Monday, September 13, 2010

Aiden MaGee Moves to CT! (lessons in loving the Giver)

I'm starting a new chapter in my life in Connecticut this week. Our family horse, Aiden, made a 24+ hour trek from Carlock, IL to Bridgewater, CT...and I suddenly find myself a full-time horse momma after six years off the job! (Taylor has been in the momma role these past six years, but now she's a college girl and it's my turn again.)

My dad sent us the sweetest e-mail regarding the move. Here's a little excerpt of what he wrote:

Aiden left Hunter Oaks at 10:40 a.m. in good spirits and in a box stall. I said goodbye to him with apples yesterday, treats today, told him that we all love him, that Chels will see him soon, and the rest of us before long. It was a bittersweet time for me. Chelsea and Taylor, I have lots of fond memories of time with you at Hunter Oaks and watching you ride lesson and leased horses and then, Scottie and Aiden. I am sad to see this time end and can only imagine what it is like for both of you when you left Scottie and Aiden behind. Sweet, because I am choosing Taylor's outlook, " I am happy that he will be with Chels and have a good home."

How great is my dad?! There's a quote from a Focus on the Family article that we used to repeat when I was young: "the best way to love your daughter is to love her guinea pig." I happened to have a series of guinea pigs, so it was very practical advice for my parents. I think the same wisdom applies to loving whatever your daughter's pet happens to be!

Here's a picture of Taylor and me with MaGeester shortly after we adopted him from our friends in Virginia, the Knopps. (A family from the same barn had purchased my other horse, Scottie, from us a year earlier, so it's been a neat relationship of buying and loving one another's horses!)

All of us have grown up a lot since then! As Taylor thoughtfully said tonight while we chatted on the phone, "I think Aiden's matured a lot." Read: she has done a fantastic job with him--hope her out-of-practice big sister doesn't mess him up! Here's a picture of Aiden and me when I (sort of) knew what I was doing:


Waking up today felt like Christmas morning. I was giddy with excitement to see my boy! But driving out to the barn this evening to meet him, I had a profound sense that God is after something here: I'm meant to love the Giver more than the gift.

In vulnerability, can I just admit that I struggle with that?! Anyone else want to fess up? It's such an easy trap...we find ourselves with beautiful friendships, dazzling possessions, or some exciting new adventure...and suddenly we "want the Father's gifts more than the Father," as Tim Keller has succinctly put it. The opposite can be true, too, at least for me. In moments when I feel deprived of something, I can start to imagine that the something will fill me more than God can. I "feast" on it, as Sarah describes the tendency. How foolish to love His creation more than I love Him, the Creator! Crass idolatry.

So I was really praying about this whole thing tonight, and as I read from Valley of Vision, I came across a prayer for worship. Here's my favorite part in light of how God has been directing me tonight:

Crowns to give I have none,
but what thou hast given I return,
content to feel that everything is mine when it is thine,
and the more fully mine when I have yielded it to thee.

I love that! Along this journey of figuring out the logistics of Aiden's cross-country move, I've felt that this horse business is significant. I moved to New England to know people outside the Church. To engage in the culture. To be obedient to the Lord and let Him use me as a worker in the Harvest. Building relationships at the barn seems like a strategic way to do that.

On a larger scale, money is tight here in Fairfield County, where the cost of living is extremely high. In his lesson on giving for our high schoolers last Sunday, an adult leader said, "Let me un-confuse you--giving is not just about money." Well put, I thought.

I know that I need to grow in my willingness to give generously out of my limited finances, but I also know that God is calling me to leverage other gifts in His service (namely, my apartment, which He's blessed me to be able to afford, and this horse, provided by my generous mom and dad).

Is it just me, or is there something profoundly relevant about Proverbs 3:9-10 here?

"Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine."

Many use these verses to preach the health and wealth gospel, which of course I think is a heinous interpretation. The point of the passage, I think, is that we're blessed to bless others. Just like in the Parable of the Talents, when we are responsible with that which God entrusts to us, He blesses us with more--so that our generosity can increase. I so want to excel in that art of giving!

So, Lord, in the sweetness of this blessing, I yield all I have and all I am to You.


Home sweet home! The folks who were out at the barn tonight couldn't believe how quickly Aiden settled in. He even felt at home enough to make a quick escape while I was feeding him apples--he wandered across the aisle into his neighbor's empty stall...just to check out the grain bucket, you know!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Colleeege! or, "I love InterVarsity"

My baby sister started college this week (!!), which means two things: 1.) that I am feeling really old and lamenting the fact that I'm NOT a college girl any longer a little more than usual, and 2.) that I'm beyond thrilled to live vicariously through her! For those of you who know sweet Taylor, she's doing great. And I'm planning a visit to Birmingham at the end of October :)

Meanwhile, I've been praising God for a full summer of exciting happenings on the New England college front! Truly, I'm just blown away by all that God has been up to. A little background is needed here:

During my senior year at Richmond, I seriously considered being on full-time staff with Greek InterVarsity. It's such an amazing ministry, and I had been so tremendously blessed by my staffworkers, Goodie and Carolyn, and by the support I received as a college girl who really wanted to see her chapter transformed by the gospel. In the end, I decided that as much as I loved college ministry, being on a college campus full time would limit my capacity to work with high school students. It was a tough choice because there is such a huge place in my heart for Greek ministry! Several of the jobs I applied for last year entailed some contact with college students--an exciting prospect. But when I took the job at Walnut Hill, I really didn't expect to be involved with college ministry beyond coordinating communications.

It's been such a huge perk of my job that I have gotten to spend time with the college crew. I love working with high school girls, but it's so refreshing to hang out with college girls. They're so wise and so much fun!

Okay, so here are the things I want to update you on:

1. Walnut Hill is partnering with IV!!
I still almost can't contain my excitement over this--a church I love (and happen to work for) is partnering with a ministry I love! It's beautiful. Our new college pastor is on full-time staff with IV, pioneering a chapter at WestConn. I just know it's going to be amazing to watch as IV lends its many resources to a ministry that has been growing in significant ways over the past few years. New England campuses are under-resourced, so it's exciting to think about how Mike's ministry at WestConn could influence other New England schools, specifically those in Connecticut!

2. Another small-world connection...
Maybe it's just because I'm such a social creature, but few things excite me more than small-world connections. I just love it when worlds collide! That happened in a really cool way this past month. Matt had mentioned a couple of months ago that one of his buddies from our church in Nashville, West End CC, was a WestConn grad. It seemed random, but I didn't think about it much beyond that conversation. More recently, he mentioned the guy again...and the following week, while our team was praying for one another, Mike shared a request for some more supporters. As I was praying for him, Matt's friend Pete came to mind and I thought, "I've really got to connect these two." I wasn't thinking of it as a financial solution so much, but more a potentially encouraging relationship for both Pete and Mike, two guys who care deeply about the spiritual condition of their alma mater's campus. So I asked Matt to help make it happen, and he called Pete almost immediately. Unbeknownst to Matt, Pete was in Connecticut at the time! And he told Matt he had planned to attend Walnut Hill that Sunday! The rest is history. We connected in the Fellowship Mall, I introduced him to Mike, and now he's on a mission to help Mike raise support for the ministry. (You can ask my sister how giddy I was on the day this all unfolded, since she was visiting that weekend.)

His plan is pretty genius: Publicize WestConn as a mission field to Southern Christians with lots of resources. It's brilliant, really. (And it's giving me some other ideas, which I'll write about in another post.) As Matt said, "there are two things the Church in the South has plenty of: people and money." And really, if there are two things the Church in New England is lacking, it's those! So we'll see what happens. But I'm overwhelmed at how good God is to arrange for these seemingly random meetings. I guess when your God is big, the world is always pretty small :)

3. Greek Conference
Last semester, I was really burdened for the many, many girls who were going to be coming home from school for the summer. I began praying about how we as a church could help them to feel connected while they were home and about how we could bridge relationships between WestConn students and Walnut Hill students from other schools. We ended up having a girls' small group at my house before the Gathering (our summer college group) every week. It was such a sweet time of eating together and building relationships--one of the highlights of my summer, for sure! There were lots of neat relationships and conversations that came out of the summer, and all my girls went back to school leaving me VERY encouraged that there are passionate, incarnational Christian women on college campuses all over the Northeast.

One especially cool thing, though, was meeting a couple of girls who are involved in the Greek system at their schools (both in AXO)! It's been awesome to connect with them over something that's been so significant in my own life...and to know that God is using them in their chapters in amazing ways! One of them had been to Greek Conference in Charlotte (the same conference I went to in college) and shared a buzz she heard about IV possibly adding a New York location this year. She told me today that the buzz is for real--Greek Conference is coming up this way in October! So, I'm hoping to rally a group of Greek girls to go--and to volunteer that weekend as a leader.

If that weren't enough, Mike shared with me that an IV couple is pioneering the ministry at UConn this year--the guy will be working primarily with the undergrad chapter, and the girl will be starting a Greek chapter! As we talked, I started to put together that I met this girl--Alyssa--three years ago when I went to Orlando for a prospective staff weekend with Greek IV (yet another small-world connection)! At the time, she was pioneering a Greek chapter at UNH. I immediately loved her for her willingness to do ministry in New England. (Of course I never dreamed that God would eventually call me here! He's funny like that, you know.) But how cool is it that we have not only two undergraduate IV chapters in Connecticut, but now a Greek chapter as well?!

God is definitely up to something around here!