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!