Neoblogs: A New Home

We are currently in the midst of recreating our blogosphere in hopes to bring back the many neobloggers in the fellowship.

  • New additions include now a base site that displays all the most recent posts from current authors.
  • Linked sites for better navigation
  • Updated user functionality for both readers and authors

If you would like to start your own blog or migrate your existing blog back to our new home feel free to contact me at interns@neoxenos.org

Current users may also contact me for support with updating themes and looks for their blog site.

To access you blog site just click you name listed on the site to take you to your blog page, then just click the login link on the side!

UPDATE!!!!

As those of you who have blog sites may have noticed, you should have received an email to set up a new password. This was cause by a transition in our database to make future endeavors much simpler. If you have ANY issues logging in please contact me.

As far as linking social media with your blogs, we will be using Jetpack, you can find this on your dashboard. To do this follow these steps:

1) Log into WordPress and go to your dashboard
2) Towards the top left-hand side click on the “Jetpack” tab
3) It should go to a screen with a giant banner saying to log in with your wordpress.com credentials, along with 6 bubbles of options below it. Click on the giant banner to login and create a new user for yourself (its really easy)
4) After this go back to the previous page and click on the “Sharing” bubble.
5) Once there drag in the social media forms you would like, i.e. twitter or facebook. Make sure you are logged into those accounts. Then simply click the connect button.
6) Before you save at the bottom make sure to change the “Button Style” to “Official Buttons” and then on the “Show Buttons On” section, click the “Posts” tab.
7) Then save and it may take a few minutes to show on your blog, as always if you have any issues, shoot me an email (interns@neoxenos.org)

Freedom of Forgiveness

A big thing the Lord has been trying to show me in my walk recently is the many things that he frees us from and one of the first things he has shown me is that he wants to free me from the weight of not forgiving certain people who have wronged me. Mainly with my father, it took a lot of talking to people and praying to God. For a while I had thought that the worst thing he had done to my family was lie and not be there for us as he spent most of my childhood in prison. I grew up along with my brother and mother thinking that the abuse that he had put on other people was more worth it to him than providing for us and wanting to be apart of our family. However, my older brother had told me that he was going to a therapist because of struggles he will still struggling to get over. He struggles from anxiety and he will go into attacks where he can not breathe and needs to be alone. I asked him specifically why he was going to the meetings and what they were discussing and he began to explain to me how my father was a five time felon and three of those felonies were against my mother and how he had raped her and hit her and abused her into marijuana and cocaine. After explaining that to me he went on to tell me that I was the result of one of the sexual attacks against my mother. This conversation had sent me into a spiral and I did not want to talk for the rest of the night, I could barely stand or move or do anything. I had a hard time forgiving my father for the things I already new about him, but learning about that that night I told myself that I would never forgive him. Many thoughts ran through my mind such as, “this is a man of destruction, coming in to my mom’s life to ruin it and then to walk out” “I should treasure my life and do everything I can to prove to my mom that she did not waste her time with not aborting me in that horrifying experience” I couldn’t get it out of my mind that I was a living reminder of a bad time in her life. I still haven’t talked to her about it because I do not believe it is my business to bring it up first. When and if she is ready to talk about it she will.
Let’s get back on the topic of forgiveness though. I opened up to some of my closest people about the struggle I was having with this because instantly I was put under a lot of pressure. I was encouraged a lot to at least to talk to him and I did not want to at all. It was nice though being able to talk to people and get it off my chest. I knew that it would be hypocritical to not forgive my dad of this, but at the same time, the times he was in my life he lived as if he did not do anything wrong like everything was fine. That irritated me. It irritated me that he wasn’t in jail longer and that at the moment he was trying so hard to restart up a relationship with me. How do I start a relationship with someone who did so much to hurt my mom who struggled really hard to raise three kids on her own and spent a lot of years trying to break free from the addictions that he had forced on her. This also was another situation where I could not come in and say I am mad at you for this thing that you never told me about. I didn’t know if it would reopen wounds that it had on my mom because I knew she would figure out. So, I spent a lot of time ignoring phone calls from my dad, and text messages. Members in my family would tell me to call him and I wouldn’t. Eventually during one of my prayer walks I had gotten on the topic of my dad. I had a lot of weight on my shoulders from being so bitter I wanted to curl up. It was hard when I failed at anything because it felt like I was failing God and my mom and when I succeeded it was also me being happy for the wrong reasons where I would say something along the lines of “Yes, another reason for me to be alive or fought for!” God was talking to me during that walk and made it very evident that I needed to forgive him or I wouldn’t be very useful in the way that God needed me, but also I would become very bitter and start this thing where I can not forgive people that wronged me. So one day I picked up my phone and I called my dad and it was weird. He asked me how I was doing and so I just began telling him the things happening in my life like I am going to church, working and going to school and stuff like that and then he began to ask me about the family so I was telling him about them, but the whole time I had this urge, I wanted to yell at him and tell him, I hated him and that I did not want to talk to him again. Also at the same time I was feeling a sense of relief, like I can talk to him and not yell at him. That was from the Lord and only him, showing me restraint. Over the next couple of months we had started talking weekly and he would tell me about his job and his new wife and stuff like that and I would tell him more about the ministry I was in and how I was about to graduate and he would listen to me complain about a lot of stuff. He then would go on to apologize for not being there much for us when we were younger and was talking about how he understood it must of been hard to grow up without a father figure. It was tough to have this conversation with me because he was never real with me before. I forgave him and instantly it was like this ton of bricks that was on me was lifted! We still have not talked about what I really want to talk about, he moved to Wisconsin and I do not get to see him, we still talk every once in a while. It is not something that I instantly trusted him and everything was fine and dandy. I still am not okay with what he did, but now I am ready to forgive if and when the conversation happens. That conversation I had with him helped me with personal healing. A big thing God has taught me is that I too am sinful and that it would be hypocritical to not forgive my father for the one sin when God had forgiven me of all of mine. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” I have had success with not feeling like I have to perform and be this perfect kid. I came from a broken past and it won’t all be solved right away by pretending that I am doing fine, but with trusting in the Lord with learning how to be broken free from struggles in my past I am hopeful that he will help me with picking up the pieces and continue to perfect me until the end. Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it out onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Jamie

Jamie grew up without God, but the friendships she found on campus paved the way for a relationship with Jesus. Now the Lord is working in her life to exchange her plans for deeper meaning and significance in following him. We are joined by Eleni for the conversation.

27!

Another year in the books! 

Today I am TWENTY SEVEN YEARS OLD. That is a lot of years… But not too many. 

I am more than plenty shocked that I reached 27. There were times this past year I didn’t know if I could emotionally, spiritually or physically last. I really didn’t know. Yet, here we are! As I sit here writing this reflection I am swollen with tears of gratitude for every piece of my life. Every piece of the last year, every hope for the next. Without any doubts in my mind, so assuredly, I can say – I don’t know what the hell I did to deserve such a beautiful life.

There’s been pain. Yet, in the grand scheme of these 27 years, that has just been a background or a support to the beautiful things this old girl has seen.

Here are some things I’ve gotten to see recently: 

  • A deepening understanding of marriage ultimately bursting out of a more intense, prolonged, intricate understanding of another human being every day. And the copious amounts of beautiful moments one gets to have glimpses of while living side by side and being knitted to another human soul… I feel this taste of heaven is far too worthy for my self-focused, sin drowned self should ever have had the privilege to be granted. 
  • The storms people weather to be there for each other can be great, but never insurmountable. I’m so thankful for everything my people have done for me. Their actions are saturated in respect and deserve honorable recognition that I only can trust God will glorify them for. They’ve challenged me and confronted me with where I lack in responding selflessly toward them.
  • Growth – it’s real! The privilege has all been mine getting to be even the smallest fleck apart of some of these lady’s growth! Their faith shown in their emotional, spiritual, adulting growth, as they open their hearts to learn compassion, truth & trust has been overwhelmingly joyous. I’ve walked away from MANY conversations THIS WEEK simply awestruck and with no words but: “there is a God.” What else could explain the tremendous transformation in the people I interact with daily other than God himself? If it were something else, these people I see grow wouldn’t look the same – they’d look different. In a different way. But I know it’s God because each time I see them, their souls seem to shine brighter – meaning, I guess, they’re even more of who they were than the last time I saw them. It’s right & true to who they are, the person God made them to be. They’re simply becoming who they are, settled into the glory that is them in Christ. 

Here are some things I really look forward to this next year: 

  • Becoming a better wife. I have somehow scored the jackpot of husbands. He is on a whole ‘notha level. The way he lives is such an example to me. I just really hope and ask that I can be continually transformed to support that spirit in him. 
  • Becoming a better friend. I’m not a good friend. I’ve seen that so much this year. And friendship takes energy & willingness to fight for. I want to learn to fight better for these women God’s given me that sacrifice so much for me!
  • Becoming a better sister/daughter/daughter-in-law/sister-in-law. Family is just becoming more important to me every year. I’d like to help cultivate a loving family environment instead of being so self-focused. 
  • Becoming a better discipler. What an honor it is to be in the position to fight for someone else?! Yet, how terrifying that can be when our own sin shines brighter than Jesus! I hope to learn more how to rely on God and just point them to God before anything else. And become better at communicating what a freakin’ blast it is to be on God’s adventure of grace! 
  • Learning to bring everything back to the Gospel and bring it up whenever I can! It’s all about the Gospel, isn’t it? So, how can I forget it all the time?!
  • Being alive another year! Recently, I got some good news about my heart… That is, they don’t think anything is wrong with it! So, my chest pains, fatigue & dizziness are most likely due to my hormones still adjusting after having my thyroid removed. Which is a little annoying since that’s not really a solid answer with solid next steps. HOWEVER, I’ve found some things that make me feel a ton better. Not 100%, but MUCH better! Things like cutting out gluten & working out certain ways. I am so thankful for doctors, friends, medicine and nutrition to help us along. I am sad I can’t eat my 2 favs (beer & donuts) but it’s worth it to have a clear head and more energy than 2 naps could have given me before! PTL!
  • Hopefully I get to be a mom soon. 

OK, that’s it. That’s the end of 26 and the beginning of 27 for you. I can’t wait to see what happens. Thanks for being there for me through this year! 

Staying Salty

As the number of years I am alive grows, something I’ve sadly come face to face with is that life isn’t fun anymore. It’s just so different now. I don’t get to taste adventure on my lips at the start of every day, I’m not eager to find out new things and take detours. It’s just much more practical and getting harder to see the color. I’ve described it to a couple of people that growing older is like losing color.

With this slow tilt to grayscale comes more difficulties getting excited about the not-so-practical – or, the spiritual – in my life. The sad day has come (or just begun) that I’ve been dreading… God isn’t as romantic as he once was to me since life isn’t as romantic. Waking up and living for him is getting harder. My soul isn’t aching with praise, my bones aren’t shouting to joy – they just kind of grumble for sleep all the time. It’s stupid, sad, annoying and depressing. Why couldn’t it be like it used to be? When I was simply in love “with the God of my youth”? 

As much as this natural digression is happening, I’m determined to not let it settle. I know I won’t always feed off of passions and convictions as my life becomes less about me and more about others, family, & responsibilities. I’ve already noticed doubts forming because I think too much of my faith was founded in passion and not everlasting, solid truths of who is God. So, over the last couple months, I feel like I’ve had to take it up a notch with God. Try some new things. Get uncomfortable. Discipline myself. And call on God for more than I ever have had to do before. I don’t know if this is “right” necessarily, but a wake up call is exactly what was called for before I slide too far into the dusty drabness I was heading. I hope it continues. I really don’t want to settle for a distant God who isn’t involved in my moment to moment decisions, who isn’t leading me on daily adventures and isn’t asking me to choose faith in every circumstance. I think what I want is my faith to remain salty! 

So, as I call on God for more things than I feel like I ever have (practical or no, still large things that wouldn’t have happened if not for his intervention and strength) … He’s taught me some new tips and tricks for remaining faithful as life becomes less about what I can’t see and more about what’s on the to-do list… And here are 3 huge things he’s whispered into my life. (Which is so exciting and I feel so privileged to have a little spark from Him. He’s still there and still so good, so personal, so understanding…) 

  1. You can’t feel faith
    1. This idea swirled around my life for the past year – I just couldn’t muster the feeling of faith and every time I was faced with a decision to turn to God, I never ever, ever felt like I WANTED to… Surprise! Sinful Elli still exists. There are days when I feel like she’s grown stronger than ever (whether that’s true or not, it’s a challenge.) 
    2. So, I came to the realization that —- DUH: Faith isn’t a feeling. Wait, I think I’ve been saying this for the past 10 years of my life. Why is it just clicking now? Well, it’s “hitting different” as the kids these days would say. When I’m really faced with some terrifying, faith breaking, emotionally draining, physically daunting realities I never had to face before – and then God asks me to choose faith instead of fear… HOW?! Well, Faith isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice. Some people like to swap the word faith for “trust.” Which is a little more concrete. You don’t always feel like trusting someone. It’s scary, hard, vulnerable, and uncontrolled. You don’t know the outcome.
    3. I’ve been wrestling with anxiety. Nothing crazy, but I think some residue from health issues and fears I don’t know how to process. But this anxiety has taken such a form of its own in so many new areas of my life because I’ve let it. Because it was easier to feel fearful. It made sense to be fearful. My body TELLS ME to be fearful, so I go with it, and the anxiety wins and has been gaining ground. This was a terrible mistake on my part. I forgot how quickly emotions get out of hand and I forgot how much power my choice has in dealing with emotions. God’s asking me to choose faith over fear. To trust him over freaking out in those instances and I realize – it’s not going to ever be the choice that feels natural. That’s what I realize in Psalms (our summer reading plan.) David had emotions, he didn’t “choose against them” to become a stone-face non-person. But what he did was chose IN them. While feeling the fear, the anxiety, the rage, the guilt, the sadness; he presented these before the Lord and then would decide to place them in God’s hands and trust him with the outcome. It’s a CHOICE – will I “identify” as anxious, or as “in Christ.” 
  2. I need to go to God’s Word for conviction. 
    1. Again, too many of my passions about God came from feeling. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I know feelings don’t last – they actually fade out of memory very quickly. And are subject to much change over any given amount of time. On the other hand, I think faith should be more like a work out – like in Philippians 2 – “Work out your salvation.” Wrestle with it. Figure it out. God will come into contact with each person differently since each person is different, but God is universally the same and never changing. These concepts require wrestling, taking time to understand, and really grasp not just applaud and wash right through you. 
    2. That means, the essential factor will come straight from God’s Word. The moments I’m weakest are when I drift away from the Bible. Thoughts seep in, feelings I haven’t felt in years, doubts rage uncontrolled – because I’m not constantly getting more information and my mind likes to fill in the gaps with its own ideas. 
    3. And I can’t muster my own ideas about God. Yes; poets, songwriters, authors all have wonderful things to say about him, but you can tell when the heart of these pieces are based in scripture, in what God says about himself. Lofty convictions that come from emotions aren’t going to last long. What does? When God himself tells me about who he is. Which is QUITE funny… if you think about it. I catch myself so often wondering “where is God here, why isn’t he talking to me about it” or even making up ideas about maybe what God would say or do or even just shrugging him off completely… But that would be like having all these questions and talking yourself through these dilemmas about a friend, while they’re sitting RIGHT NEXT TO YOU! Doiiii… Just open the Word. See what he has to say for himself!
    4. I’ve really seen recently the spiritual battle is just to open the Bible. And then once you’re there, not to rush through so you can literally check off today’s date in your reading plan or feel good for a second about God’s promises, but not actually look deep into your life to see how these Words need to remake your view of God. It’s so easy to skip over, yet I truly believe God wants to talk to us himself, all we have to do is open our Bibles and our hearts to what he has to say. 
    5. Don’t expect some big, deep, awesome, joy-inducing conviction if you’re not in your word. Yeah, we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, so I do believe he convicts, obviously. But the Word has the power to cut through both joint & marrow, soul & spirit… and it even has the power to discern the thoughts and intentions of the human heart.
  3. Fun, excitement, romance, life always, always, always, always can be found in, when we go back to, if we can simply remember the fact that – Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. 
    1. What can break through the fog of life like rays of sunshine better than anything else? LOVE! The fact that there is a God of the universe who created all things, who is present in this life, who cheers along his creation not wanting to see them fall, who is ready to give chance after chance after chance, and who greatly sacrificed so that we could live life abundantly. Love.
    2. Yes, this is where joy comes in the morning. When you wake up and realize the whole why of how I got here – because God had compassion on me. And he ransomed my sin. And he set me free because he loves me. 

Today, I get to experience the joy of those who are faithful to the Lord their God, after many months of wrestling with Him, and battling to lift open the Bible day after day – he answers. 

There have been some good days & some really bad days, but God remains faithful. The question is: will we? 

Ted

Ted was raised to value hard work and success, but a chance encounter changed his course and redefined what that would look like going forward. Now, the Lord is working to make his dream a reality in ways he could have never imagined while giving others significance too – on the farm. We are joined by Ted’s wife, Indre and my wife, Lauren.

Joel

Joel grew up in a Christian home where truth was paramount. God worked to use his discontent for the institutional church and his pursuit of a PhD to bring him to Northeast Ohio and give him a vibrant campus ministry. We also talk about “project bankruptcy”, a vision for our church’s future, and reflections on his father’s life. We are joined by Chris and Kevin Baker.