Debate tournaments can be stressful and exhausting, and the past few weeks have been no exception! Liberty’s Debate Team started out the semester at the beginning of January, with two tournaments in sunny California! After a week full of debating, we came back to Lynchburg to immediately jump into the new Spring semester. After barely making it through our first week of classes, the whole team set off to Maryland for a tournament at the Naval Academy.
Needless to say, the start of this semester was anything but restful. But even in the stress of debating and the chaos of traveling, I am so thankful for my team and the opportunity we have to enjoy this activity together. There are moments when none of it seems worth it, and the stress and fatigue weigh heavily on us all. But then there are the moments when I look around at the people that alternate between making me smile and making me want to tear my hair out, and I realize that even if we’re a dysfunctional family, we’re all learning together, working together, and striving together to glorify Him in our work and reflect Him in our relationships, even when we’re not perfect at it just yet.
My dear friend Meagan and I enjoying our break from the Lynchburg cold in sunny California!
In between our two tournaments in California, we spent a few hours checking out this beautfiul beach.
We're clearly thirlled to be able to relax and defrost from our Christmas Breaks on the East coast!
....And then we were shocked to discover the water was equally freezing cold on the West coast.
But we still loved our time on warm-ish sand beneath a sunny sky!
Once we headed back to Lynchburg, however, the exhaustion hit all of us at once, with some hilarity ensuing. This is Lindsey and I asleep on our flight back to the East coast.
Across the aisle, Alan is taking advantage of Leonora's equally exhausted expression.
Finally, here's an exciting picture from this last weekend at the Naval Academy - Mary coaching Emily and Claire at their first varsity tournament, celebrating their first win in varsity!
The first day of classes of this Spring 2015 semester is dreary, rainy, and soggy. It doesn’t have the feel of a bright new beginning full of possibilities. And yet, I know He is at work, and His plan is bigger than big dark clouds.
This semester, I have a new theme: celebration. I serve the God who created the universe and He is working for good in my heart. What could be more deserving of celebration?! During this winter break, I had a lot of heavy things to think about. A lot has been changing in my life, and more change is coming. In the midst of lots of hard things, it wasn’t a very restful break. In spite of that, I heard Him telling me over and over again – delight in Me.
Choosing to be joyful when your circumstances aren’t exactly rosy isn’t just about having a cheerful disposition. It’s not the Pollyanna spirit that says everything will be okay when it just isn’t. It’s the Joy of knowing that even the most not-okay circumstances are nothing compared to our Lord.
It’s a choice that sounds easy when I’m inside writing a blog post and my toes are finally starting to feel the warmth from my White Chocolate Mocha. It’s a lot harder when I’m back outside in a couple hours and the rain soaks through my coat and my umbrella gets swept away in the wind.
Thank the Lord, He is bigger than the rain. Choosing celebration this semester is not going to be easy. Classes are going to pile up, relationships are going to be strained, I’m going to get stressed and forget who I am and Who I serve. But thankfully, He is gracious and merciful and is in pursuit of my heart. Last semester, I learned that He isn’t going to give up. This semester, I pray I’ll learn a little more about what my response to that unfailing Love should look like.
So I’m choosing celebration. I’m choosing to delight in the work that He’s doing, even when it hurts. I’m choosing to sing of His mercies in the middle of a sinful world. I’m choosing Joy.
Wow, this semester has been a whirlwind! I still can’t believe I’m over halfway done with my undergrad, and that it’s almost the end of 2014! (It’s going to take me a few months to remember to date things 2015.) So much has happened this semester, and I’m exhausted. But more than the classes, debate tournaments, weekend trips, and midnight runs to Cookout, I’m going to remember this semester as one where God worked pretty miraculously in my life.
Here are a few things my God has been teaching me.
1. He’s been teaching me, over and over again, how sovereign He is. Sometimes, it’s actually easier to find peace and security in knowing that He has control over all things when it comes to the big stuff. I have an easier time not stressing about what career I’ll have, what grad degree I’ll get, or where my life will be in ten years, then I do recognizing the control He has over all the little things. This semester, He was challenging me to take comfort in knowing that He has sovereignty over each test I take, each debate I win or lose, and each and every one of my days.
2. He is in relentless pursuit of my heart. Praise the Lord this one is so true. In the midst of hard days, when I thought that I had messed up beyond repair, He was teaching me that His pursuit of my heart is relentless because He is not content to let me have a half-hearted faith. When I slip into the very human trap of believing I can do it all my own and I stop relying solely on His grace and sovereignty to guide me, He is not content to leave me there. Like the very best parent, my Father sometimes lets me experience pain that is good for me and will bring me closer to Him. He knows when winning a debate is only going to leave me full of pride and leaning on my own success instead of His grace. He knows when I start to think I can do it all on my own and need to crash and burn a little bit so that my faith in Him can grow. I love that my God is not content to have half of my heart, He is in relentless pursuit of the whole thing.
3. He is all I need. This is one that I can know in my head and have a much harder time living like it’s true. After a particularly bruising criticism of one of my debates, a friend (with great intentions) said to me, “Remember when you won that tournament? Remember when that one judge said you were amazing! Remember those things when someone says something mean.” She was coming from a loving place, but she was missing the point. When I let those instances of human praise be what confirms my worth, I only give the insults more power to tear me down. It’s only when I realize how meaningless the praise or the criticism is in the light of all my Savior has done for me that I can be truly free from the pain of a harsh word.
4. He is faithful. Usually when Christians talk about God’s “blessings” or his “faithfulness,” they’re talking about the A on their midterm, the raise they got at work, or things God has given them that make their lives more convenient. When we say God is faithful because of these earthly pleasures, what does that say to the person that failed their midterm or got laid off at work? Like His relentless pursuit of my heart, He is faithful in the truly good things. When I pray for a good grade or to win a debate, He may not give me that gift in order to more greatly bless me. After a day full of earthly losses, I can honestly say, “Thank you, Lord, for the losses and the failures and the disappointments. Thank you that you bless me with these promptings to live my life more reliant on your Grace.”
5. There is nothing more I can do. Everyone wants to do something important. Sometimes I worry that I’ll never do the world-changing stuff that I think I need to do. I dream big dreams and then worry that they’re too big. Not only is He big enough to do all things, but He has already done the greatest world-changing thing to ever happen. There’s peace in knowing that He has won, succeeded, accomplished, and done it all. It is finished. There is freedom in knowing that all that’s left to do is follow His lead and rest in His grace.
I hope this semester was as rich in the Lord’s mercies and teachings for y’all as it was for me. I thank Him often for a school that fosters these lessons and has put people in my life to journey this life with me.
As for me, I’m about to drive home for Christmas and enjoy a short break before the debate season starts back up again in early January.
Have a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of thanksgiving for the blessings He has graciously given in 2014!
Merry Christmas from my little sister Kendra and I!
Last week, the Liberty debate team got the incredible opportunity to host a team of debaters from Rwanda!
It was an incredible opportunity to get to know a group of people with such different backgrounds from us and use an activity we are all passionate about to do it.
The students from Rwanda got a tour of the campus during the day, and then that afternoon, two of them debated two Liberty debaters – myself and my dear friend Meagan.
Meagan, me, and Rwandan debaters Bryan and Kassy.
We debated the resolution “The United States should intervene militarily in situations of genocide and dire human rights abuses.” The debaters from Rwanda affirmed the resolution and Megan and I negated it. The debate centered around what method of intervention was the most effective and moral in response to genocides – military or non-military.
After the debate, we took questions from the audience that ranged from the U.S. legal obligations in such tragedies to the response the victims of genocide were calling for.
Then, the Rwandan team presented our team with a gift – a basket debater Kassy described as representing the work our coaches had put into us and the harvest of that labor in us as debaters.
Liberty University debate team Director of Debate Michael Hall accepting the gift of the Idebate Rwandan team.
At dinner that night, the debaters from Rwanda had so many interesting comments about their time in the states. Kassy commented that she had heard that Americans did not vote in their elections. When we explained that far less people voted in the midterm elections than in the presidential elections, the debaters were shocked that Americans took their right to vote so lightly. In one of the most profound moments of the day, two of the debaters, Kassy and Bryan, mentioned that when we criticized our country in the debate, they had to remind themselves that they didn’t need to fear the police coming in response. Kassy said that when she heard people make fun of our president in a flippant and superficial way, she was shocked that Americans would use our freedom of speech in such a way. Her comment stuck with me – “It seems like you’re taking your freedom for granted.”
What a blessing that we can criticize our government in debate without fear of our opinions being silenced by force. But what a responsibility that blessing is – to use our words wisely and take advantage of the freedoms we have.
This weekend, the Liberty University debate team hosted a tournament here on campus!
I’ve written before about how much this team means to me – we’re a (sometimes dysfunctional) family and I’ve fallen in love with this activity.
This weekend was a great reminder of why I love this team – we may love competing (and winning), but our purpose in debating is so much more than that.
I love that I go to a school and debate for a team that puts our Lord Jesus above all things. I find it so easy to slip into the mindset that success is all that matters and that losing debates can be the end of the world. I love that I have a support system of people around me that are all striving towards the same thing – keeping Jesus the center.
Novice debaters Ana and Amanda having a great time debating at the home tournament!
Varsity debaters Alan and Lindsey preparing for a debate.
New debaters Hannah and Katie are learning so much!
Liberty debaters having fun in between debates!
And to make the weekend even better, it was Halloween and we got to wear our costumes to the tournament!
Meagan and Vida serving pizza to debaters on Halloween!
Amanda and Ana dressed as Frozen characters Ana and Elsa!
Varsity debater Mary as the Cheshire cat!
My debate partner, Nora, and I went as "Froot Loop Dinguses" - a silly phrase our coach uses to describe our usual antics!
I love that I can be a part of this team that is striving to honor God with our successes and our failures and keep Him the focus of our work. I can only hope and pray that I can continue this work in a way that glorifies Him.