Exploring the Deep

Passionately pursuing life, faith and adventure…


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Challenged.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 (NIV)

Challenged. To choose one word describing my year so far, this would be it. I’ve been challenged at work, personally, spiritually, in leadership, in relationships, and emotionally.

What’s funny is I shouldn’t be surprised; this is exactly what I asked for at the beginning of the year. For the past several years I’ve set aside the first week of the year to pray, fast and go before God with an open heart and life. I always have a list of items that I’m looking for direction on, but more than anything I usually just listen. I quiet my head and my heart before the Lord and open my ears to what He has to say.

This year was no different. I spent plenty of time just soaking in and being still. But I also came with a list of things that were on my heart, like a desire to see the young professionals ministry I lead expand, for opportunities to share my faith journey, to be stretched as a leader at work, to be more open with my heart and life to the people around me, and to grow in my understanding of God and His plan for me.

I was praying to be challenged. And at first it seemed like everything was the same, which was a bit unnerving, but then things started to change…

– Transitions at work created a greater level of stress – I was challenged professionally.
– Family members faced medical struggles – I was challenged personally.
– I began meeting regularly with a mentor – I was challenged spiritually.
– Growth and change happened in ministry – I was challenged in leadership.
– Friends unintentionally spoke out of line on behalf of one another – I was challenged emotionally.

Through it all I resolved to stretch, grow and learn. Each challenge has simply been an opportunity to be daring in my response. Will I run from problems, get derailed in my faith and integrity, and react instead of respond? Or will I trust that God heard my prayer at the beginning of the year to be challenged, and in turn grow stronger, open myself wider, and be stretched farther? I chose and will continue to choose perseverance and personal growth.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (Message)

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Home.

I had been back for less than 24 hours and the feeling was palpable. This is home. Everywhere I looked were friends – some dear and some still acquaintances – but in each one I saw warmth and expectation. I was walking down the stairs at church this past Sunday after being on vacation for almost two weeks and I was excited to be home – to greet my friends, to meet new people, and to relax into the comforts of routine.

I’ve lived in many places – nine total (thanks for helping me count, Uncle Mike!) – four of which I have clear (a.k.a. teen/adult) memories and have gone back to visit. There’s my “hometown,” Sioux Falls: a wonderful Midwestern city full of childhood friends and memories. There’s “home, home,” Fargo/Moorhead: my college town where my parents now live and where I go for Christmas vacations. There’s “back home,” Greenwich/New York: where I order coffee regular, visit with my closest friends, and talk fast. And there’s simply “home,” Issaquah/Seattle: where I’m most at ease, enjoy my life and have matured personally and spiritually.

It’s interesting to revisit my old homes. In the past I’ve expected everything to be the same – everyone doing the same thing, the same age, the same ambitions and goals. I understand that life continues after I leave, but in my mind everything is the same. This past vacation and trip “back home” felt like I finally found my internal balance about this phenomena. Since I’ve left, good friends have gotten married, had babies, started new jobs, moved houses, built houses, divorced, broken off relationships, established businesses, graduated school, taught children. I cheer them on in the triumphs and stand alongside them in the difficulties. It feels good to see life continue on.

And yet there is a bit of me that will always long to be “home” in each of these places when I visit. I remind myself that I am home when I visit. My closest friends in each place are still my closest friends despite our distance. Our conversations still flow easily. We still laugh and joke like we live around the corner. And we continue to build new memories from across the country.

To all my friends in all my homes – love you!