despite their circumstances, I looked at my own life. Away from my home and country and workplace and everything familiar, I took an honest look at my life. How my circumstances control how I feel every day.

 My pastor said this to us one night:

"If we embrace Paul's outlook in Philippians, 
we'll have his joy. And Paul cares more 
about the gospel than his situation."

  I have always struggled with joy in all circumstances. I have been praying for joy since college. A joy that transcends my circumstances and flows from my hope in Christ. And this joy comes from loving Christ and His gospel more than anything else. A joy I saw in the tiny church we visited where the believers there already have strong evangelistic goals. 

 So this has become my prayer. That as life happens, good and bad, I will be ever more focused on Jesus, on what He did for me on the cross, and sharing that message with others.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Many Times We Come of Age

There is a literary phrase I can't stand.

 "Coming of age." 

 You will hear it in almost every synopsis of a new Children's or Young Adult book. You will read the phrase when famous authors recommend a new book. They always write, "A {insert adjective} and {insert adjective} coming of age story that is sure to inspire generations of children".

Whether it is about a book or a series of books, the main idea behind a "coming of age story" is that the main character "comes of age". She goes through specific trials that mature her, causing her to think and act more like an adult. This can be on a traumatic level, where a child goes through things that would break even an adult, or on a lighter level where the child or teen learns a valuable lesson and sees the world differently through a more enlightened and mature lens. Essentially, coming of age stories are about  growing up.

 But there is something about this phrase that bothers me more than how cliche it has become in the world of books. 

 Is "coming of age" something that really only happens once in a person's life?


If my life was a novel. When would I have had my coming of age story?

You could say I came of age when I was 7 and first saw death, the first time I realized fully and personally that this world is broken and awaits Jesus' return for restoration. 

 Maybe it was the year I turned 12. My best friend moved away, my friend's dad died of a cancer, and my own grandfather died unexpectedly. 

 But it could also be my freshman year of college, the first time I was living on my own one thousand miles away from my family.

 See, I can't pick just one "coming of age" story in my life. And maybe we're not supposed to. Because the older I get, the more I realize that I will keep having "coming of age" moments and times.

 I remember being young and thinking that someday when I was an adult I would just know what to do. I assumed that at a certain age I would suddenly know how to fix a leaky faucet, how to soothe a sobbing baby, and ask the right questions in a job interview. City driving would be easy, I would automatically know what fully cooked salmon should look like, and I would always know exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

 But that's not what happens. I am more unsure about the direction my life will take now than when I was in high school. There is always more for me to learn and there always will be. I will never stop learning, from practical life skills, new situations I find myself in, to God constantly having to mold me to be more like Jesus. Even in heaven we will still be learning!

 I am constantly growing up. 

 So how can a "coming of age story" be just one moment, one lesson, one specific time period in a person's life, whether it's a character or a real person? Even for the people with harder stories who have one moment or event they can pin-point as being life changing and maybe when they "came of age", they must also have had moments and times after struggling, wrestling, and dealing with that specific hard time- moments that also grow them and mature them and help them "come of age". 

 I am always growing, always learning, always changing- hopefully with the Holy Spirit inside of me for the better. I am always coming of age. 7. 12. 18. And now 25. I will always have new discoveries, new struggles, new things God is teaching me. 

 We're always growing up.