Monday, December 31, 2012

top 12 memories of 2012.

Some of the highlights of 2012, in no particular order.

one: Josh, Danielle, and Harvey moved back to America. They spent a lot of time here over the spring/summer, Danielle and Harvey have been back a couple times since then, and they all came for Christmas. I've loved seeing them a lot more often than I've seen them in the past six years.

 two: beach trips. First: Junior/Senior beach trip with youth group. As with most youth group functions, it was great. Second: the whole family. One of my favorite places with my favorite people...doesn't get much better. Third: Mom, Dad, Joe, and rides, popsicles on the pier, Britt's doughnuts, Hoover Ball, and good quality reading time. Can't wait for next year's beach trips.

three: Memphis. I spent three awesome weeks in Memphis with Josh, Danielle, Harvey, and Bethany after moving the new Memphians into their apartment.

four: Good News on the Move surge week in Apex. Really good week of evangelism and hanging out! Excellent friends, etc. Good things like that.

five: Skyland. Always a good time. New friends. The boys won the basketball game. Good speakers. Never lets me down.

six: Sr. Teen week at camp. One of my favorite years. Favorite part of the week: the video making fun of the counselors and staff.

seven: Olympics. I really hate that they only come every other year. But during those two weeks my life is consumed with them.

eight: Camp Hope. Definitely my favorite weekend of the year. Excellent speaker: Nathan Bramsen. Really good time learning and worshiping the Lord and making new friends. Definitely a life-changing weekend.

nine: Jordan and Ashley's new house. Good times helping them prepare and move in to their gorgeous house. White house with black dream house. We've already made good memories in that place!

ten: A really good Christmas. So good to have all of our immediate family home; Josh and Danielle haven't been here for the past 5 Christmases. And so good to have all 32 Shelleys home for the first time in a while. Spent lots of quality time with glad she could come for two visits this year.

eleven: Some really good movies. Saw two premiers: the Hunger Games and the Hobbit. Both premiers are so fun. And Les Miserables...oh my goodness. I can't even describe. Disclaimer: a few sketchy scenes. But it was definitely my favorite movie of the year. I've already seen it twice. I really loved it.

twelve: Many good times at UNC. Psalm 100 concerts were stellar, as always. Weekend visiting Joe was incredibly fun. I really love UNC. Here's to hoping for my first semester of college to come this fall and to be in Chapel Hill.


There are so many more good memories from 2012,  but I've gotta stop. Really thanking the Lord for the great year that He's given me. So blessed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

(not so) easy to swallow.

I love reading the passages I've read a thousand times. There's always something new. I tell you what, the Bible is packed with so much. No verse ever wears out. There's always something to learn.

Isaiah 25:8 goes like this:

"He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken."

Lately I've come to appreciate the words and the quotes and books and poems and songs that you have to stop and think about for a little while to actually understand. You know, the ones that are a little more deep than most of the songs written these days. As I stopped to think about this familiar verse I came to an understanding of it that I never have before.

When you swallow a piece of food, you don't just make the food disappear. Rather, you take the food and eat it, putting it into your body and digestive system. The Lord swallowed death. He didn't just make death disappear or just make us be able to escape the horrors of separation from Him. He swallowed it. He put it onto Himself when Jesus hung on a cross, was forsaken by His Father, and was put to death.

When it says that the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces it doesn't mean that He will just wipe them off and make them cease to exist. He put them onto Himself when Jesus felt pain (physical and emotional); when He went to Lazarus' grave and wept; when He stood over Jerusalem and wept for them; when He sat in the garden before His death, no doubt, weeping and crying out to the Lord.

When it says that the Lord will take away the rebuke of His people from all the earth it doesn't mean He will just eradicate it. He put it onto Himself when Jesus was hated by the religious leaders and when He was spit upon and mocked while being put to death.

God is a powerful God and as much as it seems He would just conquer death, wipe away tears, and take away rebuke with the snap of a finger, He did it a little differently. He came here and experienced those things. And that's not the easiest thing to swallow [pun intended].

If you read the next verse it says:

"And it will be said in that day; 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'"

You see, He has given us salvation - salvation from death, tears, and rebuke. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is every reason to rejoice and be glad.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

the (not so) unknown God.

Everybody has those passages in the Bible that you just keep going back to, that you just can't get enough of. The ones that you don't even try to memorize but you end up knowing word perfect because you've read them so much.

One of those passages for me is in Acts 17. I've always (hyperbole?) loved it but have recently grown to love it even more after looking at it closely. So here I am. Pastor Anna Shelley. And I'm going to give you a sermon. Except just kidding about the pastor dad would freak.

In the latter part of Acts 17 you find Paul waiting on some of his friends to join him in Athens. So, meanwhile, he's just hanging out in the synagogue, you know, typical apostle stuff. While there, he's talking to some of the people and they think he's preaching about some sort of foreign god because he's talking about this Jesus person and about a resurrection. Absurd, I know....who would be talking about Jesus in a synagogue. So they take him to go talk to the Aeropagus. I'm not even going to pretend I know who or what that is. But for now, he's talking to something...someone...a group of people...I don't know. Ask my dad, the real preacher here.

So they ask Paul to tell them about this stuff that he's going around preaching. I imagine they were a little skeptical. He tells them about how he notices that they are religious...they even have an altar inscribed with the words: "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." And then comes my favorite part. I'm not going to try to paraphrase the rest of it. It's perfect how it is. I mean, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and all.

"...Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 'God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being...'"

If you just skimmed through it or just skipped it altogether: go back and read it. If you did read it, read it again. Maybe two more times. You can't catch everything after reading it once. Dude, this stuff is good. Those poor people in Athens were worshiping the God that created the earth but they weren't worshiping the God that knows them and wants them to know Him [which, by the way, is the same God].

So often I am Athens. I worship God. I sing songs. I sing about how He made the stars and decides how high the ocean tides can rise. But I forget to worship the One who died for me. The One who was Immanuel - God with us. The One who puts little things in my life to encourage me and bless me. The One who knows my name and knows my every thought.

God is a personal God. It's my job to grow that personal relationship with Him, to talk to Him, to let Him talk to me. Not just in my "devotions"...whatever that even means. But throughout the day. When I encounter the person that looks dirty or deformed and realize how beautiful they are...that they were made in the image of God. When I have a spare minute and use it to read a few verses. When I find a christian girl in my class and talk to her for 45 minutes about spiritual things. When I hand the homeless lady a pack of crackers and she gives me a smile and a candy cane. It's the little things. It's seeing God everywhere. After all, everywhere I go I am with people who are made in His image. It's hard to miss Him if you're looking for Him.

It's hard to turn Him into an unknown God. He knows you. And He desperately, desperately wants you to know Him too.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

here's to blogs and books and reading.

I read a blog. And I like it a lot. And I just realized how creepy it is that I read it. It is the blog of my dad's cousin's daughter-in-law's brother's girlfriend (now fiancee). Weird. But she's cute. And she just got engaged and when I saw it I FREAKED. She's dated this boy for 6 years. And they're finally engaged.

I have never felt creepier. One day she will stumble upon this and turn her blog private. And I'll cry the day she does that.

There's this other blog called Elm Street Life. My dear friend Rachel introduced me to this blog. I am forever indebted to her for that. It is so good. Seriously....go read it now. They have this really cute baby. And it's just a really good blog.

When my sister-in-law Ashley became a Scentsy consultant she was talking about the lady who is her "boss"...."leader"...whatever way you wanna swing it. And I asked who it was. "Oh, right, it's the lady from Tales of the Trees. I read her blog." I read everyone's blog. It's bad. It's an addiction. I get a little upset inside when my favorite bloggers don't put up new posts. Like, what do they think they're doing? Do they not realize their purpose is to entertain a procrastinating 17-year-old that is obsessed with them?

I don't know why I love blogs. Something about the pictures. The stories. The feeling like you know someone without really knowing them (example: when I freaked out when that girl got engaged...didn't even know the girl's name, but I still freaked). The craft-sharing. The honesty. The life tips. There's just something about a good blog that gets me. Alright, something about a blog that gets me. I don't even know what a bad blog is. If it's a blog, I love it.

If it's a book I probably love it too. I don't know why. But I've never read a book I didn't like. Literally. I mean let's be honest. The Pioneer Woman's book drug out wayyyy too much and could have easily been told in a pamphlet. But I read it. In a short period of time. And I enjoyed it. 

I'm in the middle of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It's one of my mom's favorite books. So far it's at the bottom of my "favorite reads" list. But I'll finish it eventually and tell people it was good, and I'll be honest in saying that. I'll enjoy it. Who cares if it's 500+ pages long. I'll still convince myself that it was an excellent read.

If I was you, I'd probably even think this blog post was good. Hah.

Anyway. Reading is good. If you don't like to read I suggest starting out with the Hunger Games. Strongly suggest it. And do it with an open mind. Yes, they're about children killing children. But you've gotta read them to understand. It's not as morbid as it sounds.

Some of the books at the top of my "favorite reads" list: Radical (David Platt). Through My Eyes (Tim Tebow). Kisses from Katie (Katie Davis). The Help (Kathryn Stockett). The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel).

If you're looking for a good book to read, any of the above books will do the job and do it well.

Help me out a bit. I have no clue what to ask for for Christmas. I think I'll ask for some books. But I don't know which ones to ask for. Got any book suggestions? Or suggestions for Christmas presents besides books?

Thanks. Yours truly.

p.s. this picture has absolutely nothing to do with blogs or books. but it has everything to do with Christmas. and i thought i should put it on here for documentation's sake. you know...when i'm in college and i'm wishing for the days when i didn't care about what others thought of my choice of clothing. i.e. my entire senior year of high school. but that's another story for another post.