Thursday, June 20, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Endings: College. My time working with my beloved ASU babies. Being a Clevelander. Having my own bedroom. Being able to not shower for days. Making coffee for one. Having my love 800 miles away. It being socially acceptable to leave the house in soccer shorts and a t-shirt.

Beginnings: Post-grad life. Married life. Teacher life. Making coffee for two. Having my love in the same town (and in 15 days, under the same roof!!). Showering every day. Dress slacks and nice tops. Being an adult. A new church home. The Sandberg Nest.

I have put on my cap and gown, turned my tassel, and received my diploma. I have said goodbyes, cried quite a few tears, and hugged many necks. I have put things in boxes, in trash bags, and in piles to go to Goodwill. I have made the trip back to Nashville to start life here. I have accepted my first job as a teacher at a local elementary school teaching second graders. My fiancé and I signed a lease on Monday for our new apartment. In 15 days after we say I do, I will move in with him!

But as chapters close, and new ones open, I can't help but to look back on the past four years of my life. Four years that have gone by in a flash and in a slow and steady rhythm at the same time. Four years that have brought laughter, tears, growth, set backs, goals being met, and dreams being obtained. Four years that have left me rich with memories and love. Four years that I would not trade for the entire universe.

 A long time ago (and by "long time ago," I mean, "in high school,") I read The Perks of Being A Wallflower. It's tremendously better than the movie, if you were wondering. In the story, the main character has a line for moments that will be forever marked in his memory. He says, "And in that moment, we were infinite."

 College is marked with many of these moments. Perhaps hundreds of these moments, all tiny and special and tucked away in the recesses of my heart. But there are five huge ones that have managed to mark me permanently, and that perhaps have molded me into the woman that I am today. Some are funny, some are serious. All have merit. All are special.

Five: Dave Matthews live in Atlanta.
    I went with two of the coolest girls ever. I met these girls while we were on yearbook staff together. I can only hope that some of their coolness rubbed off on me.
   We traveled the 2.5 hours to Atlanta and ate at the World's First Moes. This was a big deal for me, The Girl Who Loves All Things Moe's Burritos. I remember running over a curb at some point. I also remember lots of great conversations about boys, and playing Frogger in Atlanta traffic. I remember the girls sitting two seats down for us in the arena were doing acid. I remember categorizing Dave fans into three groups: the frat boys, the over forty crowd, and the pot heads. We realized we didn't fit any of these categories. We made a fourth: "Cute College Girls With Really Great Taste in Music." We danced like seaweed, which was our only goal of the night. We laughed and danced and soaked up the goodness that Dave Matthews is. We drove through McDonalds at 2am on our way home because we were hungry. We ate Big Macs and giggled the whole way home. When I listen to Dave, I still smile.
     I'm not sure why this night left a lasting impression on me. Perhaps it was one of those things that college kids are supposed to do. Perhaps it was just all the wonderfulness of being surrounded by good music. Perhaps it was just right where I was supposed to be in that moment, perhaps it was what my heart needed. Perhaps.

Four: Cramming 7 people (and all the luggage for these 7 people) in my Honda CRV.
  My time in SWAT has forever changed me. The timing of me joining SWAT was nothing short of ordained. Praise the Lord that His plans are bigger than mine.
  We went on training weekend for SWAT leaders. On the way to Timbuctwo, Georgia, a fellow Swattie's car broke down. I had two other girls in my car, she had four people in her car. We managed to all get to Timbuctwo...a few hours late. We had a great weekend, and then got ready to load up and head back to Lee. Then we realized we would have to cram all seven of our little selves in my trusty Honda CRV. Plus our luggage. I sat on three pillows. The girl in the front seat with me sat on two more. There were four people in my back seat; three sitting on the seat and one laying across all their laps. My final passenger was in the trunk, who was smushed up against our luggage, sounded a million miles away when she tried to talk to us in the front of the car. The Lord was watching over us, because we didn't get pulled over. I have never laughed so hard in my life. It was then that I knew SWAT was a family that would forever change me.

Three: My SWAT weekend in Peshtigo, Wisconsin.
  Well, now this one is obvious! I met my soon-to-be husband on this weekend. :) But I also met a few of my closest friends on this weekend. I also met people who loved and cared and are now going to be a part of my family forever. It was on this weekend that I learned to love and be honest and quirky and myself. It was on this weekend that I fell in love with loving God's people. It was on this weekend that I began to learn that if I truly trusted in the Lord, He would use me in ways far beyond anything I could imagine. Immeasurably More.

Two: Freshman year. Yes, the entirety of it.
  Oh, freshman year of college. During no other time of life is it acceptable to live in such close quarters with 30 strangers. Freshman year of college, my nine months in Simmons Hall, my nine months with girls that would become sisters.
  Before I started college, there were many people telling me that I would love it. Sure, it was a rough start and I longed for people to have inside jokes with. But in no time, I had friends and I had sisters. I had giggle buddies, baking buddies, and girls to hunker down with and watch Madea movies. These girls challenged me, spurred me on, and called me out. These girls let me borrow their clothes, their shoes, their flour, and their ears and hearts. The girls I lived with drove me nuts, but those short months kept me at Lee. Those short months of living in freshman housing taught me how to love, how to forgive, how to laugh when situations seem grey, and how to blast Kelly Clarkson when boys are being... well, boys.
  I learned how to be gracious, and I learned what servant leadership looks like. I learned more about Jesus through those 30 girls than anyone I had ever known on earth. It's funny how you start a season as strangers, and somewhere in all the things that life has to offer, you find sisters.

One: Standing in The House of Mary in Bethesda in Jerusalem.
   As I have said before, the timing of my trip to Israel was only the Lord. Every single moment of my time in the Middle East was absolutely saturated with the love and presence of Jesus. That trip taught me so many things.
  But as I prepare to become a wife, I keep coming back to one particular moment of my time in Jerusalem. My trip to Bethesda, where Jesus healed the bedridden man, was a journey that didn't seem like much at the time. But over life and time, the Lord has revealed to me that that moment was uniquely planned by Him to plant in my heart and grow into a beautiful memory of which I would be gathering the fruit from for a very long time.
   The group I was with stopped by the House of Mary before we made our way down to the actual pools at Bethesda. The House of Mary has been turned into a cathedral. A cathedral that is known for its incredible acoustics. My group decided to sing How Great Thou Art while we stood in The House of Mary. I had never heard, nor probably will ever hear again, such a beautiful sound. It was almost as if we had entered the gates of Heaven and all of the angels were chorusing along with us. It still gives me chills to this day.
  In fifteen days, I'll be singing this song alongside my new husband as we worship at our wedding. And I'll remember the moment of splendor in The House of Mary. How great, Thou art. How majestic and merciful and articulate and intimately interwoven into the details of my life. How great, Thou art.

  College is an amazing, beautiful, arduous climb to the top of a mountain. But the view from the top is spectacular, and so worth it. On to bigger and grander mountains.

Through Him, all things are possible.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Immeasurably More

 Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

   This time a year ago, I was in my junior year of college. My plans for life after graduation included moving to Nashville and applying to Vanderbilt University to continue my studies in their graduate program. I wanted to teach in metro Nashville, I wanted to live in a cute apartment with original hardwood floors in downtown, I wanted a chocolate lab, and I wanted to travel during the summers. I felt like this dream was in line with what the Lord had in store for my life, and I was greatly looking forward to graduating and starting the next chapter of my life in a trendy city that I love.

  But God, in all His infinite wisdom, had other plans.

  This time a year ago, Ephesians 3:20-21 became a verse that I clung to and claimed for my life. I knew that God, in all His infinite wisdom, had plans bigger than I could ever ask or think. I knew that God, in all His infinite wisdom and love for His daughter, had plans to prosper me and not to harm me (Jer. 29:11) and to bring glory to his name (Psalm 23:3). I have always been a dreamer, I have always looked forward to life after college and greatly anticipated what it could bring.

Oh, I could have never imagined all the greatness Jesus had in store for me.

This time a year ago, I went to Peshtigo, Wisconsin for a SWAT weekend and met the most wonderful (and handsome!) man. I had no clue what was in store on that weekend, and I certainly was not expecting to meet my future husband.

But here we are, a year later...and Dale and I are engaged! He proposed in October, and we are in the wedding planning season! It is such a blessing and such an exciting time. I am greatly looking forward to married life with Dale. :)

 When I was sixteen, my dad and I were on a road trip to my grandmother's for Thanksgiving. During this trip, my dad had me write down ten "non-negotiables" in my future husband. My dad told me that any man I dated would be held up to this list, and if my dad felt that the guy I was dating did not meet my list of requirements, he would lovingly talk to me about it. I am so thankful to have a father who cares about the well being of my heart during my dating experience! There were a few times that some guys crossed my path who did not display the things that were on my list. The ten things I had written down were not surface level desires like, "He must be muscular!" But they were deep-seeded, divinely appointed, engraved into my being needs such as, "He must be a man of God. He must have a strong group of male friends around him to hold him accountable and encourage him. He must be adventurous." I felt like the things on my list demonstrated my core beliefs and reflected the kind of man that God had in store for me.

I was right!
But I was only scratching the surface.
Because God, in all of His infinite wisdom and great love for me, HAD IMMEASURABLY MORE IN STORE.

There are qualities in Dale that I anticipated and wrote on my list. He meets every single one of my "ten things" on the list my dad and I created when I was sixteen.
   But there are also qualities in Dale that I didn't even know that I desired in my future husband. How cool of Jesus! The Creator of the universe knows me so intimately well that when He created Dale, God said, "In my book are all of Amberly's days, and all of Dale's days. And I have ordained the day they meet, the day they become engaged, and the day they marry even before they enter into the world. I have created Amberly to be adventurous, and I have created Dale to be adventurous. I know they will enjoy many, many adventures together. I have also created Amberly to love the little things in life. And I know that I have created Dale to be incredibly attentive to detail, which will complement Amberly's enjoyment in life's small wonders. I know Amberly will love that in Dale."

To all my single friends, discouraged friends, or distraught friends who might be reading this, TAKE HEART.

Because God, in all His infinite wisdom, has IMMEASURABLY MORE in store for you.

 I remember what it's like to be surrounded by [seemingly] everyone who is engaged, happily dating, having babies, or going on adventures. I remember what it's like to be dissatisfied with a season I was in. I remember what it's like dating bozos and becoming discouraged by the [seemingly] dismal prospects of men in the world. I remember what it's like having my heart broken.

But TAKE HEART. God is all powerful and His timing is perfect.

I realize you may be thinking, "You are engaged. It's easy for you to say that God is good, and He has immeasurably more in store, because you are living in the immeasurably more."
And you know what, friend? You're right. It is easy for me to say that. Because I am living in the season of immeasurably more. But I am also claiming the promise we see in Ephesians 3:20-21 for the next chapter in my life, and all the chapters after that.

Because I know my God to be FAITHFUL AND TRUE.

Dale and I are currently praying/seeking/asking the Lord for direction in the next chapter after graduation. We are making decisions on where to live, work, and the like. Satan likes to get in my brain and heart and attempts to plant seeds of doubt about the Lord not providing for this next chapter. Satan likes to try to convince me (and sometimes he does, for a time) that God will lead me into the next chapter and then leave me hanging.

But you know what I am doing? Clinging to the promise that God will do IMMEASURABLY MORE in my life, in Dale's life, in our life as husband and wife, and He will do IMMEASURABLY MORE through our marriage.

So we are to take heart because JESUS has overcome the world (John 16:33), remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and cling to the promise that God will do IMMEASURABLY MORE (Ephesians 3:20-21) than all that we could ask or think.

Now. That's some crazy cool, divinely powered, strength to get through tough times!

Walk in peace and the knowledge that God will do IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we can dream, think, or ask.