Friday, January 18, 2019

Not Until I See (1/19/19)

It is late - or better put, it is early. There is too much going on right now and there are so many words in my head that they are overflowing into my heart. And so, I'm writing at 1:30 in the morning because it helps me sort through my thoughts. They're more than a little tangled and knotted right now.

One thing that is hard for me to grasp is how often I find it so hard to trust. I have the audacity to ask God why - as if that was necessary for me to know. I grow angry and frustrated when things don't go the way I thought they would... the way I prayed and hoped and cried for them to go... and I think with a bitterness and certainty that scare me, "There's no way this can turn out for good."

My mind is so narrow, I believe most of the time that my way is not just the best way, it is the only way - when in reality, it's neither. It's certainly not the only way, and it's usually not what's best, either. I have tunnel-vision when it comes to life (or anything, for that matter) and I only see the small portion that's right in front of me; even when I swivel my head around, I can only catch glimpses of the space that is right before me. I can hardly look in the past with clarity at all, peering through rose-coloured lenses and romantic fantasies of the things I remember differently. My future looms before me, great and dark and uncertain and terribly frightening.

I want to be like Joseph, staying true to God and trusting in the most questioning circumstances. I want to be like Esther and have tremendous courage, living the faith that she had been taught and that became her own. But most of the time, I'm Jacob - wrestling with God and refusing to let go until He blesses me. I'm Thomas, saying, "I won't believe it until I see it." I will not believe that this mess can somehow be made into something good until I see it. I will not accept that there is a purpose behind all this that I don't know yet until I see it. I will not stop questioning and begging for answers and fighting against all this with everything in me until I see it. Not until I see and know.

"Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Where is my faith? Where is my trusting obedience, my humility? Why do I become so caught up in myself and who I am that I so easily forget what He has done and who He is? I have been on earth eighteen years and I fail every single day; He is eternal, and never has. I am turbulent, always changing moods and switching out emotions and opinions; He is constant, and changeth not. 

Why do I cry that I cannot see? I can see that, even in these circumstances, God is all that is good and perfect - and that means His will for me is all that is good and perfect, too. I have eyes to see that He has been faithful even when I am faithless. I can see that there is so little that I really know, and He is in control of it all. How can I have the audacity to continue trying to take the wheel? I am only a vapor, saved by His grace.

(Genesis 32:24-30, Job 19:23-27, Psalm 91:7-8, Psalm 106:4-5, John 20:25-29)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Trust and Obey (1/7/19)

"I being in the way, the Lord led me..."
Lately Genesis 24 has been on my mind, as I wrestle with life and struggle to understand why I am here and not elsewhere. I wonder and hope and despair and cry, searching to know why God has placed me here now, when my whole heart longs for something that I don't have. 

I have started writing the word "hope" on a piece of paper and keeping it in front of me at work and every time I look at it, I whisper "God is good." I need that reminder right now when, in my frail humanity and weakness, I so often lose sight of His goodness. If He is all that is good and perfect and true (and we know that He is), will not His will for my life be good and perfect and true also? 

I know others that are living what I would call the perfect life. My view of perfect is not a common one in many ways, but in some ways it is what every Christian longs for: a life spent in service to Christ, knowing that you are in the center of His will for you and living in the freedom and joy that that knowledge endows. I dream of returning to the place where my heart has been called so strongly and my spirit fights so fiercely to find a way back.

But there is work here, too. God shows me in my broken moments when I want nothing except to go back and live the life that others lead that there are little things, reasons I am home. There is growth here, too. It is lonelier and harder to understand and see, but I know that God is faithful. There are people here that need me, friends that I need to be there for, lessons I need to learn, work to be done. 

"And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren." - Genesis 24:27

Knowing that the Lord will lead me... the Lord, who has not left us destitute of his mercy and his truth... and we need only to trust and obey. To have faith and to cling to Him in the uncertainty and the confusion and the heartache when we can do nothing else. This is my comfort, and this is what sees me through each day. This is my hope.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Remind Me (10/13/18)

Remind me, Lord, when I begin to forget the abundance of Your love for me.
Remind me how good and wholesome it is to be in the center of Your will when I am tempted to turn away.
Remind me when, in the humdrum of daily life, I lose sight of what is eternal and what is real.
Remind me what is it to follow You more fully and to dedicate each moment and each circumstance to You and to Your glory.
Remind me, Lord, when I begin to confuse what is comfortable and easy with what is unpleasant and necessary, and invariably am tempted by the former.
Remind me that I am not called to follow You only at certain times or in certain circumstances, but to give myself to You completely and follow You wherever You will lead.
Remind me, Father, when I feel lost and afraid, just how well and how lovingly You have cared for me and provided every need in the past.
Remind me that in every time of my life, You are holding me in the palm of Your hand and have commanded me not to fear.
Remind me that my mission in life is not to achieve my own happiness or goals, but to bring glory to You, to know You more each day, and to carry the Gospel to the people all around me.

I know what it is to follow You and trust You for all... to line up what I say and do and think with what is in Your Word and to live by it accordingly... but I am foolish and I fall and forget.

Please, with whatever it takes, remind me.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Winds of Change (9/26/18)

When I was 15, I decided I wanted the living room walls in my future home to be green. Not just any green, though - it had to be jade green. Nothing else would suffice. As I stated my future plans to different people in my life, I always got the same answer and the more I heard it, the more it ruffled me.

"Oh, well, your taste will change before then."
"By the time you're old enough to have your own home, you'll change your mind."
"You might like that now, but you won't like it later."

I'm not sure which part of it offended me most. Maybe it was because I thought they meant I was some flippant little butterfly that couldn't keep their mind made up. Maybe I believed that my taste and sense of style was something that was fixed in me and something I could not and never would change. I was probably mostly offended by their seeming lack of faith in my judgement and abilities. Whatever the case, the more they claimed I'd forget or change my mind, the more I was determined to go through with it.

I clung to that goal for longer than I care to admit through my teenage years. I wasn't sure what my house would look like or what kind of house it would be, but I knew the living room would be painted jade green.

I didn't realize just how fixed I was on this idea and how reluctant I was to change - even though there were other colours at this point that I actually preferred more! It's silly to think about.

"Well, I love this shade of blue... but I always wanted my walls to be jade green growing up, so even though I don't like it as much now, I guess I have to do it."

How ridiculous!

You are not obligated to be the person that you were five years ago. You're not obligated to be the person that you were last month. You're not obligated to be the person that you were yesterday.

Sometimes change takes years and sometimes it happens overnight. Changing is never something you should be ashamed of. It is a sign that you are living, and in many cases, it is a sign of growth.

Don't feel like you have to be the person that you were yesterday simply because that's the person that everyone knows if you can be better. Take heart and have the courage to be different than who you were last week! Study God's Word, live a life of prayer and an earnest desire to know Him more, surround yourself with good, Godly people that will encourage you in your faith, and reach out to people that don't know Him! Always be striving to grow and to change.

And no, I don't think I still want jade green walls. :) 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Here There Be Monsters (8/27/18)

When we left to come back home from the summer trip of a lifetime, our leaders warned us that it would be hard (but EXTREMELY worthwhile) to keep what we have learned as we traveled. Our standards and the way of life we adapted for nine weeks aren't exactly common, and even well-meaning people can cause us to stumble by trying to change our minds and make sure we "haven't changed."

I hope I changed. I think it would be almost impossible to be a part of something like that and not be changed. But... I'm not always sure how to go on from here.

I'll be the first to admit it: I've got dreams. And they are crazy, big, unusual dreams. Some would call them impractical, or even bizarre - and I couldn't agree more. I know what I'm good at and what I love doing, and I know how I dream of living one day. I don't know exactly how to get there, but I have a good place to start. Time can go ever-so-slowly, though, ticking past one second at a time; but then, time goes oh-too-quickly, fading fast away as we try to catch it - as futilely as grasping at smoke. Earlier this year, I couldn't decide whether I had too much time or not nearly enough. Now, I'm pretty convinced that I have just the time that everyone else has - the perfect amount. I have been very blessed as far as opportunities go, and am grateful for all the experiences I have gained.

Somehow, everything is harder at home. It sounds strange to say it, but it's harder to be patient. It's harder to be kind. It's hard to stay on a consistent schedule with Bible reading and devotions and prayer. It's harder to be a good, godly example to the young adults around me and to my family. I feel so lost and confused sometimes and I'm convinced that I need help more than anyone else. I'm so easily distracted and I put things off "until later." What if later doesn't come? If this was my last day on earth, what would be my biggest regrets?

I know of several. All the wasted time. All the moments where I let my fear enslave me (which, believe me, makes up a major portion of my life). All the times I said what I didn't mean and didn't say what I did. All the opportunities to be the light and love of Christ to a stranger - or even a friend, God forgive me! - that I squandered and shrugged off, telling myself that it didn't really matter. Not really. All the daydreams I allowed into my mind that not only wasted precious time, but dirtied the contents thereof. The first step in the wrong direction.

I could list regrets and failures until the sky falls down, but it wouldn't change a thing. I am a work in progress, and God in His goodness and mercy and redemption has not left me yet. I tend to be so focused on my own weakness that I am blinded to His strength, which was a hard lesson I learned over the summer. Just because it is harder to follow doesn't mean it is no longer required. Just because I am no longer surrounded by constant encouragement and biblical truths doesn't mean it is no longer necessary for me to keep growing.

Here there is trial and temptation aplenty. Here there are innumerable opportunities to stumble and fall away.

H E R E  T H E R E  B E  M O N S T E R S.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Homeward Bound (8/8/18)

This summer, I traveled with the Academy of Arts (which is a Christian organization based in South Carolina) for nine weeks, performing in a drama that followed the lives of the disciples, Mary Magdalene, and the Samaritan woman when they encountered Jesus. It was an adventure the likes of which I have never experienced before, but that I hope and pray will be repeated in the future. I learned and grew so much, and am so grateful to God for His provision and faithfulness - even when I doubted and failed Him daily.

We were a team of 15 people - 12 young adults, our team leaders, and their baby, who is only 15 months old. Leaving after only two weeks of training at the Logos Theatre (where they instructed us in how to run the tech, lights, sound, sets, props, costumes, and makeup, as well as directing us and helping us memorize our blocking, cues, and lines), we traveled from church to church and from state to state, giving our presentation. As we grew closer to God through prayer and through His Word, we also grew closer to each other, despite our differences. I think it would have been impossible not to, being crammed into a 15-passenger van together and sharing so many bizarre, hilarious, precious memories with each other. I love each and every one of the people God brought into my life this summer and am so grateful for every moment spent in their company.

If I were to try and tell all our stories and inside jokes and all the things God has used you to teach me this summer, and all the things that I have learned by your examples, it would take a lifetime. Team South... continue in what you have learned and been taught. Do not lose heart or grow discouraged by any of the challenges that will await you when you arrive home. Find people that will help you continue to grow and mature. Remember - we're NOT teenagers. We're young adults. Let's step up and fill in those gaps. Love you guys more than I know how to say and I can't wait to see you all again!

Caleb, Peter, Lexi, Elisabeth, Becca, Nicole, Jon, Levi, Jake, Emily, Cristina, and Cal

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Growing Up (In the Best Way Possible)

As I prepare to not only graduate, but to turn 18 as well, I find myself reflecting on where God has brought me in my life and where I started out. I find myself remembering things that had slipped so far down into the cracks of my memory that I'm shocked when I find them again.

Eight years ago, I was looking in a mirror and wrinkling my nose at the person that looked back at me. Big ears. Small frame. Scraggly brown hair that wasn't curly or straight. Freckles. An overbite. Shorter than my younger sister and looking younger than I was. I didn't care for that person very much - they were oversensitive and not terribly smart and kind of annoying. Kind of lonely, too.

Six years ago, I looked in a mirror again and inwardly grumbled. Same big ears. Same tiny, petite frame. Same brown hair that was too thin to be pretty. Same freckles. I had braces now to help my gap-toothed overbite, but I didn't like them. At this point, I had nearly given up on catching up with Allie's height, and it was not uncommon for people my age to assume I was 2-3 years younger. That person was more insecure and confused and lonely than before.

Five years ago, I looked in a mirror and for the first time, really hated what I saw. Every quirk and seeming flaw I saw as being infinitely worse than it was. My eyes had not magically turned blue as I longed for them to my whole life and were still the same dull brown as they had always been. My hair was curly now, but I didn't like it because I didn't know what to do with it. Still some freckles, but while I had liked them at ten, I despised them at thirteen. Struggling with anxiety and extreme depression in private, I tried to find friends and typically failed. I was too anxious to please, too desperate and clingy - I didn't really know why no one would talk to me. Social awkwardness is not uncommon and I wasn't the only early teenager to struggle with it, but I assumed there was something wrong with me and for some reason, I was not as good as other people.

Four years ago, I was still struggling to curb my anxiety (although God had taken away my depression the year before) and I didn't even bother trying to deal with my insecurities because I figured it was all true. I was socially awkward. I wasn't pretty, although I felt pretty at times and that's almost as nice. It was the ugly-teenage-chicken stage (if you've ever seen a teenage chicken, you know what I'm talking about) and I resigned myself to it.

Three years ago, I joined a cadet program and realized if I worked hard, I could rise through the ranks and do well. I could join the camaraderie that the cadet officers and NCO's had with each other and fit in. Obviously I could never hold a leadership position and I took for granted that any idea I had to improve something had already been considered by the other cadets, so I didn't like speaking up. On reaching the rank of Cadet Staff Sergeant, I purposely requested that they would not give me a leadership position because I was not capable. No matter who the other options were, I considered myself as the rightful last option for any position or job.

Today I look in the mirror, as I have countless times before without even thinking about it. Dark eyes that I have slowly come to terms with. Brown, curly hair that I'm learning how to tame. Straighter teeth that smile and laugh back at me. My ears are big - I've been told so and been made fun of for it a few times, but I don't mind. I owned it and learned to wiggle them at the people that bothered me about them. I have more confidence than ever before, and for the first time in my life I know that I'm smart - even though I've been told so countless times before, I never accepted it until now. I've got a best friend that has my back no matter what and am surrounded by good, godly friends that care about me and make me feel included. I love leading and working with people, and I accept that I will make mistakes sometimes and that God will forgive me and give me second chances. I'm completely capable and I get excited about new challenges.

Maybe someday I'll look in the mirror and see someone fearless, someone completely given up to God's will for her life. I'm trying to become that person and I'm learning to be patient.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Letting Go of Someday (4/12/18)

I finished crocheting a baby blanket last week that I've been working on for a long time. With every stitch, I cherished dreams of a home of my own someday and of a child that I could someday swaddle in it. The sunny yellow squares criss-crossing the perfectly white ones is such a cheery picture to me, but more than that, this little blanket is a dream for someday.

I've got a lot of dreams like that. Someday dreams. Dreams that I know can't happen right now. For the most part, I'm okay with waiting and biding my time because I know it's worth the wait in the end. But sometimes, something happens that stops my contentment in its tracks and causes me to wonder about things that I shouldn't worry about yet. When I see pictures on Facebook of different friends beginning a relationship with someone and my foolish heart whispers,

"You know, you're the same age as they are."

"You'll be 18 next month and you've never been in a relationship."

"Wonder what that's like."

"Maybe you could have had that if only..."

I think the two words I hate the most are if and almost. If has so much uncertainty crammed into it. Almost is a word full of regret. They're words that are used so often, sometimes we forget what they mean - to come so close to something, only to miss it. Something didn't work out that would have in other circumstances.

Some of my someday dreams are too close to my heart to share. They're too precious to put out there for people to know because to my young, naive heart, they hold almost sacred value. It's why I don't share all of my poems, why I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, and why I don't try to make those dreams happen. What if it doesn't turn out the way I dreamed it would? What if I mess it up? It's so much easier to let them remain in my mind as perfection than to bring them into reality and accept that they will have the flaws that everything in this world has.

Contentment. Peace. Patience. Wisdom. Humility. Purity. 

Stop focusing on what I may become one day : the Girlfriend. The Wife. The Mother.

And focus on what I am right now : the Daughter. The Sister. The Friend.

Stop imagining stories where I am : the Adventurer. The Hero. The Fearless.

And learn how to become what I would so like to be : the Author. The Mentor. The Selfless