Monday, August 18, 2014

the new & improved!

hello readers & followers! wow. it has been forever! i wanted to update you guys and inform you of the new transition to WordPress. my new blog is titled Relishing Grace ( looking forward to hopping back on the blogging bandwagon and catching up on writing of God's great faithfulness. he has indeed done great things this year!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

the open-handed life

Gloriously Ruined. A phrase used by a fellow blogger, defining how God uses challenges, pain and difficult seasons to bring about a refined heart. One that is continually molded into the image of Christ through moment-by-moment grace. This has been my summer. And more precisely, it's the entire Christian life.

The majority of my time is spent living life in the future.
What about now?
I'm dissatisfied with the precious, undeserved moments I'm given.

Time falls away so quickly. What will we do when it's all gone? 20 years seems like a lifetime, but yet our next breathe is not even our own. I like writing my own story. In fact, I've convinced myself on many occasions that I'm quite good at it. I have dreams. I have hopes. I want adventure. A recurring response to God lately has been, "I got this." What pride. What foolishness! "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." {proverbs 16:9} I'm a student at Mayo Clinic, majoring in ultrasound. Frisbee, dancing, cleaning houses, bible study, laughing and sharing life with friends.... I've been so foolish {multiple times actually} to ask God, "Where is the adventure in that?" I've been brought so far.

May 2014 seems like a long ways away... It's the month I graduate from college. Everyone asks, "So what happens next??" Well, I don't really have an answer. A wise friend once told me that God tends to give details on a need-to-know basis. If we knew all the details, having them lined up perfectly, we wouldn't need him! So let's be real here. I'd like to say 10 months from now I'll be an official employee at Mayo Clinic? Working at a doctor's office scanning babies? Somehow paying off student loans? Getting to be apart of a ministry that has changed my life? Living at an orphanage in Uganda? ...oh, and marriage & raising a family has to fit somewhere in there too!...*whew* {I know, it's ridiculous.} The question mark at the end of each "idea" is the most comforting, yet frustrating piece of the puzzle. But praise God that we have such a limited vision! We try so hard to take control... How many times do I have to tell myself before finally coming to grips with the fact that it's not my job?

What if I endlessly craved the presence of God as much I craved my own dreams? Ever since I was young I've had a very detailed dream {because as we've already established, I'm a very detailed person}. I want to graduate college and be asked to give up everything. I want to passionately pursue a vision that requires the loss of all things. I want more the anything to GO. But how does that all fit together?

Yet, glancing back over my shoulder, I ponder God's faithfulness and relish this beautiful truth: the details are not mine to control or orchestrate. "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' -- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE? For you are midst that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'IF THE LORD WILLS, we will live and do this or that.'" {james 4:13-15} What a peace there is in just getting to ENJOY life! How often do we enjoy God? Relishing in his splendor and majesty.

And so we return to the now.

Now is not irrelevant. It a season -- a very specific season in fact. And so we continue to run this race to the praise of his glory! How are we meeting the moments that are given to us? "I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil." At certain points in our life, it's easy to hold a clenched fist in God's face, asking the classic three-letter-question, "W-H-Y?" As humans, we enjoy living life by our own rules. But oh what joy and freedom there is in the open-handed life... binding our time here on earth with palms toward heaven, accepting his good, pleasing and perfect will. Because our story is already written. {And he's a much more perfect author!} Trust and obedience is all that is required.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.' The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him." {lamentations 3:22-25}

Monday, October 15, 2012

No Place Like Home

There's just something about airports. Something about them that creates butterflies in your stomach, immense anticipation, tears of joy, and sometimes tears of sadness. But I think it's being "on the other side" that makes airports one of the happiest places to be. It's a place of reunion. A place of complete joy, waiting patiently (or maybe impatiently) for a loved one to come walking around the corner... Colorful signs with the names of those arriving, little ones clenching their fists, squirming and ready to burst with excitement. And then the run! The beloved has been spotted and the long awaited moment has finally arrived.

Airports remind me of how heaven will be... the arrival of those coming Home to Glory. When we finally meet our Maker face to face and those who have long awaited sweet reunion. ...When Christ comes back for us, to take us Home. Oh what a day that will be!

As many of you know, I spent my second summer with Worldview Academy this year, and each experience only seems to be sweeter than the last! Now I know it's October, and camp ended nearly 3 months ago. Nonetheless, it's all coming in bits and pieces... =)

 It was week 5 and we were headed to Grove City, PA for Camp #4. God's grace was truly sufficient during weeks prior. There were many battles and He was indeed faithful! But nothing could have prepared me for the week to come. From the moment I shook four of my girls hands in the hallway, my heart overflowed with joy. "These are my girls..." I gasped inside. By Friday, I was humbled to pieces after contemplating the precious memories made with these 9 faces of grace. But the hurt came that day as we packed up and left. There were many tears as I hugged each one goodbye.

It's difficult, looking back and telling how God changed my life through that week of camp. That next van ride was filled with devastation, hurt, pain, and feeling frustrated with God. "How could you allow such a deep love for these girls to grow in my heart, knowing that I would have to say goodbye in just 6 days?" I didn't understand. Never had I experienced such a refreshing, inspiring, and overwhelming week of sharing life with these students.

But the remaining weeks of camp would reveal that answer. For me, camp is "Narnia" -- a place where I glimpse a taste of heaven. I long for this place. And this summer was definitely the same, but I dealt with much more pain and loss. A piece of my heart had been taken by these girls and now suddenly was no longer mine.

In C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, heaven is described with grass too sharp for human feet ("as hard as diamonds"), apples too heavy to pick up, and waterfalls that pierce the human ears. How could such a perfect place, a place of perfect unity, be so painful? The answer is that we (as humans) are not ready for such a place. Scripture says that we will receive new bodies for our new Home in heaven. If camp is a glimpse of heaven, we glimpse a taste of that perfect love... a place of unity, united with our brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping at the Throne of our Maker.

But it's only a glimpse. At some point, we have to come back through the wardrobe. And it is a very painful process to come back to reality. This life will never compare to our abundant life in heaven. Dorothy had it right when she said, "There's no place like home!" When those glimpses suddenly end, we feel hurt and disappointment. But their purpose is to encourage us, to excite us and create that same anticipation found in airports --- anticipation that makes us long for home!

During those precious moments of glimpsing eternity, Christ desires for us to run to Him, praising Him for such a gift! "Weeping may stay for the night, but joy will come in the morning." My girls showed me heaven... as we ran in thunderstorms, threw pillows in the dark, laughed 'til we couldn't breathe, discussed theology in "secluded" gardens, and sat on the sidewalk crying and wishing camp didn't have to end. But our response to this hurt can be a glorious thing! We must fix our gaze on Him who makes all things new, resting in His perfect grace.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adventures Begin

On August 27th, my long-aspired journey began. I'm overwhelmed with joy and unworthiness as I praise God for such a calling to pursue ultrasound as my career. I thought I'd share with you guys this new season of rejoicing! It has been long-awaited and it's crazy to think that it's finally happening -- everything I'll be learning is what I've been wanting to do for the past 7 years!
The goal of and desire for this pursuit is to glorify God through loving, cherishing, and protecting life. I believe God has called me to use my career to do just that! I will be attending Mayo Clinic for the next years pursuing a degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. I am one of two students and the training that I will receive is above and beyond anything I could ever imagine! I'm so excited and look forward to the challenges and joys that lie ahead. This God-given passion will drive me as I embrace this journey! I praise my Lord and Savior for allowing my life to influence the lives that are yet to be.

To God be the glory!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grace - Dependent

I never thought one week -- one simple (well, far from simple) week -- could paint such a perfect picture of grace. Early last Thursday morning, before starting my day, I wrote this post:
Lord, in my times of weakness and pain, You remain sovereign. In my lack of understanding, You remain sovereign. In my times of fear and doubt, You remain sovereign. In circumstances that allow me to realize I'm not in control, You remain sovereign. I praise you, Lord, for You are sovereign - and just as Your love endures forever, Your supreme power, authority, and perfect Will shall endure forever. Give me strength to listen to that gentle voice that whispers, 'Do not fear! I am the Lord!'

As I drove to my babysitting job, I received a phone call from my mom that my sister would be admitted into the hospital immediately to begin treatment for a disorder we had no idea how to pronounce. I thought the beginning of the week could have prepared me for this, but I was wrong. The night before, I sat in the laundry room crying and praying to the Lord for answers. My sister had an emergency visit, numerous blood tests, a spinal tap, and doctor visits with neurologists and ophthalmologists. We were anxiously waiting for answers and finally got what we asked for. She began her treatment for the next two days, bravely enduring the uncomfortable setting of a hospital room. I can think of no better example of someone who courageously endures pain like my sister! And, PRAISE GOD, Kelly is progressing and her treatment seems to be bringing her body back to normal.

I'd like to say that this past week was given to the Lord, that all my fears were absent because I was trusting that God would carry us through this trial. But unfortunately there were nights that I cried myself to sleep... wondering what was wrong with my sister and if she would ever be able to live a normal life again. Some may call this ironic, but I call it the sovereign work of God... my dad started a series on James just two weeks before this unexpected week. That Sunday, we read James 1:13-18. To refresh your memory, James is talking about trials and sufferings -- how we are to count them all JOY, "for this is God's will for you." James says that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. And this steadfastness leads to making us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Later in chapter one, James talks about temptation, and how each one of us is tempted by our own evil desire. The temptation, as part of our own sinful nature, is to become anxious - reflecting a heart that depends on self and not on Christ. This is the default. Notice in the verses James uses the word "lured," attraction... an attraction of self. "Our struggles are tailor-made by our own desires." It's a natural weakness. It's an "enticement" of something seemingly attractive, but actually quite deadly. Our instinctive desire is to fix things ourselves, especially during trials. In verse five, James takes a seeming detour, and starts talking about wisdom. I think you would agree that we certainly lack wisdom in the midst of suffering, as we ask God the resounding question, "WHY?" When asking that question, we fail to give our burdens to the Lord - we fail to respond with a heart of surrender (the heart of Christ) .

So, what do trials and suffering, steadfastness, wisdom, and now this temptation all have in common? As I read these verses, I can't help but reflect on this past week. My default (my temptation; my own evil desire) is to depend on myself during trials. I try so diligently to figure out how I can fix the situation... thinking that somehow all my worries and tears will amount to a brilliance I could never imagine. As irrational as it sounds, it is my biggest temptation. And unfortunately, I give in to that temptation often. This temptation is the presence of fear, and the absence of trusting God and giving those fears to Him.

I go back to the post I wrote:  God is sovereign! There is nothing that happens outside of his perfect control. I rest in that. He orchestrates our life to bring Him glory... I am so grateful that I serve a God who does not stand back and watch things happen. He uses all things to bring Him glory. For He is FAITHFUL. He reigns supreme, with glory and power, on His throne of grace.

Grace. Perhaps there is no other word that better describes the Christian life. We are so dependent upon it. I realized that this week... he so faithfully covers me with grace as I run my race. Even in the midst of my fear and many tears, he whispers, 'DO NOT FEAR! I am the Lord!' God's grace IS SUFFICIENT! We can rest in his grace!!!

My dad ended his Sunday school lesson with a quote, "Every problem is an opportunity to depend on His faithfulness." The day my mom told me Kelly was going to the hospital, she had to hang up rather quickly. I called a dear friend and spent 15 minutes listening to her sweet words as she prayed. The theme was "God is faithful!" (Who would have thought??) He IS our healer. He IS our shelter in the time of the storm. He IS the giver of grace. He IS the "lifter of my head" in times of worry and doubt. He IS always present, and promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

I run to the foot of the cross... where I fall on my knees, crying, "Lord, I surrender my fears to you. Lord, you are faithful and you are Sovereign... and I am grace-dependent -- dependent upon YOUR grace alone."

"For every good and perfect thing is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:16-17


Monday, January 2, 2012

Bold Whispers

I was excited. I had not worked as the dining room hostess in months. (For those of you who don't know, I have worked at Chick-fil-A for almost two years now.) The shift I had originally been scheduled for, I had traded with someone else. I was thrilled with my opportunity! - one I had been greatly missing. The day seemed normal... not too busy, keeping up with tables, refreshing beverages, clearing trays, mopping spills... as I made my rounds checking in with guests, I was pleasantly surprised as I heard a voice from the table in front of me, a high-pitched squeal of joy, "My name is Emily too!!!!" I had recognized the family --- a father with his two Chinese (I believe adopted) daughters. I'm filled with indescribable joy whenever I get to see them. Emily and Hannah are the names of these sweet faces. The lunch rush continued, and I was able to chat with the girls every so often, get their ice cream, etc. (I love my job!!)

As they made their way to the door, getting ready to leave, I was suddenly embraced around my legs by Emily as we said our goodbyes. "I get a hug today!!", I joyfully exclaimed. "And one from Hannah too!" Hannah ran as I bent down to embrace her tiny body. Waving goodbye to their dad, I was surprised by another gift... Emily suddenly grabbed my arms and pulled me down to her level. She placed her soft cheek to my ear, smiling, and whispered, "Emily, do you love Jesus?"

I could feel the tears rushing to my eyes, my throat swelling. I looked into her eyes, smiling from ear-to-ear. Among the chatter-filled dining room, it felt as if we were the only two in the room... "Yes, I love Jesus!" Instantly, she gasped, and exclaimed in exuberance, "You do??!!"

I've never seen such joy on a 7-year-old's face. She ran to her daddy and shared her joy, "Daddy, Emily loves Jesus too!!!"

I can barely share this story without crying. There is no doubt in my mind that God had planned that divine appointment with Emily. It has made this new year one like any other. How many times have I asked someone if they love Jesus? Is my response, if asked the same question, completely honest? Does my life reflect one that loves Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Is Christ an ever-present joy that causes me to run and tell others of this joy?

Resolutions are a wonderful thing. But this year, mine is so much more meaningful... living a life that loves Jesus, allowing my life to be one like Emily's: sharing that joy with others... making the most of every opportunity - those divine appointments - for the glory of God. I love how the most mundane circumstances are the ones that God uses to bring glory to Himself... causing the heart of Chick-fil-A dining room hostess to overflow with joy because of the bold whisper from the mouth of a child. Today, this year, I praise God for sweet whispers of Jesus' name... My heart is overwhelmed and I am inspired to be bold, grasping the arms of others in order to share Jesus with them.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Who am I to behold?

What a pleasant morning... I sit on my bed, still in my pajamas, finishing my quiet time. And then I feel the urge --- the uncontrolled, overwhelming, joy-filled urge to WRITE. I run to the dining room and grab my laptop --- the medium through which this urge is alleviated. I experience the brisk, swift movements of my fingers across the keyboard, one after another, leaping with joy. Here, in this place of serene satisfaction I behold with an unveiled face the glory of God.

I find myself in this same place as I gaze at the stars... my eyes involuntarily meet the dark, blissful sky -- one large body encircling the spectacular realm, complementing the radiant moon. the embrace of mama's arms.
...seeing a Christmas tree lit in the window from the street.
...smelling the morning dew.
...sitting on the porch with the very words of God in front of my eyes.

"BEHOLD"... my eyes fill with tears as I think about such a place. Who am I to behold such glory? Who am I to look upon the glory of a God who has breathed stars into existence that I cannot even fathom with my unsophisticated mind?

BEHOLD. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
BEHOLD. The Savior of the world in a feeding trough.
BEHOLD. The man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders.

As I anticipate the season of Christmas, I set out on the traditional endeavor to prepare my heart for the celebration of our Savior --- to BEHOLD the glory of God. Should it be any different than other times of the year? No. But the specific beauty of God's glory is what is different. Daily, we see specific aspects, timely appointments, of beholding such beauty. In Scripture, kabod is the greek word that describes God's glory. "Heaviness." I yearn for this place. My heart grows heavy as I behold the splendor of God's glory. THE WHOLE EARTH IS FILLED WITH HIS GLORY.

Over 2000 years ago, God's glory became flesh:
The beauty of a soul in submission to God's perfect will. "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
The beauty of a willing, servant-hearted carpenter leading a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
The beauty of a filled inn.
The beauty of the aroma of a stable.
The beauty of warm, sweating skin resting against wet, cold hay.
The beauty of an exhausted mother, tightly grasping the hand of an anxious father.
The beauty of angelic voices resounding in the fields of shepherds.
The beauty of blinded eyes beholding the glory of God filling the night sky.
The beauty of the Savior of the world, placed in a manger.

The setting is so simply, so lowly. But the glory of God filled that entire setting. Is this what we treasure? Does the splendor of the birth of our King cause our hearts to rejoice? Mary gathered ALL these things in her heart. She BEHELD the glory of God! This is the place of happiness, of rest, of comfort, of peace, of joy, of splendor. And guess what? THIS is what we were made for. We were created to give Him glory -- to reflect His glory.
Let our hearts become heavy, as we rejoice and BEHOLD the glory of God, and celebrate the incarnation of our Savior.