Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Empty pockets, open hands

There are a lot of things in this life that don't make sense to me. Why do certain people have to face certain struggles? Why is there so much suffering? How can I accomplish God's plan for my life with so much evil and distraction in the way? But then there are those things in life that make perfect sense, but that doesn't make them any easier. When you sin, you know it. There's a lump in the back of your throat and your stomach gets knotted. You feel weird around other people, just acting like everything is okay. And most of the time, you know what steps you need to take to find healing. Going to God is the obvious answer. Confess to Him what you've done and how you're feeling, and he will forgive you, no matter what you've done. He promises that. But what about when you know that you need to take more steps, that you can't just keep it between you and God? Well, that's the "doesn't make them any easier" part.

God knows what you need before you even come close to needing it. That's hard to understand and remember. I know. In my current situation, he has placed people in my life that have gone through the same thing many years ago that I'm going through now. Funny how God works like that. We need each other. We weren't meant to go through life alone. One of my biggest fears, as hard as it is to admit this, is what other people will think of me. If I tell them how I'm struggling, will they judge me? Will they ever look at me the same way again? Can they forgive me and still love me?

As I was told yesterday, and I so desperately needed to hear this... I need to get over myself. So often I get the idea that people won't love me if I mess up. "No way can I be lovable and viewed as a decent human being after I tell them what I did." Everyone screws up. Everyone makes mistakes. We're called to listen to and pray for each other in these times. It's not anyone else's job to label me. God has labeled me, and my label says "forgiven and loved."

James 5:16 says "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." I want God to change me and work in me. I want Him to help me be more open with my feelings and my needs. I want to be a person that others know they can come to and be honest. I also want to be better at prayer. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to impress God. But he needs me to be real with my brokenness and tell Him just what I need. He is faithful. And His healing won't always look the way I want it to. I have to be okay with that.

One of my most important take-aways from this week is that I don't have to do anything to earn God's love. He loves me immeasurably more than I'll ever know. And I am grateful.

"Tell me I'm forgiven and loved 
'Cause I hear it from the street corner priests
Oh how God is love and how man can be clean 
But my joy has been on holiday
And my peace has almost passed away 
Tell me I'm forgiven and free

Oh I tried and tried to rectify my hopeless situation
But I bought the lie 'I still have work to do'
Now I'm workin' 9 to 5 like I can earn my own salvation
But there is no condemnation in You 

Oh He died, He died to rectify my hopeless situation
And his blood commands my guilt to leave 
Now on Calvary I stand
Empty pockets, open hands
Oh there is no condemnation for me!"
-Forgiven and Loved 
by Jimmy Needham 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Immeasurably more

Oh, how busy we can get. Every single time that I feel overwhelmed and stressed, I realize that it's because God has not been my priority. Why can I not just learn my lesson? I fall out of a routine of talking to God and I get cranky, exhausted, and ultimately, I take it out on other people. I become so focused on myself that I find fault in the actions of everyone else, especially those close to me. I'm going to start asking the Lord to help me get better with this. My prayer is that I will find a routine that I can actually stick to, because I want to really know Him all the time.

SO. College update. I've got my dorm just about exactly how I want it. I'm looking for a couple more small things, though. It's going to be an absolute pain to take everything down in May because there are pictures and postcards EVERYWHERE. Oh well, it's a cute little space! Classes are going pretty well, too. I'm just so ready to actually start taking nursing classes. So often I've felt like what I'm doing in class isn't really relevant or beneficial in the long run, and that really frustrates me. Just another reason I need quiet time every day! I've become really good friends with my roommates, which is definitely an answer to prayer! All summer, and basically all of senior year, I asked God to place me with people that challenge me, can minister to me, and also provide me with opportunities to minister to them. I am thankful!

Now, the moment we've all been waiting for.... Grrraaaahhhhmmmm! Okay, well maybe I've just been excited to write this part... EITHER WAY, I love him! He constantly encourages me and shows me the ways he loves me, and I'm so thankful. G, if you're reading this, thank you for being such a Godly man. You encourage me to be more loving and understanding. I know that I can be difficult. Sometimes I read too much into a situation. Sometimes I get upset over small things. Sometimes I get mad and don't know how to express it to you. But you haven't given up on me. Actually, you've done the extreme opposite. You make an effort to talk to me kindly and gently when I'm sad, and let me know that you aren't going anywhere. I appreciate that so much more than I know how to say. You make me so proud to even know you.

Despite some of the stress and the frustration, these past few months have been some of the most wonderful I've ever experienced. I feel so encouraged whenever I take a minute and count my blessings. How great is our God!

"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." -Ephesians 4:16-21

Amen indeed.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Because He first loved us.

It doesn't and probably never will make sense to me that God loves me so much. Why has He given me all these blessings? Why was I chosen to live the life that I do? I could have just as easily been born into poverty, or any number of less than desirable situations. But here are my thoughts and what I want to write about today... I know that God is totally in love with me. I don't understand why, but He is, and I am thankful. I know that He will always love me and that there is nothing I could do to lose His love. So sometimes I feel ashamed when I don't love other people like I should. But how incredibly humbling is it when someone, a flawed and sinful human being, loves you with the kind of love that God talks about, no matter what the circumstance? I want to learn more about it.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" -1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We've all heard it a million times, right? It takes on a whole new meaning when you read it through the eyes of a girl who is trying her best to genuinely love another. I pray that God will show me how to live out this verse, and not just in a romantic relationship. I want to love my family and my friends well. I want to love the people of Haiti well. I want to love God well.

It won't be easy, and it hasn't been easy. Sometimes you just want to cry and give up when you're hurting. But love perseveres. Sometimes you want to bring up a "but remember the time you..." moment, but love keeps no record of wrongs. Keeping all this in mind is so tough. I hate confrontation, conflict, doubt. The list goes on. But struggle is unavoidable. And what I've learned and what I want to say to offer some hope, is that if God has blessed your relationship and you are both striving and desperately desiring to love each other, getting through a conflict will make you stronger. There is always something new you can learn about a person, and sometimes you do it the hard way. But what a beautiful thing to feel loved in the midst of confusion.

We love because He first loved us. I learn more about love every day through different people and through Bible passages. It's a tricky thing to talk about and an even trickier thing to live out, but it's worth the risk. And I'm thankful that I'm not doing it alone.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same.

I'm comin' at ya live from my dorm room! I just got moved in yesterday, and it's so stinkin' cute. I'm so, so thankful for my boyfriend and my family, because they've been a big help these past few days in all the craziness. I'm pretty excited (but still nervous) for this year. The classes don't really scare me, it's more of the "getting adjusted I don't know anyone I miss people at home" part. I'm praying for peace.

I'm especially praying for peace right now after my hectic day yesterday. I was ready to move in and had been packing like crazy.... when my computer got a virus. It shut down, restarted, acted like a strobe light, and grew a mind of its own. This was not what I wanted to see with all the other money I was already spending. My dad and I were able to fix it, but it cost me hours and hours of sleep. Then, as a stupid move on my part, I left my phone on a shelf I have in my bathroom and I knocked it off into the bathtub. The full bathtub. UGH! This was a three hundred dollar bath, people. But, believe it or not, I did learn something other than carefulness...

Prayer is so important. Well, I already knew that, but I was really feelin' it yesterday. Yes, it is just a phone, and it is just a computer, and it is just a thirty five minute move down the road, but it's just that feeling of "oh my goodness I'm already anxious and everything is happening at once." It finally occurred to me that I needed to take a step back and just pray about how I was feeling. I know this is silly, but sometimes I feel like what I'm going through isn't worth praying about, because other people are in much worse situations than me. I mean, what do I have to complain about, right? 1 Peter 5:7 says to "cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you!" Wow! That's so awesome. Even when I'm just feeling sad or stressed about little things, God cares about that and wants me to share it with Him. How He loves us so!

This will be a great year! I'll have time to make new friendships and strengthen ones I already have. It will definitely be hard to have hours and miles separating me from people I care about most, but that will make it all the more special when we can talk. I'm praying for peace, direction, and help in the hard times of this year. And it's beautiful because He hears me.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Comforts and prayers.

I will never understand why God chooses to bless me time and time again. I rely on my own plans and don't trust Him nearly as much as I should. So often I will pray with all my might that something will work out the way I want it to, but I'm so thankful that God's timing is perfect and He knows what is best for me.

Tonight we had the Haiti group reunion. It was great to see the videos/pictures and recounts of what God did there. Each year I find that I miss my friends in Haiti a little more than I did last time. I think it is so neat that I can go a full year without seeing someone, even in pictures sometimes, but I remember their face and what they were wearing last time I saw them. I recognized one girl at Mariani because I remembered the velvet dress she wore the year before. It's even more amazing when they remember me. I'm there on a mission trip intentionally seeking out people to connect with, but Haiti is their everyday life, and they still remember my face. God smiles.

No less amazing is the work that God does right here in Tennessee. He's moving things along to get the building process started for our church. He's given me the opportunity to go to a great school this fall. He is doing a wonderful thing in my heart and has shown me someone I truly care about. I don't deserve any of these blessings, but I am so, so grateful that the Lord loves me and is creative in the way He's making the pieces fit. Here are a couple ways I've felt His love recently....

  • He's put me in a lot of situations recently where I've had to look back on the past. What would my life be like if I had done this instead of that? Where would I be now if that relationship had worked out? Honesty hour; looking back on some of these things has made me really uncomfortable. Not because I don't like where I am, but because I absolutely love where I am, and it's embarrassing to think that I thought my plans were better. It's almost like I've been mad at myself, as well. Why did you linger in that place so long? What made you think that was going to work? It's definitely something I struggle with. But since I can't change any of those things, I can pray that God will help me focus on today. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" -Matthew 6:34

  • Grahm. Oh, Grahm. God smiled at me biiiiiig time. I am thankful for the way that he and I can have such deep and meaningful conversations. We know that this relationship is more than just ourselves, and we constantly work to keep God in the middle. Just one of the reasons it's so great to be with Grahm is that I know he strives to protect my heart and let me know how much he cares for me. I am grateful and blessed. It definitely is grace lookin' my way.
The Lord is working in me, without a doubt. My prayer is that He will help me leave my past thoughts and decisions where they belong. This is such a joyful time in my life, and I refuse to waste a moment of it worrying. God sees me. He loves me, He is in control, and He is good.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Some melodious sonnet

God has been speaking to me a lot recently through music. Songs that I've heard my entire life have resonated differently in my ears. Let me tell you about some of them and what they mean to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JxFMuGtXTU  : Wow! I have always thought this song was absolutely beautiful. Please take a couple minutes and just listen to it with your eyes closed. Really listen to it. I hope that when I talk about the Lord, people will hear it the way I hear this song. My favorite lines are "O that day when freed from sinning I shall see Thy lovely face. Clothed there in blood-washed linen, how I'll sing Thy sovereign grace." I love thinking about the day that I will finally meet the One who has loved me with an everlasting love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FxaUYjRtkc : He is jealous... for me? I will never know why. How could someone so infinite love someone so small? Whenever I hear this song it makes me step back and think about how truly awesome that is; that the Author of eternity loves and knows me personally. How He loves us!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWeb79W8EqQ : Something was different, I knew it the instant you put the light in me. This song makes me imagine who I would be without God. I would be someone whose flame had flickered out; existing, but not shining. Because I know God, I am new! He gives me reasons to be thankful.This song is like a grown up version of "This Little Light of Mine," and I  love it! YOU are the hope that leads me out of the dark!

Time and time again I am humbled by God and the way He smiles at me. He knows exactly what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. I was driving home from the store and heard this last song, and I almost had to pull over because of how it overwhelmed me! There was a specific message in it that spoke to me and what I was thinking.

 Every tribe and tongue and nation will join in the song of the Lamb!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I've never heard silence quite this loud.

Where to begin? It was such a great day! Grahm and I went to Uncle Dave Macon Days, ate pizza, watched a movie, rock climbed, and just got to sit and talk to each other. That last one's always one of my favorite parts. Even when there's not much to say, just being in his company is enough.

On that note, I wanted to share something the Lord has been teaching me, slowly but surely, over the past few years; silence is not a bad thing. It's quite the opposite! Most people don't agree with me on this. They think silence is awkward, and even scary. I used to be the same way: I always had to be talking to someone, or if I was by myself I constantly kept music on as background noise. The gap doesn't always have to be filled. I've found in my life that God is the loudest in the silence.

We've all heard it a million times, right? The American lifestyle is so busy and hectic, we're always go go going. It's true, and unfortunately it is easy to forget about God in the noisiness of life. Here's what I find always helps me regain control in this crazy fast life... quietness. Whether it's not listening to music when I get ready, not listening to music in the car, or just being silent for a while after a prayer, God reveals Himself to me. Here's a story that I actually think about quite a lot....

It was the first semester of my senior year, and I was feeling defeated. I felt like I wasn't smart enough, wasn't good enough, and wasn't doing enough. There wasn't as much security as I'd known before. I also had not been hearing or seeing God as often as I had in the past. I felt ashamed of this because I was supposed to be this good Christian girl that went on mission trips and was always at church, so I didn't want to admit the distance I was feeling. I reached a breaking point where I was on my knees crying in my room late at night, because I was sick of God "hiding Himself from me." I prayed "God, I can't and am not meant to do this on my own. I'm not good at saying fancy prayers, but please, tell me that you're listening." I sat in silence for about ten seconds, eyes still closed. The moment that I opened my eyes, I saw the largest lightning bolt I ever remember seeing flash across the sky. It wasn't raining, there were no dark clouds, and no thunder. Just one single bolt of lightning.

I felt God in the silence that followed that lightning bolt. I sat for a long time in this quiet place, just feeling His love all around me. It's not something I can describe, you have to experience it. But from then on, I didn't view silence as a bad thing. God made the universe, the Heavens and the Earth and everything in them, every last creature. It is enough to sit in His presence and be in awed silence. It is hard for me to believe sometimes, but He absolutely adores me, and He is content with me wanting to be in His company. What an awesome God!

"In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness You are there. In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait, only for You, 'cause I want to know You more"