First club in Delaware!

IMG_7706

I’ve been resting and hanging out with friends and family since I got to Delaware a couple weeks ago, but Monday night I walked into my first Young Life club in Dover, besides the (only) one I attended when I was in high school.

It was hosted by a girl who (far L in photo), when I came into her house, was doing homework for math class at Polytech. I asked her who her teacher was- it was my old math teacher! We also discovered by texting our brothers that my brother played soccer with her oldest brother in high school. Small world. I knew this kind of stuff might happen, but it has been really crazy to experience firsthand.

Another girl I hadn’t met already knew who I was (far R in photo). She heard from her grandmother that I was coming after I was introduced at Grace Church. I recognized her last name, Rosello, and there I was, hanging out with their granddaughter at club. I helped her a little with leading music while she played her guitar and told me she learned how to play from my youth pastor, Rick. “No way, me too!” I said, and we high fived.

A student who participated in a couple games turns out is the son of a guy I knew who did music stuff at my church back in the day. He and a friend rode with me after club to Chick-Fil-A just because I had an aux cord and his leader didn’t (typical teenage priorities…).

I stood up and introduced myself at the end of club and when I said I had graduated from Polytech, everybody cheered. They asked me what shop I was in, asked me about my time in Germany, and a couple girls asked for my phone number already.

I almost teared up multiple times that night, first because I missed my high school kids in Georgia (OF COURSE HOW COULD I NOT), but also because I was looking around at all these kids and couldn’t believe how full circle my life had come. I was called to youth ministry when I was a teenager as I watched the struggles and pain of my friends at Polytech as we dealt with so many issues around us. To have an adult Young Life leader walk into our lives then and walk beside us would have been amazing. Now, ten years later, I get to walk back into my high school and get the privilege of being used by the Lord in the lives of high schoolers in to share His love and good news. How cool is that?!

To finally meet kids here and see the faces of the ones the Lord has called me to serve has really filled my heart. Everyone has been SO welcoming, including leaders and kids and staff. Many of the Young Life leaders here are in transition right now and so God’s timing couldn’t be more perfect (as usual) and I am so grateful.

The Lord has brought me full circle, and it’s good to be home. What a story He is writing and what an adventure I’ve been on!

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”
Luke 8:39

P.S. Additionally, my gratitude extends financially…I have, as expected, lost some monthly donations already in the move, but have gained $250 in new ones since moving back a week and a half ago! Not there yet, but a great start on my way to my goal of $2500/month! THANK YOU SO MUCH!! If you already give and haven’t yet moved your donations to my new area, you should have an email with instructions on how to do so. If you would like to donate for the first time, it’s easy, you sign up on http://giving.younglife.org, give to Area DE20 and put “Laura Reisinger” in the sponsoring box. You guys make this possible.

seeing God in the good.

So I drank some coffee and took Excedrine to fight off my second migraine this week so I’m still pretty awake at the moment. Thought I’d use some of this time to post some of my gratitude list, in the spirit of November’s Thanksgiving. Ever since I read Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts I’ve started the year off listing things I’m grateful for. I am currently on #708 and know I will reach at least 1,000 by the end of the year! Life isn’t without pain and this isn’t about ignoring pain. My last couple weeks have been far from easy. There have been goodbyes, annoying headaches, and overwhelming amount of work to do, frustrating roadblocks,  a friend is currently distancing from me, I haven’t slept or exercised enough or eaten super well. Etc. But here’s what focusing on the crappy stuff does. It just creates a spirit of complaining. Worst of all, it causes you to miss the good and it trains your eyes to see the bad. It’s amazing what listing the good things can do for your soul and for the way you look at life.

Some of my highlights from the past couple of weeks…

642. Father Fred asking me to share thoughts on prayer with teenagers in his Catholic religious education class.

650. People pointing out my spiritual gifts at Bible study.

659. Phil Stacey & Trevor Hager leading worship at staff conference.

662. My staff goodbye and all the words of affirmation given to me.

668. Rapping some old school DC Talk around the bonfire with Phil and Trevor.

669. A random and meaningful bear hug from a friend.

672. Making my first-ever work-related phone call to a longtime friend who will soon be a coworker.

676. A student reading me her poem about bullying and having self-worth rooted in what God thinks about you.

685. The Shack.

690. Dancing at the military ball.

691. Snuggle time with the bestie talking about how cool God is.

699. The awesome Eagles game against the Raiders.

703. A volunteer leader saying that being around all of us leaders is uplifting.

704. Drew Holcomb’s music.

In her club talk the other night, one of my leaders spoke about how we always ask if God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? when we should also, and maybe instead, be asking, Why is there so much good in the world? Everything good comes from God. I’m so bad at looking for the good. I’m an expert at looking for the bad, inside and outside myself. But when we look for the good, we see God Himself. I want to see more of Him and less of the crap in the world and in myself. There is so much joy in gratitude. Sometimes I look at what I’ve written and feel incredibly selfish and self-involved, and I miss all the things God is trying to show me with each of those things on the list. I feel like with each tiny thing on my list He is saying, “I know the bad stuff is hard. But I want to show you some good things to encourage you, to redeem the bad, to let You know that I am here and that I love you through the hard things. Don’t give up.” He does that throughout the entire Bible, too. He is always telling the Israelites to build altars and stuff to remind themselves of how He delivered them in the past, so that when they run up against something else that’s difficult and painful they can look bad and remember their deliverance and God’s goodness. God knew we’d easily forget, easily focus on the hard stuff. Practicing gratitude is like the modern-day version of building an altar. I don’t write things down to check a box. I write them down so that my negatively-focused soul will remember my God and know He is with me in the present just as He was with me in the past.

You are good, You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing no other name
Jesus, Jesus

Forever Reign by Hillsong

things to be thankful for today.

-renewing my contract with t-mobile and getting a new iPhone 4s for 1 euro!
-a great club…lots of kids I love there tonight
-brandon heath’s new album continuously speaking life to me
-amazing club beyond leaders, without them real ministry would never happen
-my adorable snuggly puppy
-the beautiful city I live in
-phone call with my best friend the other day
-learning new German words from my German friends last night
-doing National Novel Writing Month to get some writing done (working on some memoir instead of fiction)
-encouragement and words from God from a good friend
-christmas music…don’t judge
-the new issue of Relevant Magazine
-the kind of tired that comes from knowing you gave your all

do you realize?

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — Every, every minute?” -Thornton Wilder, Our Town

This was the gorgeous view of the sunset Saturday from the 5th floor terrace at my friend’s apartment where I spent one of my favorite evenings. We ventured out to just sit and marvel. Just inside in the commons room,  Iranians celebrated the Muslim holiday Ramadan. As I sat outside with my German friend, a German homeless woman with flowing gray and white hair and a timid smile, and an outgoing, extremely intelligent Brazilian professor who spent 10 years living in America as a journalist joined us. He made the homeless woman dinner out of the fish she’d brought to him, we ate German plums and French baguettes, and talked about the state of America after 9/11, working on a military base, American politics, and he practiced his German. Later, several German friends joined us, so we got out the nice wine glasses, and put on some Brazilian music I’d bought in Italy.

Four different languages danced around the table with the occasional phrase in French, and Portugese between two. We toasted in multiple languages, translated back and forth for each other, and spoke of violence and war and philosophy and media influence and God and relationships. The evening was cool as we wrapped blankets around our chairs. Hours went by that we didn’t even notice. It was deep conversation at its best, and most culturally diverse.

It was one of my favorite nights since being here. Hands down.

God. Is. So. COOL.
and…
so, so much bigger than we know.

One of those days.

Well.  Here’s a newsflash for all of you: This job, that I love, in the country, that I love, sometimes sucks.

What?

Sometimes there’s one day when suddenly, nothing is okay. You get a notice of another upcoming goodbye, and it piles on top of the fact that you’re missing one of your best friends’ weddings. And your heart was still reeling from the countless other goodbyes and just a hard week in ministry and you just spent a week dealing with your ID card so when this happens it adds some extra weight and it just collapses. Shatters. Explodes. Whatever verbage you prefer. Life is all of the sudden totally unfair, unstable, and unpredictable. Yet, you chose it, so you feel like you’re not allowed to feel that way. Guilt. But you’re tired. Putting on an Okay Face does that to you. So the other day I forgot to put on my Okay Face. Oops.

Then a good friend reminded me in the midst of my meltdown that I was allowed to have those days. That she knew it didn’t mean I hated Germany, or my job, but that today I did, and that was normal. The way she sat and let me cry and said it was okay for life to suck kind of reminded me of the way Jesus hung out with the people he knew that were crying over his friend Lazarus dying. He was totally in control of the situation, knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but he still had emotions. He cried. He understood the pain of loss. Not only that, but the whole time he was on earth he dealt with people who left him, or people he had to leave as he traveled around doing what God told him to do. How the heck did he do that??

I remember reading the gospels and being struck by how sassy Jesus was. Yep, sassy. (According to Mirriam-Webster, i.e. lively, bold, and full of spirit; cheeky.) He wasn’t afraid of anything and he didn’t let people dictate his reactions and just said it like it was (like a Northerner). There were so many times when he could’ve changed his plan to hang out with his friends or he could’ve let peoples’ critical attitudes toward him change how he felt about himself, but he was just. so. grounded. He constantly talked about what his Father wanted, and how that was his one and only purpose. He lived with direction and when he felt overwhelmed he retreated to talk to his Father. Sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane he was freaking out about what God’s will was, knowing his purpose was about to be literally as painful as hell and just plain didn’t want it at the moment.

Some days I sweat drops of blood, in my car, on the autobahn, while I hit the steering wheel and tears I’ve held in for quite some time come bursting forth like they are coming up for air. Some days I just want to go home.  The problem with that is, however, I’m homesick for a place that’s not my home anymore.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
-Matthew 19:29

He still has to hold me, as I’m driving with my sweaty drops of blood all over the car seat. He has to hold me while I’m kicking and screaming and wanting out. He calms me because he knows me, unlike everyone who has come and gone in my life, he knows every single thing that makes me who I am. Every place I’ve been, every person I’ve loved and lost. That kind of dedicated love is empowering beyond anything I’ve ever known. It’s amazing what you feel like you can handle when someone loves you that much. Even when you can get frustrated and mad at him and confused with where the heck he’s going with your life.

My Okay Face betrays me in this. It makes me look all calm and together and in control and perfect, when actually I am weak and exhausted and sad and failing and angry and have trust issues and blah blah blah.

My Okay Face keeps Jesus from wedging himself in and sitting there with me, in the dark, and letting me rest my head on his shoulder. His strong, strong shoulder. The shoulder of the one who is In Charge. I identify with this dude Job in the Bible, who lost everything, and ranted to God for hours. God finally gave him a talkin’ to…

Look, who made all this AWESOME stuff? Who put you in freaking Europe? Who gets to have this life?? Who gave you a friend for this moment of breakdown and who provides for your daily needs so you are never hungry? Who designed the universe in the most creative, specific way? Chew on that one for awhile.

And Job does and I do. The next morning I woke up to new mercies. I remembered that gratitude precedes joy, and that thankfulness is really all that God requires of us. It’s funny because not only does God delight in our noticing His gifts, but it delights us, too. How easily I forget.

A friend once wrote in her blog when she was having a similar day, something she heard God say– The perfect and glorious Ruler of the universe is your best friend. This means     you never have to fight for my attention. You never have to wonder how much I might love you today; you never have to try to recapture my affection. I died for you. That is ALWAYS your answer.

That is always my answer. His Love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me. Even on the Not Okay Days.

Living in the now

The other day, I was caught red-handed trying to answer the question of “How are you?” with “Oh, you know, surviving.” Let’s be honest. What kind of answer is that? The soldier in the chapel that asked me was not about to let me get away without reminding me that Jesus came so that we may have life. John 10:10. Oops. As that truth clonked me over the head…I started thinking about why we say that; why we “just” survive.

It’s become apparent to me that a lot of people are perpetually stuck in a cycle of, “Oh, this is just a busy season. It’ll be better, easier next week/month/semester/year.” And yet, the funny thing is, it never is. Ever. If life is a continuous disruption of our plans to be less busy, we clearly have no control over it. Yet we keep trying to control it by saying it’ll get better, later. Later is what we live for.  Sometimes, I would like to scream:

What’s wrong with now? Why can’t we live life NOW? Who said we have to wait until the pieces fall into place? What kind of life is that, always trying to get to the next part, never content with where you are?

Jesus did not come so that we may have life to the full- later. Or when it’s less busy. Or when things are less overwhelming. Life, now. How do we do that? How do we live it? When the bills pile up and the email inbox bursts at the seams and the phone won’t stop ringing and everyone clamors for my attention and I don’t have a moment to breathe….well, do we have a moment to breathe?

That depends.

What’s your perspective? What’s your priority? Do you prioritize time to sit with your Savior? When Jesus commended Mary for sitting at his feet instead of bustling around trying to serve him like Martha…He had perspective. He knew priorities. He got what life was about.

“Life is not an emergency. Life is eucharisteo.” -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

I am becoming more and more aware that life should never, ever be about simply surviving. I know that there is so much more meant for us. It’s about being content. Contentment to me involves two things: trust and thanksgiving (eucharisteo). Trust that God has everything in control, not you. Thanksgiving for all that God has given you. If you are not convinced of this, do a word study on it. The Bible talks endlessly about thanksgiving, and how it brings joy. The problem is, we just don’t listen. We screen that out, don’t take it seriously- like most things in His Word to us. Then we complain that we don’t have joy, that we’re just surviving. I promise you, try being a little more thankful (it does take some work) and you’ll notice the difference. It’s the difference between surviving….and living.