Wednesday, December 7

conviction

For the month of November, I fasted from Netflix, only watching it socially with friends. And if you're wondering why this sounds like deja vu, you're right. Every so often, I find that it's time to distance myself from television. And I don't say this to show any discipline on my part or to hint that you should do the same; I write this (again) because of my lack of discipline.

I write it as a reminder that we must continually guard ourselves against the weak points in our armor. John Piper said that it's less like recognizing a sin, repenting of that sin, being free from that sin and more like recognizing a sin, repenting of that sin, and struggling with that sin again for the rest of
your life. And while that may sound bleak at first, I think it's a vivid picture of the fact that we are continually being sanctified and are continually given the strength to give it back up to Jesus.

For weeks or perhaps months, I felt that I was continually feeling guilty about my Netflix binging. It seemed to be brought up in sermons, small groups, my own study. And I tried to reason; I can't just quit cold turkey! I'm in the middle of a show! If I stop now, I'll just waste valuable time thinking about the show. I should just finish the show and then I'll stop. But then I would finish a show, vow to not watch anything for about 14 hours and then lapse into another show. No matter how guilty I felt, my flesh won out.

A few days before November, I had a wake up call. I was about to enter into not only the last full month I had remaining in Canada but also the last full month before an important financial deadline (though that deadline has since been pushed back). I had been wiling away my time in an activity which I felt guilty at best about at most times.

Here are a few things I've learned in the days since.

1) When I'm not watching TV, I go to bed when my body actually feels tired.
I don't have to be governed by how many minutes are left in an episode! Beyond that, being in front of a screen actually affects how your body produces melatonin, the chemical needed to get you to sleep! If I got tired at 9:30, I went to sleep! It was awesome.
 2) Of course, I get a lot of reading done.
I read about eight books regarding art, life and work overseas, and theology. It's been a wonderful time of reading books that will prepare me for life in South Asia.
3) Painting is awesome
I've been spending far more time painting this month than I had before.
4) I'm spending way more time with roommates
I live in a house with four other girls, and it's such a fun environment. Most of the time, we are all in the living room or dining room, mostly working on our own tasks with the occasional distraction. When I don't have headphones in and my attention focused on another reality, I'm more present in the moment. And that means a lot more laughing and spontaneity.
5) I am no longer so jealous over my time.
This really relates to the above point, but it's more than just my own house. For me, it's easy to get wrapped up in another life, even if that means a fictional story played out on my laptop screen. I feel so invested that it ends up sucking up a lot of my time. But when I'm free of that, I enjoy being able to give myself in other ways and feel more involved in real lives that are actually in front of me. 
May you be reminded and edified by this confession. It's been a reminder to me that I have to constantly be on guard against those pits in my life which I know I'm prone to fall into.

May the God of peace convict you of any weak points in your own armor. And may He give you the strength to not despair but to give it up to Him and glorify Him in your own weakness.

In love,
Bree

Monday, November 28

coffee date 11.27



It's the end of November. Does that surprise you? It's been a month since we sat down and shared warm drinks together across the miles.

It's the same BC I shared with you last month. The mountains are snowier but the rain is still as consistent. What a beautiful advent season we are entering. If we were sitting together, we would listen to Josh Garrels' new CD created with the season in mind. I would admit that I've listened to it more times than I can even count since it was released on Thursday.

I'd tell you that progress is being made in both of the churches I have been a part of here (I attend Sunday gathering and a small group at one fellowship and attend a young adults' group at another church nearer my house). I ran into people I knew on two occasions within the past two days in random and unexpected places (one was all the way in Vancouver!) and somehow that is the mark for me that I am making progress.

Isn't it funny how things settle just in time to uproot and start over again?

This is my last full month in BC. There is one more full week of classes and from then on it's finals and packing and last outings. Again I wonder how it is that we settle just in time to start over again.

It's been a good month though, if this must be my last full one here. God has provided in miraculous ways and I feel more excited for the next step than I have ever been because it's starting to feel real! It's the move, people, the BIG one!

In preparation for that big move and for the sake of this last month, I haven't watched Netflix by myself for a month. And it's been pretty spectacular. But I'll talk about that more next week.

Last night, my roommates (I live with four other girls) and I actually managed to make the trip into Vancouver we've been talking about for a month. I didn't know if it would, if I'm honest. But we found ourselves venturing out on a Saturday afternoon, the rain steady and flooding the fields around us. Like true Canadian-transplants, we didn't let that stop us. It took a car and then the sky train and within two hours we were in the city, catching another bus that would take us to a rainy stop where our feet would take us to an island. Where we would walk under the semi-protection of rain coats while we window shopped and ate. It was cold and wet and wonderful.

My art class ended last week, did I tell you that? Yeah, it did. For the past two and a half months or so, I've been spending four hours a week at an art studio. Thursdays I would observe for a two hour class as part of a requirement for an Ethnography course. On Tuesday, as you know, I was there as a student. It became a large part of my week. Sometimes I dreaded opening myself up on that sketchbook and sometimes I craved it. But Tuesday as I came in, I was reminded that it was my final session. I feel so unfinished. Again, just settling into my groove, I am packing up and beginning again.

This is not to be mourned. But I can't help but note it.

In 17 days, I'll be done with my last final.
In 18 days, I'll be on my way back to the States - I'm road-tripping with a couple dear friends back to one of their hometowns.
In 25 days, I'll be back in Arkansas.
And from then on will be a whirlwind that I can't quite even put dates to.

But I know it'll be full of sweet times as well as hard times, packing and unpacking, hellos and goodbyes.

And maybe a real coffee date.

Sunday, November 20

on identity

So much of my time is spent simply counting down to another goal, another event.

A moment of pure unadulterated joy. Wiped away thoroughly and almost immediately with a question.

Okay. Now what?

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1431512284068-4c4002298068?ixlib=rb-0.3.5&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&s=62cf8b4da467756354c23b3c98c2d41aAt times, I don't think I even attempt to hold onto my contentment, instead feeling it slip along my arms and off the tips of my fingers. Eyes tilted up only ever so slightly to watch it fade in front of me.

I've counted down to a lot of things. Graduations and jobs and percentages and big moves.


Even as I write this, I know that there are dates to be reached.

There is a deadline coming. Tickets to be purchased. Bags to be packed. Hugs to be given.

But in the midst of this season, full of its unknowns and adventures, is a secret which is holding me secure.

The secret is this.

My identity is not in the achievement of goals. It's not in when, or even if, I move to South Asia. It's not found in the work I do and will do. 

It's found in Christ my Savior and the work he has already completed and which will never expire.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1475727946784-2890c8fdb9c8?ixlib=rb-0.3.5&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&s=097b65f52d06f203880845a6a3a8b7c2And oh friends, what a sweet salve that is to a body which runs itself into the ground wanting to meet those goals and beat those countdowns.

No matter how confident I am in this work and when the Lord will allow me to go to South Asia, I am more confident that even if He took all of that away this evening, the promise of my identity in Him would remain.

Even as I feel a love for a country far away, I know that ultimately that location is not the essence of my identity; my identity is to rest in the arms of my King.

And to all my friends who are sharing with me through your own season of waiting, I pray that you would rest in the knowledge of your identity. For all your passion to hurry up and get to that place you know you are called to, I pray that you find contentment. Right in the here and now. Right in the richness of growth that this waiting offers.

As if a reminder, this morning in my church gathering I sang these lyrics, which I will leave you with.

With You is where I want to be.

Sunday, November 13

the business of creating

What a week, eh? I could write about a lot of things, but out of all those things I'm choosing to talk about art.

I've been taking an art class at a local studio for about six weeks. What I thought would be a simple
Allowing myself to just "get over myself" and paint earlier this week
course in better learning how to work with my watercolors has turned into a crash course in the basics of creating art. I thought my instructor would simply tell me how to mix colors, how to layer and blend and create beautiful pieces.

What I have gotten instead is a drawn still life and a self-portrait.

Not to mention a lesson in choosing joy over perfection.

As I have been delving deeper and deeper into art, I have been devouring books relating to creating art as a Christian. In the span of about four days I had read three books about worshiping God with one's art. And I have come out the other side of that education more sure than ever that all can be done to the glory of God.

In particular, Hans Rookmaaker, a Dutch Christian who happened to be an art historian and an active voice within the Christian arts, has struck me. He wrote:
"We [as human beings] are meaningful for who we are, not for what we have. Our meaning is not in the possessions we have nor in our qualities or talents. Preachers with a talent for speaking do not lose their humanity nor their meaning in the sight of God and their fellow humans if they fall ill and cannot speak. The meaning is in what one is, not what one has. The same is true of art. God gave humanity the skill to make things beautiful, to make music, to write poems, to make sculpture, to decorate things. The artistic possibilities are there to be actualized, realized by us, and to be given a concrete form. God gave this to humankind and its meaning is exactly in its givenness. It is given by God, has to be done through God, that is, through the talents he gives, in obedience to him and in love for him and others. In this way it is offered back to him."
A beautiful part of painting: adding beauty to my and others' homes
And I'm learning about the process of creating. It's a beautiful thing, as a being created by the Creator to now be given the opportunity to mirror that divine process in a small way in bringing the invisible into the visible world. 

I used to think that art was merely the product. And that product was somehow and very mysteriously weighed as being "good" or "bad" by the educated and with a shrug from those of us not deemed as art critics.

What I am learning is that it is the process itself that is "good" or "bad," weighed only by me and in terms of whether I can do it in joy and in praise or do it begrudgingly.

Because it's all coming down to worship.

In the moments of utter doubt, when I question whether I should even be spending my time, energy, or words on this subject matter that I remember how art reentered my life in January of this year (I say reentered out of respect for my middle school years of sketching). It entered my life quietly and unassumingly when I randomly decided to letter a word with my mom's acrylic brushes and a childhood watercolor set. And even if it came quietly, it became loud rather quickly, soon absorbing me in a rush of colors and aspirations. It came at a time when I was overwhelmed with the development of
Displaying 20161112_134144-01.jpeg
Messy and joyful painting this weekend
partnerships for the work I am called to. When I ricocheted between working so long and hard and complete abandonment into Netflix. I felt even then that the Lord had gently placed this new "interest" in front of me as a way of allowing to both find margin in my life and to praise him in even the quiet moments.

I believe that today, that art is a way to offer up moments, hours, days, years, to the Lord, in mirroring the process that began everything by its very definition: creating.

I will leave us with another quote from Rookmaaker:
"If you are a Christian, don't be ashamed of it. Work out of the fullness of your being and give the best you have." 

Sunday, November 6

from great heights

Of the past four days, I've spent two just flying, first from BC down to Arkansas and as I write this, I'm flying out of Little Rock back to BC. My heart is full of sweet, even if rushed, time with old friends and the celebration of the marriage of one of those friends.

A few days ago when I was sitting on a plane roaring its way to 38,000 feet, I watched Vancouver's mountains blend into the clouds. There came a point where, squinting out the window, I could not quite tell if I was looking at snowy peaks or clouds just hovering. I thought about some of my friends who I've had the pleasure of knowing in Canada who own their own vehicles and always drive back and forth between their home base and BC.

I thought of them and wished that they would get to experience this view of our current home. To never see the mountains and their neighbors in their full glory, stretching out under you no bigger than my index finger, what a sad thought.

I quickly realized that to see the mountains as I saw them now, as what can only be called "small," was not enough. My friends who make these long drives have seen these mountains up close. They have felt the coolness of the shadows these giants cast. They have seen parts of the country that clouds have obscured from me. Felt the steadiness roads thousands upon thousands of feet below me.

I see metaphors in everything, everywhere there is a lesson to be learned. There is God to be seen. And I realized in that moment, staring out the window, that neither my airplane vista nor the view from the road is sufficient in itself.

When I'm looking at the mountains from the road, I'm overwhelmed by their height. Their shadow casts me into semi-darkness.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1444771820225-000ebb5d7ac3?ixlib=rb-0.3.5&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&s=f431d791f3ea48b26e73f679bfec5916But when I look at them from the height of clouds, they tell a different story. They seem purely majestic. Unlike standing and looking at them, I feel the mountains below me have already been conquered. Their heights have been reached. I can see even the tallest snow-covered peak.


When I am walking in the valley and all around me feels daunting and the road seems long, I will remember that even the entire road is still before me, seen from great heights. I remember that even this long route is seen in its entirety by God.

I will neither forsake the small moments by observing only the entire picture or neglect to view the broader picture by becoming lost in the overwhelming height of the mountains around me.

Sunday, October 30

coffee date 10.30



Hi friend, it's good to see you again. I'm glad that we can meet here again. Seems like just a breath has passed since we were here last month, just sipping coffee across the continent together.

Let me pour you a cup of tea. It's chilly outside in BC this morning, did you notice? It's 11 am and 50 F. But guess what. It's a clear day. The sky is blue and the last of the lingering yellow leaves are in bright contrast. The mountains are out and at play today, many sharp peaks showing off their new snow that wasn't there even a month ago. I've gotten so used to the rain that I didn't even realize what a pleasure the sun is until this morning.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you what a sigh of relief this past month has been. That the Lord has given me the gift of Christian brothers and sisters around me who have lifted me up when the Enemy is tugging at my ankles. I'm relieved to feel as though my burden has been been lifted in the past few weeks. After months of feeling tired, I have energy again. I have joy again.

I'd tell you what a sweet time at church has been. I have been able to go to another church which offers a small group especially for people who do the kind of work I do. It is refreshing and sanctifying to be among them. I've also been a part of a small group of young adults (around my age) at the church I attended for the first few months here as well.

And I'd tell you that I did decide to take that art class. Would you believe it? And that I've actually already had about 4 weeks of instruction at this point. Each week is a new adventure. I've completed my first still life (with pencil) and I'm working on drawing faces. There is no artistic genius being unearthed, just a glorious stretching of my perspective. I am in love with discovering the world and how I can interact with God's creation.

I would let you know how absolutely excited I feel to be heading back to Arkansas for a short visit this coming week. How blessed I feel to be included in the wedding of one of my dear friends. What a gift to be there in person! I'll be getting into Central Arkansas late Thursday night and flying out again early on Sunday morning. Looks like I will get to experience the Arkansan weather everyone is talking about...what do you mean that I don't need a coat and a rain jacket?!

As always, I would say how much I wish you were here yourself. To see the mountains' peaks, the lushness of the world awakened by rain. Maybe next month we can take a walk. My time is drawing ever closer to a close here, with only about a month and a half left. Let's savor this time together.

I'm glad we got to have this coffee date together. I'll send you off to the rest of your day now. May it be blessed and glorifying to God.

Tuesday, October 25

what's in a name?

Have you ever felt moved when a new acquaintance remembers your name after having only met once? Or felt valued when someone slips your name into a conversation with you? Why is it that I feel so excited to have someone know my name? Or why I take such great care to remember others' names when I meet them (perhaps it's partially because I am extraordinarily and embarrassingly bad at remembering names)...

I think there is something deeply important about a name.

There's a reason why, even when I was little, I began to call myself "Bree" instead of my full name (as beautiful a name it is). There was a perceived disconnect there. Something about that full name did not fully encapsulate my being. Or maybe I didn't fully encapsulate that name.

A name is meant to be representational. It is the piece of ourselves that is generally given to the world before any other information. It is the representation of a person, a sign of knowing them, of valuing them.

If I meet a stranger on a plane, we may chat for a good bit of the flight. We may share information about our jobs, our families, our history. And at the end of that flight, it's often the case that one of us says, "I'm so sorry, I didn't ask your name!" Or it may be that we part ways without exchanging names. I later recount my conversation, calling my acquaintance, "the woman next to me." And that's the end of it. Or I could say, "Caroline." And that name says something about our conversation. It says that I made the time to know her in a way that extends past our two hour flight, even if we never lay eyes on each other again.

For a writer, their name is like their face. Recognizable in a crowd. They will be known for their name; it's far less likely that anyone will pick them out of the crowd on the sidewalk. It is up to their name to represent them.

For me, my name goes far beyond "Bree." Even when I young and choosing to spell it "Bree" rather than "Bri," I was being called to another, longer lasting, name.

I have been, am, and will be called "Child of God." 

This is a name I cannot fully choose for myself but merely respond to in a manner pleasing to the Lord. It has been given to me despite not being able to earn it. It is a name I want to be known by and a name which I want others to know.

It is a name I don't mind sharing with as many people around the world as the Lord sees fit.

I pray that by His grace I will be worthy of it.