God

What Will People Say About Your Life?

As some of you heard, Reagan’s grandma passed away on Wednesday. We’re glad she’s in peace in heaven getting to be with Jesus, and her son Tim who died a few years ago, and see the many people she brought to Christ when she was doing missions work in Japan. I know that she is being celebrated in heaven right now and joining in with the many who were waiting for her. 

Peace and Rest

*Happy Sigh. Such beautiful words. Peace. Rest. What comes to mind when you hear those? Is it a morning walk on the beach, listening to the rise and fall of the waves on the sand? Is it that Italian vacation you took last year, aimlessly wandering the city and feasting on fresh tomatoes and mozzarella? Is it the moment that you have packed up the kids and sent them off to Grandma's house for the day and you breathe a sigh at the noiseless surroundings of your home? 

Love Is

This morning it was my turn to lead staff devotions. Sometimes you have been so on fire and inspired by something God has taught you recently, which makes this task easy. And other times, He's just been giving quiet whispers that are hard to put a finger on. This week was the latter for me, and I felt nervous about coming up with something meaningful.

All Other Ground Is Sinking Sand

The lines of this hymn have been stuck in my head this week: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand."

Witnessing heartbreak in the lives of various people I know has been troubling to see lately. No one ever wishes hurt on someone, especially hurt that involves the heart, which is so core to who we are. It's always interesting to see the different reactions that take place--those that are healthy and those that aren't.

Risky Love

Last week, we heard the love story of the leaders of our pre-marital counseling class. It was a fairly normal story, except for a 5 year, life-changing car accident that happened mid-marriage. This car accident led to brain damage and a significantly different man than was once a part of that marriage relationship.

Hearing that story and reading one of my pre-marital books that talked about how to deal with disease and sickness as you and your mate grow older have been a heavy weight on me the last few days. No one wants to go through such things, but they're a part of life, and there's no getting away from them. There will be pain, sorrow, and suffering--Jesus promised us this. His response was to "take heart!" for He had "overcome the world." As a Christian, it's easy to say, "Yes, of course, we live in an imperfect world, and we have hope for a future in heaven." But when those difficulties come, we despair just like the next person.

Of course, I would never choose for something terrible to happen to Reagan and I or our families, but if they do, how would I deal with it? That's the question I've been asking myself lately. This question brought me to asking myself what marriage is for exactly. I read a great book called The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller. Seriously, an excellent read. He talked about marriage from God's perspective, and though it's been a long time since I've read it, I seem to remember him talking about how these bad things can happen and what is our response. I tried to find the book last week to reread it, but without success. Hopefully, it will show itself soon! ;)

Among other things that marriage is for, I believe it is to provide a picture of the radical love God has for his people--the church. I've heard that for a long time, but what I started contemplating this week was what kind of people the church is made up of--sinful people. People who are dedicated but still mess up, people who are hypocrites but pretend they're not, people who are legalistic about rules, rules, and more rules, people who are praising God one day and saying they don't believe in Him the next. Think about that in a marriage context. God is faithful; the Bible tells us that. So imagine God as a constant in this relationship, married to people who give up on Him in a heartbeat, who turn to other things to fill their needs, who claim He's asking too much and go their own way, who see Him as a dictator instead of a lover. How heartbreaking would this be for God--He, who passionately loves this church, who would never give up on them no matter how much they hurt Him? Can you imagine what we would do if this is what our husband or wife did to us? In our culture, we'd be gone in a heartbeat!

So what does this tell us exactly?

1) Love takes risks. God takes a HUGE risk on us by loving us unconditionally. Love is risky because you're not guaranteed to get back what you're giving. God wants nothing but the best for us. He pours out His blessing continually, and if we really matched that with how much passionate love we give back to Him, I think most of us would find we're giving back very half-heartedly and very sparingly in comparison. God doesn't have to love us, but He does more than anything. Nothing we do can ever shake that love. God risks everything He has in His heart to have a close, deep relationship with us. He let His own child die just to be closer to us!

How many of you have a relationship you've been in where you took great risk, and it didn't work out in the end? Probably most of us can relate to that. How many of you can say, "I'm glad it happened," now that it's over? I think the only way it's possible to truly and honestly say that is if you believe that God has a bigger purpose in mind for you. I've been through my share of heartbreak, and I can say that I know God used that heartbreak to help me figure out who I am as His daughter. I have more confidence in myself, a better understanding of God's love for me, and have met an even greater guy to spend my life with. I'm grateful for the change that happened in me, and that I trusted God's way over mine. It doesn't mean it's easy to take risks. It's hard, and it hurts sometimes. But if we think about what God did for us with Jesus, we have to believe that He's got a bigger and better purpose for us--one that will make us more fulfilled and whole.

2) Love is committed. Does God give up on the church? No. Should you give up on your marriage? No. I believe this with all my heart. I believe that there's no "perfect person" to marry. I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not perfect, so why should I expect to find a perfect husband? What I do believe is that God brings us the opportunity to love someone in their imperfections.

I do not say this to hurt anyone or say you did it wrong, but I'm always a little puzzled when people leave their marriages because they "found someone better." Didn't you think your current spouse was the best person around when you first started dating? I am saddened that people get blinded by that initial euphoria and expect those feelings to stick around forever. They won't. They come and go. It's really not about the feelings, it's about the choice to be committed just as God is committed to us even when we do things He doesn't like. If you get hung up on the feelings, then you miss out on the wonderful blessings happening in your marriage. Anybody you choose to marry is going to do things you don't care for, things that annoy you, things that make you hurt and angry (and guess what? You'll do those things to them too!). Life is going to get hard with kids, work, sex, exhaustion, and finances. Every couple has things that are difficult. You can't stay in the honeymoon phase. What I would encourage you to do for yourself, is talk to couples who have been married 30, 40, 50 years. Ask them if they wish they had stayed in the honeymoon phase. I can guarantee they'll say they're glad they didn't--that marriage is even more beautiful and enjoyable now than it was back then. And I believe that part of the beauty is that they chose to stay committed through the imperfections--just as God does with us.

If we are living our lives with these two principles in mind--principles that God has demonstrated to us Himself in the way He loves us--then I believe we'll be able to handle those occasions when accidents happen, brain damage changes a person emotionally, cancer develops, miscarriages happen, and age takes its toll. If we approach those difficulties knowing that loving that person was a risk we chose to take, and we're going to be committed to them alone no matter what happens because we trust that God is good and has a plan far bigger and better than we can imagine, then I really believe things will turn out okay. They may not be easy. They may not turn out the way we'd want them to. But in the end, I think we'll be able to look back and say, "I'm glad it happened. Look at the good that came out of this." 

I'll leave you with some of my favorite quotes that relate to this:

"Joy is knowing in the midst of your suffering that you're exactly where you're supposed to be." - Bart Campolo

"Though our feelings come and go, God's love for us does not." - C. S. Lewis

"It shows a lack of judgment and courage to avoid having good things because we are afraid of losing them. Because they are always worrying about what might go wrong, most are unable to enjoy their present opportunities for happiness." - Plutarch

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - C. S. Lewis

"Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did.As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him." - C. S. Lewis

"What God has brought together, let no man separate." Mark 10:9

Take the Log out of your Eye

I've been making my way through a plethora of marriage books as we begin premarital counseling. Among the masses, I'm currently working my way through "Happily Ever After" by Gary Chapman. The first section was about constructive arguing--a topic for another post at another time! I just started the second part, and had to laugh that the first pages were about this idea of 'wishing he would change.' You'll appreciate the humor more when I tell you that a friend and I were just discussing that very thing this morning! Funny how God does that...gives you His two cents after you've tried to work through your own two cents.

What should we do about desiring to change things in our significant other? We of course want our relationship to be successful. We desire both of us to become better people. God is continually working in us and changing us into the men and women we're supposed to be. But is it our job to ask him or her to change?

As women, the majority of us are very introspective. Being emotional allows us to understand what's going through our heads and our hearts as different situations arise. We also understand that due to the differences between men and women, we can't really expect men to know what we're thinking. The female brain is known for being a great mystery. So we take matters into our own hands and set about trying to educate them. "What I really need you to do is _____." "If you would just ______ I'd be happier." "It would mean a lot if you _____." Do I think it's a bad thing to do this? Not necessarily, but I think it's important to recognize your motivation for doing so, to take care in your approach, and to know when it's time to stop and allow the Holy Spirit to work.

Sound good so far; sum it up for me, Tabitha!

1. Understand you and your significant other are not perfect and never will be on this earth. You're not a perfect person, I'm not a perfect person, and anyone you build a relationship with is not going to be either. It's not about finding the perfect person; it's about finding someone who's willing and committed to working through the imperfections as a team.

2. God asks you to examine yourself first. Maybe it's an attitude or an unfair expectation. Maybe it's demanding your significant other give you something you desire when you haven't followed through with his request from you. God has no problem revealing to us what needs change if we are willing to put aside our pride and humbly ask Him to show us. (Psalm 139:23-24 is a good place to start with that prayer!) Also remember that our personal issues do not depend on someone else's actions. If God asks you to be more respectful to authority, you don't get to say "I'd be more respectful, if my boss would just acknowledge my efforts once in a while." It's not about the other person. It's about you. Along the same lines, it is not our job to convict others; that is the job of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us to take the log out of our own eye before pointing out the splinter in another's eye. I believe this desire to change someone pertains to that. God asks us to work on our own imperfections first.

3. Instead of focusing on how they can better love you, focus on how you can better love them. I don't know about you, but I've seen that when someone does something nice for me--gives me a compliment, buys me a little gift, encourages me--then my natural response is to reciprocate that.

4. Rely on God to fill your needs. Are you investing in a relationship with the Lord? Or are you simply waiting around for your someone special to meet your needs? If it's the latter, I want to encourage you that there is no one in the world that can fulfill ALL your desires more completely than the Lord. He knows you inside and out--better than any other human EVER could, and His heart is so full of love for you that He would do ANYTHING for you! (And He already did on the cross!) I believe God longs to spend time with us, to encourage us, to hold us, to help us see ourselves the way that He sees us. Are you allowing Him to do so?

5. After doing the above things, I think it's okay to present a request--but it is just that: a request. It is not a time for criticism or demands or manipulation. Saying "I hate how you never acknowledge me during the day," is not helpful or loving. It will also most likely put him on the defense. Instead, approach with kindness, "I loved that text you sent me yesterday while you were at work to let me know that you were thinking about me. I was having a rough day, and it meant so much. I was walking on clouds the rest of the afternoon!" Ask yourself, 'How would I like this to be presented to me if we had swapped places?' The Golden Rule is key. It's also important not to keep nagging if we don't see the results we desired. Nagging communicates disrespect and tells him that we think he's a failure--that he can't do it on his own, and he has to have our help. This is not a parent-child relationship.

6. Pray for him. Prayer changes things. Ultimately, your significant other is not in your hands, (which is probably a good thing!). Let God be in charge of his life. God cares about him even more than you do.

My pastor and his family live by the motto 'Expect nothing, appreciate everything." I come back to that over and over again. Choose to live with appreciation for the things he does right, instead of always nitpicking what he could be doing better.

I don't write this post because I've figured it all out or because I do all these things perfectly. I write this because I was reminded today that God has taught me things and given me wisdom that is meant to be shared, not kept to myself. I'm blessed to be marrying a man who is very kind with me in presenting his requests. It is my hope and prayer that I can return the favor. I join you in this journey of trusting God to change me to be the woman He created me to be.

The day I ran away

The quarter has ended, and it has left me feeling beaten and discouraged. Yes, I was on time with everything, but it pushed me to my limit. The anxieties that filled this past week and the overwhelmed feeling of how busy next week will be is wrecking my very soul. So I ran away today.

I needed a vacation. I needed peace and silence. I needed to be alone without any children vying for my attention. Without emails demanding I sign up for one more thing. Without texts asking me to help in one more way. I needed to be somewhere that I felt God's power, saw how huge and awesome He is, and remember that He is still in control of my life.

I got 10 hours of sleep last night, woke up, made pancakes, and went to a friend's church that has quickly become a favorite get-away place for me. I went there at the beginning of the month when I felt too worn out and uninspired to go to my church where everything is familiar and routine. It has been just what my soul needed when I go. To hear my friend lead worship with her sweet voice, to see her smiling face, knowing how much I miss being around her encouraging spirit was medicine to my worn and tired self. The songs that were chosen for that morning rushed me like a waterfall and the tears that I'd held back all week couldn't be stopped. Words about how much God loves me, knowing that His love is the only way I can keep going through with this craziness. He cares about me, and He won't let me fall.

After church I went to the beach. There's no better place to see God's awesomeness than the beach. Hearing the crash of the waves, seeing the never-ending water, the beauty of the surroundings. Each of those things speaks to me about who God is. I just lay there and rested for hours. I finished reading a book, read my Bible, read today's Jesus Calling, which said, "I am with you, I am with you, I am with you!" Thank you, Lord! I got to journal, since writing is how I process best. (Hence, three blog posts this week!) And I got to listen to Rend Collective Experiment, whose words spoke deeply to my soul. I want to share some of their lyrics with you.

You Are Love Rend Collective Experiment

A mind full of questions And a heart full of pain Can't understand why we are here again

My thoughts this week have reached anxiousness as I wonder, "Am I cut out for this? Is this what it's always going to be like? Am I ever going to be healthy again? Why am I so tired? When will I have time for my friends? How will my hopes and dreams for the future fit with this crazy, paced lifestyle I'm living now?" There's pain in the anxiety of it all. I'm frustrated that I've been worrying myself sick again. I haven't done that since Junior High. I don't understand why it's happening now or how to make it stop.

But there's grace in this season, Not just to see us through, But renew us

God has given me grace to take each day one at a time. His grace will get me through, and as I rest in it, it will renew my mind, my heart, and my body.

You are love Lord And Your ways testify You are love Lord Perfectly defined Through the suffering or joy We will confide in your perfect love

I love this part of the song. Love cannot be defined any greater than Jesus. His gift to us. His suffering and His joy speaks of what Love is. I must continue to confide in His love with each day that I feel I am suffering through, with each moment that brings great joy to me. In all things, I must be aware of His presence.

A mind full of questions With a future unclear But your perfect love scatters fear

That's my favorite line of the whole song, "Your perfect love scatters fear." The anxieties I am facing are scattered--thrown to the farthest ends of the earth by God's love. His love is bigger, greater, and more powerful than anything I fear. I may not know what next year holds, if I will have a job or not, but His love scatters those worries. I can trust in Him to remove them far from me.

Cos your will is to build up And not to harm But to complete us

His plan is perfect. His plan involves building me up, not bringing me down. This place He has called me to is where I need to be. Through this experience, He is growing me and bringing me closer to completion. James 1:4 says to, "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

It's time to stretch these legs of faith, And run into this unknown width, The truth of Your love for us

It's a race I'm in, I have to be stretched so that I can be pushed to my limits to do the amazing things God has in store. I must run with endurance the path set before me. The truth that I carry with me is how much God loves me and will never ever give up on me. When I am weak, there He is strong.

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He Steals My Breath Away

Most of my time is spent with thoughts consumed by teaching--what has happened in my week and what I need to get done. My blogs have turned from matters of the heart to matters of the career world. This weekend however, brought to light some matters of the heart that I wanted to share. Saturday was a double whammy with two weddings for me to attend. The first one was right across the street from my house, so I biked over with my parents--the gift sitting in the basket. It was good idea to ride in theory, but turned out to be an awful decision. I was trying to keep up with my parents who were on their tandem, which is a lot heavier and faster than mine with both of them pedaling. It's important to note that I haven't exercised in two months because I've still been sick. I haven't come that close to throwing up in years. I felt so dizzy and nauseous when I got off my bike. I couldn't walk up the hill to get water. I sent my parents running for it while I collapsed on the dirt by the parking lot. It was not a good situation. Every time I took a drink of water I thought I was going to puke. I thought I was fine after about 10 minutes. But standing upright--even leaning against the fence was too much. I sat back down in the dirt. Then I had to lie down in the dirt because I was feeling so whoozy. I didn't think I was going to be able to attend the wedding, but I didn't know how I was going to get home either. It was awful. Thank goodness, it all passed, and I was able to make my way up the hill to sit in the shade. But then I had to move because my spot was right where the bridal party was going to be walking through. So I went to sit in the sun where the ceremony set up was. Then I almost died some more. So I went back to the shade and sat in the dirt after the wedding was well on its way. Thankfully, once the reception began, we had a spot in the shade and I felt revived. After that I was able to enjoy myself. The wedding was lovely--very much emulating the carefree spirit of my friend Becky. She was lovely. It was nice spending time with some of my good friends from high school too.

But before that wedding was over I dashed off to the next. I had to get home and change dresses because the other one got a little dirty...sitting on the ground and all. So I put on an evening dress and headed to Carlsbad.

I made it just in time, and jumped into the row next to my best friend's family and husband. I was glad to know other people there to sit with and hang out with--ones that I love to catch up with and don't get to see much anyway. :)

The wedding was beautiful. It was perfect in every way. Jessi came out and looked so breathtaking. Her dress couldn't have been more perfect. She looked so romantic and whimsical. It was fun for me to watch this marriage because I feel like my personality is very similar to Jessi's. And there is no one I've seen that matches together so perfectly as Jessi and Josh. They compliment each other so well. It was like watching a movie, and they were the carefully picked stars of the show. You can't have a good chick flick without a couple who has perfect chemistry.

I went home feeling so overwhelmed and in love--in love with the Lord. I was struck by how much He cares about those details in our lives. He created Jessi with Josh in mind, and vice versa. I know that He's done the same for me. My future husband was formed by the hand of God with me in mind. There's no one else on earth who is more perfectly matched to me than he is. What an amazing fact! I felt so happy and at peace this weekend knowing that the God of the universe cares about me enough to do that for me. I was overwhelmed with excitement for the day that God chooses to bring my perfect man into the picture. Because that day is going to be just so...perfect.

At Josh and Jessi's wedding, they handed out a little notecard of info about where they'll be living and going to church, etc. The church they picked was the one that my wonderful friend and former mentor attends and leads worship. I sang once at her church with her a long while ago, and before that she was a worship leader at my church. She's probably been the most influential person in my years of worship ministry. This week of teaching had left me feeling very drained. I found I had no desire to go anywhere on Sunday. For some reason my church just didn't have the spark in my mind like it usually does. I think I was a little burnt out from serving so much these past few months, and I just wanted to get away somewhere. I confess that I planned to sleep in on Sunday, and if I woke up on time for church, great. If not, oh well. But the moment I saw the name of that church on that little piece of paper, something lit up inside of me. That's where I wanted to go! I felt a breath of fresh air with that plan in mind. Yes, I'd go there, surprise my friend, and be refreshed on my little hiatus.

I woke up at 9am the next morning and checked the service times. 10:45am. Perfect. I waltzed out the door with a spring in my step and an eagerness to hear my friend lead worship again. She's one of the most amazing worship leaders I know. The way she leads gives a call to the hearts of others to make them run freely to the arms of Jesus. I love it. I snuck in, a few minutes late due to traffic, gave her a wide smile and found a spot near the back. I could see her grinning at me with surprise and delight, but I closed my eyes and let the worries of the week fall from my shoulders. I opened my mouth in joyful praise from the child whose heart is so full of love for her Maker.

When worship was over, I snuck outside to catch her in case she wasn't planning on sitting in that service. She was able to sit with me, and was so cute and sweet about introducing me around to others. Everyone was so nice. It made my heart glad. The message was one I needed to hear. I love how a message can be about one thing, but that one small sentence in the big scheme of it can be the thing that takes hold of your heart and says, "Tabitha, this is for you." My one sentence was regarding my busyness: the pastor asked, "Are you so busy that people are secondary in your life? If your answer is yes, then something needs to change, because people are what really matter. People are our purpose." God whispered that to me and gently prodded my heart to respond. I responded, "Yes, I am too busy. My friendships have been put on the back burner. I've had so many who have asked to hang out, and I've put them aside...added them to the list of others."

I was wrestling with what to do about it because I am busy. My life is consumed with this career. I stay till 5pm and then bring more things home to work on. This week begins the ASL club I'm co-teaching. The craziness never ends while I'm investing in these children. I went home and texted a close friend of mine whom I haven't seen since her wedding in August. I had nothing happening this weekend other than singing on worship team Sunday, and I realized later that I have a three day weekend also. That's certainly welcome! So we made plans for lunch in Dana Point. I'm so looking forward to it.

Overall, I'm so glad I was able to go to church there on Sunday. Not only did I get to have a nice little catch-up with my friend, but I got to be drawn into her spirit-led worship, be introduced to a new song that I'm now obsessed with and want to learn to play, enjoy some conversations with some very nice people, get a message from God, and walk away feeling refreshed--without the cares I was burdened by after Parent-Teacher Conferences. It was all just what I needed. My Lord steals my breath away by His inner workings and movements of such small details in my life; He knows just what I need--just when I need it.

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Healer

We've been singing a new song at church called, "Healer." Kari Jobe sings it; It's a beautiful song. This week I had my own experience with Jesus' healing. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzejd6r9DwE]

On Friday night, I suddenly was overcome with pain in my stomach. I was doubled over and the pain just seemed to get worse and worse. I was researching online different, possible causes and home remedies. I tried a few things and nothing was helping. I was beginning to think I'd have to go to the ER. The thought exhausted me as I'd just come from a bachelorette party where I stayed up till 1am and then kept getting woken up by my best friend's alarm that apparently didn't save when she tried to dismiss it at 6am. I was worn out; I just wanted to sleep, but the pain was too great to move.

I decided to have my quiet time and pray for the pain. Here's what my Jesus Calling devotion book said:

"I want to be central in your entire being. When your focus is firmly on Me, My Peace displaces fears and worries."

Okay, focus firmly on Jesus. Not the pain. Jesus. Center yourself, Tabitha. Jesus will give you peace. You don't have to be afraid or worried about this pain or what will happen because of it.

"They will encircle you, seeking entrance, so you must stay alert."

Fear and worry are not the appropriate response. Those are the easy responses, but I need to center on Jesus.

"Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold. There is no fear in My Love, which shines on you continually."

I trust you. Jesus, thank you for being trustworthy. You are in control of this situation. There is no fear in You.

"Sit quietly in My Love-Light, while I bless you with radiant Peace. Turn your whole being to trusting and loving me."

I just need to sit quietly through this pain. Put EVERYTHING into trusting God.

After the excerpt from Jesus Calling, a couple of Bible references are listed. What I do to further my Bible reading and revisit verses that have meant a lot to me before is read the reference listed, and then read all the verses I've underlined on those two pages. For this day, the references were 2 Thess. 3:16, which says, "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at ALL times and in EVERY situation." Perfect. Every situation. Even when I'm in so much pain I'm only able to shuffle through the house in search of something to ease my discomfort.

The second verse was 1 Jn. 4:18, "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear." On this page I read through some other verses I had underlined including 1 Jn. 5:14-15, "And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for." There it was, the answer for my pain. I prayed confidently that God would remove it from me, knowing he was going to give me what I asked for.

1 Jn. 5:18 was also underlined, "We know that God's children do not make a practice of sinning, for God's Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them." Jesus was holding me securely right in that moment of pain. As I was held, I rested that evil and the pain could not affect me.

My reading ended with 1 Jn. 5:21, "Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts." The pain had been taking his place. But no more. I was trusting, praying, and believing.

As I finished my reading and my prayers, I felt the pain move. It traveled out of my stomach , leaving my body just enough to relieve me of the pain that had kept me doubled over. The pain was still present, But I could move better. I made my way to my room and turned off the lights. As I curled up to go to sleep, I understood that the pain was lessened enough that I could breathe freely and steadily. I curled up on my bed. Not moving helped me not feel the pain, and my ability to breathe helped me fall asleep quickly.

By the next day, the pain was gone. I didn't experience full "healing." But God gave me just the right amount of relief that I could get to sleep like I needed to and let my body finish feeling better overnight. I was blessed to witness God doing just what he knew I needed in his own perfect timing.

If God Knows

I've been recently faced with some saddening situations, mostly among my 5th graders, which makes it even more devastating. Talk of committing suicide, cutting themselves, and getting high. Seeing the hurt, the neediness, and the brokenness of these young people just wrenches my heart. I've been praying about it tonight and am wrestling with this free will concept. I believe that God wants to be Lord of our lives and He will break us in all the ways we need to be broken in order to turn to Him to rescue us when we're finally done struggling to be in control. But, what if the struggles are so much to bear that someone chooses to give up and end their life instead of taking the God option? God knows everything, so He knows that's what's going to happen. If He knows that the struggles He's giving us will cause us to do such a thing, then why doesn't he ease up a little? Not altogether, because we still need to be broken. If someone kills themself, then there's no ability to change the heart of the person towards Him.

I fear for these young ones. I fear of the drastic measures they may take when they can't seem to face it anymore. In a place where I am not allowed to talk about the love God has for them that far surpasses any lack of love they receive from their broken families, I am feeling utterly helpless. I want to wrap my arms around these 10 year olds and hold so tight they can sense what God does to them when they are hurting if they could only realize He's there and stop trying to gain acceptance in other places.

What are your thoughts on this free will idea? Is God pushing too much? He certainly pushed Job, but when Job questioned Him, God stepped in and told him about all the great things He did--causing Job to tremble and shut his mouth from further complaints. Am I just complaining, or is this a valid question?

God's Got My Back

Everything happens for a reason, and that reason is because God is a great orchestrator. Take a glimpse with me.... Fall semester of my credential program was finished. I said farewell to my beloved kindergartners and began anxiously awaiting the news to see where I would be placed for the spring. I remembered that praying about it seemed to work great for the first semester....praying to be relatively close to home, somewhere that I could grow and become even more confident in my new role as teacher. This time the prayer sent heavenward was more along the lines of....place me wherever is best with someone I will work well with...anywhere except fifth grade please. Thank you. Amen.

Guess where God put me? 5th grade. With an amazing teacher in a great school with some fun kids. Okay God, haha, pretty funny. You have a nice sense of humor. The first 8 weeks were overwhelming. I didn't like 5th grade very much. I enjoyed the kids and their age, but there was just so much content to cover and not enough time. We were constantly falling behind. I did NOT want to teach 5th grade!

A couple weeks ago I began my full time student teaching. I'm settling in a lot better. I actually like fifth grade now. I think being there one day a week at first was just too much. We moved so quickly that each week I was there was never covering the same information. I saw no pattern in what they were learning. Being there full time teaching math every day as well as some reading groups, I get it. I see the pattern. It is so much easier for me to see where we are going and where we have come from and when we'll be moving on. There seems to be less planning involved than in kindergarten. I just follow the curriculum book; it's great. I've become a lot more confident in teaching math, and I think I'm pretty good at it too! :)

I was babysitting a few weeks ago and got wind from a teacher friend of mine that her school was looking for.....can you guess it? A fifth grade teacher for next year! Of course. I sent in a resume and was contacted for an interview. When we did interviews in class and talked about the kinds of things we would be asked, it always made me nervous. I got anxious thinking about all the crazy questions and in depth answers and acronyms of everything. But that was for public school. Private school is a whole other realm. I found as the day approached for my interview, the nerves just weren't there. It didn't matter that I went to Disneyland the day before instead of preparing possible questions and answers. Sure, I read up on common questions and thought about them briefly, but it wasn't a whole lot.

You want to know the reason for my ease in the situation? One, I had a lot of people praying for me, which is awesome. But most of all, I just wasn't worried about it. I knew that I was going to do my best, and I knew that God had a plan and a purpose. If I held up my end by giving 100%, then he would take care of the rest. If that's the school God wants me to teach at, then I don't really need to do any convincing of the people I'm speaking with. He will be the one that puts the urge on their hearts. I had no doubt that whatever happened in that interview, that God would be in charge. He has a place for me next year. No doubt. I don't know where that is, but I know he's got it figured out. And that's enough for me.

I was amazed at the difference in my own heart and attitude when it came to a private school versus a public school setting. I was so much more calm. There was less anxiety and there was an eagerness driving me instead of a fear. I have always known that I had a heart....a calling, for private school. I loved going to private school. It was a place where I grew and flourished. It's not a good environment for everybody. You have to have the right attitude about being there. But it was the right place for me. I hate the politics that come up in the public school setting. I hate that holding onto a job in public school depends on how well your students score on their tests. I hate that there is so much gossip and talking behind peoples' backs. It's just not uplifting. At first, just because jobs are so scarce, I was losing sleep thinking about whether or not I should apply to both private and public schools. But being in my student teaching and observing how things work, it was confirmed for me. I know that my place is at private school. It would be pointless for me pursue a job in a place I do not feel called to be in just because I want more job security. God would provide for me, since I firmly believed he was the one putting that desire on my heart. So, that decision made, I began filling out applications and updating my resume.

And then came today. I dressed for success and arrived early to my destination where I had traveled last week after school one day to make sure I knew how to get there and wasn't going to get lost relying on my GPS. I popped into the office and met the principal. Because I was early she told me to go pop in on my teacher friend to watch her teach the middle schoolers. It was fun being in her class again....haven't done that since high school history! :) After an amusing time seeing her interact with a group of junior highers that are not typically in class together and were a little rambunctious (which I was relieved to see someone I think of as a great teacher attempting to calm down such joviality in a similar manner to which I would attempt to do) I headed back to the office. We met up with another individual who was to interview me and we headed to the computer lab.

Still there were no nerves, and I have to tell you it was the most pleasant experience. Both women were so nice and easy to talk to. I felt like I was sitting down for a little get-together with some women from church or something. I chuckled to myself that they had heard nothing but good things about me so far (yay for having good connections!) and proceeded to inquire as to my marital status. No idea why that came up first, but it amused me that by the end of the interview they were saying, "You have a great smile, it just lights up with the joy that you have inside of you. I can't believe you are single! I'm wracking my brains trying to think of who I know...." hahaha. On a more serious note, they seemed very captured by me, and I by them. They pronounced that I would be a perfect fit for their staff there. Wow! They were very curious to hear me sing after finding out I was the worship intern at my church. They reassured me that the current 5th grade teacher would be easily accessible in her new middle level science position to be helping me out as a great resource. That had been one of my concerns about being the only 5th grade teacher there.

Hearing about their school was a huge sigh of relief inside of me. I would have roughly 16 students in my class. 16 STUDENTS! I have 29 right now and it's a handful. There are so many different levels and needs in such a large classroom. This school is very flexible in teaching content, so when I sense my students are not understanding a concept, I have complete freedom to change my plans and slow down my lessons. If an important social or spiritual issue comes up that is on my heart to talk to them about, I can stop teaching content and take time for that. What a blessing! This school is not driven by tests and scores and results. It is driven by a desire to pour into the students and raise them up as godly individuals who know they are loved and have a desire to learn. This school does not advertise at all. Their enrollment is completely word of mouth. As a result, the teachers and students very rarely leave. People are there because they want to be there and it is a good place to be.

I am in love. What a gem of a place. My only concern is that I might have other offers from other schools. It's funny to me that there is so much talk about how there are no jobs, how I'd be lucky to sub a little, how difficult things are for teachers. And yet, God has given me overflow. Instead of not enough, I feel like I will be having too many. Instead of seeking, I will have to spend my time in diligent prayer to seek where God wants me to be. I wish he could make that clear by only giving me one offer. I guess he wants me to spend some time with him--just listening for his still, small voice. I love that I don't have to worry about these things. I love that God's got my back.

I'm going back to the school on Tuesday to observe a day in 5th grade there. How wonderful is that? They already want me back, experiencing their day to day routine. I am so utterly blessed and thankful. My heart is overflowing. :)

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

My small group leader asked me to speak at small group this week when all three of our groups stay together to reflect on what we've been learning the past month. After he asked me to do it, I went out to my car and sat there yelling at God asking Him why He would make me do that with everything else that I have going on right now. I’ve been completely overwhelmed with school, and it’s been an emotional roller coaster for the past three weeks trying to hold onto some sense of control as I freak out about not having enough time to finish everything that has to be finished before I graduate. I also was frustrated that God was making me do this because after a long week of constantly giving and serving on teams I come here just wanting to sit and be. I don’t want to do anything when I’m here. I don’t want to lead music, I don’t even want to sing—I sing every week, I just want to listen and take it in. I don’t want to speak, I want to mostly hear what others have to say and only really sneak in a line or two during discussion group because I have a desire to be known, but even that desire is suppressed because of my struggle with trusting people with who I am. I’m basically a mess! But having been in small groups since junior high, I also know how important it is to be a contributing member when you sign up for a small group. I know God has given me gifts so that I can use them to bless others—to lead a song with them or say something that may challenge them or comfort them. And I know that’s why God was making me do it.

But being the person I am in my frustration and anger with His request, I made a deal with Him. Why He puts up with me for doing such things I have no idea, but I told Him if He wanted me to do it, He was going to have to one, tell me what to speak about since I have been blinded on a weekly basis by the crappy school situation I’m in and haven’t been able to reflect on small group discussions and two, He was going to have to give me time to finish my homework so I could sit and think and process about what I’ve learned the most from these past few weeks—one of which I wasn’t even here because I was sick. I have to be honest, I didn’t think God would actually do it. I had a ton of activities happening this week and had to finish writing a twenty page paper and start two new group projects. For three weeks I haven’t had time to think about anything I’m dealing with because I’ve had too much homework. There was no way with an even busier schedule this week that I’d have time for this. But apparently God really wanted me to talk tonight because He made that time, and He gave me a topic. Surprise, surprise.

Read Matthew 12: 25-29, “25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.”

When we talked about these verses in our small group, we also went back and read about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. We talked about how Satan was presenting Jesus with all sorts of desires for security and provision and pleasure and power that I have. But unlike me, Jesus was able to refuse Satan’s offers—therefore binding Satan from being able to continue in his trickery. We talked a lot about the extent to which Jesus really had to resist those things and if it was really that hard for him to say no since he was perfect and had never given into those things before. I wasn’t focusing as much on that part of it as I was thinking about how those desires are so close to the core of who I am. It’s not very easy for me to say no to those things and to bind Satan like I need to. When I sat down Sunday night to think about everything going on in my life lately to prepare for this, I was a little taken aback that I have been faced with each of those things these past few weeks.

- Security: I’ve been anxious about how I’m going to get a job once I graduate since there’s no teaching jobs out there. - Provision: I finished my taxes and had to send the feds a fat check after not getting enough babysitting to pay my bills last month. - Pleasure: I have 14 friends who have recently gotten engaged with a couple more expected to happen any day now. - Power: I’ve been facing some frustrations with worship team not working how I would want it to work.

I’ve dwelled on each of those things with a fair share of tears about all them. And when I was thinking about it Sunday, I was realizing that my house is divided. I can’t serve two masters, but it’s what I’m doing. I’m claiming to live for God and yet I’m not trusting Him to take care of me in the future with my job. I’m not relying on Him to provide for me financially. I’m not surrendering my desire to Him to have a family of my own. I’m not listening to His reasoning for why He’s running the worship team the way He is. In each of those ways, I’m serving Satan because he is the one who tempted me not to trust, rely, surrender, and listen to God.

Verse 25 says, “A house divided against itself will not stand.” And I’ve wondered why my world seems to be falling apart lately. Well, I got my answer.

I just want to challenge you to take some time and really think about what things are dividing you from God right now. Coming from somebody who knows, if you don’t give those things to God and bind Satan by doing so, then your house is going fall. We need to remind ourselves of the truth God gives us in His word.

Matthew 6: 25-34 says, 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Lyrical Notes to Live by

I have been doing a lot of dog-walking lately, which gives me some time to listen to my iPod. I've been hooked on Sidewalk Prophets lately. I wanted to share with you some of the lyrics from a variety of songs that have been hitting home for me. You keep on reaching Reaching for a hand to hold You’re scared you’ll wake up on the edge of the unknown You find your heart in fragile place Afraid to move cause it might break

And it just might change your life You’re on the edge now take one step And you just might find you’ll fly You never know what will happen next Don’t be afraid to let go this time It just might change your life

I'm in a period known as the Land in Between. It's the time of waiting for something to happen and not knowing when. It's the time in between hearing news that will change everything and living with that change long enough to see the good that will come of it. It's the time of transition from one place to another. It's a time of trials and learning. I have not particularly enjoyed this time any more than the Israelites did in their time in the wilderness. I liked these lyrics because I thought they spoke to the way I'm dealing with the transitions and trials. I'm holding onto things in my life because I'm afraid of what might happen if I let go. I see my life going in a different direction than I originally planned and those dreams are hard to release. But these words point to the wonders of flight that could happen if I would just let go.

If I saw You on the street And You said come and follow me But I had to give up everything All I once held dear and all of my dreams

Would I love You enough to let go Or would my love run dry When You asked for my life

If You’re all You claim to be Then I’m not losing anything So I will crawl upon my knees Just to know the joy of suffering

I will love You enough to let go Lord, I give you my life I give you my life

When did love become unmoving? When did love become unconsuming? Forgetting what the world has told me Father of love, You can have me You can have me

I don't know why I think that I'm losing something when I let go of my selfish desires. If anything, when you give things to God you gain so much more back from him. It is a matter of love too. So often I choose to love my stuff more than God. The words that instill the most fear in me is when it talks about This song is like what I talked about in my last blog of repeating phrases over and over again to help it become ingrained in my mind. The lyrics of this song have many of the kinds of phrases I would repeat to myself, "Lord, I give you my life." "Father of love, You can have me."

Be strong in the Lord and, Never give up hope, You're going to do great things, I already know, God's got His hand on you so, Don't live life in fear

This one is quite empowering for me. There is hope that my life will not always be stuck were it is in this period of waiting. There will come a time when God will use me to do great things. His hand is on me, which leaves no cause for fear to get in and keep me from being used by Him.

I am the thorn in Your crown But You love me anyway I am the sweat from Your brow But You love me anyway I am the nail in Your wrist But You love me anyway I am Judas’ kiss But You love me anyway

See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace And then alone in the night, I still called out for You So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

This one just kills me. It hurts so much to see the truth of these words. To put myself into the various elements of Jesus' death is so raw and ugly. But to press the truth of God's love on the heels of such awful statements is amazing because God means it. When I became that awful thing, He loved my anyway. Even when I resisted his goodness with full knowledge of being in the wrong, He didn't turn away when I called for Him again. He loved me. He was right there for me that very second I cried.

You restore the broken, You heal the sinner’s heart You make all things new, all things new On the cross Your love was spoken, You even wore the scars To make all things new, all things new

This song comes right after the last on the CD, which is such a perfect placement. After I've reveled in the awfulness of being a thorn and a betrayer's kiss, I'm dunked with the fact that God makes me new. I don't have to be those things because He is making me new with the love He gave on the cross.

That's all for now of my musical musings. Hope they encouraged you too. The mp3 download's only $5 on Amazon. :)

For the Suffering

These past couple months have not been easy ones for me. I've had to carry some heavy questions and feelings and haven't felt there was a "right" person to share the load with. I poured it out to God and then had a good, tearful chat with my mom about it. It helped to have it out, but I'm still struggling along trying to come to terms with what God's bringing me through. To sum it up best, you know how God asks us to give Him everything? I realized this past week that sometimes God will take things from us if we refuse to give it to Him. That's what He's doing to me. He's taking what I rely and depend on for security and safety and love because I wouldn't give it to Him. It didn't seem like something that was bad to have, so I didn't understand how it could be something that separated me from Him. But apparently it is, so He's taking it.

Trials like these are difficult; no two ways about it. With the end of the year, I successfully finished my (first!) new year's resolution to read the Bible through in a year. May I just say, that once you keep a resolution for an entire year one time, it empowers you so much more to keep the next one you make, because then when you're about to break it you can say to yourself, "Hey, you can do it! Remember? You've done it once before!" So, with the finish of my plan for Bible reading, I had to get ready to start something else. When I was flying through the Bible last year with 4-5 chapters a day, I came across several passages and books that spoke deeply to my heart and made me question and wonder and feel the healing that came from the words. But, I had to press on, I was on a mission and I intended to keep it. So although I didn't stop and do more in-depth study on those things last year, I am intentional about wanting to do that this year.

I'm starting with the book of Job. Job really threw me off. I've heard the story and read the story before, but as I pushed through it so quickly, I was able to read it more like a story and see the entire thing unfolding altogether, and I was mad. I was mad that God would make bets on Job. I was mad at his friends for mourning with Job and then doing a 180 and telling him everything he did wrong. I was confused when Job questioned God and God said, "How dare you question me? Look at all this stuff I did." So, Job seemed like a good place to start my studying for this year.

It took a few days into the new year to start the new study and the new commentary I borrowed for it. I always have a hard time beginning something new because I anticipate how much time it will take and how much I'll have to think about it. Horrible, right? Haha. I just get overwhelmed because I know when I start something, I will be all-in, and that's a big commitment.

Finally, I had some down-time in my car while waiting to meet up with my soon to be sis-in-law. So I popped open the commentary. The preface alone was enough to floor me and feel that rush of "oh my gosh, this is exactly what I'm going through!" God spoke to me through that pastor's words as he prepared my heart for what I was about to read about Job's suffering and his response to it. I don't know if you're in the midst of a trial right now or not, I must include some especially meaningful passages for you that spoke to the deepest part of my soul that was waiting to be melted by the Spirit of God and recognized as pain but encouraged to have the right mindset about it. Hope these words are as healing to you as they were to me.

"If you want to be able to patiently endure seasons of suffering, you must be able to recognize like Job, that God is sovereign in your life and that He is working everything out according to His plan for your life."

After reading this, I realized that the suffering and the taking away and the pain that I'm facing is in His plan. For some reason I have always categorized the outcome of the pain to be in God's plan, not the pain itself. He's sovereign in all areas of my life, not just the outcome. It's in His plan.

"When we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain; when the world around us suddenly seems a hostile, menacing place--at those times we may cry out in anguish, "How could a loving God permit this to happen?" At such moments, seeds of distrust are sown. It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us."

Wow! First of all, this made me feel incredibly selfish. I have been deaf to everything but myself and my own hurts. How disgusting. Second of all, where it says "seeds of distrust" I realized that is totally and entirely the work of the enemy. I became FURIOUS! I was personally offended that Satan would sneak into my pain like that and sprinkle those seeds into my head. At a time when I am completely and utterly susceptible to believing them for all their worth. But then again, why wouldn't he? It's the perfect opportunity for him to take me down. I realized that by nursing my pain and not praising God in the midst of it, I was telling God I didn't trust Him to take care of me and therefore, He was against me in what I was facing. It makes me shudder to think such a horrible thing. Could I actually have believed that? Yes, sadly I could have and I was.

"Times of intense pain and suffering remove all the shallow, superficial cliches of "Sure, I trust God." To still love God and remain fully devoted to Him in the midst of suffering, to love Him even when you think He is unfair and callous is true love, true devotion, pure trust."

That says it all. It's easy to say I trust God when things are going well. But the moment my life is on the downturn, I throw that cliche out the window. Trust? Yeah right! Look what He's doing right now! I obviously can't trust Him! The idea of loving someone I think is unfair to me and doesn't care enough to remove my hurt makes me uncomfortable. Maybe that's why God hasn't let me get married yet. Lol. Especially because God is perfect. He is everything and knows everything. There is nothing beyond His control. But He is wise; He knows when to act and what is going to come of it all. I should never have to question His motives.

"God allows seasons of suffering to occur in the life of every believer to test not only the reality of their faith but also the extent of their love for Him. You can't fake your love while in pain. The ultimate proof of my love for God is demonstrated by absolute trust and surrender. These can only be proved true in the crucible of suffering. When you can say, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him," you know that your love for God is real." You can't fake your love while in pain. How true is that! How many of us can vouch that the times when our true and worst colors come out are when we've been hurt and choose to react in a way far from pleasant? I know I can. I wish deep inside of me that the phrase, "These can only be proved true in the crucible of suffering," weren't true. Surely not! I can prove my ability to surrender and trust God when things are fine in my life. Those are the times when I don't have to have a second thought about "giving" those things to God. I think I just proved myself wrong right there. I don't have to give it a second thought when things are good, but when they're bad I'm in this awful funk and fall prey to the "pity me" syndrome.

One last one to leave you with:

"'But He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)' Gold fears no fire. Whatever we have that is burned up and left behind in the furnace, wasn't worth having anyway."

I'll let you chew on that one on your own. ;)

Christmas Rambles

I was petsitting today, and they had a lovely piano that I had a chance to practice on for my upcoming performance for Christmas Eve. Each year I'm assigned the task of finding a new Christmas song to sing at the service. I absolutely adore this opportunity and do my best to find a new song the year prior so that I'm ready to go. This year, I decided to tackle the task of playing piano for the first time while I sing. It will definitely be an adventure. I'm praying I don't ruin the whole thing by hitting too many wrong notes and completely freezing from nerves. I've been trying to introduce the songs before I perform them to give everyone some background or something to chew on while I present the lyrics to them. I was contemplating what to say for this song, Winter Snow and thought a good blog ramble might help me sort my thoughts about it all.

You see, the song is about Jesus coming quietly into the world. There was no hoopla or parade. He wasn't born into a palace with royal subjects anxiously waiting to hear the news that he had made his appearance. There was nothing about his birth that gave the idea that he would be a great warrior coming to fight against the Romans for the freedom the Jews had been waiting for. He was not born into a family that had position and power for him to grow up in. More than that, this soft birth went unnoticed by many because it was just ordinary.

I'm reminded that God often takes our expectations of what we think will happen or want to happen and he does something completely different. It may even seem just awful at the time it's happening. From Mary's perspective, a young girl who faced accusations of infidelity and had to travel far away while very pregnant and have a baby in awful conditions of a cave smelling of manure and dirt. From my perspective, my dreams of musicianship were destroyed when given rejection from the schools I applied to for music. I was in the middle of transferring and was suddenly without a future.

But what did God do with those surprising circumstances? Turned them around. Took something small like an ordinary baby and turned it into the greatest love sacrifice known to man. Took a ruined hope of stardom and turned it into a discovery of passion for teaching.

God doesn't always call for loud trumpets and announcements for what he's going to do. Sometimes he sends the message quietly, softly, and sticks it in a manger.

Jesus Calling, November 30th

Problems are a part of life. They are inescapable: woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem-solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking. Not only does this habit frustrate you, it also distances you from Me. Do not let fixing things be your top priority. You are ever so limited in your capacity to correct all that is wrong in the world around you. Don't weigh yourself down with responsibilities that are not your own. Instead, make your relationship with Me your primary concern. Talk with Me about whatever is on your mind, seeking My perspective on the situation. Rather than trying to fix everything that comes to your attention, ask Me to show you what is truly important. Remember that you are en route to heaven, and let your problems fade in the light of eternity.

Psalm 32:8; Luke 10:41-42; Philippians 3:20-21

*sigh. I needed this one.

Searching

I would like to preface this entry to say that I don't post these to get attention or make people more interested (or less interested) in what I'm going through. I post them because it is the core of what is happening in my heart, and it's hard. It's so easy in our culture to hide. Put on that smile and say you're good when asked whether that's true or not. It's an immediate response. I am here dealing with frustration and discouragement, and although there is a huge urge to hide and let people go on thinking that I'm a "good" Christian and have it right when it comes to my relationship with God, I won't do it because I'm sure that I'm not alone in the things I struggle with. So I post this to let you know that I don't have it all together. I yell at God. I want to give up. And I post this to let you know that you're not alone in your struggles. I don't have the answers, but I have sympathy and understanding because it's where I am at too. November 27 Dear God,

What has happened to my faith in recent years? When did it turn to a downhill road? Why is there no more innocent pursuit of you? I remember in high school having a sweet desire to include you in so many things. I don't know why that doesn't happen anymore. Am I so caught up in searching for things of this world that that has become my home base instead of you? How am I supposed to fix that? Is it another habit that needs breaking? I'm feeling discouraged about who I am and what I've become. Am I still the woman you've created me to be? Are you pleased with what you see? Because I know I'm not.

November 29 Dear Jesus,

I'm so discouraged. I'm worn out and stretched thin. I don't know where to turn anymore. I'm confused about what's going on in my head and my heart. I'm just tired. I'm tired of trying, tired of getting hurt, tired of the fears, tired of not knowing what to do. Please remove this cup from me. It is so very hard to keep my self-confidence in who I am as your child when I see failures pressing in on every side. I fear that I'll never be enough and that I'm too much at the same time.

I question what you've been doing in my life these past 3-1/2 years. Something must be going on behind the scenes, right? My trust is lacking in that. I'm doubtful. Please help me out, Jesus. Like you did with John the Baptist when he doubted you. You affirmed who he was and what he was doing. I need affirmation. I feel like I have it all wrong. Help me to understand or have more faith or something. Whatever it is that is lacking right now, I'm begging you to please provide! I'm tired of sitting idly by. It just makes me feel like I'm doing it wrong. Where's the relief?

How would you feel if you looked reflectively at your life and just saw a fat question mark? But you've never had to do that. You've always known it all--knew what you were supposed to do and when you were supposed to do it. The thought just popped into my head that I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to worship God all the time. But no offense, that sounds like crap to me right now. That sounds like the good, Sunday School answer. Yes, that's what you did, but to me, your purpose was to teach and then give your life on the cross to save everyone. That's not a Sunday School answer. That's a thing. A purpose. A calling. What is that for me?

Where are you when I'm hurting? Where are you when I'm discouraged? Where are you when Satan is feeding me lies? Where God? I pray. I sit still and listen for your answer, and you're quiet. That yet again makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. Maybe I need to figure out the core of the problem first. Maybe I need to thank you for my blessings first...you know, follow the ACTS way to pray: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Maybe I need to not ask so many questions. I laugh at the irony. This is exactly what I do in my life. When something doesn't work, I try it a different way. But I'm out of ways to try now, so I'm stuck. I've hit the wall. Now what? Where do I go from here? What do I do? I wonder if it's just that I need to stop doing it my way and let you do it your way, but I've been asking you what your way is for a while now, and you're not telling me. So now what?

I hate this. If this is the "Christian life" I've signed up for to live my whole life, I'm not convinced it's a very effective way of living.

I feel like if I break one more time I'll be shattered into a million pieces. Don't you see me hurting? If you don't see me, then who will....?

You Can Have Me

This was the first Saturday since September that I have not had to work on a TPA. Thankfully, I am finished with those (with passing grades!) until March when the next one is due. It was so freeing to not have a long paper to work on all day. I got up early and went biking with my girlfriends. I haven’t been in a good three weeks because of the rain and my paper. I was afraid it would be hard for me to go biking when I haven’t done it in so long. Last time I waited forever to bike again, I practically died. But it turned out to be a great ride; we went much farther than usual. If time had permitted, we all would have biked out to the beach and back. I finished making a video of our biking adventures. I've included it for your viewing pleasure. :) http://www.facebook.com/v/10150096530210390

After biking, I had a luxurious afternoon cooking and spent three hours picnicking on my beach towel with my tanning oil, my iPod, and a book. I got to read that book for enjoyment. I don’t remember the last time I had a spare minute to read for enjoyment! It was so refreshing. While I was chilling with my sweet, sunny haven, “You Can Have Me” by Sidewalk Prophets came on. The lyrics made me pause and start thinking of my own life.

If I saw You on the street And You said, “Come and follow me.” But I had to give up everything All I once held dear And all of my dreams Would I love You enough to let go? Or would my love run dry When You asked for my life?

When did love become unmoving? When did love become unconsuming? Forgetting what the world has told me Father of Love, You can have me, You can have me

If You’re all You claim to be And I’m not losing anything So I will crawl upon my knees Just to know the joy of suffering I will love You enough to let go Lord I give You my life I give You my life

I wanna be where You are (You can have me) I’m running into Your arms (You can have me) And I will never look back (You can have me) So Jesus here is my heart

When did love become unmoving? The story of God is a story of love. Everything I believe in is because He loved me. And yet, I’m content to just go about the day to day moments in my life without a second thought. The fact that Jesus gave up part of Himself because He loved me should cause me to be consumed by Him in everything that happens to me, whether big or small. My life seems so ordinary. I think that if I was really moved by His love and consumed by it, that I would be living much more radically. Every moment would have extreme significance. I would live in the light of what my Savior has done for me. Maybe it’s because I am held by my dreams. I can’t let go of them to let God have the full reigns in my life. I’m not willing to give up my dreams of comfort and safety in my life. I don’t want to give that up to be possibly uncomfortable. The world does tell me it’s okay to be safe and comfortable and just live day to day. But I must move beyond that. I must make the choice to commit my life completely in all its daily monotony to my Father of Love. He can have me. He is first. I’ve become aware of my contentedness with the place He has me in right now. I wouldn’t change a thing. However, this song has reminded me that my thoughts are not always turning to Him first. This certainly won’t do because

I wanna be where You are I’m running into Your arms And I will never look back So Jesus here is my heart.

You can have me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edFCHgoFyuE]