What Love Looks Like

On this snowy Valentine's Sunday, I've spent this unusual day practicing a rare kind of sabbath. Chris and I did most of our weekend work and play yesterday, since Sundays are reserved for time with our church family and meal planning and grocery shopping. With the frigid weather ruling out both driving and our outdoor church service, church leadership chose to have us all celebrate the Lord's day in our own homes and to take time in prayer for those who must brave these weather conditions anyway. And for us, it has turned into a sabbath day full of noticing God's beauty.

We have admired the bouquet of Valentine's flowers as minute by minute petals open to reveal more colors, stems bend to expose new blooms, and hints of rose, lily, and limonium linger in the air you breathe just as you walk past. We have watched flurries of snow fall all day long, creating a kind of new earth for us and all our neighbors; we have soaked up all that it is to take the very first step upon a walk, to feel the first touch upon the perfect ground, to be awakened to our very own world, but new again. We have listened and learned Psalm 127 put to music, letting it rest on our hearts and put God's hope in us where we are tempted too often to concentrate instead on our own limited efforts. We have followed new recipes into adventurous new tastes, discovering the oddly delicious pairing of butternut squash, ground turkey, rosemary, cinnamon, and paprika. We have today, once again, tasted (and smelled and heard and felt) and seen that the Lord is good. These are all ways God shows us what his love looks like.

I hope you have this kind of sabbath day with God some time. They are rare, I know, in our busy world! But it is a day like today that God uses to nurture our souls, not just in our intellectual understanding of him. It's a day like today that reminds us that we're wild about him! It's a day like today that I think promises the richness of heaven in the age to come. And it's a day like today that we hold onto on the other days when it's so hard feeling like those things are even possible.

My Valentine's flowers <3

Carefrontation

This year I have learned a new term our leadership adopted that has been a huge help to our ministry: carefrontation. 

To "carefront" someone is to practice caring by braving confrontation. 

We started off the semester with our leaders by going through a mini-seminar on assertiveness and carefrontation (if you're interested, you can view the video recording of it here!). Part of what we hope they take away from their time as leaders is the conviction that real relationship requires the ability to speak lovingly and honestly, even when it isn't fun. If we let a student who is bossy, mean, and self-destructive in her friendships go through 4 years in our ministry without anyone caring enough to tell her that she's coming across as bossy and mean and destroying her own friendships, then we have not been good friends to her. But we want that kind of student to have healthy, happy friendships! We want her to learn to honor others above herself, to be full of grace, and to have the kind of love that trusts all things, bears all things, and perseveres. We want to love her well and for her to feel well loved! But to get there, it takes a little confrontation, and what we have valued as a community is the kind of caring confrontation that can only come from a true friend. That means most of the confrontation that is happening isn't handed up to me or our other campus pastors; it means our students are doing the work of that tough love at the friend-to-friend level. 

A core baking night
As someone who lived through that experience as a student myself, I know how that experience grows the person on either side! It was so good for me to learn to be brave with my friends and tell them things that I didn't think they were going to like hearing. I learned how gracious they were and how much they cared to hear my perspective if they knew it was coming from a place of love. But it was equally important for me to be the recipient of some good ol' carefrontation myself. I wasn't naturally good at receiving constructive criticism as love, but boy, did I need to learn that. I needed to learn how to respond with grace even if their words stung a little bit. Like when my friend told me I needed to make being on time to our hangouts more of a priority because of what it communicated to her about how I valued her time when I rolled in 15 minutes late. (I'm honestly so ashamed to write that out, but it's true, and I'm thankful to that friend for making me face how unloving I was being with my time.) So I'm all about good carefrontation! Sometimes, that's really what love looks like.

In the last month, in my team of leaders alone, there have been carefrontations about unhealthy dating relationships, unhealthy relationship to food, carelessness in academic integrity, gossip, honesty, and just being a good listener in friendship. I am so thankful for your support so that I can sit with these leaders week to week and think and pray through these interactions with them! Because of your investment in campus ministry, there are 6 girls just in the last few weeks who are learning how to love God and people better in a very specific way. Thank you for making that possible!

Thinking to Next Year Already!

We have already hit the time of year when we begin to think about leaders for next year! For now what that looks like is just having conversations with our current leaders about the girls in their groups. How have they shown faithfulness, availability, initiative, teachability, a heart for God and people? In the coming few weeks, I and the other UTD campus pastors will be getting time with some of the students who are demonstrating these kingdom values to try to get to know them personally. I'm so excited to be building more relationships with our actual body of students beyond just the leaders I meet with weekly! Please be praying for those conversations to be fruitful, encouraging, and for God to give both us staff and the students we're meeting discernment on how they might fit our leadership team.

Core sign off (making hearts)

Another way we are thinking ahead to next year is considering the values our culture imparts in a typical year that students who have never met in our large groups are missing. One of the things I've noticed most is how disconnected my leaders are in their ministry; they do not really know most of the leaders outside of our small team of 7, much less any of the girls or guys in other small groups. It makes ministry so much harder because it means people only get one dose of culture--the one you give them. When we're trying to normalize something like good carefrontation, for instance, it's so much easier to do that in the context of a large group than it is when I'm the only person acting like this should be a thing. So we're addressing this culture void in a small way for now, through a series of classes called Engage. I was in the group up for teaching Engage Class 1(video of the lesson portion linked there), along with my friends Rhett, Cort, and Jacob. We focused on the topic of Spiritual Formation and discussed things like teachability, humility, prayer, a love for God and people, a love for God's Word, and how FOCUS specifically shapes certain parts of our ministry to foster those kingdom values. We had about 15 students attend in the end, which was really exciting!

Average UTD staff meeting behavior
Good News

  • C has been doing so well this semester! I wanted to specifically thank you for your prayers for her and to praise God publicly for what he's doing in her life. She has worked really hard to get a handle on her schoolwork and also to be a good friend. I am so excited to see what this next semester proves to do for her!
  • My mom got engaged! We actually knew her now-fiance for years through church even before she did, so we already LOVE him. We know that he is an answer to prayer in so many ways and just can't thank God enough for the sweet blessing he is to our mom and my family!
  • UTD has started SLOWLY opening up things on campus for student organizations!!! It is very restrictive (as is to be expected), and we probably have so little that would really fit into the requirements as is, but it's an exciting step toward the eventual re-opening of campus. We hope and pray next semester will be fully in-person. 
I remember you all in my prayers and thank God for the generosity you have shown me so that I can do this work. Please let me know if there's any way I can be praying for you!

Much love always,



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