Saturday, March 11, 2017

Go Back & Wait

A few days ago I was very restless. I tend to get that way sometimes when I'm in between life stages, or when I'm waiting on something that the Lord isn't providing. Thoughts and questions will flood my mind and my focus lapses and I no longer can tolerate sitting still. So, after a day at work where I'd been immobile at a desk all day I felt like I might internally explode. I imagine myself sitting at a desk, my brain a boiling tea kettle left unattended; it's been boiling for a while, and there's steam pouring from every facial orifice. Yeah, not pretty.

I've found that often the best way for me to help relieve this anxiety is to be outside and to move. That's why instead of taking my usual route home (actually I now have three interchangeable routes home, because I get bored of the same) I walked further than necessary to the bus stop on Michigan Avenue. On the way I gloried in the fresh air, lightly laughed at the groups of children gathering in Washington Square Park, smiled a salute to Newberry Library, and delighted at the prisms of sunshine light dancing in chandelier-filled windows, Starbucks, office buildings, and 4th Presbyterian. Thanking the Lord for these things, and acknowledging that beauty feeds my soul, I stopped at my designated steel chariot waiting area and...well, I waited. 

Being that it was a very windy afternoon and getting colder by the minute, I looked at the bus stop to see when my fair coach would be arriving. The display read 11 minutes. Eleven minutes?!? But that's an AGE to stand here doing nothing (Remember? I've been restless all afternoon. I didn't want my physical and mental progress impeded by standing and doing nothing! The gall.) so I started walking. Oh, I know it was illogical. Walking would actually increase my commute time, and I'd be cold and accosted by the wind in the process. But I'm not very logical. I'd be doing something, you see? I knew the physical exertion would help calm my mind, the fresh air would be great, that I probably wouldn't go running when I got home anyway, that I could talk to the Lord while walking, and I'd have a great view of the lake and the city to boot. My plan was to walk as far as I could within reason, because I still needed to get things done when I got home, and then take a street west to one of the red line stops to carry me the rest of the way home.

As I was walking praise songs were running through my head. I was thankful for the brisk walk. I kept thinking that I missed my bike and that this would go much faster if I were on my bike. Then I thought how silly I must look in my work clothes, walking along the bike trail. Then I thought of every time I'd been irritated by people in dress clothes moseying about on the trail while I, the super cool biker had to maneuver around them and pick up speed after passing them. If they are like me that day, just needing some fresh air and jumping at the only opportunity they would have to get some "exercise" that day, I shouldn't mentally make fun of them again.

Reaching a point in the trail where normally the artfully or instagram conscious would turn around and snap a photo, I gazed back at the city, my fingers searching for my phone. "No Kayla, this isn't about the city. It's about Me", the Lord corrected. Instructing me to keep walking, I did, until I reached the point where Lincoln Park is adjacent to the trail. Turn left here. Oh! Okay, sure. Run up the stairs. I ran the second half. :/ Take a left at the fork here. I was starting to feel suspicious, this wasn't very close to a red line station...in fact it'd probably be closer to just go back to the one I normally take, but that would seem silly... And we didn't walk as far as I had wanted. I was going to push through as far as I could! Maybe take a couple pictures...maybe write a cute story...you know, express myself! The Lord's voice next very clearly said, "go back from where you came and wait for the bus". Are you sure? "Go back from where you came. I want you to wait for the bus."

Well...nuts.

Okay.

(Begins heading back the direction I'd just come from.)

Lord? This feels like one of those Old Testament prophet stories, where you tell them to do things that don't make sense and people learn things from them...

Once again worship songs flooded my mind and we were walking again, and the next thing the Lord brought to mind was that He is for me a fortress. I looked to my right and the home standing next to me was built like a medieval fortress, made from stone, shaped with round turrets and complete with those square cutouts on the top, you know the ones archers hide behind and shoot arrows from? Yeah, those.

Finally across the street from the bus stop, the one I had left impatiently, intending to forge my own path and make my own progress, I see not one, but three 147 buses. Um, hello,wait! I squirm internally, beginning to get nervous. You guys are supposed to be more spread out than that! You see, my traffic light is red, and yours is green, and if you all make it through the green light, then I'm likely to be waiting a very long time for the next bus! At least another eleven minutes!

Lord? This isn't fair. What if I have to wait a very long time now? "Do you trust Me?" Sigh, well I suppose if you could allow three buses to be clumped up in such a fashion, it's possible that one could come quickly behind them and I might not have to wait a very long time. And, Lord? If You don't want me to have any of these buses and You want me to wait, I think I trust You then, too. Two buses have made it through the green light now, but the traffic light turns red! My walking signal directs me to GO, and boy do I 'go'...I made it onto the third northbound 147 outer drive express bus right on time.

At lunch the next day I told a sweet friend this story and she replied, "Boy you really made a big deal out of eleven whole minutes!". To me though this was more than a four-minutes-short-of-a-quarter-of-an-hour-wait on a bus. It was a metaphor for where I am in life. In my restlessness I can move forward on my own, thinking my way will be more effective or beneficial in some way. I can also follow the letter of the law in waiting, not moving physically, but still grumble in my heart that this is silly, and I could do a better job of this. Why isn't the bus here yet? Who isn't doing their job? What caused this effect? It should be here by now. Well dear impatient Kayla, you don't see the big picture. There are many variables, many other people to consider, and you're not the only one alive on this earth. God is the God who sees and He sees all. So circumstances aren't perfect. Is there anywhere in the Bible that states the children of God will have really happy, always perfect and comfortable lives? No? No. Will I eventually get home? Mmhmm. Will I learn things along the way? Definitely. Does God care more about my own well-being than I do? He truly does. And just as much as I can enjoy His presence while we're walking along the lake trail with the thought in my head that we're getting somewhere, I can learn to enjoy His presence when we're standing in place and it feels like we're making leaps and bounds to nowhere.


"...but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31


"Love the LORD, all you his saints! 
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, 
all you who wait for the LORD!"
Psalm 31:23-24

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Wait

It has been over two years since I have typed words on this page. And as I gaze at the name I've given this blog, I laugh a little. Disappointed Hope. For I have been disappointed. And my hopes have not been met.

Frustrated.
You haven't answered me.
Wait. Wait is all You'll say.
And there's nothing I'd like to hear less.
Than wait.

Restless.
My leg shakes and the chair vibrates beneath me.
My gaze is on the sun that shines just beyond the crest of the building before it.
Out of reach.
My arms won't reach.

Stuck.
This place feels familiar.
This place where I'm helpless.
Where I do nothing but throw out queries and wait for your supply.
I'm waiting.
God?
I'm waiting.

A year ago I took an intermission from school. The semester before was pretty devastating. My Grandad passed away and it was a long period of expectation...waiting for him to die. That semester was spent with much anxiety and depression. I was far from my family and could not mourn with them. I felt alone. I skipped too many classes on the floor of my dorm room, crying in the corner, uncertain of the reason for my tears. I slept a lot. My sweet roommates were patient with me, checking on me if I was in bed for too long. I was frustrated with my load. I kept saying, Lord, if you would just change this I think I could do this.

Finally it became clear that I needed to go home. The plan was to leave during Christmas break, get a job back home, and come back within a year ready to finish my degree, at this point now half finished. So home I went, where I slept for a very, very long time, and started a job search.

I found nothing.

Too old to be under my parent's insurance I couldn't work just any job, and having just come out of the Starbucks world which exacerbated my anxiety I politely refused to go back to that life...and the Lord provided nothing. I was angry.

Why did you send me home Lord? You said to go home and I followed! You led me, I obeyed, and You're not keeping Your end of the deal. This simply isn't fair.

Well, praise the Lord He didn't give me what I wanted at that time, because I received something better. One day I woke to a text message from my cousin in Spain: "Hey girl, have you found a job yet?". Noooooo...no, I haven't. "Do you want to come to Spain and help me with the kids?" Excuse me, what?!? This led to a whirlwind of preparations, and within a few weeks, I was in gorgeous northwest Spain where I lived for almost three months, helping and...waiting.

While there I skype interviewed for a full-time job back at Moody. A job which had been mentioned to me before I left...why don't you consider this? Thanks, but no thanks, I had replied, I know what the Lord's doing, and I'm going home. (Presumptuous much?) When nothing in Albuquerque worked out, I had applied, wondering what the Lord could have for me.

I began an apartment search from Spain. I had limited time to find a place to live. I flew directly from Spain to Chicago with one week to find an apartment. God was so incredibly merciful in that week. Midway through my parents offered to come help. They drove 24 hours from Albuquerque to Chicago to drive me around looking at apartments. With a day and a half left before my flight to Albuquerque, the Lord provided an apartment in the second building we toured. Second building. Third apartment. Crazy. I signed a lease and everything was approved by the next morning. I had a home. I remember sitting in the back of Mom and Dad's rental car beaming...joy radiating from my heart...the Lord loves me! He provided!

The next couple of weeks were another whirlwind of preparations...packing, painting furniture, sorting through possessions...essentially saying an official goodbye to childhood, major dependency on parents, and hello to a bigger 'big girl job', living completely alone, and independence. It was another opportunity to step out in faith. This was how the Lord was providing for me.

This was an answer to prayer.

I'm nine months in now and this is SO HARD. I'm working full time, commuting, living alone, going to school part time, trying to maintain friendships, fellowship in a church, and stay afloat with schoolwork, etc., and sometimes it's all I can do to get out of bed in the morning. I feel as if I'm learning how to do something new in every single area of my life. My brain and body are tired.

I recently told someone that the gifts that initially looked like blessings now feel like a curse:


  • God provided this job so that I could finish school, but this load is extremely difficult to bear. I can take 6 credits a semester, but I'm currently taking five and preparing for a recital, and let's just say God will get the glory if I am standing on the other side of this semester. 
  • Also, if I take a full load of 6 credits a semester I could finish my degree in 3 years. If I can't hack 6 credits a semester and decrease that amount, who knows how long it will take for me to finish. 
  • God provided a super cute apartment in record time. But I'm incredibly lonely. Almost a year into living alone I've learned that I desperately need people. Community is essential...and a large contributing factor to community is proximity. 
  • As a result of having a full time job and living off campus my circle of friends have changed. I'm no longer around peers 24/7. I'm not around anyone in similar life circumstances. It's pretty isolating. Friendships have changed a lot. I've lost some. I've gained some. They're all just different. 

Are there joys? Of course there are. Is life difficult? Extremely. Is God good? Yes, He is. Does it always feel like it? No, it does not. Even so, is He still? Yes, He is.

I'm working through anger. I'm working through disappointment. I'm working through loneliness. I'm learning to lament. I miss my family. I'm seeking community. I experience rejection. I experience failure. Life isn't what I thought it would be. I push through. I get back up. I am incapable of doing this on my own. The LORD is with me. This story is not over.

I wait.

I wait for His answer.
I wait for Him to fill me.
I wait for His return.
I wait for Him.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Confessions of a "Single" Girl at Moody

Valentine’s Day…

For those forging the new territory of a budding relationship, V-Day is the most exciting of days. The anticipation, the thrill; what do I wear? Will he like it? Will he like me? Flowers! Candy! The most adorable of the animal kingdom in miniaturized, stuffed form! Can you put a heart on it? Can it be dyed pink? Maaaarrrket iiiitttt-uh!

But for those of us who are not in the throes of a romantic relationship, Valentine’s Day has the potential to be THE WORST day possible.

We pretend we don’t care. We acknowledge it’s just like any other day.

But is it? Is it really?

I think even the biggest cynic, deep down in the cockles of his heart would rather know that someone loves him. Would rather spend time with someone special with butterflies in their stomach, the light of the reflection of someone’s eyes shining in their own.

I attend a fairly well-known Christian undergraduate school in Chicago, Illinois. I’m slightly above the average age of a normal undergraduate attendee. I might not look my age. I may not always act my age. …heh (and may that never be completely true). The oddity of being in this situation is sometimes emotionally taxing. If I’m attracted to almost any guy on campus I feel like a cougar. However, in many respects age has become just a number to me. Age isn't the perfect gauge for maturity. It can be somewhat of a measure of life experience, but not necessarily. Honestly, some of the guys I've known who are much younger than me can seem much more mature than some I've known who are older. If I’m perfectly honest, I’d definitely date/marry someone younger than me, save he is mature in the Lord, able to lead, and is bold and strong enough that he doesn't care about an age difference. It takes guts to ask a girl out…it takes even more if you know she’s older than you.

On that note, would you allow me to make some comments on some of the trends I notice in Christian dating culture? And honestly, not really that broadly, but more specifically things I've observed in my own experience and on the campus of my school. And please…these thoughts are not authoritative…or final. I’m currently personally working through these thoughts. Philosophies often morph over time, and as mine are in the current process of mutation, they probably will not be exactly the same twelve years from now. Furthermore, these thoughts are not exhaustive. I’m not going to back everything up with three examples and Scripture references. This is just me processing through some thoughts, letting you know what I’m going through, hoping you will join me in considering them as well…

Dating has gotten extremely serious within our culture. One professor here calls our culture’s version of dating a pre-engagement. All our lives we've been told to guard our hearts…but how does one do that when you’re handing it over to one person over a long period of time before engagement? When couples break up it feels like a divorce. And if you’re in a position that prevents you from marriage in the near future, you’re committed, but not truly committed. There’s no promise of a solid future. There’s nothing to prevent you from seeing someone else save the propriety of appearances and the emotional attachment that’s been developed over a period of time. I think a girl can feel very insecure during this time.

I've never been on a date. Never. I've never been asked out on a date. Never. This has definitely been cause for some self-examination and self-depreciation. Am I not good enough? Am I intimidating? Do I smell? (kidding) When I lose ten more pounds I’ll be good enough. If I were just younger. If I were older. If I had done… if… what… how… why…

When I was in middle school and high school I didn't ‘believe’ in dating. Dating is for the preparation of marriage, so what’s the point? Why enter into a committed relationship with someone if I’m not even ready to marry them? I still think these thoughts are valid, but honestly, I don’t feel like I ever truly learned how to engage in genuine friendships with the opposite sex. I must guard my heart. I must act in a certain way. I must not lead on. I must be careful. And once I got to school here I was excited for the prospect of brother-sister friendships and relationships. I was so enthralled with the thought that I might finally have genuine male/female friendships. However, during my first year true friendships didn't really happen.

There’s a certain kind of culture at my school that seems to inhibit healthy guy/girl friendships. There definitely is an exception…there are pockets of friend groups, but for me and several others I've spoken to it’s hard to navigate friendships/dating relationships with the opposite sex. I think a large source of that problem is expectations. There’s a huge joke at my school that we are a “Bridal Institute” instead of a Bible Institute. But instead of turning this post into a criticism that might reflect poorly on a beautiful institute, I’d rather express how I would really love for guys to interact with me personally.

Treat me as a human being.

              …This includes several things
               
·         Talk to me

You may not be on my “bro-sis” but I would love to talk with you. Are we standing in line in the SDR? Make pleasant conversation. Pass by me in the hallway? Say hi! Are we in a class together? Even better. I know who you are. You know who I am. I will not be impregnated if you say hello. I will not automatically assume we are destined for marriage if we study together a few times. I won’t instantly believe you like me if you ask me how my day is going.

·         Please don’t assume things about me just because you think I’m nice to look at.

Or I may not be attractive to you… Outward beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway… However, I feel like people make far too many assumptions towards the opposite sex based on their outward appearance. I can tell when a guy looks at me and he thinks I look good that day. I can tell when a guy passes by me and won’t talk to me because of my appearance.

I had an awful week in the city a couple weeks ago. At my place of work on Saturday I was called ‘honey’ by a man in his forties multiple times while he asked me to help him find a certain brand of honey. As we were walking toward another aisle looking for his product his hand grazed the entire length of my backside (my butt… he felt my butt). I felt paralyzed and pretended like it didn't happen and passed him off to another employee. As we parted he again called me honey and waved. Walking down the street later that week, I was alone and running some errands. It was cold and I was walking briskly, squinting my eyes against the glare of the sun. As my eyes adjusted I passed by a man whom I ascertained had been staring at me as I approached. As he walked closely past me he cried out, “ShaZAM! Hey angel!” as his gaze boldly ran up and down my body. I felt instantly colder and my arms wrapped around my torso as I walked home. Later that same day I met a friend for dinner. We had to part as she was going straight to a job that evening and I walked home by myself. A beggar asked if I had any change to spare, and as I had no cash, I looked him in the eyes, said, “I’m sorry sir”, and continued walking. His reply was “Lady, you’re so fine, you have nothing to be sorry for”. What does that even mean? My looks are payment enough for you?

The following weekend I was walking back to the train from church. We had been in the middle of a blizzard and people were out on the sidewalks shoveling and sweeping. I was passing a man sweeping a public sidewalk and I nodded with a slight smile, intending to thank him for his kind effort…I was ‘rewarded’ with a “Hey baby”. I've been cat called before but not quite to that extent and quite so frequently within one week. Honestly, I went home and bawled my eyes out on the floor of my dorm room. I cried out to the Father who loves me completely without fault and asked Him to hold me. I felt so alone and so unprotected…violated…I felt like these men interacted with me in a way that assumed they knew me more intimately than they actually did. Their words paralyzed. Their words tore down. Their words objectified. I cried because I couldn't imagine any guy friend walking with me. I cried because I wanted a man to come back to who did know me, who could be righteously angry for me, who would comfort me.

I am more than how I appear, and especially within the Christian community I long for my brothers to treat me as a sister and as a friend. I long for relationships with guys that make me feel protected and cared for as a sister, without pretense or promise of anything else, emotionally, physically, now or in the future. Just care for me as my own brother would.

·         Be my friend

I have a personality. I’m really quirky. I’m timid. I’m bold. I’m insecure. I’m learning how to be secure in Christ. I love people. I hate crowds. I love the rush of bouldering through a large crowd with a few people close to me…I hate being the center of attention. I’m a performance major. I'd rather sing in front of a really large crowd than a small one....I’m really complicated.  

I’m tired of not being friends with guys because of the unspoken thought that I or you might think one of us likes the other. I’m tired of not having friendships because I’m obviously not your future wife, so you might as well not waste your time on me. I’m tired of not being your friend because you’re intimidated by me…I’m a human being. Please talk to me. Ask me how I’m doing. Speak seriously with me. I love talking about what the Lord’s doing. I love talking through things I’m questioning and working through. I don’t mind (to a certain extent) being transparent, because I know it builds others up in the glory of Christ. I want to be your friend. I want to be known. And may I say that friendship happens before there is something more? So be my friend.

·         Be careful with how much you touch me

I really like touch. In fact I begin to get depressed if I haven’t been consistently hugged in a while. Guys, you communicate A LOT through your touch, and it can be extremely confusing if you haven’t actually stated anything with your words. Touch actually releases a bonding hormone in our bodies, so when used frequently, touch binds two people prematurely and can be detrimental to their emotional health. Touch is beautiful and God-given and I can’t wait to touch and be touched when the time is appropriate, but know what is appropriate and act with dignity and kindness.

·         Use your words

Please be clear with your intentions. If you like me, tell me. I will never actually know for certain if a guy likes me unless he actually says something. You can give hints all you want but I will not know for certain whether you like me to the point that you are willing to pursue me…and really, you've communicated that you don’t if you aren't willing to say it…unless you say something. Your ability to do this communicates a lot to me about your ability to lead me. It also communicates to me that to you I’m worth pursuing, even to the point of your own rejection. If you express your thoughts to me it communicates to me that you've thoughtfully considered the implications of what you’re about to say and are secure enough in who you are in Christ that no matter my answer, you will be stable in your standing in the Lord.

·         Ask me out on a date

Yeah! Ask me out. Most likely I’ll say yes. (I still can totally say no, though.) Ask other girls out on a date. Go on dates with several girls. Let’s help each other learn how to interact with the opposite sex. You honor us when you see characteristics you appreciate and express that by getting to know me better. Find out what characteristics you want in a wife. Don’t be afraid to take a girl out on one date, be up front with what you like about her even if your intentions are just to get to know her better. One date doesn't mean marriage. Marriage isn't the ultimate goal anyways. What?! Yeah. Some of us will go on dates and get married. Some of us won’t get married. The end goal is Christ. In the meantime, we honor Christ by the way we honor one another. So cool down, relax a little bit, and have fun with one another.

·         Pursue the Lord

My brothers, regardless of the status of our relationship, friend or more than friend, my desire is that you pursue the Lord. Would you pursue Him more than you pursue a wife? Would you seek Him with your entire being? Would that you would understand your standing before Him as His blood bought sons, that your entire being is secure in who He says you are, in who He defines you to be. This is the foundation of our friendship. This is the foundation of all that we are – Christ and Him crucified and resurrected. For Him, through Him and to Him are all things. In Him we live and move and have our being.

“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.”



Honestly, many of these things are just about practically loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself, doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit, but considering one another as more important than yourself. Most of these points can be applied to girls towards men as well. I have heard enough objectification of guys on our campus to turn my ears red in embarrassment and shame. Girls need to treat our brothers as human beings as well. We are broken, sinful people. All our relationships are affected by sin. I understand that we are all still learning how to treat one another in love. I've made mistakes. I’m learning how to be friends with guys. We all have various backgrounds, cultures, and families that have affected the way we interact with one another. I believe though that the potential heart ache is worth the pursuit of God-honoring friendships.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Remember

It is so good to remember.

Quarantined to my dorm room with the flu, I have had many days of doing nothing, but today...I've been remembering. In light of Rebecca's death this week I've been re-reading many of my old blog posts. Posts about uncertainty, and discomfort, and growth. Just by reading through my posts in order I was able to see God's faithfulness and his incomparable grace.

Rebecca's life exhibited His grace on a grand scale. She took a fall and her life was drastically and forever changed, but she grasped Jesus' hand tightly with the knowledge that His hand ultimately held hers, and she submitted through the pain and the change, learning to rejoice, teaching others around her to say with her, "Thank you, Lord". I was able to be part of only three months of her life, but I was blessed to see more of Jesus in those three months; blessed to know more intimately the God that Rebecca cherished, loved, and lived for. I know Him more intimately now in part thanks to the journey He's had me on since serving Rebecca in Belgium.

As Katina and I were leaving for the airport our last morning in Genval, we rushed to Rebecca's room to say our last goodbye. We entered the room in a whirlwind, and Rebecca was so pleased to see us for she thought we had had to leave earlier without saying goodbye. She was still in her bed, but was about to be lifted out for her breakfast and time with the Lord by her garden window. I remember grasping her hand so tightly and just staring into her eyes, not wanting to release my gaze. Both our eyes were welling in tears, just as mine are now.

As probably all her caregivers can attest to, we had some great times. You can read about some of them in my previous blogs if you'd like, but really, she was a servant of the King: mold-able, usable, loving, caring, insightful, gospel sharing, wise, always learning, always seeking, and always pursuing the Lord. She would have us fold the pages of her Bible in half so she could turn them with her hand, and her prayer list, full of names and previous caregivers whom she hadn't forgotten, whom she prayed for, marked her spot. Sometimes she would call one of us in for a refill of tea, and she would share a particular verse that she was studying along with what Jesus was teaching her that morning.

I loved her laugh, her smile, her knowing wink, her sweet kisses on my cheek, and her hilarious sense of humor. I remember one night, as she was brushing her teeth and I held her spit cup underneath her chin, she paused, smirked, looked slyly at me, resumed brushing and spit, then declared to me in a joking voice, "the devil told me to spit at you, but I resisted him". And her kisses usually came with the sweet message that Jesus had told her I needed a kiss.

...So many memories.

What a legacy.

Since they're seven hours ahead of us, it's the early morning of the day of her funeral. I know it will be blessed. There are so many people whom she has touched. So many she has loved. I pray that in her death, He is glorified as He was in her life, and that Christ's message will be amplified. Please pray for her family, for her husband Paul, for her caregivers past and present, for the nurses who came daily, and that the city of Genval would erupt with the message of the gospel this day.

She is thrilled to be with her Savior. She is free. She endures no more pain. She can walk! She can lift her arms. What a beautiful gospel we have. Full of hope and peace. What a thrill it must be to see Jesus' face!

If you were a caregiver or friend, and you happen to read this, feel free to share any of your favorite stories of Rebecca. I'd love to hear them.

 


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Well that's just not optimal

I have two stories for you. They are both true. They both happened to me in the same day. You may laugh if you like.

Once upon a time there was a girl who worked at a church. One of her duties was to go to Sam's Club every week to buy things the church needed: anything from cookies, coffee, and lemonade for the cookie bar, to tin pans for Lord's Supper family dinner. More often than not, she would regret her decision to take a regular sized cart over the flat big ones and would have to then either walk around with her head craning around the side of her towering merchandise, or find a flat cart and transfer all her merchandise, attracting looks of the other shoppers who were all very happy with their cart of choice in the process.

Well, this day would be different, she decided. On the way in to the store, she charitably grabbed a flat cart that had been carelessly cast away in the lot, instead of thoughtfully placed inside the cart cage and made her way inside Sam's vast store of delightful goodies feeling quite pleased with herself. Quickly did she discover, however, that her choice of flat cart was indeed a poor one. The cart squeaked and squawked and cared not which direction it's driver was steering it. It LIKED defying orders. It LOVED announcing to shoppers 10 aisles away where it's driver was walking. It De-LIGHTED in locking it's front wheels so that it's front end bounced up and down in defiance.

Little did the cart know that it's driver was slightly more stubborn. She decided that today she would not switch carts. That cart would be OWNED by it's driver. That cart would be pushed around NO MATTER how much noise it was making.

The stubborn young woman pushed around her cart in more than slight stubborn embarrassment as her cart truly brought more attention to her than she ever desired while shopping. She even attracted the glance of a "kind" old gentleman who said in jest, "Picked a good one, didn't ya" as she passed. But he looked kinda serious and his eyes were bulging in annoyance.

The dedicated young woman wound her way through the store, growing more and more embarrassed by her awful flat cart as she had to stop and shove all the items back toward the middle as the cart's bouncing motion slowly made all it's contents make a beeline for the floor.

Finally our heroine made it to the front of the store, after bumping into several corners, she pulled into a check-out stall, where she may or may not have gotten her cart stuck underneath the loading belt.

Because she greatly prefers to share her troubles and embarrassments with those around her so that she doesn't have to feel so ashamed and instead is able to laugh at said circumstances, she shared her troubles with the man in line behind her, who then proceeded to take such interactions as an invitation to flirt, which she then very much regretted. Silly girl. She never learns that men flirt, even when she looks stupid.

And that dear friends, is the end of that story. Unfortunately for you, I came back to finish this story several weeks after the incident and I don't remember the second embarrassing story I was going to share. Though I do remember almost backing up into an older woman's car as I was leaving, but I don't know if that was the same day or another exciting trip to Sam's.

To make up for my gold fish memory and lacking ability to remember my second story I could tell you that my first day back to work after New Year's on January 2nd was also a day of mishaps. I filled my water bottle from our happy Culligan watering hole near the windows in our office. Seeing that our bottle was empty, I proceeded to squat to pick up a full bottle. (...Because of my use of the word "squat" you might be thinking I split my pants...wrong!) Using my amazing girly strength, I picked up the water bottle, removed the cap, and proceeded to turn over the bottle, when suddenly the bottle slipped off the ledge I was leaning it on, and water began to glug glug glug all over the floor. I was then minorly shocked when I unplugged the water cooler so that I wouldn't get shocked as I was cleaning the area. Later in the day, I made some office snacks fall off my desk when I was moving boxes around. The homemade caramel pop-corn scattered on the floor and the vintage mason jar with it's original lid fell to the ground. (But didn't break, hallelujah.)

There you have it. Stories of my clumsiness and mishaps. I think they're getting worse. Huh.
I hope you had a good laugh. I sure have to!

:)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Greatest of these is Love

While living with the Petries in Belgium, one of the things that the Lord really hammered into both Katina and me was His intense, unending, and unconditional love. Most weeks, Rebecca took us through the book of Ephesians, and I believe this (especially chapter 1) is what initially began God's constant reminder of His love for me (us) throughout our time there. I came to think and have to remind myself over and over again, I'm here because He loves me...I'm going through __ because He loves me...

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whome He called He also justfied, and those whom He justified He also glorified."
                                                                                              Romans 8:28-30


Because He loves me, He grants everything in my life, in order that I may be "conformed to the image of His Son". I was reminded of this while I was reading A Basket of Summer Fruit, by Susannah Spurgeon. In Chapter 5 she bases her writing on Deuteronomy 23:5 which says,
"The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing unto you, because the Lord your God loved you."  
Susannah says of God's love, "It completely solves all doubts, it wipes away all tears, it is a remedy for every fear, a refuge from every distress! No sweeter assurance could fill my trembling heart with joy, no softer resting-place could be found for a weary, heavy-laden sinner."

Susannah quoting "a present day writer": The grace of God is the unhindered, wondrous, boundless love of His heart, poured out upon His people in a countless variety of ways, without stint or measure-not according to our deserving, but according to His infinite heart of love! This I cannot understand-so unfathomable are its heights and depths! God's love is infinitely tender, and self-sacrificing, and devoted, and patient, and eager to lavish its best of gifts and blessings upon the objects of His love..." 

She then quotes Ephesians 3:17-19 and pens a personal prayer to the Lord that His "gracious Spirit may strengthen the eyes of my mind-that I may see something more of the glory and beauty of Your rich grace, and that He may enable the hands of my faith to cling tenaciously to the everlasting consolation which lies in the fact of Your eternal, unchanging, and covenant love in Christ Jesus! When, in response to the skeptical suggestions of my own evil heart, or the malicious insinuations of the enemy of souls, I can confidently say, "All this is because the Lord loved me"..."

One of her quotes led me to search for a hymn-book that her husband put together for his church. It's online for reading and free download here. As I read through some of the endless gems in this hymn-book compiled in 1866 (Read the Preface written by Spurgeon. You won't be sorry.) I came across two that I'd like to share, regarding the love of God and our abiding in Him.

Desiring to Abide with Jesus

Oh, let my Jesus teach me how
I may in Him abide;
From wandering save my foolish heart,
And keep it near Thy side.

Thy side is all the tower I have
To screen me from my foes,
And in that side a fountain is,
Which healeth human woes.

Put round my heart Thy cord of love,
It hath a kindly sway,
But bind me fast, and draw me still,
Still nearer every day.

John Berridge, 1785

It's his love and kindness that draws us and keeps us.

My Heart is Fixed

Now I have found the ground, wherein
Sure my soul's anchor may remain:
The wounds of Jesus for my sin
Before the world's foundation slain;
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,
When heaven and earth are fled away.

Oh love! bottomless abyss!
My sins are swallowed up in thee;
Cover'd is my unrighteousness,
Nor spot of guilt remains on me.
While Jesus blood, through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy cries!

With faith I plunge me in this sea;
Here is my hope, my joy, my rest!
Hither, when hell assails, I flee,
I look into my Savior's breast;
Away, sad doubt, and anxious fear!
Mercy is all that's written there.

Though waves and storms go o'er my head,
Though strength, and health, and friends 
be gone,
Though joys be withered all, and dead,
Though every comfort be withdrawn;
On this my stedfast soul relies,
Father, Thy mercy never dies.

Fix'd on this ground will I remain,
Though my heart fail, and flesh decay;
This anchor shall my soul sustain,
When earth's foundations melt away;
Mercy's full power I then shall prove
Loved with an everlasting love.

John Andrew Rothe, 1728
Translated by John Wesley, 1740


We've been home for almost two months now and the temptation to forget this truth is gargantuan. We've both 'suffered' some reverse culture shock and have had to remind ourselves of God's goodness to us here in New Mexico. :) Mom's commented on a "restlessness" that she's noticed in both of us. I think both of us have a longing for something more and wonder what's next. There has been so much change within the past 5 months... but really, nothing's changed. The love of our faithful, ever-present God is still the same. He's still in control of our lives, our journey, and our destination. What's available to us in the way of living soaked in His Word and prayer and seeking Him in our weakness is still there, it's just there in a different way, that we must adjust to. He's given us all that we need for life and godliness.

I must say a great big thank you to those of you who've read Katina's and my blog and prayed for us while we were in Belgium. It was such a blessing to see our posts being read. Please do pray for us as we are now back home that we would seek His face. Pray that we would be so soaked and acquainted with His Word. Also, do pray that He would guide our steps.

I still have 500ish pictures to edit and arrange, so stay tuned for several blog posts with pictures from our last couple weeks in Belgium, and our time in Ireland and England. I can't wait to share them with you!

May we all remember and reflect on the scandalous love of our Father this week!




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How I miss Thee my Quirky Albuquerque

A list of a few things I miss about the strange city we call Albuquerque:

The way the dust rolls over your well traveled highways. *sarcasm*
How your colors paint the sky and your clouds form in shifting shapes.
Chick-fil-A and Lotaburger.
The lavender bushes that dot the landscape like freckles on a ginger kid's face. ;)
Tramway.
Paseo-del-Norte.
Flying Star dates with my girl friends.
Making friends with the Flying Star workers because we're there so often.
The mountains and hiking.
Red or green? To which I reply with slight fear, "Neither, thank you".
Frontier.
That Greek restaurant we discovered on campus just before coming.
The bosque.
Uptown and checking sales at The Loft.
Living in 4 Hills. (Where we won't be returning.)
Parties at our house.
Lack of humidity.
Olo.
My family.

How I miss Thee my Quirky Albuquerque!

------------------------------

I had always felt that the way I was raised and the way I ticked insinuated that I belonged overseas somewhere. Now that I'm here, in some ways I feel that more and more. There are so many things I absolutely love about being here. Public transportation, for one is initially somewhat terrifying, but the system is easy to figure out and when you have it down the whole world is opened up to you. Secondly, fresh, unprocessed, yummy, delicious produce, purchased a couple times a week from the grocery is delightful. I mean fresh baguettes--heck yes. And then there's a whole conglomeration of peoples and people groups in one area the size of a state in the ...States. Architecture! How could I forget architecture and language...

Yet, though my heart is so full here, I feel a tinge of longing. I have a longing for the far away familiar and for those whom I love: my family and the community that I left in Albuquerque. For the silly things that I listed above. Something tells me, though, that when I'm home my heart will miss once again the things that became familiar but will then be far away.

A post that my friend recently wrote touched my heart. My heart feels similarly to what hers has so beautifully communicated. In many ways it feels torn in two; torn between two realities and two ways of life. It's as though my heart has become two dots on opposite sides on the map of the world.

I'm learning more fully that when something is chosen and a path is taken, there *is* sacrifice. There are things that I am going to miss. Since I've been here in Belgium I've missed having Easter with my family, my Dad's birthday, Mother's Day, my brother getting his driver's license, one of my best friends will be moving with her new husband to a different state, I haven't been there with a best friend during a tragedy, and there's major change going on in our college ministry where both Katina and I are on the leadership team. So yeah, while I am here in Europe getting to see things I'd only before dreamed of (and really, let's be honest, Belgium had never before entered my mind as somewhere I would go) I am missing some major life and relational events.

This all may end up being slightly exaggerated. I have found that God has enabled me to be fairly adaptable in whatever climate He places me. But I do feel that wherever I am, there will be a slight longing to be in the other place on the map.

I don't want to go too deeply into it at this time and I apologize slightly that this is turning into yet another spiritual metaphor, but I can't help but ponder our "now and not yet" motto when considering these things.  All these longings, unfulfilled desires, and the imperfections of the life we live are a reminder that we've not yet reached perfection. There's always going to be that feeling that something isn't complete. Because it's not. It's in the process of being completed. Our salvation  in Christ is complete and still in completion. There is an end to our story but still the plot thickens. God's given us guidelines through His Word about what pleases Him and how to live life, but where do I live out that life and what exactly do I pursue?

I told Rebecca that I feel like there have been so many more desires awakened and realized while we've been here, but they've led to even more questions and fewer answers. I'm sorry, I don't know if that flows well or stays directly on topic, it's just where my thoughts happened to go. We're leaving Belgium in 3 weeks and coming home in 5. Right now, in many ways I can't wait to be home, but I anticipate my heart wanting to return once I've come home. You see my conundrum? Rebecca answered with a smile that the Lord often does that. "He's not a reluctant revealer." He does desire for us to know His steps, but even more so, His desire is for us to seek HIS face.

At the core of all these longings and desires: to be in one place while I'm in the other and vise versa, is the need to be satisfied in where God has placed me. His sovereignty intertwines with His goodness and His love toward me. When I am exactly where I need to be, where I've sought His face and am not against His will prescribed for me in His Word, when I'm honoring Him with what He's given me and am seeking His face, I can rest securely in His immutability. (Thank you Tozer.) He never changes! And in Him, all is complete!

"I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes it's boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us 
exalt His name together!
I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around 
those who fear Him and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes 
refuge in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints,
for those who fear Him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."
Psalm 34:1-10