Sunday, May 20, 2012

In which I reflect on the past two years.

(Friends and readers, here are some words I churned out as I took an honest look at what I am feeling during this time of MAJOR life transition. It's a little heart-spilling, so please read with love.)

I'm finished with IHOPU.
Two years ago, I was a fresh outta high school, heartbroken, soul-broken, never-been-without-her-parents 18-year-old. When I moved to Kansas City in the heat of August, I had to learn the skyline of a brand new city, learn the rhythms of a whole new culture, learn how to eat, shop, manage finances, drive to new locations, and make friends out of strangers all on my own. I thought I knew myself. I thought I was confident, bold, extroverted, independent, and assertive. Turns out I wasn’t completely right.

These past two years have been some of the hardest of my life. I had to be 500 miles from my cancer-patient mother, my newly jobless father, my busy bee sisters, my growing and learning nephews (one of whom was newly adopted and often had health issues), my home, and my sense of self. I had to sit still in the middle of the country, steaming in the humid heat, and listen to preacher after teacher after preacher talk to me about a God who, at times, I wasn't even sure was real. I had to watch as my bank account dwindled down to dollars even as I was working as much as I could. I had to watch as many of my friendships from back home faded. I had to let go of so, so much. I had to let go of everything- who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, what my future was, who my husband was going to be, who my real friends were, what my family meant to me, what I liked, what I disliked, my money, my house, my security, my privacy, my politics, my ideals, my religion. Hosea 2 became my reality: “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.”

God emptied me and God filled me up. He put His identity in me. He gave me friendships with people who could withstand my selfish, hurting antics. He surrounded me with wise, caring leadership. He somehow even managed to phenomenally strengthen my relationships with my family, despite the distance. He healed my mother and my nephew. He gave my dad a great new job. He directed me into a bright, exciting future. And He spoke to me about who I am to Him, to others, and to myself. I learned that I'm really and truly an introvert with crippling trust issues who has trouble being honest with anyone. I learned that Truth is my core passion and that my whole life is one epic Google search for it. I learned that singing is not who I am, but it's what I do, and what I can do despite the circumstances I find myself in (I don't need to be the next American Idol to sing my heart songs). I learned that I am worth fighting for. Jesus Himself, my Bridegroom Judge, fights for me, intercedes on my behalf, every second. He thinks I am worth it, so I must be. I learned truths about myself such as I am useful, I am intelligent, I am desirable as a friend, daughter, and wife, and that I matter deeply to God. I learned that I have an obsessive nature (tattoos and rabbits are just two of the things I lost my mind over). I learned that I am loyal, emotional, passionate, vulnerable, and, at my center, a fighter. God used my time at IHOPU, while I was surrounded by such a wonderful community of believers who would listen to, encourage, and counsel me, to teach me about heart issues like love, truth, abiding in the Vine, humility, and transparency.

I got to go on a mission’s trip to Southern California with hundreds of other students where I made wonderful friends and saw God move hearts. I got to explore some of the coolest historical sites in and around Kansas City and learn about the Wild West. I made friends with some of the most Christ-like people I’ve ever met. I daily encountered shining examples of godly, honorable men seeking to love and bless their sisters in Christ (and can I just say how healing and provoking it is to be so often reminded that men who look and behave like Jesus did can and do exist?). I was able to sing with 3 different worship teams and learn not only how to sing skillfully but to sing prophetically. I learned under some of the greatest theologians and prophetic musicians of our age. I met people from not just all over the country (IHOPU represents 50 states!) but all over the world who love Jesus! I lived with a few amazing young women who challenged me, encouraged me, prayed for me, comforted me, and loved me so well. I started liking yogurt! I never thought that would happen in a million years! I learned the value of singing the Word everyday. I wrote several songs ON THE PIANO. I mean, come on. I have loved living here. I have loved being an IHOPU student.

As I prepare to move home for good in two weeks, I’ve been seriously reflecting on why I came here and what I’m taking away from my nearly two years in KC. I think the most valuable lessons I learned while here were not about theology, 24/7 houses of prayer, or even living independently. The most valuable lessons I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life were about the simple things that make me who I am. I’ve only just begun learning about some of these aspects, but God willing, I hope to never stop being amazed at how uniquely and wonderfully made I am. And how who I am, specifically, is just how God wants and needs me to be for His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. And how the deep, deep desires and longings of my heart were put there by a passionate, emotional, jealous God who desires those things for me as well. How amazing is that?

So to anyone who might be wondering, no, IHOPU was not a waste of time. Not in any sense of the word. I learned so much about people, culture, identity, love, truth, the Word, the Trinity, prophecy, friendships, independence, trust, and myself these past two years. I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel as though I am now finally ready to be that bold, confident, wise woman I thought I was two years ago.

And yes, I am ready to come home. While a large piece of my heart will always be here in Kansas City in the front row of the Prayer Room and in the hands of the friends I leave behind, I’m looking forward with eager eyes. I’m ready to close this wonderful, enlightening chapter of my life and start the next, exciting, unexplored one. Because ultimately, my life is just a really great novel that God is writing, and only He knows the ending.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In which I vlog!

Heyyyaaa friends! I've decided to try my hand at vlogging to fill the gaps when I can't manage to type up updates! Check out my youtube channel and my newest video here. Let me know what you think!

Love to you all and hopefully I'll do a better job of updating as I embark on my 4th (!) semester @ IHOPU.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In which I turn 20!

Current Tunes: Mr. Jon Thurlow
Current Plans: Maybe some birthday mac and cheese?
Current Excitement: It's my birthday! I have cute nephews! My parents are visiting in a little over a week! I am blessed to be alive!

My friends!
This is my very firstest blog post as a 20-year-old woman! I can hardly believe it. I feel so blessed to be alive, and to know the people I know. I've really met some amazing people in the past 20 years, not to mention God has given me the most amazing family I could ask for.

School's been going really well. I've got a nice rhythm and my days are filled with wonderful music, prayer, learning, and people. I'm having so much fun this year. It helps that I've got beautiful roommates to keep me from being a hermit, and that everything I do throughout the day is just so dang enjoyable. Some things I've enjoyed so far this year are:
1. Learning, and I mean really learning how to play piano & about music theory. I feel like I've already learned so much in such a short time. It's so freeing to sit down at an instrument and know SOMETHING about it.
2. My roomies. They are the goofiest, most loving buncha girls. I love the random shenanigans we get up to. As well as the heart-to -hearts and encouragement (even when it happens on the bathroom floor).
3. My worship team(s) are uhmazing. We have so much fun and also manage do pray hard and navigate our way through the Word. It's so refreshing. For instance, today our partner team was leading an intercession set and they sang a few choruses in Spanish, and we were all being silly but we ended the set earnestly asking the Lord for His joy. OMNOM, right?
4. One time, Annalise and I went with some friends to the city market and we bought the most beautiful set of green chairs. Check us out:
5. That same day a friend and I explored a glorious old cemetery in a shady part of KC. There was a huge Jewish quarter and a lot of famous KC residents were buried there.

There have been many other adventures, shared meals, exceptional hugs, and giggles that weren't photographed. All in all, I am pleased.

So today's my birthday. BAM. October 12th, best day of the year. Some people think going from 19 to 20 is not a big deal, but for some reason, it really has been for me. There was something significant to me about leaving behind my teen years, and I really do mean leaving them behind. I wasn't really sure what about it was gripping my heart, but then while I was studying 1 Corinthians 13, God showed this verse to me:
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known [by Jesus]" (1 Cor 13:11-12 NKJV).
So now I'm 20, no longer a teenager. The word teenager connotes one who is impulsive, not worried about consequences, hormonal, and self-absorbed. There are a lot of good things that come along with teenagerhood, don't get me wrong- I had a good time. But something in me (the Holy Spirit perhaps) says it's time to move on and grow up. I am no longer a part of that category (in most ways), and now it's up to me to be responsible for my actions, to accept responsibility for myself, my life, and my choices. In the eyes of my culture and my country, I am an adult. I feel like the Lord is about to lead me into deeper levels of trust and intimacy with Him as well as with other people. No longer to I want to talk, think, or reason like a child. I want to talk, think, and reason as an adult well on her way to seeing things clearly. I'm excited about this brand new decade of my life which I'm sure with bring with it many changes and challenges. I'm blessed for what I've been given in the past twenty years, and I'm so thankful for the joy of the Lord which is my strength. Now is the time to put away childish things, to give the Lord the things I can't fix, and to set my face like flint before the Lord in worship and prayer. In other words, it's time to get serious. ;D

Thanks for all your love and prayers on this beautiful autumnal day!
Love from me in KC to you, wherever you may be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In which I bridge the 4+ month gap

Current Tunes: Jars of Clay, kickin' it old school.
Current Plans: get school things gathered, have lunch, go to class.
Current Excitement: going to sleep tonight.

So since April, I have been to Ukraine, gained a new nephew, sung in a wedding, got a nanny job, lived in MN for three months, went on a mini-vacation to Duluth, packed up and moved back to KC, moved to a new house with several other girls, and started my sophomore year of FMA. And there you have it. My life in a sentence.

Unfortunately I know that's not enough juicy information for you (MOTHER), so I'll break it down.

Firstly, when I last wrote, I was anticipating my trip to Ukraine to help my sister adopt her son, Charles Gabriel Andreev. The trip was some of the most exhausting, exciting, fascinating, emotional, joyful, worrisome few days of my young life. I loooooved Kiev, and I would love to go back. The architecture, the people, the history-- excellent. But of course, other than taking an overnight train, meeting Charlie for the first time was a memory I'll always treasure. We went to the orphanage, got him, and he was ours (well, my sister's. But really ours). The poor little guy was so tiny all his bones were showing, and he was quite sickly during the trip. Rachel was a champion mama and spent a couple sleepless nights with him trying to keep his fever down.

In the four months since we brought Charlie home, he's grown in size, personality, love, and skill. He's blessed to have an amazing family, and we're more than blessed to be able to love him. He's headed for a serious heart surgery in about a week (Aug 30th), so all of your prayers for his good health are appreciated. I know it's killing me not to be there.

My summer in MN was a quiet, mostly uneventful one. It was nice to be home for a solid chunk of time and watch my nephews grow and learn.

About two weeks ago, it was time to move back to KC. So here I am, in a new house with 3 other young ladies and an older woman who owns the house. It's a nice set-up, as I have my own room and bathroom. It's a new experience having roommates, and although there's some necessary attitude adjustments, I'm really starting to love it. My roommates are all gorgeous, talented ladies and I feel blessed to get to live with them.

Yesterday was my first day of school. It was great to be back with my old FMA friends and see what the year would be like. I'm lucky enough to have one of my close friends and former team members on my team again this year. And one of my old worship leaders is our coach for the first part of the semester! I'm excited to get to know the rest of my team. My schedule is pretty busy and I've got all kinds of things going on, but I've managed to figure out a sufficient work schedule and we even have breaks for meals this year! That's a bonus. So now I just have to start settling in and find a good rhythm to carry me through the semester. I especially need to establish a sleeping schedule, as waking up at 7AM is definitely not part of my natural sleep cycle. And this girl needs A LOT of sleep.

So now you're all caught up.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In which I gush about Perpetua

Current Tunes: Thunderstorm. God's the greatest musician, you'll find. :D
Current Plans: Reading away the night.
Current Excitement: Spring! Relaxing! Summer's nearness! Leaving the country! GBF week!

Hola mis compadres!

Today has been a glorious, glorious Sunday. Breezy windows open, fan going. Organizing my book collection (I'm quite a LitSnob, I've decided), making feather earrings, going for a walk, practicing piano, talking to Jesus, taking out the trash (finally), eating whatever I feel like... Glorious day. It was HOT today, just classically Missouri. The day is closing out with a marvelous thunderstorm/hailstorm/lightening storm/general racket. Good form, KC! Days like today are why I love my life.

The big news of the moment is-- I'M AN AUNT AGAIN. {See above photo ^^} My sister and her husband have adopted a gorgeous little tyke they've dubbed Charles Gabriel Andreev. I've only seen pictures but he seems to be a winner! He's currently still in his home country, but next Saturday my sister and I will be flying out of MN across the world to go bring him home. I'm suuuuuuuper pumped, as it'll be my first time off the continent. I can't wait to experience a new culture AND meet my brand new little nephew. I'm so glad God gave our human hearts infinite capacity to love, because I already love my baby nephew so much my heart could burst, but I'm finding there's room for more! Praise God, He found my sister a wonderful little son. He knew, when He was knitting Charlie together in his mother's womb, that my sister and brother-in-law would find him and fall in love. He knew that Charlie's parents were in the US, praying for a little one just like him. So that's the headlines- I'm leaving the country and coming back with a new boy in my heart. :D

Here's what's been gripping my heart for the past two weeks: Perpetua by Amy Rachel Peterson. I bought it impulsively from the Forerunner bookstore in January. I loooooove history, especially ancient Rome/Greece, and when I saw this book hiding away in the back my heart leapt inside my chest. I remembered learning a little about Perpetua at Bethel last year. If you don't know anything about her, basically here's the scoop: She was a young noblewoman, not much older than myself, living in Carthage (N Africa, then part of the Roman Empire) 200 years after the death of Jesus Christ. This was a time when the Emperors of Rome were persecuting Christians and had outlawed Christian conversions. Romans of the era believed that Christians practiced cannibalism and incest, and ironically referred to Christians as atheists. Perpetua was a real young woman, and, along with several others, she became a martyr for her faith. We know a little about her story because she kept a brief diary while she was in prison just before her death. We know that her friend/slave Felicitas was 8 months pregnant, but after everyone prayed for her, she went into labor. If she hadn't, she would have had to wait to die until after she'd given birth a month later because it was against the law to torture or kill a pregnant woman. We know the names of several of Perpetua's fellow martyrs. We know that Perpetua's father pleaded fruitlessly for her to recant, even just for his sake. We also know that Perpetua had a young babe at the time of her death. An eye wittness recorded the gory events of her death. If you would like to read the full text of Perpetua's diary, you can do so here. It's quite short, so I encourage you to take a few minutes and read it!

Basically what Amy Rachel Peterson did was take Perpetua's diary and imagine what her life was like before her captivity. How was Perpetua converted? How did she find the strength to give up her son, and who was the father of her child? What events led to her martyrdom. The author masterfully illustrates what Perpetua's life could have been, sticking very close to the given historical facts and to knowledge about daily life in the Roman Empire during that period.

This book has wrecked my heart. I imagine myself in Perpetua's sandals and I don't know what I'd do. When the story starts she's just my age, feeling exactly the things I often feel. She has self-image issues, she wonders about romance, the point of life, social status, and what her friends think of her. She adores her parents and brother, and is the perfect picture of a young noblewoman. After she experiences a dramatic conversion, I find myself again and again in her thoughts, prayers, and desires. Her relationship with Jesus was so tangible, so passionate. And I think to myself, that's the same Jesus I still worship... but what am I doing about it? When I have a problem, I call my best friend or my mom. Perpetua laid it at the feet of Jesus. When I screw up or get caught up in sin patterns, I condemn myself and basically cut off communication with Jesus. In the novel, Perpetua works out her salvation with grace and mercy. I know that in this novel most of the story line is completely fictional, but that doesn't make it any less compelling.

In the end, she dies for her Saviour. Am I willing to do that? She sacrifices everything, and I can't even sacrifice my comfort. Could you? If Jesus asked you to go without Facebook, or your friends, or your food or money, could you? She lived in a time when simply reading the Bible was punishable by death. From where I'm sitting, I see four different Bibles laying out. I'm so blessed, yet I seem to give the very least of myself, my time, and my money to Jesus. Just enough to get by, really.

I believe we'll soon experience a time again where Christians will be actively persecuted for their faith, even here in America. You can feel the tension building already. What are you going to do without your laptops, without your luxuries, without your perfect ideals? What are you going to do when all you have is memorized Scripture and each other to hold onto? I say this to everyone reading this as much as I say this to myself. Christianity is not meant to be your comfort food. You don't become a Christian to feel good and prosper. We need to understand what Christianity, what fellowship, what living with Jesus every second of everyday really looks like.

I encourage everyone, especially you young ladies, to read Perpetua. You can ask my friends and anyone who saw me in the PR- I basically cried throughout the whole thing. But it helped give me perspective on what Jesus intended the Church to look like.

So that's what's on my heart this week and I just thought I'd share it.
Love to all of you from my heart in KC to yours, where ever that may be!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In which I sail along

Current tunes: Company of Thieves
Current plans: eat a late lunch/dinner, maybe go to church, read Narnia!
Current excitement: one more week, then spring break, yo.

Hola amigos.
Where to start?
It's been well over a month, and much has changed. Very much.

Let's start with school: I've learned so much in such a short time! In my keysETT I class, I've learned many chords, and am re-learning music theory stuff like reading music and intervals. I can play several worship songs already, too, which is so freeeeeeeing! I've even written a song myself, and today got so into it that I wrote down the staff music for it. It's nothing mind-blowing, but it's a START. I know God has many songs planned for me in the coming years.
I love my worship team- we do four sets a week in three different locations, and along with our partner team, we're starting to be a FAMILY. I love singing with them soooo much. We get better and better and more cohesive each day, and we still manage to praise God & have buckets of laughs.
My Excellencies of Christ class with Allen Hood has been really eye-opening. I never really thought of Jesus anywhere outside of the Gospels, and now I realize how many times He shows up in the OT! He is EVERLASTING to EVERLASTING, ALPHA OMEGA, the Word made flesh, etc. He was not just a man, not just a prophet or a legend. He was a MAN and GOD. Think about that for a month and you'll understand how I feel. Mind.blowing.
Okay, so I like school a lot right now. It's constricting and freeing, time-consuming but not stressful, educational and entertaining, and it's ALL for God's glory, which is what I like.

A highlight of the last month was my parent's visit two weeks ago. It was very short, but sublime. They arrived Saturday night, and after some struggle, we had a nice dinner at... you guess it- IHOPancakes. The next day I gave them a brief tour of my little world and then we went and did historical/nerd stuff in Independence, MO, which is where Harry S Truman lived. So we learned a lot about that guy. I had such a blast, and got amazing photos, which have yet to be edited so forgive me. We ate dinner at Jack Stacks. The next day before they set out on their journey back to MN, I got to show them my school. Then after giving me some tissues, paper towels, and water, they went away and I stayed put. I miss them, buuuut sprngbrk is around the corner so it won't be long!

Another good day was yesterday- in the morning I was going home from the PR and it was hailing, so this guy offers me a ride home. And lo and behold, my Good Samaritan is none other than Mike Bickle, the papa of IHOP. I was too overwhelmed to say anything of value, and it wasn't a long ride. I was in my pjs with no make-up on and unwashed hair, so that was nice. I didn't even have contacts or eyewear. But it was an awesome two minutes that I'll always remember. I just think it goes to show how awesome Mike Bickle really is- that he schedules his days out by 15 minute increments, he's been all over the world, he's well-known (and loved and hated in equal parts, I'm sure), but he still goes out of his way to give a random first year student a ride home. What a guy. Then in the evening, through a blizzard, I had my first outing to Chick-fil-a! It was really fun because lots of IHOP-ers were there, including one of my worship leaders who did his part to embarrass me in front of the whole restaurant. I just love IHOP students, endofstory.
In summation, I'm learning so much about Jesus' mercy, love, forgiveness, meekness, humility, and divinity. I wish everyone I knew could know the beauty of this Man, who died for those who still remain ignorant and hateful towards Him. Bah. Jesus, open up their eyes to see You!
The only reason I've had a chance to give this update is because the roads were too icy to go to work and I didn't feel well to begin with so I opted to stay in bed, which I have done. Haven't done this pretty much since I came back in January, so I don't feel guilty ONE BIT. I've been super, unbelievably busy. More busy than I ever have been in my life. Every little thing is scheduled out. But I am swell.
That's all I care to say right now, though there's much more to be said, I'm sure. I'm sorry, on a day like today, I can't manage to have intelligent thoughts. ;D
Peace, <3, and :D

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In which I use visual aids to describe Winter break

Current Tunes: Aaron Leatherdale (IHOP musician- download his 3-song EP for free!
Current Plans: Unpack a bit, sleep, start new semester in the morning!
Current Excitement: All new classes and schedule this week! I'm determined to conquer it! *see header

Hey franz. Here's an update on Christmas break and my ... life. Also I don't know if it's because I'm exhausted or groggy or whatever, but tonight my brain is having trouble forming thoughts and sentences.. so if some of this is muddled I am sorry.

Well, I'm back in KC and tomorrow is the start of Spring semester! Already. Wow. I'm excited because we're finally starting music classes, which is nice. I'll have keys and prophetic singing! Duuuude.

I just spent the last month in MN on Winter break!! It was so glorious, I cannot even tell you. I really didn't do that much, but that was the beauty of it. I was just free to lay about, read, catch up with friends, laugh at my nephew, and SLEEP. I had a wonderful Christmas with my family, and it was dreamy to ALL be together (minus the not-here-yet nephew of mine [see the button to the right!!!]) MN has been getting DUMPED on by snow, so that was a challenge. My poor car made me nervous, but so far is still alive. As am I!

Some highlights of Shonna's winter break:
1. BRENNAN (+family)

2. BETHAN CAME HOME! It was fantastic- we hung out, hugged, went sledding, saw Tangled, ate Red Robin, and giggled LOTS. It was so great to see her again!!!

3. Kendra, Will, Denika, Ned, and I drove down to KC for Onething'10. It was truly a different experience now that I'm an IHOP student... The teachings were powerful, the worship was as good as ever, etc. There were a few roadbumps in the trip, but we survived! Here's a photo of our traditional Wafflehouse Feast:

4. I finally got a tattoo! I've been talking about getting this one for awhile, so I was soooooo pumped to finally do it! Kendra came with me for support and she got these shots:

I loooooove the final product! I got it done by Sarah at Beloved Studios- I would definitely recommend them!
5. Downtown adventure- my favorite kind! Kendra and I took Travis, Colin, and Jeremy out and about! We went to Mesa, Izzy's, Electric Fetus, and saw True Grit (which... wow... just. Wow.) We had a great night laughing and getting harassed and screaming as Kendra tried to kill us on the freeway.

6. My friend Marissa Griffin (who is incredibly talented, btw) joined several other young women to start an online magazine called Crooked Teeth to showcase young artists, photographers, and musicians in the area. Last night was the launch party in Northeast Minneapolis! I don't have photos yet, but it was a lot of fun! Cool people were there, and the Broken Bicycles (featured in the magazine) played some sweet tunes.
7. My mumsie ( who is the best) took me to Michael's for some art supplies to support my 'crafting hobbies.' I really love feather earrings and unique jewelry, so she set me up with some beads, twine, feathers, a hot glue gun, etc... I find it really cathartic to make jewelry, even if it's not super fantastic or perfect. I just like the act of MAKING something. Here are my earrings! I think they turned out pretty bomb for my first go at it, considering I didn't really know what I was doing:

Welllllll... That should be enough to satiate you information-starved friends of mine! Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I embark on this new semester!

Love to each of you from my heart in KC to yours, wherever you may be!