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Lead by Following

Allow me to share with you all that I am excited for at the moment.

I am so excited for Easter Break, as it is not only a break before finals, but a time to visit my wonderful boyfriend’s family in San Diego. I am excited to finally turn in my final papers and complete my exams so that I can kick off months of homework-free time. I can’t wait to go the UK for three weeks with my ISP team to love on people there, and then come back to the states to debrief for a bit before diving into FOCUS training. After this, I get to move in with one of my best friends to our adorable new place in the Village to start off what will be my SENIOR YEAR – WHAT?!

So I guess you can say I have a lot to look forward to. That is a fair assumption.

In the midst of this, I find that there is still so much that I want to cram into each and every moment. Time is moving fast and I want to live fully through all that is happening. I want to show my friends and classmates the insane love I feel from the Creator every day, and I want to keep soaking in all that I can from each of my classes even though they are ending.

As I’ve been going through FOCUS training with my fellow leaders, I have been overwhelmed by the powerhouse community this program provides. Each and every person in the program has the support of everyone else, and we all have an apparent desire to grow closer to God and each other, and to make disciples. As we’ve been gathering to discuss the upcoming Fall semester, we have all have expressed a desire to be the best leaders we can be and make the most of our time with the FOCUS program. We have placed emphasis on fully learning one simple thing, and this is the center of our concern at the moment.

We need to perfect our identity as followers.

As leaders at CBU, our goal is to magnify the One we follow in all that we do. Our leader is Jesus, and we emulate his perfect example of leadership. As He was making disciples, He did not boast of His greatness and demand respect (though this is rightly deserved). He served people in love. He put himself last to make his Father’s glory known to those He served. He made it clear, and we see this throughout the accounts of His life, that in order to lead others, we have to follow the guidance of the Creator and serve, counting others as sacred beings and caring for their needs before our own. When we, as student leaders, imitate Jesus and follow Him with all that we have, the Father’s name will be honored and we will set a standard for others to follow, not because of our own skills but because of the One who empowers us to do his work.

This concept is one to take and digest over the course of the next few weeks. Yes, finals are upon us. Yes, ISP fundraisers are in full swing along with the countless other obligations take up our attention. As worshippers of Christ, we need to remember our identity as followers in all of this. We can only set an example for others to follow if we are following the example of one much greater than we can ever be.

Friends, I’ll leave you with that. Thanks for sticking with me this year! Fare well in your finals, drink your tea, and keep your chin up – we’re nearly there!

About the Twenties

I’ll be honest and say that lately, I’ve been feeling old. All too many mornings now begin with the consequences of waking up after a night of staying up an hour later than I should have – including a sore back, head and seeming inability to move. I also find my days filled with hurried trips from one place to another, hair a wreck and coffee stains on my jeans, unable to cram 24 hours of stuff into a short 14. Too often now, I find sleep is an unbelievable blessing, and my idea of a great time is a night in pajamas with a movie for company. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am beginning to feel legitimately beyond my years. I thought for certain this wouldn’t happen until much later in life, but I’m seeing symptoms of overstretching myself already.

Given all of this, I must say that being a 20-something has proven to be one of the biggest adventures for me thus far. As with any era, there are both perks and downsides. The perks include fresh passions, an ability to study what we love, and a world of possibilities. We have our entire lives ahead of us – which brings me to the responsibilities that can be daunting at times. With so much ahead, we constantly ask ourselves what we “should” be doing, or what we “can” or “cannot” manage. Life begins to move so much more quickly than it did before, and we may have a tendency to see this as a negative rather than a simple change that can be embraced. As my life continues on in a flurry of events, I’ve been reminded of the key elements that continue to make this time of my life so impacting.

  1. My parents really do have the answers. They are also unbearably cool. It is one thing to grow up knowing that parents care and are there to support you, but I’ve seen this so much more clearly upon entering college life. I got the chance to see my family this weekend, and I was reminded again of how much I can learn from the people that raised me. They have wisdom to offer and a constant willingness to talk me through any obstacles I may encounter. They’ve gone through this stage before and readily offer help because they want me to thrive. Blessings abound through these people on all levels – from spiritual and emotional support to choosing to buy the groceries for the month. Oh my word… such goodness.
  2. Post its and To Do Lists are my best friend. When life picks up, it becomes so hard to keep up on everything I need to. We juggle work, school, friends, chores, errands and whatever else life throws our way. All of this is so much more manageable if a few minutes are taken to write everything down. More gets accomplished when time is budgeted, and this leaves more room for peace of mind. Also, I am convinced there is no greater feeling than that of crossing an accomplished task off a list.
  3. Focusing on what is directly in front of me saves a world of trouble. Yes, life picks up and does not wait, whether we’re ready or not. Schedules are filled quickly, free time is limited and it’s easy to miss the ease of simplicity. I’ve noticed that the best way for me to gain it back and keep myself sane is to focus on the beauty of the here and now. When I do grab lunch with people, I invest fully in that time. I put homework, grocery lists and that exam I didn’t do very well on out of my head and try to share fully in the company I keep. This allows me to enjoy things more, so that I can study feeling refreshed and able to focus on what needs to be accomplished.

I know life won’t stay perpetually busy, but it does increase with the current times. While in this moment, it’s so helpful to remember that we’re not alone, this, like all things will pass, and there is still beauty and wisdom to be found in the midst of the time that seems to be constantly speeding up. Friends, we will make it, and it will be worth it. For now, invest fully, bless God, and enjoy the world he put us in.

Into the Unknown

Last weekend proved to be a big one for many of us. Of course, there was the Super Bowl which, to be perfectly honest, I only ever watch for the food and commercials. This year I had a valid excuse for missing it, as did a slew of others participating in International Service Project this summer. We all continued our training and investment in a strong group dynamic at Intensive Training Weekend.

I’ll be honest and say that I had absolutely no idea what to expect from ITW. We had been given various hints about what to bring and what to expect, but these preparations failed to fully alleviate many apprehensions. The weekend seemed like it would be an edifying and informative experience, and in many ways, it was. We all gathered as a group an hour before to prepare for a full weekend of little to no sleep, limited food and intensive simulations of circumstances one might encounter in a closed country. By the end of the weekend, we all walked away with more than what we entered with.

The main influence that ITW had on me was the reminder of the goodness of our God and our freedom that we have because of Him. This was seen so clearly through the simulations and long stretches of time that we got to spend further getting to know our leaders and team members.

We were given uninterrupted time to just be and adapt to various circumstances, and through this it became abundantly clear that the Creator is constant throughout different cultures and circumstances. Several of the simulations included placing ourselves in the situations of the less fortunate, recognizing that schedules may change quickly, and we will have to do whatever is required to keep each other safe and share the love of Christ through each and every action.

We were also given a huge amount of time that could be used to simply worship, pray and meditate on whatever crossed our minds, and this was beyond refreshing. I became so thankful for the opportunity to forget about my homework and meetings for the whole weekend and just spend time catching up with the One who made me. I had the chance to express my joy freely through music worship and focus on the blessing that it is to be here and study as I spent time prayerwalking with my team members. These became such beautiful expressions of worship that were unhindered by any outside factor, and that was such a wonderful opportunity. Doing these things after going through simulations of circumstances found in a closed country made us more aware of the privilege that it is to practice our faith so freely. Many do not have this honor and knowing this made it all the more exceptional to do so over the entire weekend.

I won’t lie and say that the weekend did not exhaust me – it most certainly did. But this only came from the fullness of time spent. Throughout ITW, I found myself exactly where I wanted to be, doing things with those I have come to care deeply for, and I would not have it any other way. The biggest blessings came through the unexpected turns, the exhaustion, and the stepping out of what we know to practice bringing love and hope where it is not yet found. This, if nothing else, makes me excited to take in each breath and step in line with wherever God wants to take me. I’ll say once again: we are so richly blessed so that we can richly bless others. Let’s honor our Maker in that. Friends, I will find you here next time.

Letters to the Past

A friend and I were recently talking about the odd progression of time and how different everything looks in retrospect. There are so many things we wish that we could say, as we are now, to our past and future selves. I distinctly remember writing a note to myself the night before I graduated high school that was meant to be read after my first year of college. Confession: I lost that note. But the point remains that it can be enlightening to look at time as if we are not bound by it, if only for a moment, and think about what we would say to ourselves if we had the chance.

It is so interesting for me to look at where I am at now as compared to where I was in high school. Allow me to use this post as a bit of a reflection, and say that if I could go back four or five years, I would be sure to tell myself something akin to the following:

 

Dear Aubrey,

You are still dyeing your hair blonde! I forgot about those days.

I know that you feel on the brink of something big, and you are anxious to leave home and let your life begin. Please know that you do have so much ahead of you – there are countless places to see, things to learn, people to meet, and experiences to be had. Just realize that there is still so much to do where you are at now as well. Treasure your time at home and really pour into every single person you encounter day to day. They will end up shaping you more than you could imagine.

Stop worrying so much about which college you’ll choose to go to. You have countless options, and you will find the right the one you feel at home with just as soon as you set foot on campus (I’ll give you a hint – it is in Southern California, has an amazing cafeteria, and is filled with some of the best people you’ll ever meet).

You have so much to look forward to! You will keep the best of friends, meet people who will shape you beyond belief, and see firsthand exactly how big God is. I need you to know that all through your life now and onward, you will be surprised by the abundance of beauty in the world. The best thing you can do to appreciate this is to share it with others and see how much your world will be changed – always for the better.

Allow the notion of the vastness of your life ahead to excite you rather than intimidate. Life is a series of changing circumstances, and you will never have everything completely figured out – and that is absolutely okay. The only thing that matter on this earth is that you are loving the One who made you and you’re loving the people He put in your life. Live like everything you do is on purpose, and value each opportunity to grow and invest in eternity in any way you’re led to.

Dearly yours, and with much love always,

Aubrey (Five years from now)

A Bit of Fear, A Lot of Assurance

There is something so beautifully wonderful about not knowing what to expect in a new situation. And by “beautifully wonderful,” I mean slightly terrifying in the best possible way.

I encountered this sort of situation Monday as I walked into International Service Project (ISP) Orientation. As a newbie in the program, I have already experienced more than what I could have initially expected.

When I first decided to take the plunge and participate in ISP, I had about a trillion little thoughts. The main gist of these included mixed fear and excitement for never having left the country before and not having a clue about any element of international travel. The good news about this is that I soon discovered I was not the only one. As I went through the application process, I was able to express these concerns and realize that ISP is not just for sophisticated travel experts – it is designed to get anyone involved in our God’s global mission.

As soon as I found out I was going to the United Kingdom and met my team, the excitement mounted. I am, and have always been, absolutely obsessed with the UK. I’m enthralled by anything involving tea, fish ‘n chips, English poets/actors/characters, or the BBC. In recent years, though, I’ve been increasingly aware of the state of Christianity in the UK and have had a nagging urge to check further into this. I still believe that my God is active all over the world and that he has plans to fulfill, and I’ve been compelled to see how I fit in with that. As soon as I was placed on this ISP team, I felt an assurance that my will is aligning with God’s. I know that he has given me each gift and passion for a reason, and I’m stoked to see this will play out through my involvement in this service project.

Though I could not (and still cannot) contain my excitement for all that is to come, I still carried a few uncertainties. Time flies, after all, so how can I cram the needed information into my head to be an affective servant with my team? Each of my fears was immediately addressed at our first meeting this past Monday. We were able to share our fears – and then immediately recognize that our God is bigger than each financial issue and each matter of inexperience and safety. This really puts my mind at ease and makes it easy to overcome any lingering fears.

I promise to keep you updated on this preparation time, as I know for sure I’ll continue to learn. It has been wonderful to know that inexperience cannot be trumped by a willingness to serve, as well as the fact that if the Lord wants me somewhere, He’ll give me the means to go. We only need to be open to being terrified, because our fears will turn into assurance that our God is big and the very definition of good. Friends, be out of your comfort zone, be teachable, and love God through it all. I’ll see you next week!

Double Feature

I’m not much of a stay-indoors kind of guy. If I’m riding past the front lawn and find a group of students sprinting hard to catch a Frisbee, I cannot resist jumping off my board and diving for the catch, no matter who it was intended for. I can’t get enough of the California sun and, fortunately, California usually delivers. On those off days when the weather has actually changed, though, I have to compromise. As crazy as it might sound, it actually gets cold around this time of the year, even in southern California. The cold we experience here is definitely relative, since a cold day during the fall in Riverside is probably a pretty good day anywhere on the East coast. I’m ok with cold weather, but it was the rain that brought me down (literally, I slipped a few times) the week before Thanksgiving break.

I was excited, too, leading up to the end of the week with no homework or work shifts to worry about. That alone is a rare occurrence. Even rarer was the sudden rush of clouds and rain that slowed down the cross-campus commuting as I was forced to forgo my longboard and actually walk to the engineering building. The joy of riding to class was lost until I was quickly reminded why I even bought a board in the first place. The UCO (University Choir and Orchestra) concert in Stamps Courtyard was cancelled, too, which is always an enjoyable time. It was Thursday afternoon, and the International Center was hosting an international sports day on the front lawn, to which I would normally gravitate. It just had to be cold and wet on the only day people actually want to play cricket and badminton. I let weather take those activities from me, but I wouldn’t let it ruin my free afternoon.

I would have to break tradition and enjoy the indoors for once, but luckily tonight was perfect. The CBU theater department was presenting their version of Shakespeare’s 12th Night, and this would be my last opportunity to go. Weeks ago I had told my friend Spenser Deardorff, who played the sea captain, that I would go support the show, and finally I had the time. Now I was expecting to find old European sets, hard-to-follow Shakespearean phrases and, of course, men in tights, which honestly wouldn’t have quite convinced me to stay for the whole two hours. I clearly had no idea what I bought tickets for. The play was indeed Shakespeare’s 12th Night, but the style was entirely changed to steampunk, which involved dark eyeliner and 19th century European outfits. The blend of classic Shakespearean literature with industrial age Europe turned out quite well, and I was laughing the whole way through. If it wasn’t for the smart quips and dramatic monologues, I would’ve forgotten that I was even watching a classic theater production. It was such a great show.

I completed my victory over the rainy day with the CBU Hunger Games: Catching Fire premier immediately following the play. I had bought tickets weeks ago, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day to be inside enjoying a movie. The premiere was only for CBU students, which meant a packed theater full of the best people. They even took into consideration those students with Friday 8 a.m. classes (like me) and set the show time for 10 p.m. I don’t even know how CBU rented out a premiere for a highly anticipated movie, but they did. Way to go CBU!

Rainy days aren’t that bad.

Being a Cause for Thankfulness

Friends, the time is upon us. Stores have been advertising pumpkin everything, classes are speeding up the pace in preparation for upcoming vacations, and I find myself constantly aware of an intense craving for turkey. It is time for us to pack up the books (and unwashed laundry) and head home once again for Thanksgiving Break!

This season always brings about an awareness of each blessing in life. While thankfulness is a practice that should be maintained throughout the year, this holiday serves as a reminder to reboot this mindset. While I have been allowing all of the blessings from this semester to marinate in my mind for a while, I am consistently struck by the thought that blessings are meant to be returned. While I have a mile-long list of things to be thankful for, I find that I have an equally bountiful amount of opportunities to bless others. So, rather than rant all about things to be thankful for, I’d rather take the common ideas and offer ways to return the blessings and bring the focus back to others.

First of all, I am always thankful for my family and for my little town in Northern California. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to go home for the week. While I adore my life here, I find myself missing my small town and the people there. I have been and am continually blessed by my family and close friends from Ukiah, and choose to focus on ways to bless them in return on my upcoming trip. I’ll make a point to make various coffee runs for those who still have to work, drop off cookies at my old office, and catch up on life with everyone I can. Being home with family is wonderful, and while rest is important, it’s also good to make a point to fill your days with simple acts that can make each person you encounter feel loved. This becomes especially important if, like me, you don’t make it home often. Continually invest in your relationships, and use each minute of this time off to ensure that your friends and family feel blessed by you.

Seeing that finals are rapidly approaching, despite the thrill of the upcoming week off, I’ve been constantly reminded of the blessing it is to be a student of the subjects I love. Studying literature and film is, quite honestly, my dream come true. Life is a never-ending book club where I get to talk and write about literature, while simultaneously watching astounding new movies and geeking out about why they are great. Not only do I greatly enjoy my area of study, I get to see the ways in which they are being used to further the Kingdom, and learn how I can play my part in that plan. A challenge to consider in the midst of all of this is to take a moment and put the education we’re receiving into perspective. Consider why you are in school, and what it is you hope to accomplish when you earn your degree. Remember that furthering your education is one way to act as a light in the world, as Christ called us to be, as we can use the knowledge and experience we gain to become more awestruck by the world and the God who made it. This makes me all the more excited to learn continuously, and to play my part in using the knowledge I gain to worship my God.

Readers, I hope that you will be especially blessed this week. As you enjoy the class-free time with those you love, be a cause for blessing to everyone you encounter. I’ll see you in two weeks!

This Time

There is something so deeply important in gathering as a household and maintaining healthy bonds between roommates.

I say this acknowledging the blessing that it is to live with the roommates I have this year in the gorgeous University Place housing area. Not only am I close to Brisco’s and the events on the front lawn – which have been increasing in excitement with the coming of Fortuna Bowl – I also have the advantage of rolling out of bed later (a massive luxury) as I am right next to the building where the majority of my classes are held. Beyond my extremely convenient location on campus, I am graced with the company of three women who have proven to be a source of consistent blessing for me this semester.

The four different lives that intersect at the meeting point of our apartment have experienced much over the past few weeks. I have seen one roommate barge in announcing victory at an easy exam, another relate an epiphany and breakthrough volunteer opportunity, and another burst through the front door utterly spent, but elated after a long rehearsal for the upcoming theatre production. (Shameless plug aimed at all CBU students and local residents: go see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, opening November 15. My roommate is a lead in the show, and from what I have been hearing from behind the curtain, it is going to be astoundingly brilliant. It’s also my personal favorite Shakespearean comedy. The Bard knows his way to the audiences’ funny bone; you’re guaranteed to laugh uncontrollably.) While each of us have these insanely busy schedules and rarely find a moment where we are all together and not swamped with homework, we all have managed to find time to keep up with every other housemate and exhort one another in kind.

I realize this post will easily turn into a love letter to my roommates – because seriously, they’re wonderful – but I also want to spend my time musing about the beauty found in the opportunity to live with other students at this time of life. We do school together, learn about ourselves in a group, and achieve a level of community that is completely unique to the college experience. We go through life on campus, experience highs and lows, and life becomes a never-ending party where friends are constantly present.

I have had several moments over the past month where I realize that not only am I now a junior, but I am quickly approaching the halfway mark of the year. The time has flown by at an alarming rate, and only makes me more aware of all that I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy over the course of my undergrad experience. While I could easily spend dozens of pages pouring out my thoughts on everything I love about my life here (don’t worry – I won’t!) I realize that the biggest blessing has been the community I have found. CBU has become my home away from home, and the people I have shared life with have become additions to my family. I know for certain that a large part of who I am has been shaped by the people God has put in my life, and I see His love given abundantly through them. It really is amazing how much this community does for us, and these are years I will not easily forget.

Forgive me for my abundant sentimentality, but I have to spend a moment giving thanks to the people who share life with me. Thanks for the coffee dates, the overcooked macaroni and cheese (and messy kitchens), the BBC movie nights, the hilarious phrases to add to the “quote book,” and the companionship I have found to be priceless. Life is truly fuller when shared with fellow humans. Friends, you are valued. Carry on, and I will see you next week.

 

Sleepwalking and Faithfulness

We all have those uneventful weekends: the ones that pass by slowly, consisting only of late mornings, brunches, movies and homework (all done in only the comfiest of pajamas). I have a tendency to take these weekends for granted, but it takes one true whirlwind of 48 hours to remind me of the goodness of simplicity – as well as the beauty of a bit of chaos.

The weekend began with my housemates and me in our University Place living room eating food from Brisco’s and listening to the flag football games outside. Nothing could be more normal for a Friday night, and all was well. Saturday passed by in much the same way, with each of us doing homework, completing International Service Project applications and catching up on the week’s TV shows. My roommate and I had plans to see a play in San Diego the following afternoon, so we went to bed with our plans swimming in our heads, our outfits planned out and our minds at ease. Of course, a bit of a shock was bound to happen at this point in time…

After my roommate and I went to bed, I fell asleep quickly. The next thing I knew, I was awakened to exclamations of surprise and distress and found my roommate on the floor, clutching her nose and saying she needed help. I flipped on the light, took her to the bathroom and quickly woke up the others in the house. I asked my roommate what had happened, only to get a broken response:

“I… um… can’t remember… I… sleepwalking… dresser… ow, it really hurts!”

This was enough for us to put the pieces together and, after examining her nose, we decided it would be best to take her to the hospital for stitches. Thinking quickly, I called our residential assistant (RA) to let her know what was going on.

It’s times like these I am so thankful to live on a campus where caring, able help and friendship are just around the corner. Our RA answered right away, told us to wait two minutes and met us in the parking lot, wide awake and ready to join in on our little adventure.

Once we set out on our merry way to the emergency room, things were looking tense, yet hopeful. My roommate is a trouper, and she kept cracking jokes the entire way while thanking us for helping her out. Laughing in the face of uncertainty really relieved the tension, and our RA reminded us that we were going to be okay.

The hospital is just a short drive away, and we got there in no time at all. Our RA had not only taken care of the technicalities in making sure everything was documented and our safety was ensured, but also was a stellar example of friendship in the way she joked with us, kept the mood light and prayed with us. My roommate was all patched up in a matter of hours, and we were back on our way to campus equipped with pain medication, high spirits and a riveting story to tell.

I realize that this is in not an ideal way to spend a Saturday night in any way, shape or form, but it honestly served as an excellent reminder of the blessings we take for granted every day. Lazy weekends may be uneventful, but they mean that we have the luxury of relaxation and time to accomplish what we need to prepare for the week ahead. After this adventure, my housemates and I were reminded of the ways God protects and blesses us along each bump in the road (or tumble while sleepwalking). My roommate was very fortunate to have only hit her nose and not hurt herself further, and we were also blessed to have immediate help and clear thinking to solve the problem. Our campus staff was readily available to help, and we were able to laugh our way through it by the end of the evening. It’s moments like these when I am reminded of the blessing that is health, friendship and even frightening experiences. I sincerely hope that you have all had a much less tumultuous past few days than I have, but know that those times do bring with them stories to tell, lessons to be learned and blessings to be counted. Safe sailing, Readers!

A Penny for My Thoughts

It’s refund check time! Let’s not get carried away with buying Chuck Norris t-shirts or that new iPad. Many of us see dollar signs whenever money is mentioned and not the true task at hand.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t splurge every once and a while on ourselves, but we need to see the bigger picture. Luxuries aren’t what we should strive for. We as Christians should serve God and spread his word. For us students, that means sticking to the business of being students learning to live our purpose.

Hebrews 11: 13-16 says “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” I love this passage simply because it shows the strong faith of followers. They were not worried about worldly items or amenities. These people knew what God had promised them, and they could care less about what they had here on earth. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and we should do the same for Him.

Looking like a million bucks isn’t everything, guys. I’ll settle for looking like a grand and smelling like a dime, if that makes sense. So before we head to the mall, we might want to look at our priorities. My own prayer is that I can keep my goals in mind and not be sidetracked by distractions so that I can truly live the way that God wants me to live. I challenge everyone to spend wisely and look toward our higher calling.

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