Our Story: Learning To Say “It Is Well”

Learning to say it is wellI felt my first real contraction around 11:00pm on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 (your due date) as I was getting ready for bed. That morning, I went out to breakfast with your Papa M at Panera Bread before work so we could have one last Daddy/Daughter date before you arrived. Had I known you would begin your grand entrance at that hour, I might have had that date the morning before. But if there’s one thing that our birth story has taught me, it’s that the future is not in our hands.

As I prepared for your arrival during the months prior to seeing your sweet face, I would often find myself listening to this version of my favorite hymn, It Is Well. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones. Maybe it was God’s stirring in my heart. Maybe it was a lot of both. But every time I listened to this song, it seemed to speak to my soul in a way that it had never before. It was no longer just my song, it was our song. It was a clear message from God that this new role I was about to take on-being your mother-was uncharted waters for me.

I had asked God to expand my territory in 2014 and He was about to do some major demolition in my heart. He was making space. Space for you. Space for love. Space to give myself grace. The firm grip I so often had on my life was loosening each time I listened to that song. In order for space to be made, I would have to follow the next step God was revealing to me. No complete road map for me to look at, just the next step. Just an opportunity to breathe in and out, say “it is well” and place one foot in front of other.

Your dad was on the phone with your Aunt Cristina catching up when I felt that first contraction, marking the final stretch of your time of growth within me. I had been feeling contractions with you for a while, but these were different. It was time.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

Mixed emotions filled my heart:
Joy for your arrival.
Sadness that I would no longer carry you inside of me.
Doubt of my capability to be the mother you need me to be.
Exhaustion because you chose to start so late at night after I had been up since 6am that morning and put in a full day’s worth of work.
Fear because I hadn’t been able to finish my to-do list at work yet. . . I’m a recovering perfectionist.
Relief that your Papa M, Jammie, Uncle Jonathan, Aunt Michelle, and Truett would be able to meet you during their time here for Christmas.
Excitement to experience your birth after months of reading about the process. Nervousness about being admitted to a hospital for the first time.

Breath in. Breathe out. It is well.

Around 3am on Christmas Eve Day, your sweet daddy and I loaded up the car and headed towards the hospital after experiencing a few hours of close contractions. You weren’t quite ready, so we were sent home. I didn’t want to be THAT woman who went in too early, but I was. I wanted to see your sweet face. I wanted to hold you.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

After arriving home around 5am, I labored with you all day . . . and I mean all day. No sleep for more than a few 15 minute cat naps happened that day for both of us. There was a lot of focused breathing on my part and a lot of counter pressure applied by your daddy. If we weren’t already tired, this solidified our exhaustion.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

Around 11:00pm on Christmas Eve, my contractions with you started to get closer and closer again, so your daddy and I got back in our car and headed for the hospital. This time, it was confirmed you were coming. Having progressed to 3cm, we were going to see you on Christmas Day.

Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

Welcome Laney Drew

After getting to the room where I was going to deliver you, it was about 3am at this point and the doctor came in to see me. We were told that he was going to break my water since I had been in such hard labor for so long without much progression. It was going to make my contractions more intense closer together, which would speed up my progression. Not what I wanted to hear, but we made the decision to go ahead with it. Whoa.

Breath in (Tomy, please don’t stop applying that counter-pressure!). Breathe ow-ow-ooooouuuuut. It is well.

I do believe I spent the next 3 hours of intense and unrelenting contractions singing our song in my head over and over again. Because that’s what they tell you to do; focus your thoughts and breathing on something to help through each contraction. Girlfriend, your momma was working hard as each set of contractions (yeah, I would have 4 contractions in a row and then only get 1.5 minutes break before they would start again) would come. But you were worth it.

So after 3 hours, the doctor came back in to check my progression with you. Your dad and I were anxious to see how much longer it would be until we got to see you. After 32 hours of labor thus far, we were getting pretty excited to see your face. . . and kind of miserable from all those excruciating contractions.

After those 3 hours, we were told that I had not progressed any further than I was before they broke my water. Not what we wanted to hear. Not a pace that we would be able to keep after working so hard for so long. I looked into your dad’s face and saw sheer exhaustion. He looked into mine and saw the same. At that point, neither of us had slept for more than a few minutes in over 48 hours. It was with a reluctant heart that I requested an epidural. Months of reading and preparation for a natural birth, we were going to continue the process with an epidural.

Breathe in. Breathe out (let go of your expectations for a drug-free birth). It is well.

Well, there is a reason why so many women get an epidural. Within minutes, the excruciating pain was gone. Your daddy could sleep. I could breathe and my body could fully relax. Jammie visited us in the room that morning and Papa M headed to the airport to pick up you aunt, uncle, and cousin. We tried to sleep, only getting in a few 15 minute naps. Even though I couldn’t feel the pain, I still seemed to be restless with anticipation of your arrival.

After another 12 hours of labor since the epidural, I was checked again, only to see that I was at a 7 and we were quickly approaching the end of the safe window since my water had been broken. Pitocin was recommended to help me progress. We agreed and the medicine was administered. More drugs. We were getting further and further from the birth I had expected. But even though things weren’t panning out like I had hoped they would, peace kept washing over your daddy and me. We were watching our story unfold. We were getting closer to becoming a family of 3.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

After few hours of labor and our doctor proclaimed I was finally at a 9, just shy of a 10. Hope. Excitement. Light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel joy. Your Jammie had since gone home to eat dinner and spend time with the family. Your daddy and I were excited to see you and we knew we would be getting the best Christmas present ever. You. Our sweet little Laney Drew.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

A 9. A “stretchy 9.” That’s what I was for about another 2 hours. Any time now. You were descending and all that needed to happen was for my body to fully progress so you could make your debut. But that “stretchy 9” wasn’t going anywhere. The doctor came in and suggested we go ahead with a c-section since my water had been broken for about 18 hours. What? A c-section? No. We called our families and asked them to pray for clear direction. We didn’t want to have you via c-section. That was the last thing we wanted. You were, as our nurse put it, “the best looking baby she had seen all day.” You weren’t in any sort of distress. I was a 9, almost 10. We decided to wait another hour or so.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

It didn’t take the full hour for my body to start to change. Something was up. Even though I had an epidural, I started to have an overwhelming sense that you were going to come. I had heard women talk about the “bearing down” sensation they feel when your body wants to push. Oh, there was no question in my mind that I was feeling that sensation. Your nurse was delivering another baby, so we had to wait for about 45 minutes for her to be done so she could check to see if I was actually ready to push.

Your daddy and I, up until this point, had been full of hope that I was going to fully progress. Our nurse had been cheering us on each time she would come in. She reminded me that it can happen at any time. Only this time, she had a different perspective. My “stretchy 9” was not progressing. You were progressing. I was not. In fact, I was going backwards. I was starting to swell. Confirmation.

Your daddy and I made the difficult decision. With tears in my eyes, I said “yes” to having the c-section. One more time, I had to let go of my expectations for how you were going to enter this world.

Breathe in. Breathe out (God you’ve got this). It is well.

Before I knew it, I was being wheeled down the hall and into the operating room. Your daddy kissed me before I went through the door and waited until he could come into the room. It was the first time we had been apart since the first contraction over 47 1/2 hours ago. He would later tell me that he has never seen me more at peace than I was before I went through the doors, and I was. Even though the story was not going as planned, God was in control. He was in control. He was writing our story.

The doctors and nurses were busy making preparations for the surgery. I was on the operating table, singing our song in my head, and cherishing these last few minutes of carrying you inside of me. Our sweet little girl. Our gift. Our Laney Drew.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

It was only a matter of minutes after your daddy came into the room and sat next to me that I heard your first cry. . .

Laney's First Picture You were here.
December 25, 2014.
7lbs. 12oz.
21″ long.

Your daddy got to hold you while they finished my surgery, but he brought you over to me so I could see your full head of dark hair, your gorgeous blue eyes, and your sweet little lips. I had been dreaming of what you would look like for so long and I was finally seeing your sweet face. We didn’t think we could love any more than we already did, but your daddy put it perfectly: “Now I know what the Grinch felt like when his heart grew 3 sizes.” You proved us wrong. We never knew a love like this. You changed our lives in the most beautiful way.

IMG_0339Laney Drew in stockingBreathe in. Breathe out. It is well. It is well with my soul.

Our story didn’t go as I had planned, but that’s something you will soon experience for yourself, sweet girl. Toys will break. Relationships might end. You may not make the team. Your imperfect parents will mess up. My prayer for our story, as it continues, is that we are able to teach you the wonderful freedom and joy found in humbly submitting to God and His plan. It may not always be fun. It may not always be glamorous. It may not always be comfortable. It may not always make sense. But God will always be with you, and that is all you need.


Laney's first Sunday at church

Take the next step. Breathe in. Breathe out. It is well.

.: Act Justly | Love Mercy | Walk Humbly :.


Lessons at Poppy’s Kitchen Table

PoppyThis past February, I had the beautiful opportunity to visit my grandpa in the hospital prior to his passing and share a last conversation with him. It was a precious time spent recounting all my favorite memories with him and telling him just how much his life meant to me, his youngest grandchild. One of my fondest memories I shared that afternoon was our early morning breakfasts at his kitchen table where I would always ask him if he would make me toast because “no one makes toast as good as my Poppy.”

I’ve often laughed at myself for remembering this simple act of my grandpa so vividly, until recently when I discovered it’s true significance in my life. My grandpa, being the great teacher he was, wasn’t just making his granddaughter toast, he was teaching me how to serve.

We serve with our TIME
Even though my grandpa was retired from a formal job, he was in no way lazy or in need of something to do. He was devoted to his church, his farming land, and his family, yet he didn’t see the request of his spunky and stringy-haired granddaughter as an interruption, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to show me he cared about me-even in the little things. When we hear the word “serve” we often associate it with big acts of sacrifice that require a huge commitment to give of time. And how in this crazy-busy world can we find enough margin in our lives to dedicate that much time to serve others?

While some acts of service we’re called to do can require us to clear space in our lives so we can dedicate a large portion of our time, we often overlook opportunities to serve because they are disguised in the simple things. Serving is not something we do, but rather is a lifestyle and our service can take place in the small bits of time we have in our day. We just have to be willing to see them.

We serve with HUMILITY
My Poppy’s hands were highly skilled. Being a farmer, my grandpa had some of the strongest hands I’ve ever seen. They wrangled cattle, tossed thousands of hay bails, and firmly held the reins to his massive Belgium horses. Making toast was by no means my grandpa’s highest calling. He accomplished many great things in his life and was very wise, yet he still chose to serve me toast with those skilled hands. I can often get caught up in the lie that if I am not constantly achieving more, doing more, and using my talents, I am not truly serving God. Yet, in the life of Jesus, we see a very different image of service:

“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.”
Philippians 2:6-7

God showed His greatest act of love, not by using power and might, but rather by choosing to take on human form. He showed love through humility. Don’t get me wrong, using our gifts and talents to serve God is a great thing, but we should not overlook the power of service done with humility when we lay our egos and our logos aside.

We serve with LOVE
My grandpa carried a lot on his shoulders as the patriarch of our family. Yet, he still maintained a spirit full of love when I would interrupt his conversation with my requests. What might have seemed like an inconvenience to break away from what he was doing, he saw as an opportunity to extend love to his youngest grandchild.

It wasn’t an obligation or sense of guilt that drove my grandpa to serve me. If his spirit was unhappy each time he made me toast, those memories would not be pleasant; quite the opposite, actually. When we serve others without a loving heart, even if our acts meet their exact needs, our efforts are meaningless. As 1 Corinthians 13:3 puts it, “ . . . I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message)

No act of service is too short, too small, or too insignificant for God. While there are times where service does mean a radical charge from God to go out and do something which seems impossible, that’s not always the case. God gives us all opportunities to serve each and every day, which often parade around as seemingly insignificant moments; monotonous even.

I’m forever grateful for the powerful lesson my grandpa taught me each morning he made me toast: to serve, all you need is a little bit of time, a humble heart, and a loving spirit.


When you look at someone and view them as the enemy, that’s dangerous ground to walk on. Trust me. It leads to jealousy, bitterness, hurt, and broken relationships. Not the best path to walk down.

Whenever I catch my mind drifting to that sort of thinking, I am quickly reminded of the verse Ephesians 6:12, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I’m thankful for these “truth slaps” that I often get from my years and years of reading Scripture. Even though I’ve read it’s contents a million times, I still have a hard time living out what it says I should do in my daily life. But I don’t give up there and simply refuse to no longer read the truth I so desperately need. Those millions of times I’ve read this Scripture is the very same reason why I can catch myself living contradictory to what it says.

My challenge to you is a challenge to myself: don’t view others as the enemy. They’re not the enemy, but a battleground. A vessel containing an intense war on the inside. Two forces are fighting for their hearts each and every day. When you look at someone and refuse to give into the lie that they are the enemy, your perspective changes. Your heart changes.

You no longer ask yourself, how can I fight against them, but rather, how can I fight for them?

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. | Mendolin

Under The Table


Middle school is rough.

You feel like a ball of raging hormones, your social circles are changing more than ever, you’re in what feels like “maturity limbo,” you’re beginning to realize that life isn’t all about birthday parties and ponies, and to top it all off . . . the pressures to perform well in sports and at school are increasing. I know. I was basically a walking billboard for how awkward and difficult those 3 LONG years were. But you know what? I survived. I learned a lot from it all, too.
They say experience is the best teacher, and I would have to agree. When I approach ministry, I have a different vantage point and understanding than our kids do because I have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. One of my best learning experiences came out of middle school. It was embarrassing and profound all at the same time, and that combination always makes for a good read.

Before I get started, remember what I said about the whole ball-of-raging-hormones thing? Yeah, keep that in the forefront of your mind.

I grew up a pastors’ kid, so I had always been at church and had longed to be in the youth group since as early as I could remember. But today, I had finally arrived. I was in the youth group. In fact, it was my very first event in the youth group at church.

My brother, who is 4 years older than me was an old pro. A 10th grader who was a pretty solid part of the group. His class was the largest. The coolest girls were his friends. I was set. I remember walking in with a confidence I had never felt before. I could just imagine them all saying to each other, Look! There’s Mendy. She’s Jonathan’s sister, she must be so cool. Today was going to be great. So what did I do?

I went crazy.
I went overboard.
I was annoying.
Remember that part about being in maturity limbo? I was there.

My brother was there to witness it all. He sat back in horror as I completely bombed my attempts at portraying coolness and confidence. So, my brother did what any loving brother would have done in a moment when his sister is making a fool of herself. He approached me calmly. He pulled me aside. He started to quietly talk some sense into me.

Looking back, he was being such a good older brother-so mature! He was protecting me and looking out for me by discretely calling to my attention that I was making a fool of myself; however, my 6th grade self did not see this at the time. I saw my older brother trying to embarrass me. I saw my bossy brother correcting me in front of all my new friends and trying to make me look bad. So, I did what any middle school girl would do.

I tackled him.

Yes, a 6th grade girl flattened her 10th grade brother. It was me. I did it. Ball of raging hormones moment.

And then I immediately realized what I just did. In front of the ENTIRE youth group. So, again, I did what any middle school girl would do. I ran from the scene and hid underneath a table and started to cry. Another ball of raging hormones moment.

But what happened afterward is what I remember the most from my first day in the youth group. What I vividly remember was my brother’s response.

Immediately after I had flattened Jonathan and ran away to cry under the table and hide in shame, he got up off the ground and started to search for where I had gone. He found me curled underneath the table, got in there with me, and started to again explain to me what he was trying to tell me from the beginning.

He told me that he cared about me. That he wants what is best for me. That he doesn’t want to embarrass me, but that he thinks I might need to calm down a bit. He was telling me something I needed to hear, but didn’t necessarily want to hear. Only this time, I was listening. I knew he was right. He was trying to save me from embarrassing myself, but instead my inability to trust and listen resulted in me making things worse.

So yeah, middle school is rough. At least my experiences in middle school were.

As I work with students, I often go back to this moment in my life. I try to put myself back into my 6th grade self and look at the world through that lens so I can begin to understand what our students face and how they might feel. How they might take the words I’m saying, whether it be a joke or a moment where I’m trying to speak words of truth into their lives.

When those conversations don’t go as planned, I look back to when I was underneath that folding table in the lobby of my church. I see how my brother made an effort to look for me and to get under the table with me. I see how, that day, my brother showed me how Jesus responds to all of His children-even the annoying ones. He searches for us. He lovingly calls us out of our hiding and our shame. And when we don’t have the courage to come out, he gets under the table with us.

This week, how will you seek out others? How will you loving share truth and let them know there is a life out there that is better than second-rate? How will you meet them where they are at, under the tables where their fragile hearts are hiding, and show them Emmanuel, God with us?

How To Give Your Life Away

blog-header-give-your-life-awayYou may have heard this scripture woven into a sermon about complete surrender to God. In the upside-down life that Jesus introduced to us during His ministry, we find that in order to have a full life in Him, we must first put our old life to death. We must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is our Lord. Our life is not our own. Indeed, we must give our life away.

I believe deep down, we all have great intentions in life. We might go to church, hear a message, write down the points that really hit home in our lives, and vow that this week will be different. But then something happens.

Our flesh gets in the way. It’s Saturday morning and you don’t feel like getting up at 6AM to help your neighbors move their couch. The woman in the grocery store was exceptionally short with you and you don’t quite feel like responding with patience and grace. You’re stuck on a problem at work, so instead of sticking with it, you start to let your work slip and let others solve it for you.

How do you give your life away?

• You set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than you normally do so you can start your day off reading God’s Word. You understand the importance of filling up first.

• You choose to limit your time on activities that take you away from opportunities to develop your relationship with others. You understand that community is an essential part of living a life for Christ.

• You choose to stick it out when you enter into a difficult problem at work and refuse to take the easy way out. You know your pain can sometimes be a blessing. That when you get in over your head, you allow God’s strength to show and you learn how to trust in Him more deeply.

• You consciously work on improving your reactions to that frustrating person. You know you’re not perfect and while your sin may rear it’s ugly head in a different way, you need the gift of grace just as much (if not more) than who is standing in front of you trying to push your buttons.

At the end of your life, you don’t lie in your deathbed and finally declare, “Today, I have surrendered my life to God.” It’s not a one-and-done moment. How do you give your life away? It’s hard. There’s pain. There’s imperfect progress. There’s grace. There’s persistence.

How do you give your life away?
One day at a time.
Will you start giving yours away today?

Digital Tattoos

Digital Tattoos

If you were in our youth group, you’d probably overhear me having a conversation with one or more of our students about what they post onto social media. Why? Because I feel it needs to be talked about as much as possible. You’ve heard the whole the-Internet-is-taking-over-our-lives-and-we’re-experiencing-more-bullying-and-anxiety spiel. Yes. I would 100% agree with you, but that’s not what I am talking about with our students half of the time. I don’t think that will change overnight, at least not right away.
When I pull a student aside, or make a general comment about social media, I often talk to them about their digital tattoos. Because that’s what their Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Vine/SnapChat/Pinterest posts are. Digital tattoos that are hard to remove, if at all.

Last night, I came across this article about a young PR Executive, Justine Sacco, who tweeted as she was boarding a direct flight from NYC to South Africa on a business trip. Here’s what her tweet stated: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It’s VERY clear that this is highly offensive on many levels. Even though she had a little over 400 followers (which is a little over the following of your standard high school or college student), her post set off a viral wildfire. #HasJustineLandedYet landed in the top 3 hastags while her flight was still in air. When her flight landed, she found herself being fired from her job and a notification center full of retaliation-all because of one tweet that took about 10 seconds to post. OUCH! That’s a big digital tattoo she gave herself, which eventually led her to deleting all of her social media accounts, and essentially removing herself from the Internet.

Justine, like so many of us, find ourselves freely posting any and everything we think to our various social media platforms. In fact this morning I read about what my friends ate for breakfast, saw the battle wounds of a mountain bike accident, saw posts of several friends who made a Starbucks run, and even watched a video someone posted on their love for Hanson (yes, I have a friend that loves Hanson). Pretty harmless, right? But what happens when we create habits of not using a filter when we post to social media? What if we find ourselves lonely, angry, hurt, or just bored? What do we post then? Probably something we’ll eventually regret.

More often than I’d like, I look through my various feeds and I see words of hurt and posts from people who clearly weren’t thinking about how it would affect the person on the other end of their comment/picture/video. If people like Justine can get fired for their job for a thoughtless post, we should be talking about how we can protect ourselves from making the same mistake. Was Justine wrong? Yes. Is she different than us? Maybe not as much as we’d like to admit.

As you continue to engage on social media, please remember that it’s a form of technology and technology is amoral, meaning, it is neither good nor bad. The thing that dictates whether or not it used good or bad is the user. That’s us. If we want to complain about technology, we must first remember that we are pointing our finger at ourselves. Not sure how to navigate through whether you should post or not? Here’s some good tips to consider:

Are you’re hurt, angry, or lonely? If yes, hit delete and open up your journal. Tell God, he can handle it.
Would the post offend someone? If yes, hit delete. If you’re not sure, hit delete. Humor that is at the expense of someone else is cheap humor. In the words of Lady Grantham, “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”
• Are you showing a certain part of your body that shouldn’t be the focus of your post? If yes (and deep, deep down we all know what should and should not be shown), hit delete. Ladies & Gentlemen, this includes SnapChat. You may never realize how fast someone can take a screen shot until you see that photo on your mother’s phone in a text message sent from the mother of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Would you be embarrassed if your parents or grandparents read/saw it? If yes, hit delete. If no, post away! My 90 year old grandpa, Poppy, is on Facebook. Every time we talk on the phone, he ALWAYS comments about my posts on there. It’s actually great to know he cares about what I care about!
Would it encourage someone? PLEASE POST IT. Post things like this often! If there’s one thing people need, it’s a word of encouragement.

Being a marketing major, I love Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Vine/SnapChat/Pinterest/Wordpress. But as we now know, we’re all susceptible to the pitfalls that can come from using these platforms. Because a harsh reality is, the world is becoming increasingly more and more connected and that means the line between our personal lives and professional lives is starting to look a little blurry.  Will we get it all right? Probably not, but hopefully with these tips we will learn and grow together in such a way that we will set ourselves up for success and spread words of encouragement and excitement in the digital abyss.

Happy Posting!

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. | Mendolin

A Lesson I Am Still Teaching Myself


It was a month before I was to graduate from college and I found myself in the office of my university’s president. Sitting on the other side of his massive desk along with a male classmate, we were asked to give that year’s graduation speech. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I was scared to death at the thought of standing in front of my peers, professors, family and the rest of the normal graduation attendees to share my thoughts about the past 4 years and my hopes for the years to come. As I listened to him talk about his vision for that morning, all I could think was: My dad may be a pastor, but I think God skipped me when he was dishing out the public speaking gene. I had grown accustomed to that saying over the years.

But, in an act of boldness (or, let’s face it, stupidity) I said yes.

I was going to share words of truth and inspiration for everyone in attendance to hear?

The morning of May 15, 2010, I was introduced and walked up to the podium in my cap & gown. In that moment, all eyes were on me as I spoke these words:

“I’m sure when all of us set foot on this campus roughly 4 years ago, we briefly
thought about how our college experience would go. Visions of all night study
sessions, Ultimate Frisbee on the lawn, weekly chapel, and making new friends
flooded our minds making us fearful, excited, and nervous all at the same time. For
some of us, all of those things did in fact happen, but one thing is for sure: all of us
have experienced so much more than we could have ever imagined during our time
here at SNU. Sure, we learned valuable lessons inside the classroom, but for me, the
most important experiences I’ve had throughout my four years at this university
happened outside of the classroom walls.

I was one of those individuals who had thought through what my time here at SNU was going to be like, and was sure of how things were going to pan out. I was going to make great friends with fellow students, never deal with conflict, listen to lectures that only would
reinforce the thoughts and ideas I already had formed, have a perfect 4.0 GPA, and avoid any real pain by having a well thought out and detailed plan for my life. It didn’t take long for me to realize that those plans I had for my life were not going to happen. I overlooked a few things: I didn’t factor in other people and their decisions, and most importantly, I underestimated the power of God. My plan soon got off track from what I wanted. Accounting ruined my hopes of that perfect GPA, I heard lectures that challenged me to think more critically about life, and I suddenly was forced to make important life decisions on my own.

Panic soon set in.

As a child, I was a daredevil. I would climb any tree, talk to anyone who would
give me their attention, and jump from any height – and I mean ANY height – onto
my trampoline with my brother (sorry mom). But as I’ve grown a little older and learned
more about life, that fearless attitude is a little harder to come by. When we were
young, we didn’t have to have plan for our life, that was the responsibility of our
parents. Now, as all of us have grown up a bit, the decisions we have to make are
different and seem to carry more weight than simply choosing which ice cream flavor
we want after our tee-ball game . . . I often wish I could go back to those days.
While at college, I’ve been exposed to the severe hurt that exists in this world,
and have come to a deeper realization that my life here on the earth is finite. These
two realizations, while difficult to ponder, have made a profound impact on my life
and the choices I’ve made. They have taught me the importance of taking risks, and
to truly live my life for something that will outlast it.

During the first semester of my sophomore year, I read the quote,”if we are
afraid of the future, afraid of change, then we miss out on what God has called us to
do.” It made an impression on me, and I decided to pursue something outside of
my comfort zone. The next thing I know, I’m on a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles headed towards Auckland, New Zealand for a 2 1/2 month mission trip for the
summer. I had never been out of the country before and I was unsure of how I was
going to pay for the trip.

I took a risk. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Nothing I had imagined prior to leaving the country came close to what I experienced during that wonderful summer. From hiking through some of God’s most
beautiful creation, to ministering to the local Maori youth at Te Ora Hou, my whole
perspective started to transform. For so long, I had been seeing the world through a
tiny pin hole, and after one summer, that view was stretched, altered, and forever
changed as I saw God at work in the global Church. I learned that you can
never “out-imagine” God no matter how hard you try.

For me, taking a risk and changing my outlook meant going on a life-changing
mission trip, and I’m positive there will be more leaps of faith I take. As each of you
venture out into the world after this morning, your important decisions may take on a different form. You might buy or sell in the stock exchange, set aside your career
later in life to be a stay at home mom or dad, travel to a developing state in the
Global South to administer medical care, or simply strike up a conversation with a
familiar face at a local coffee shop. No matter how big or small they might seem,
each choice can be difficult in their own way, but remembering that your life is finite
can be the most influential tool for following your heart and making those bold
decisions. It’s when we realize we have nothing to lose, that our greatest moments
take flight.

Right now, similar feelings that we had our first day on campus have invaded our
minds again as we stare towards a life with either an immediate career search, or
the continuation of our education. While many of us are just as confused about what
to do in life as we were when we started, may our passions and our heart be our
guide through the maze that lies ahead of us. Howard Thurman said it best when he
stated, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

As each of us leave go forth from this pivotal moment in our lives, may we never
forget what each of us have in common: we are all called to serve God and serve
others with a relentless, and selfless love. Congratulations Class of 2010, we did it.
Now as we graduate and begin anew, it’s up to us when and where that love will be
shared, so take a risk, and let your passions provide an avenue for you to love
others deeply. “

My very own words seem to still be teaching me today . . .

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.