Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's So Much More

Pain. Searing, burning pain. Inward, outward, consuming her.  With final groan of agony the child comes forth into this cold rejecting world. Small, weak, needing her. Needing her nourishment, her warmth, her love and her care. His small, fragile life dangles, depending on her for survival. And yet as she looks down into her babes face she knows. It is not his survival that hangs in the balance. It is her own. This tiny helpless babe needing her care in order to live, is the one and only thing that can save her.
I can't imagine being Mary. One moment she was his mother. His world. Her milk nourished him. Her warmth comforted him. Her touch calmed him. To this tiny baby, she was everything. She was his world.
Then all too soon, she wasn't.
I wonder when it hit her. Was it when Simeon came to her in the temple? This old man, a stranger, waiting before death for one thing. Was it when he held her child and said that his eyes were beholding salvation?
Or maybe she began to understand when she found her lost son in the temple, speaking with the religious leaders and "being about his father's business." Did it stab at her heart in a way to hear him say that?
How do you parent the Son of God anyways? Was there an inward struggle as she sought to teach and train and raise him, but knowing that he would be the one to teach her? She was his mother. She was his everything......but she wasn't. He was her everything.
Then the miracles. He could do things, heal people, change things that were out of her control. That moment of desperation when all she wanted to do was fix the problem and the only one who could truly fix it was her son, the child that had depended on her for survival. Was there ever irritation or frustration that he was so much more than her? Did she ever want to shrink away because of how small she felt in comparison to her son?
Then the cross. I can't imagine the agony. Her son, her child who she loved with every ounce of human love, there hanging on a cross. And she down below, helpless to save him.
One moment he was a babe, needing her, depending on her for his very survival, the next moment, nailed to a tree, suffering in agony and there is absolutely nothing she can do.
She can't reach up and pull him to safety in her arms.
She can't ease the pain with a kiss.
She can't wrap him in a blanket and cuddle him.
But she can watch.
And as her heart screams in torrents of pain, she looks up and sees her son, her Savior, on that cross. Her precious, beautiful babe, is on that tree saving her, saving the world.
Then it hits her.
That moment.
The realization that she put him there.
Her little baby that she nursed and held and loved, the one thing that she wanted to save and protect more than anything in the world, she had nailed to the cross. That moment of utter desperation as she falls before her son, wanting only to rescue him from the agony, to save him from such pain, but being helpless to do so because that is the only way through which she herself might be saved.
He is saving her.
Small and weak.
Her life depends on him.
Her very survival depends on him.
The roles are switched.
Her son is more than just a babe. Her son is His Son. The Son of God. The Savior of the world. The Savior of Mary.
And she must let Him go for her own sake and the sake's of millions of billions of people in the span of time. She must release her precious child for the calling for which He came. When everything in her screams at her to pull him close and never let him go, that is when she must release Him. She is His mother, but He is her Savior and she is utterly helpless, lost, eternally dead without Him. He is her only Salvation.
That tiny little child came to die for her, to save her from herself.
The one thing she so desperately wanted to cling to was the very thing she had to let go. 

Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep and then she had to watch Him die.

Isn't that the essence of Christmas? Isn't that what we should be celebrating? Christmas is so much more than the baby. Christmas is about death and life and salvation made free.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God is Good - In Which I Share My Pre-Daylight Ramblings

Morning chill.
Hot Chai.
Good things for the brain before the sun rises. A moment or two spent in the Word. A journal page filled. Actually, filled is too nice a word. Crammed would be better. Crammed with words and dots and dashes, making up a short summary of the thoughts in my brain. It's early. There's a chance that what made sense a moment ago will appear to be a discombobulated jumble of words later. But it's out there.
Kaila's head before the sun rises.
Kaila's thoughts.
I call these thoughts, "God-thoughts." Little thoughts, here and there, with a similar theme; God. His wonder, His glory, His faith, His justice, His love. Thoughts on God. 

God is good.
Do you know that? It's a simple phrase. Something easily devalued. What worth is the word "good" nowadays anyways? We're all good here aren't we. Our efforts are good. Our piddley little tries are good. What's really good?
God is good.
God is very good.

Take a moment. Let it sink in. Let that thought consume your mind. Close your eyes.
He is good.
He is God.
God is good.

I've been thinking this "God-thought" a lot lately. Taking time to pause from my daily craziness and think. Stopping every now and then to let it overwhelm me. Spacing out in a moment of enraptured amazement. It's good to think on God's goodness. It does things to our hearts. It makes the momentary worries and confusions of this world seems small and inferior. God's goodness transforms worry into trust, love into hate, confusion into security, and the endless monotony of everyday things into purpose.

Now let's throw some Christmas into this "God-thought."
I'm usually quite the Christmas Elf, so to speak. Christmas music can't come fast enough. Holiday food and holiday cheer; things I thrive on and live for during December. Spray paint, ornaments, lights, ribbon! The stuff of life, right?
Not always.
It took me a bit longer to hit my holiday heights this year. My brain was preoccupied. Filled. Tired perhaps? But then I got to thinking about how good God is.

God is good.
He gives good gifts to His children.
He gave His Son as a baby.
Thus, Christmas.

That baby. Or I should write, that Baby. The Savior of the World. Humble, simple, small. Just a baby. But not just a baby. God's greatest gift. God's answer to thousands of prayers. God's healing for millions. God's salvation offered to all. This baby. This gift.

I wonder how many times the prophets of old had begged God for Him to send their Redeemer, the Messiah. How they must have yearned and pleaded and prayed. One by one, they died, ever praying, ever trusting, that one day their Deliverer was coming. And He came! Some were there to see Him. Some now get to hear of Him. Some simply got to hope and pray for Him. Each of us has our time and place. But the significance of this gift will never change.

Would I have been a good Isaiah? Could I have prophesied and told of the Messiah to come, with full faith and confidence, even though my eyes should never see Him? Would I have the faith to believe that this Gift God had promised was coming? Was for real? With my own people all around me, rejecting God, rejecting His goodness, would I have been able to trust that He is good and that He gives good gifts?
Am I able to trust now?
God has sent His Son. The Savior has come. The Savior has died and risen again. I have seen and heard the glories of God's gifts. Has that changed my trust?
Can I claim the goodness of God?
Can I rest assured in His promises?

My answer should be a resounding "YES!"
But my answer is rarely so confident.

Rather than trusting in His goodness, I find myself wallowing in my momentary afflictions; if they can even be called afflictions. It's more like wallowing in daily life and feeling blah because I'm too blind to open my eyes and see His goodness all around me. My pathetic drudging blinds my sight. My prayers, if any, become unfeeling requests of "help me get through today." My thoughts sit and dwell on my sorry self. It's pitiful. Not once do I think of the millions of people all over the world who actually have problems to deal with. It's all me, and my trials, and my whinings, my complainings, my groanings. And all for what? There's no purpose to it other than the wasting away of a life.

But, when God is good....
well, He's always good.
When God is good and I open my eyes to see it, there is something magical that changes. The heart becomes transformed. The mind becomes cleared. The prayers are real and living. The burdens of the saints become real. They become your burdens and you pray. You pray, not because it's what a Christian does, but you pray because you can't go without it. You NEED it, you CRAVE it, you LONG for that time to pour out your heart to God because HE IS GOOD!
He is good and He hears.
He hears the prayers we pray.
He hears the petitions of our hearts.
He savors our words, our feeble, jumbled, nonsensical words, because He is good and He loves us!

And the mores we taste of His goodness and love, the more we love.
We love Him.
We love others around us.
It's real, it's living, it's raging within us. Not just a sentimental, its-Christmas-we-should-love-everybody, but a real bearing of one another's burdens. It's a deeper, consuming kind of love that takes over, because when we taste His goodness and His love it changes us. It rocks our world!

There's a song. It's been stuck in my head lately. It asks a question. "What if we all loved like it's Christmas, more than once a year?" Why do we love at Christmas?
Could it be that the plastic, light-up nativity scene means more than decoration and charm? Could it be that bell ringers represent more than someone asking for money? Could it be that under all the commercial, holiday-hoobie-whatie, there's something more?
God's goodness!
God's love!
That's what's under it all!
And even though Christmas gets secularized and tinkered with, there is this underlying reminder of God's good Gift to the world that is almost impossible to miss unless your eyes are completely closed.
You know what I think? We should have that nativity scene out and lit up in June!
Let's be honest, we are forgetful people. We need that reminder up! We need to daily be reminded of God's goodness, of His Gift, of His love. Because we forget. We lose sight. We forget to pray. We forget that He hears.
God is good!

He is so SO GOOD!!!
And He loves us.

He loves us enough to say "No," and "Not yet." He loves us enough to make us wait. Isaiah didn't get to be there for Messiah's birth. But oh the glory that he must have felt in hearing from God the prophesy of Messiah! The prayerful hope and yearning for the Messiah, the Deliverer, the Son of God he must have felt! And us, we have seen and heard. Do we believe?

Is God good to you?
He is good.
But is He good to you? Do you see His goodness? Have you opened your eyes and heart to the goodness He has poured out?

Do you see that plastic, light up baby. It's a picture, a crude, plastic reminder. But it's real! That Baby changed everything. God's goodness in sending His Son, changed everything. We need to remember that. We need to claim that goodness.

Chai tea is gone.
It's still dark out.
I need another sweater.

God is good.
Don't forget.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for the Old Paths

Jeremiah 6:16
"Thus saith the Lord,
Stand ye in the ways, and see,
and ask for the old paths,
where is the good way, and walk therein,
and ye shall find rest for you souls..."
It's a day of thanksgiving and reflecting. I like to think all the way back to the Pilgrims sacrificing their very lives in a new land. No family was left unvisited by death and still, out of love for God, the set apart a time to stop and thank Him.
When I think of the old paths, I think of the roads that the ancients have trod. I think of the many examples given in Scripture and throughout all of history.
I picture Noah, walking the path that leads into the Ark.
Abraham, walking the path up to the altar to sacrifice his son.
Moses, climbing the path up Sinai where the Lord would visit him.
Joshua, leading Israel on a path through the Jordan river.
Ruth, on a path away from her home, following her mother-in-law Naomi.
David, marching up the path to the place where the giant Goliath waited.
Solomon, on the path going into the temple.
Esther, walking down the path leading to the king, uninvited.
Nehemiah, on the path back to the ruined Jerusalem.
Joseph and Mary, traveling on the path to Bethlehem.
Saul, falling on the path to Tarsus.
Peter, walking free on a path through opened prison doors.
Christ, on the path to Calvary.
Christ, on the path that leads from an empty grave.
These are the old paths. These are the paths that the Pilgrims followed. These are the paths that men and women, seeking to follow the Lord, have walked on. They have risen and fallen, but they stand secure. There is no safer path than the one the Lord leads you on.
"Just keep to the old paths,
And you'll find your way."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Have Been Forgiven

And so, another Reformation Day Faire is over and as I reflect back I am simply filled with awe. I'm amazed at God's faithfulness, at His love, and His grace. God is the God who was and is to come. He never changes. He is infinite, unchangeable and sovereign regardless of our actions. The God I serve today is the same God who Patrick of Ireland served in the 5th century. The God who filled Patrick with love and compassion for his own captors is the God who can fill my heart with love for those who hurt and cause me pain. If you don't know the story of Patrick of Ireland you should really take some time to learn about this amazing man of God.

All weekend my mind kept racing back to just the sheer power of Patrick's decision to return to Ireland. If I had been kidnapped as a young teenager, sold into slavery in another country, escaped and returned to my home, I really think I would struggle with the idea of going back to that land even as a missionary. That kind of love and compassion isn't my sinful, natural reaction to hurt, but it is the natural reaction for someone who sees how much they have been forgiven. R. C. Sproul pointed out that Patrick lived out the phrase "I have been forgiven." In his actions and his desire to spread the gospel with the people of Ireland, he showed that the man who is forgiven much, loves much.

In my VOM classes this week, I started a new class on evangelizing. Why do I share the gospel? Why is it of any importance that I tell others the good news?  Why step out of my neat, secure comfort zone? What possesses other people to do so?
It's easy for me to slip back and forth between duty and love for God. But really, what is duty anyways?  Why bother doing something just because it's something that should be done?
Then I go back to Patrick. No duty there. Seriously, didn't the Celts deserve not to know the good news that Patrick knew? Did they deserve forgiveness?
Then again, did Patrick deserve to hear the gospel? Did he deserve forgiveness?

Did I deserve to be raised in a home where the gospel was daily preached?
Did I deserve God's forgiveness?


But Christ looked down on this wretched, sinful being and loved me. He chose to save me even when my heart was in rebellion against Him. He forgave me. No duty. Just love. And it's that kind of love that He puts in our hearts. See, when I think about sharing the Gospel in light of my natural, sinful feelings, it's just too uncomfortable to be worth the risk. But when I think about sharing the Gospel in light of God's saving grace, His mercy, His love, and His compassion for me, suddenly the fear begins to melt away and I want to tell others. I want those that have hurt me to know that there is freedom in Christ and that He forgives! I want them to feel the power of Christ's love! When I look at how much God has forgiven me, I see a glory beyond comprehension! I want others to see that. Christ has saved me! He has redeemed me! No hurt, no shame, no pain can compete with the love of God.

That's why Patrick returned to Ireland. That's the only reason I can feel love and compassion for those who have hurt and wounded me. Apart from the Gospel, there is no reason to love those that have caused us pain and suffering. The question is, do we know the Gospel? Is it real for us today? Because if it is, I think we will look at life differently.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Knowing God More

"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
2 Timothy 1:12
The confidence that I hear is Paul's voice is amazing. "I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed..." Perhaps more of us need to know whom we have believed. Paul's confidence came from knowing God. Maybe if we knew God better our confidence in Him would be stronger.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Said "Why?" And He Said "Who"

Tuesdays are my traveling days. I drive to my students homes on Tuesdays and since most of my students live rather far away, I get lots of alone-in-the-car time. The first few times I did my Tuesday routine I felt really bored driving so much, but then a brilliant friend of mine recommended talking to God while traveling about. Best idea ever!!! God and I have lots of very extensive conversations now. I told my sister that and she said, "Some conversation. Don't you need someone talking back to have a real conversation?" "No, He talks back."


I didn't really know how to answer that one. I mumbled something about peace and leaves.....I think she thought I was going hippie based on the look she gave me. God does answer though. He does talk back. You just have to be listening for His answer.

I get in my car and drive. Mile by mile my heart is poured out to God. Lesson one down and I hop back in my car. The conversation picks up right where it left off. Then I decide it's time to be quite for a moment and listen.

School lets out a few minutes before I pass the high school. Each week I pass this boy who walks like Christian, with a burdensome backpack on his back. He never smiles and he always walks alone. I wonder why? Is he bullied? Does he just like the fresh air? Does he need alone time after a day with hundreds of youth all around him?

A block away I see the other regular - regular as in, I pass them every week - except she's not walking alone with her headphones on and tears on her cheeks. Today she's walking with a friend and they are laughing. Is that what she needed all this time? A friend? Did she hate walking alone every day?

I pass a gas station. An elderly man with long, shaggy white hair walks down the sidewalk. I chuckle. He looks just like the last picture of Einstein I saw, except for the baggy t-shirt and ripped jeans. He carries two bags of who-knows-what, back hunched over, hair blowing crazy in the wind.  What's his life like? What does he do? How many days does he have left here?

Fox Lake; I guess it's really not a small town, it's just easy to get through pretty quickly.....probably because no trains come through at the time I drive by. Sometimes I wonder how old the buildings are. Did anyone ever propose in that gazebo? How many people have boarded the train? How many ants have been killed on that sidewalk?

And suddenly it hits me like a load of bricks. He's answering me. I asked Him, "Why?" and He answers me by saying "Who?"
"Who made each of these people? Who made every tiny piece of everything you see? You wonder about their stories, there histories, there lives. Who already knows that? You know nothing and yet you daily question me. Look, see what I've done. See what I'm doing. Do you have the faith to believe that I am God and I am in control."

A couple weeks ago, in my Biblical Studies of Persecution class, my professor made note of this. He said that often when we ask God the why's in life and rather than handing us the answers we're looking for, He reveals Himself to us more. It's so true. Even when I fail to recognize His revealing, He is always there showing Himself stronger to me. There are stories swirling all around me like the fall leaves. Lives are being lived, lives are being ended. The world is a constant circuit of motion and activity and really, in all honesty, I know nothing. I don't know a thing about their lives other than that I pass them every Tuesday. I don't know what their lives are like, I don't know what they're thinking, what they're going through, and I probably never will know.
God knows all of that! He knows everything about everyone.
My brain cannot comprehend that.
He is infinite and I am finite.
He is worthy of my trust, my faith, my life.....He's worthy of my all.

And that's how He talks to me. Through people, through towns, through leaves, through sidewalks. He speaks, and if I am quiet enough to listen for a moment, I see Him revealing more and more of Himself to me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Revolt Against "Busy"

Today was a beautiful autumn day!!! It was just so amazingly gorgeous that I couldn't help feeling completely happy. As I was walking to my car after working at the Pregnancy Center I simply felt like dancing around town just like the leaves that were falling from the trees. Of course, that urge to dance was probably aided much by the tuba player that was standing at the street corner playing a simply enchanting rendition of "Simple Gifts." The fresh autumn air was just so intoxicating that I knew I could not stay inside the rest of the day, so after dinner I went outside and played catch with Jared for the first time in years. Over the weekend I attempted to play football and was very quickly reminded of the fact that I have not played football in probably close to two years. Sad. I couldn't throw or catch. It was utterly pathetic and totally hilarious. (Yes, I can laugh at myself. I've learned that I have two options in life; laugh or be completely embarrassed.) Anyways, it was a lot of fun and I when I finally threw the perfect, deep spiral, let me tell you, I did a happy dance that could put most touch down dances to shame! ;)

What's my point you ask??
Glad you asked......or wait.....did I just ask that for you????

My point is, today was awesome mainly because amidst the busyness of the day I was able to be "not busy" for half and hour and got to spend some wonderful quality time with a brother that I really don't get to hang out with a lot.

Life is busy. Let's face it, we're all busy. I feel like hitting myself every time someone asks me how I'm doing and say the same dumb line I always say.

"I'm good, busy but I'm doing good."
(palm to forehead)

Seriously, of course I'm busy. Of course you're busy. We say the same thing to each other ever single week. What if we all started saying things like:
"God has blessed me with a full week and I am praising Him for His goodness."
"God's given me plenty to do, which may be tiring at times, but it's wonderful."
"I am doing great because Christ saved me and gave me a life to live for Him."

I know why I don't say things like that. I don't say those things because I'm not being grateful to God for all that He has placed in my life. I ask Him to fill my life and give me purpose, then I proceed to complain about being tired and constantly tell people that "I am busy." Busy is such a dumb word. It makes be think of chores and jobs and drudgery and monotonous blah.

I had this thought. What if instead of being busy, I just started being blessed. Really, all of the things that make my life busy are blessings. They are all things I love and gifts from God. What if I started viewing them as such.
What if I looked at making breakfast - my least favorite meal - as a blessing?
What if I thought of washing dishes as a blessing?
How about grocery shopping, babysitting, piano teaching, Bible studies, sibling chauffeuring etc.?
Because really, they all are.
It's a blessing that I have a family to cook for and dishes to eat from. It's a blessing that I know how to go grocery shopping. It's a blessing that God has given me piano students to teach and the ability to teach them. It's a blessing that I can help watch children at church and for other families. It's a blessing that I can drive - and not just any old car, but big vehicles like the invincible 15-passenger. It's a blessing that I can do laundry, help my family, take Bible classes, and be part of an amazing church.
Really the only thing that's not much of a blessing is the bad attitude I carry with me as I do all those things.

So, here's the plan. I'm revolting against busyness. I'm sick of being busy. Frankly, I got everything done that I needed to today and then had extra time to have fun with my siblings simply because I decided to quit being busy. I still got up at 4, did Bible classes, made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, got some stuff done on the computer, practiced piano, worked at a Pregnancy Helpline Center from 10am-4pm, ate dinner, played outside, cleaned the kitchen, and all the other things I did today, but I never once felt busy. I purposed in my heart to view each thing as a blessing and it was simply fabulous! I was blessed today.
I wasn't busy.
I was blessed.
And I loved it!
I got to savor every moment of the day and it was simply smashing.
(Please don't mistake that list of things as a brag Mom has me about tripled as far as the amount of things she accomplishes in a day. I'm just making a point that while I was busy, I wasn't really busy but blessed. Make sense???)

And now I need your help. If you ever happen to ask me how I am doing and I say the word busy, PLEASE stop me. Point out my slip up and just smile if I turn red. It's good for me. I want to quit talking about how busy I am all the time. I am blessed! Blessed beyond measure.
I want to revolt against this silly 4-letter word once and for all. :-)

It's time for me to start looking at this beautiful life He's given as a blessing rather than a burden.

Just one more side note: I know that sometimes we become discouraged and life gets tough. Honesty is important and I don't want you to think that I am encouraging us all to be fake and act like we're feeling great if we really are downtrodden and heavy laden. As the body of Christ, we are here to help one another and bear one another's burdens. Even though I know am blessed beyond measure, I still get tired and worn out. It's okay to ask for pray and seek encouragement. We should be praying for each other on a regular basis anyways.

This song has been stuck in my head all morning.
"Praise the Lord, our mighty Warrior!"
It's amazing the peace that washes over my heart when I focus on worshiping the Lord rather than focusing on myself and my silly emotions.  "Praise the Lord, the Glorious One. By His hand we stand in victory, by His name we overcome." It's just so beautiful. He is the Glorious One. It is His strength and his name that holds all the glory and victory. In my weakness His strength is revealed.

Oh, I just get chills thinking about it - and listening to this song. :-)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Little Gifts

 Life is full of the little gifts.
I was working in the kitchen this morning when I heard a boy's wail from the basement. Rushing down, I was met by little Andrew, face full of peanut butter, crying because a toy was taken from him. He turned to me and with a sniffley toddler voice said, "Kaiya, I want you."
With that he wrapped his arms around my neck and we shared a long bear hug. Deeming himself "all better" he left leaving smears of peanut butter across my sweatshirt. My first reaction was to reach up and brush it off, but I stopped before my hand reached the peanut butter.
 Why would I remove such medals of honor? I thought for a moment of the little arms wrapped around my neck and the snuggery hug. Those peanut butters stains were a gift. Small and dirty though they may be, they are tokens of the blessings I receive being a sister. 
Little boys grow up. Andrew won't always come to me with woes of toys stolen. Eventually he will become a tough guy that doesn't want Kaiya to see him cry. Someday, he will probably be the guy I go to for help. Those tokens of his affection will wash away in the next load of laundry and all I will be left with is the memory of his little form in my arms.

Life speeds by at the speed of light and I look and wonder how much I missed already because I failed to cherish the moment.  Everyday I am given  gifts by my siblings that I usually miss. And then, one of the little ones will have a birthday or grow an inch and I panic! They're growing up.
 Sweet Nathan, who turned six yesterday, is the most affectionate child I have ever seen. He loves snuggling and hugs. Every day he comes and says, "Kaila, you look beautiful." Even on days when my makeup is smeared across my face and I look and feel like I just survived a zombie apocalypse, he still comes and tells me I look beautiful. And of course, that statement is always followed by the sweetest of hugs.
 There are other gifts that I get, like having a tech guy that can aid my every technological woe. Hundreds of dollars have been saved because of Michael, the fix it guy, the computer guy, the geeky goof-ball that drives me crazy and makes me laugh uncontrollably. Just the other day he was able to get Microsoft Word off of my dead Toshiba and put it on my new computer saving me close to a hundred dollars. It was fun for him! He didn't complain one bit. It was a gift.
I have an endless supply of all-natural soap thanks to Rachel. After buying several bars from her, she told me that I no longer had to pay if I was willing to use the deformed bars. It is the best soap ever, and she never asks me to pay.
 Even if I do try to pay her, she always says no and smiles with her beautiful smile.
Jared is the breakfast man. While everyone else is still asleep, he faithfully comes to the kitchen to ask if he can help with breakfast. Sometimes, in my early morning grouchiness I find his presence annoying, but I realize his presence is a gift. He wants to help me. He is giving me a gift and I'm so stupid I tell him to leave. And then, the next morning he's up asking if he can help again. I should mention that the peanut butter and Andrew's face was thanks to Jared's willingness to make the little ones peanut butter toast for breakfast.
Then there's Kendra, the nut, the silly little girl that was my first real baby doll. (I was too young when Rachel was born to consider her a real life baby doll.) She has no shame in dancing through the kitchen like a total goof with me. Whenever we try to learn a new type of dance she always takes the guy part, "cause you're the one that needs to learn how to dance with a guy."

These are just a few of the numerous gifts my siblings give to me each and every day. Somewhere I have a stack of paper I.O.U.'s given out by a little guy one day. There's hot pink nail polish, beautifully swirled across my sewing machine from another little guy. I have pictures and cards, hair clips and bags of coffee, dishes done and surprise lunches packed. There are literally hundreds of beautiful gifts that I have that came from my siblings.

I love my siblings. They are blessings from God. It is a real privilege that I daily get to invest into their lives. I won't have this forever. They will grow up and though I'm sure we'll still be close, it won't be the same. Being a sister is a wonderful thing! I wouldn't trade being a sister for the world!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Best Blog Post Ever!

I want to write the best blog post ever; the one filled with whit to keep people reading, humor to make them laugh, and conviction to tug at their hearts. I want to write the post with such grammatical and structural perfection that not one mistake is noticed by the keenest of eyes. I want to write that post that changes the world because of it's profound content. Most of all, I want to have that one-liner. The one that everyone remembers, quotes, and writes in their journals and on walls.

But the reality is: I can't write that post.
I find myself lacking in whit and humor in the early hours of the morning. Usually the only conviction I have is that which tugs at my own heart, weighing me down. I struggle to find the words to express what I mean, and more often than not, end up with a jumble of words easily misinterpreted. Changing the world with a post is rather tricky with a following of 18 - although I love that 18. Besides, what is one blog in a cyber world of millions?

However, I do have a one-liner to share.
It's deep.
It's profound.
It's encouraging.
It's strengthening.

It's just not mine.

I heard it in church a few Sunday's ago. Sometimes, it's the only think that keeps me going. The power of it isn't the words. The truth behind the words is what gives me strength and purpose for whatever I may be going through.

"For this...I have Christ."
That's it.
For this - whatever it is that I am doing or going through - I have Christ.
Truly, that one line, would be the best blog post ever because that's what I need to hear each and every day. 
For this...I have Christ.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ouch Moment

In Mark 14:51 we read about a man that was at the garden the night Jesus was arrested wearing a linen cloth. When they arrested Jesus he fled, loosing the cloth and ran away naked.
Something very interesting and convicting that I learned this morning is that in the Greek that cloth refers to a burial cloth. One of the disciples came to the garden in a burial cloth, prepared to follow Christ to death just as they had all promised at dinner. But when death truly faced this disciple, he fled naked, shamed before all.
And then I wonder, am I so very different or would I have done the same?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

“Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer ― “The Cost of Discipleship”

Can't lie, I was exhausted this morning while taking my class, but I did manage to get this quote out of the lecture. :-) Great reminder for the day!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Biblical View Of Mothers

This is so powerful! I cried....which says a lot for me!
I think perhaps, most of us have a very messed up view of motherhood. I know it's 15 minutes long, but it's worth every minute - guy or gal.
Watch it!!!
It's powerful

Friday, September 27, 2013

One Piece at a Time

Life is a confusing thing. There are so many questions unanswered.
It's like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Lots of pieces. Confusing pieces. Pieces that make no sense at all. Pieces that are all supposed to fit together to create something of beauty and order.
I hate jigsaw puzzles. With. A. Passion. I despise them.
I hate the absolutely helpless feeling that I get when I see that awful pile of pieces, scattered across the table, that are somehow supposed to fit together. It makes no sense to my brain.

And then I look at life and I start to feel the same way. Pieces...everywhere. Fragments that make no sense. Confusion and chaos scattered about.

I reach for the edge pieces. They are the only ones I can ever figure out. They have an edge. There is that tiny glimmer of order attached to the edge piece. One flat edge. It makes a world of difference to me. So I piece the edges together and create a boarder.

But there is still a pile of pieces. And now that pile just got fifty times worse because all the edge pieces are gone. The easy-to-figure-out problems of life are dealt with. All that's left are the deep, probing questions of life that still need to be pieced together and I stare and feel utterly helpless.

Truth is, I can only conquer one small piece at a time. Some pieces I have to pick up, look around, and place right back down. Sometimes I will just sit there, unable to find a single piece that fits, until someone else comes up, takes a piece, and places it in the spot I couldn't find.

So it is with life. One small piece at a time, life fits together. One confusing, emotional experience at a time, we see a little more of the finished product. One moment. One breath. One tear. One laugh. One stab of the heart. One bit of trust. Life is made of pieces.

Life cannot make sense one piece at a time.

But life must be lived one piece at a time.

Put the two together and I start to realize that perhaps life wasn't meant to make sense. The only thing in life that makes sense is that I am a sinner saved by grace because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. That is the only certainty I can cling to on this earth.

I know the pieces will come together. In their perfect time, each one will fall in place. Jigsaw puzzles really aren't piles of confusion and chaos. They are actually piles of order and complexity that just need to be put in place. Life makes sense to God. He already knows where each piece goes and how they all fit together. His perception of this puzzle is far different from my own because he cut all those pieces.

I see a framework forming. I've put a lot of edge pieces together over the last 19 years. The pile of pieces that are left is terrifying and brain-boggling.
So I pick up one piece.
I look it over.
I ponder.
I pray.
And I think maybe this piece needs to be put back down for a while.
There's no clear spot for it to be placed just yet.

Now which one should I pick up next?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Loving Jesus More - A Time to Clarify

My post yesterday was simply some meandering thoughts in my head that I felt like sharing. I am always so surprised at different responses to my posts, especially via Facebook. Sometimes, I fail to remember that not everyone knows all the thousands of thoughts that raced through my head when I wrote the post, so I always find it interesting when someone reads into my writings a little bit differently than I myself did. :-) But it's very good for me to go back, reevaluate what I said, and clarify it even in my own head.  So today I thought I would add a little clarifying to yesterday's post.

I think the paragraph that threw a few people for a loop was this one:
"Sometimes, I think in our dreamy states of longing for that godly significant other, we young ladies forget to actually think about what we're dreaming of. After hearing that story I had to ask myself, "Would I really be a wife willing to sacrifice her husband for the sake of him loving Jesus more?" It would be excruciatingly hard. It would be painful. But the truth is, I can't follow a man that doesn't love Jesus more. I need a man that puts Christ first and foremost in his life. And if that means I might lose my man, then I pray that God will give me the strength to endure. "

Okay, so the first thing I want to point out is that my statement in bold is a very true conviction I have. I really believe that my husband needs to love Jesus more than me. However, I don't think that means my man is going to come perfectly matured and completely strong in his faith. Growing in maturity and faith in God is a life-long process. I am sure that the Iranian pastor I spoke of is probably a lot more mature and experienced in his faith than a young man 10 years younger that has not gone through all that this pastor has gone through. And that's okay! Every person's story is different. God brings different people through different experiences to prepare them for whatever He has coming next. I know 100% that I am not nearly as mature and strong in my faith as this pastor's wife is! But I also know that God is still working in my life, just as He is still working in hers.

I am not asking God for a perfect husband. That would be like asking God for no husband, because no man on earth is going to be perfect. And if he was perfect I would certainly ruin it, because I am FAR from perfection. However, I do ask God for a husband that loves Him more, because I believe that every person should love God more.

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:36-40
(emphasis mine)
"This is the first and great commandment." Before anything else in life, we are told that first and foremost we should love God. This is for every Christian.  It is just as much a command for me as it is for my future man. We are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds.  Love for others comes second.
"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son of daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Matthew 10:37-39
Love for God comes first. Being a Christian is about our lives belonging to Christ. My life is not my own. It is Christ's. The more I live this life and grow in the Lord, the more my love for Him grows. But my love for Him is only a teeny, weensy pinpoint of the amount of love that Christ has poured out for me. As my love for Him grows, so does my love for others. See, from my own experience, nothing has taught me more about true love, than Christ's love for me. A man that loves Christ more than he loves me, is going to know more about true love than someone who has spent their whole life loving things or people in the world more than Christ.
"Husbands, love you wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."
Ephesians 5:25
The marriage relationship is a picture of Christ's relationship with His bride, the church. The more we learn about Christ's love, the more we know how to love one another.  Christ gave everything for his bride. Everything! Someone had mentioned that "If he loves Jesus more than you, he might not want to be married." But Christ did not abandon His bride because of His obedience to the Father.  In His obedience to God, He poured out more love for His bride than we can even fathom. This is why I am not concerned that my man will not want to be my husband anymore because he loves Christ more. If my man truly loves Christ the most, then he will know how to love me in a deeper and truer way.
So, to sum it all up, I am NOT looking to find a perfect husband. I am asking God to give me a husband that loves Him the most. Just as I seek to love the Lord first and foremost in my life, I pray that my man is also seeking to love the Lord first and foremost in his life. I cannot wait for the day that we get to grow in our love and maturity, in the Lord, together. I get excited just thinking about it! :-) It will be hard and we will make mistakes. There will be times when we fail to love the Lord first and foremost in our lives, but by God's grace, I pray that He will be the center of our lives till the end!

Monday, September 23, 2013

He Loves Jesus More Than Me

It was a simple picture really.
I guess some would say it was actually quite sweet. Guy and gal, wrapped in a blanket near a roaring fire. He is kissing her forehead. Yada yada....I see these types of pictures all the time on Pinterest, so I rarely even notice them. But the caption on this picture jumped out at me and caught my eye. It said, "I want someone who loves Jesus more than me."
And true. I would really like to have someone who loves Jesus more than me.
But something about the picture just bothered me. I couldn't place what it was until I was on my way to church listening to K-love. They were talking about a Pastor in Iran who has been in prison for almost a year.  He has remained faithful to the Lord and has been sharing the gospel with other inmates in the prison. His wife and three children continue to live life without him. His wife said that they miss him very much and they want him back, but she is proud of her husband because his love for Christ is greater than his love for her. Her husband is in prison, away from her, away from his own children, because his love for Christ is greater than his love for any other person.
This is a woman who has a husband that loves Jesus more than her.
This is a woman who sees life a little differently than cuddly campfires.
This is a woman who must live and raise three children on her own because her husband loves Jesus more.

Sometimes, I think in our dreamy states of longing for that godly significant other, we young ladies forget to actually think about what we're dreaming of. After hearing that story I had to ask myself, "Would I really be a wife willing to sacrifice her husband for the sake of him loving Jesus more?" It would be excruciatingly hard. It would be painful. But the truth is, I can't follow a man that doesn't love Jesus more. I need a man that puts Christ first and foremost in his life. And if that means I might lose my man, then I pray that God will give me the strength to endure.

Pinterest is great. I love it. I love the sweet quotes that I see on there all the time. But I think perhaps we should switch out some of the mushy picture. What we really need is to be seeing and thinking about the truth behind the lines. Instead of sappy campfire pictures, we need a picture of a poor mother, struggling to raise her family and follow the Lord as her husband sits in prison for loving Jesus more.
That would be a bit more accurate.

And just as a side note, this is absolutely nothing against any of the people that pinned that picture. This is completely my own little thought process. :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Great Quote

"You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes obliterated through external stains? The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so was it with the All-holy Son of God. He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst, in order that He might renew mankind made after Himself, and seek out His lost sheep, even as He says in the Gospel: 'I came to seek and to save that which was lost.'"
~Athanasius from "On the Incarnation"

When someone relates things to a painting, it sticks in my head way better!!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Quote by Ignatius

"My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece."

Can I just say, "WOW." People just don't talk like that anymore.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sending You A Hug

There's a place far, far away where a sweet little girl lives. Her favorite color is yellow and she loves dolls. Jonah and the Big Fish is her most favorite Bible story, and she dreams of being a mommy. She draws cactus plants like a pro and she always includes the dirt beneath the flowers in her pictures.
She turned 5 yesterday.
I was driving home from worship practice yesterday, on my birthday, thinking about my day, excited for my friends to come over, looking forward to eating my favorite foods and suddenly her face popped into my head. Her deep, dark eyes were staring at me and for the first time in my entire life I realized that September 14th is not MY birthday, but hers.
She was turning 5.
 I remember turning 5. I was so thrilled. It seemed like such a big number. I wonder if she was excited? Did she have a special day?
And as I drove thinking about her my heart began to ache. I would have paid anything to have been able to go and give her a big birthday hug at that moment. I wanted so badly to hold her small frame and tell her that I loved her and that I think about her everyday. Never did I think that I could become so attached to a little girl I have never even met. She's like my little sister.
We may not be related and we may be separated by miles, but in my heart I love her to bits and pieces.
So I am sending her a hug.
Perhaps someday I will be able to go and give her a real, physical hug, but for the moment I will just have to close my eyes and send her a hug from my heart.
I love you Florinda. I pray God watches over you and keeps you in the shadow of His wings.

He is Hope

Hope is a powerful thing. I absolutely love Webster's 1828 definition of the word because it really, truly shows what hope is to an individual.

 "Hope: A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this, that it implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety." ~Webster's 1828 dictionary

Many children around the world live lives void of hope. Many live in poverty stricken places where their only hope is the possibility of survival, but even then, where will that lead them with no education, so resources, and no purpose in life. The power of hope in a child's life can change everything. The beautiful part is, we are each given the chance to bring that hope into their lives.

Love brings hope.
Children need to be loved. Simple as that. Without love children grow up to be hard, bitter people. When a child has someone that loves them, they have something to cling to each day. They know that someone, somewhere cares for them and is praying for them. Without my family's love I would never have accomplished most of what I have done in my life because without having someone to believe in me and push me on, I would have had no reason to try. Love gives us hope; hope that our dreams can become realities, hope that there is something better than any sorrows we presently face, and hope that we can overcome the obstacle's of life.

Having a future brings hope.
When a child knows that there is nothing for them in the future, then there is no reason to learn, or work, or try to overcome the obstacles. Without a future, why bother? However, when they know that they have a future, that they can make a difference or change the world, then suddenly life matters. Many, many children around the world will never have the opportunity to even receive an education. These are fully capable, amazing children, made in the image of God that will never have a chance to read or write or do math and science. That is wrong. But we can change that. We can bring hope into their lives by giving them the chance to learn.

However, the most important thing is that Jesus Christ brings hope.
In all reality, He is the only one who brings true hope into any persons life.  Being loved or having a future bring only a slight shimmer compared to the glorious hope that comes in knowing Jesus Christ! He loves greater than any human being. He is the Author and Creator of the world who holds the future in His own hands! What these children need, what the whole world needs, is to know Jesus as Lord. In Him there is hope because He died on Calvary to pay the way for salvation.
In Him there is hope.

Through sponsoring a child, you are given the chance to bring hope into a child's life. Not only can you love them and help provide a future for them, but you can help teach them about Jesus Christ.  This may sound like a commercial add, but the truth is that these children need our help. They need love. They need a future. But most of all they need Jesus Christ.
He is their only hope.
He is our only hope.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What I Fail to Recognize

"If we stumble in a safe country, how will we follow Him into the thickets....?"
"If we are not prepared to make the sacrifices that come with following Him in life, I doubt very much that we will follow Him in death."
"You will respond to persecution the same way you respond to temptation."
~Glenn Penner
"Wrists that become accustomed to wearing gold chains, never willingly embrace those made of iron."

4am. my morning starts. Bible, journal, pen. I read and write; verses, thoughts, events...whatever comes to mind flows out on paper. Computer on. typed in. My lecture for the day is 39 minutes long. It's a leftover I never finished from yesterday's class. Headphones in, volume up. I listen, only halfway at first. My mind is elsewhere. It's in another place. A place even I'm not sure of. All I know is it's somewhere, and I must go there. 

Words sound in my ears. Words that pierce my heart. "What?" I rewind and listen again. My mind freezes. It shuffles the meaning of the words around. It drops the words to my heart. A heavy blanket covers my soul.

How can I daydream of going there, to share the gospel, to spread His name, to suffer for His sake, when I struggle simply to say "No," to temptation? How can I, who purposefully tries to accustom myself to the gold chains, ever be willing to wear ones made of iron? How can I, who am unwilling to impart my own plans, ever be willing to follow His plan?

I ask myself why I'm not doing more and I fail to recognize that it's because my heart is still not in the right place. My heart is still hard and rocky in spots. Part of it is becoming moldable, but so much is still rock solid. I fail to recognize that I am here because I would not be faithful if I were there. I fail to recognize that the little sacrifices that I daily, am unwilling to give up, prove that I am not ready to sacrifice it all for the sake of the gospel. Daily I blame God, because I fail to recognize that it is my own sinful heart that stops me from doing more for His glory.

But today, in this dark, cool morning, I recognize it. I see it plain as daylight. Following Christ is not a one time commitment. It is an everyday re-evaluation of my life and recommitment of those parts that are drifting from Him. It is trusting Him to guide every move. It is a willingness to give it all up for Him and Him alone.

So now that I recognize it once again, I supposed I need to change myself. Scratch that. I need to be willing to be changed by Him.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dear Little Me

September is Blog Month for Compassion International and they have a goal to get 3,160 children sponsored before 11:59pm on September 30th.  Compassion bloggers are given a writing topic to blog about with the goal of getting children sponsored. The first writing topic is: What Would You Say to Your Childhood Self? It took me a couple days to figure out what I truly would want to say to a younger me, but I think I finally figured it out.

I close my eyes and travel back in time. I'm still quite young, so I only have to go back a little ways before my eyes open and I see a little, smiling girl before me.  She is rushing through the house in search of her mommy, face beaming, and excitement permeating her entire self. Mommy is fixing her hair in front of the bathroom mirror when the little girl finds her.
"Mommy, mommy! Can I ask you a question?" without waiting for an answer she rushes into her question. "Does God tell you things in dreams? He told Joseph things in dreams. Do you think He would tell me things in dreams."
Mommy smiles at her daughter as she puts down her curling iron. "Usually when we sleep, we dream about the things we are thinking about, but every once in a great while God tells people things in dreams. Why? Did God tell you something in your dream?"
The little girl nods, "I think so mommy. I had a dream about a whole bunch of little orphan children. They had no one with them. I think God wants me to go to their country and teach them about Jesus."
"Well, it will probably be a long time before we know for sure, but I think the important thing is for you to pray about it and to pray for those little children you dreamed about."
The little girl nods her head. She runs to her room, kneels by her bed, bows her head and silently prays. Her faith is childlike, but strong. Her trust is simple, but steadfast. She has no doubt that God will show her the way. He is in fact her Father, her Creator. He has never let her down. She prays with passion and earnestness. Then she gets up, satisfied with her prayers and confident in her Savior, but wishing with everything in her that she could just grow up a little quicker.
To that little girl I would say,

"Dear Little Me,
Don't grow up too fast.
Don't waste away your life wishing for the next thing.
What you are here and now is precious in God's sight. He can use your little life right now, just the way you are.
Your gifts are just like the little boy's loaves and fish that Jesus used to feed 5 thousand. He can take your dreams and hopes, and can turn them into beautiful things for His glory.
Don't every forget that!
You are beautiful in His sight because you are His. You do not have to be someone else for God to use your life.
As you grow, don't ever stop being who God made you to be.
 Others will try to change you.
Circumstance will threaten to shatter your dreams, but don't ever stop being the joyful, trusting, faithful girl God made you.
He will never let you down.
He is faithful through all the ages."
Even though it really wasn't that long ago, it seems like ages since I was that little girl. I could not wait to grow up, but now I look back and strive to have the childlike faith I had back then. God used my life then and He is using my life now. Through Compassion I am able to help other young children that otherwise might not have the opportunity to be taken care of, but more importantly, to be taught about God's great love for them. God can use each of their precious lives in ways that we can't even imagine!


Andrew the Newsboy

My Mom, neighbor and I are doing a photo challenge together and today's topic was "news."
Instantly a picture of a 1930's newspaper boy popped into my mind and so Andrew became my little prop. I put them all in sepia because I thought it gave them a fun vintage look.

The true Andrew comes forth.

I could kiss that little face over and over!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

True Love Doesn't Wait: The Marriage Crisis, Courtship and a Generation of Frustrated Godly Youth

Earlier today my Mom read this article to me from Facebook and then later someone anonymously left the web address in response to my last blog post. It's a very interesting article. I agree with a lot of it, but it still leaves some questions in my mind. So, I'm looking for some discussion. And it would be really nice if I could get some mixed discussion, i.e. both guys and gals. If you don't want me to know who you are then leave an anonymous comment, but at least give yourself a codename like Chipmunk or Paintbrush so I can at least have a mental picture of you rather than this empty cyberspace person.......*insert alien music*

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Which Road?

"What do you want me to do Daddy? I just want you to tell me what I should do," was my emotional challenge to my Dad.
"I just want you to do what you want. I don't want little robot children that do things and become things just because that was what their parents wanted. I want you to figure out what you want in life," was his gracious and loving response.
One of the hardest and most difficult things about being an adult if figuring out what I truly want. I would like to say, and I usually do say, that what I want is to follow the Lord's will, but in all reality so often I find myself restless and questioning God.
"Lord, I just have a couple of questions tonight. First of all, am I going to get married someday? Because if I am, it would be very beneficial to my life planning if you could tell me where, when and to whom cause it's pretty slim pickin's out there? Yes, that would be very helpful because then I could plan what to do until he shows up. Wait, what if he doesn't show up? Should I be a missionary? .....I know, I know, I'm supposed to be doing that wherever I am, but what about an overseas missionary? Should I plan for that? Or how about being a midwife? I think that would fit pretty well with the plan I'm making. Do you think I should pursue that or would it be a waste of time? Oh, and Lord, should I take a music theory class? It would probably be good to learn the extra stuff since I'm a piano teacher....which brings me to another question. Am I going to be a piano teacher forever? Or will I eventually quit? When should I quit if I quit? God, do you hear me? Why won't you answer me? Hello.....anybody up there? Heloooooooo....."

Seriously, I realized the other day that even if the Lord was trying to answer my questions, I usually don't shut my mouth long enough to hear Him. Sometimes, it's frustrating to me that the Lord doesn't just drop all of the answers to my questions right into my lap.  I like to know things!
This morning I was reading in Proverbs and this verse sorta jumped out at me.
Proverbs 25:2
"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter."
The question that came to mind was, what if God doesn't want to just hand me all of life's answers because he wants me to seek them out and learn to trust and depend on Him? There has to be a reason that it is the honor of kings to seek out that which the Lord has concealed. And I guess, in all honesty, I wouldn't really want to know all the plans He has for me, because I might just get scared, or worried, or panicky.......or something. :-) Perhaps, what I really need to do right now is simply "Keep Calm and Carry On." God will reveal His plans to me in His perfect timing. It is my job to trust Him as I am seeking out life's answers. What I really need to be doing is keeping calm as I do what He has called me to do and carry on in the work He has given me. That would be much more beneficial than "Freak Out and Act Irrationally."
So now I am trying to stop questioning God and worrying at every stop along the way. Rather, I'm trying to make my prayer be the words to this song:
"If there’s a road I should walk,
Help me find it
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will
Whatever Your will
Can you help me find it."
Wasn't it so nice when we were young and growing up was as simple as graduating, marrying the most wonderful significant other on the face of the earth, and living happily ever after with 16 children in tow?
 Say what, that wasn't your childhood dream??? ;)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Where is my Confidence?

Her fingers touch the ivory keys. She begins her song. Strength flows through the music. Confidence soars through each note. She smiles as she plays. The song is taking over. Faster and faster she plays. And then, a mistake. Small to the listeners sense of hearing, but devastating to the performer. She continues playing but the strength is gone. The confidence has dwindled. The piece has altogether lost its glory and grandeur. More mistakes follow. With each blow her shoulders slump a little more. She ends her piece distressed.

This was my observation of myself on all seven recorded takes of the Pirates of the Caribbean piece I was entering in a contest.  It's a great song, fun to play, full of life, and varying in dynamics, tone and tempo. I had been working on it for quite some time when I heard about the competition. I decided to enter and needed a video recording of it. I was greatly blessed to have some friends with a good camera that offered to help. However, when it came time to record my brain just decided to set up a few blockades. Uncrossable blockades. I did get through the song several times, but I felt so frustrated that I just could not play the song well when I was being recorded. Sadly, this is a problem I have whenever I try to perform anything on the piano under pressure. I can have a song nailed and if I get up to play it in front of people I just lose it.

As I was getting frustrated over the whole matter, the Lord revealed to me that my life is often like those video recordings. I can start out on a spiritual high, serving the Lord, worshipping Him, loving Him with my all, and with one failure I give up. I lose it all. I don't trust His grace and forgiveness. Then I go through a slump. Usually, a long drawn out slump. When I made those mistakes on the piano, I remember feeling like they were just the worst mistakes ever. But when I watched the videos, they actually wouldn't have been a problem if I had just kept playing with full confidence. We all sin, we all fail, and we all make mistakes. The difference is there are those that try to live this life on their own and there are those that live this life in the full confidence of Christ their Savior. When we try to live this life on our own, one mistake is going to get us down because all it does is prove that we can't do it. However, when we live in the confidence of Christ, one mistake still shows us that we can't do it ourselves, but it also shows us how big God's mercy and grace are, because when we are willingly being molded in His hands, He gives us the strength to rise above that mistake. He makes glory out of ashes.

And so, I never was able to upload any of the recordings onto my computer and I ended up re-recording myself. I didn't have the beautiful grand piano, or the amazing quality sound, or the beautifully memorized piece. I played on my own piano, recorded with my moms camera, with the sheet music, *cringe* :-) but I felt a thousand times better. I still messed up, but I kept playing with confidence that God already knew how I was going to play and really, in light of eternity, this song didn't really matter. It was my attitude that mattered. And every time I watch that video I ask myself, "Is my confidence in Christ today?"

Now I am going to shamelessly ask for your votes. :-)
This is supposed to be the link for my song, but I  have had a few people who said it didn't work and a few who said it did. But if you could give a try I would be very grateful. The competition runs through the 12th and you can vote everyday! Thanks in advance.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Could I Ask You For Some Prayers?

Today is my first day working at our local pregnancy helpline. I am so excited and a tad bit nervous. I greatly anticipate seeing the Lord at work in the lives and hearts of the young women that come to us for help. Please pray that God will give me wisdom in my words.

This verse really stood out to me as I was in the Word this morning. Jesus is praying to His Father before He and His disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane. John 17:26, "And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." Jesus' whole ministry on earth was teaching us to love one another as the Father loves us. As Jesus prayed this prayer,  He was preparing for the final act of love for us. When I look at Jesus' life and see how He loved, I realize that love is not a material thing. Christ's love was in the actions He took, the words He said, the time He spent, and the deep, wholehearted love and concern that He shared. His type of love was not simply a once in a while donation. It was a lifestyle of loving people.

My prayer today is that I might love like Christ. Could you please keep me in your prayers as well? I would be extremely grateful.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Barricade

Life has gotten increasingly busier the older I've gotten and sometimes I just really miss playing around with my siblings. This afternoon I found myself with a chunk of time to spare and decided that playing with the little men would be awesome fun. We started out with our traditional, "Let's play battle."
We all have our battle names: Cooper, David, Lone Ranger, and Agent 99.  
We started playing and then a certain someone decided that simply running around with guns was boring so we decided to build a barricade and play "Les Mis."

We, of course, were the French revolutionaries. Just look at those heroic chaps!

Jared (aka. Cooper)
Andrew (aka. The Lone Ranger)

Nathan (aka. David)

A view from the revolutionaries side.

It was a truly heartbreaking moment to watch a comrade fall.....until I caught the look on the Lone Rangers face.

A tad bit mushed perhaps?

And then in one dramatic moment the entire barricade came crashing down.
It was an epic battle.
Agent 99 survived without a scratch.
We celebrated by dancing like Russians, cause let's be honest, Russian dancing is way more celebratory than the minuet. ;) For the record, I cannot dance like a Russian.
Yeah, we don't quite compare.
We have fun here.