Sunday, August 17, 2008

God has a way.

At church today, Jeff spoke of sin and how it permeates our world and lives and we've gotten so used to it and accepted it that a lot of times we don't even question that it's not the way things were supposed to be. Jeff said that sin is anything we use as replacement for God in our lives. That's tough, and makes it seem unavoidable that we are not all a mess. But that's because we are! We're fortunate though, because we have God's grace to show us how to move back in the right direction, toward him, to show us the right definition of holiness and love.

Sometimes I get sick of talking about and hearing about sin. The fact that it's so embedded in our makeup, our lives, and our world is overwhelming, but today in Kim's message, I heard that a lot of times even when we seem very fallen, God is still very much protecting us, because He knows we are His children, and when He knows that we have it in us to turn ourselves over to Him, He holds onto us because eventually we're going to find a way back to Him. Sometimes though, I think His protection isn't always clear and perfect and sometimes things still turn out messy, but I know somehow even when we can't see it, He has His handiwork in situations, jobs, relationships that don't work out how we always want them to. He has a bigger plan we can't see. Even if that is an overused statement, I don't think we can hear it enough. I know I need to thank Him for His bigger plan, and that even in the midst of my wishing things would be different, somehow He is going to work out what He's doing in us to His greater good. Not on our timing but on his.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Being good to ourselves:)

Why do we always want what we don't have? Is it because we're afraid of never being satisfied, not completing the "if onlys" or "what ifs?" What would it take for us to be content right where we are, knowing that something we want or desire for the future may or may not take shape, and that might be okay (or it'll have to be okay).

I'm a big dreamer. I've always been. I think it's sometimes good, but sometimes not. Maybe more people are like me, but it's always hard to tell. I feel like I can have one hand in the present, but one hand is always planted on this sense of the future that I feel is somehow going to be something bigger and more fantastic than I know at this time. In a weird way, as I write those previous words, I get a greater hope that what's truly in me searching for something more is a yearning for what's eternal. No matter if we get to check off what's on our big dream lists for this life, we can move forward with a focus on promises coming true for us when we surpass the kingdom of this world and have complete union with God.

Whew...that's a big lot to think about, but I think it helps me put my "dreams" in perspective. Sure, there's a lot of things I want to do, see, accomplish out of this life, but sometimes I need to straddle my big fantasies back in so I don't lose sight of my true purpose.

I do think we can combine our dreams of this life with the promises of the kingdom to come, and I think Jesus talks about that when he says that we're supposed to bring the kingdom of Heaven to this world. For me, that means reshaping and tweaking my focuses and goals so that they aren't so me-centered and more about bringing God the glory He deserves. It's all about balance I guess though, because there's so much that can be said about the topic of selfishness.

A couple great girls and I were talking last night about this and it's a hard one to figure out. So this is what I've been thinking about.... Just in terms of our daily lives, how much does it become disasterous to us if we go the other extreme and remove the Me or I from the dialogue you have with yourself. You have to factor in what's going to be beneficial and healthy to you, because otherwise I'm not going to able to serve God and reach out to others. A lot of times that involves allowing yourself to let go of some engagements, responsibilities (the ones you can), from time to time to refuel, get a better perspective on the situation, etc. I don't feel as though that's a bad thing. It's selfish to continually refuse ourselves and let what's lifegiving seap out of us.

I really don't have all the answers on this topic and really don't want to seem like I'm trying to. I still struggle with how to find a balance especially in this life stage where the only one I'm truly responsible for is myself, but at times it seems like I can carry the burden of the world and its ailments on my shoulders. I think with time we learn how to stop running a marathon with our lives all the time, but do what rejuvenates US. For me, surprisingly, after a bit of time relaxing and resting alone, I do find that that is being with some of my friends. I'm trying to learn how to be careful and to the best of my ability not run without reserves, and make sure there's enough fuel in my tank for the engagements I'm involved with. Some engagements drain us, some refuel us. It's wise to try and discern the differences.

In so many words, my friend asked me if I ever want to escape and run away from reality. Or maybe, start over. To be honest, for the first of those, I do sometimes want to do. But I think in those moments I've let my tank run on empty too long. For the second, yes, again, I sometimes want to, but I'm not sure what that means or what it looks like. Even if it sounds cliche, I really am thankful that God made our lives consist of day and night. Waking up each morning does somehow let me begin again. I'm trying to think of life as continuous opportunities to let go of the day before and trek along once again, as best as I can. Maybe someday I can move closer to where I'd like to be, which is even in each moment that's hard or trying or maybe I failed in some respect or could have done something differently or just wished everything could be somehow different with my circumstances, if I could lay that over to God and allow his grace to wash me anew right there.

I've always been someone who wanted to do great things, accomplish something major in this lifetime. I still do, to some extent. But day in and day out, life is life, and right now I do what I can to get through to the next day hopefully without too much trouble, and I'm trying to be content that God is doing great things in me, and maybe that's more important anyway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's been sort of a difficult 24 hours, but I decided to celebrate it being over by going for a swim (yes I did lots of dolphin jumps J and M:))'s some pictures of my favorite little friends courtesy of Julianne.

Someday, I'm still going to swim with them (with my friend Jodi from high school who shares my love of dolphins and maybe deep down is one, too!).

Tonight I just want to say thanks to an everlasting Traci, who is always there when I need her friendship and prayers. This is only part of what I thought was such a heartfelt prayer. It helps me see how much prayer DOES change things as my situation and perception changed before I even opened my inbox, and I know it's in part because of God's will to listen to our hearts. I hope I can learn from the earnestness (if that's a word) of your prayers, Traci.

God, help us to seek you. Forgive our thoughts that we should and can control our circumstances. The truth is that you are in control. Forgive our anxiousness. Help us to pray and cast off the burdens in this world as you desire us to.

Sometimes, it's hard to see how God gets the glory from tough situations, but I pray that somehow He will (and selfishly I pray that this can come sooner rather than later for some of mine). Lord, help me discover how to pray earnestly for your will and not to just be removed from discomfort. I know you have everything in control.

Small but significant.

Most Tuesday mornings I meet with my friends Liz and Sarah for a Bible study on Romans. Liz used to live in my apartment complex but she moved to Wake Forest because she was getting married. And Sarah is my friend from Liz who I met when I started going to the study. I became great friends with them both pretty instantly upon meeting them, although I met Liz about a year before. We don't get to see each other too much, but when we do, it's always a time of sharing our recent stories and life situations, laughing and just having a good time, before we get to studying God's word. Those girls are amazing and I always come out more encouraged when being around them.

One of the points I got out of talking with them today is that this world and God's plan for it is so much bigger than the here and now, and bigger than ourselves and our life which seems to be the focal point, because we don't really know any different. Iadmit, it's hard sometimes to think outside of something big that happens now, because we really do have a simple perspective compared to God's vast understanding of how all our lives fit together and time in general. Sarah mentioned how she saw a video by Rob Bell that dicussed how different we would view things if we saw them in 2D, and that somehow our life is lived in 1D, although we've lived the past, and we know (for the most part) that there is a future ahead of us, all we can see and actually be part of at one time is the now, the present, that 1D spectrum of understanding. God has a 3D look at everything all of us have done, are doing now, and will do. That's hard to comprehend.

It's interesting to me that this falls into the way of thinking that pops into my head sometimes, where it's hard for me to fathom that God somehow is in tune with (and even interested in) the goings-on of my little existence when there's such a vast world out there. Is he really as involved as people speak of him being? Has he really constructed and worked out a precise plan for me in the same way he has for people in general? Sometimes I want to know more about how God works than I possibly ever could. It's in my nature to be curious about things like this, but I think it's important forme to come to an acceptance that even if it's hard to believe, I have to have faith that God is there personally and intimitally for all people individually. He does care for us in ways we don't even realize.

I have recently started to really like Robbie Seay's songs (but I love Jason and the Visio Dei band singing them even more:) ) I really like Song of Hope and Love Wins. Here's a bit of the words from Love Wins.

It’s a big world,
We are hoping
For a big change,
We are broken

In the fading light of a dying sun
We cry for redemption.
There is hope, there is hope, there is hope
Everyone who’s lost will be coming home
And everything that hurts will be whole again
And love will be the last thing standing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I guess I like good friends...

I am sitting here looking at a picture frame my friend Mandy sent me for my birthday. She is one of the craftiest people I know (among having a ton of other fabulous qualities). It's a picture of me and her and the other two girls who all student taught together in Switzerland for 3 months. It's kind of rare that I really "study" something like a picture, piece of artwork, building, etc, but when I do, I'm always surprised by my reaction. In this picture, I really think the backdrop looks painted or drawn on. The buildings are so old, medieval, and rustic looking, that they just stand out amidst four normal looking girls who take on the main focus of the picture. The picture sort of reminds me of how much we stood out in every way on that trip.

Going overseas was probably one of the first direct ways I saw God making a significant change in who I was. I think He was planting a seed that started to grow then and has really sprouted up since moving to Raleigh. I was definitely put out of my comfort zone in Switzerland. Even though it was a magical, beautiful, and wonderful place and experience, everything was not always hunky-dory. That's true to life here, too, and although Raleigh is not the same as a foreign country, there's still plenty of ups and downs that pull me out of my comfort zone on a routine basis. I continuously feel God showing me I need to let go of my need to control my situations and circumstances, and learn to rely on only him. It's been a process, but I'm realizing how much better my life and relationship with Him is when I stop trying to be self-sufficient.

Will it really be 3 years ago in November that we returned from the trip? It was one of the most bitter-sweet experiences I've ever had. I'm so glad for it and can still feel myself there when I close my eyes and remember it. There's so much that can be said about this time, and I'm glad I allow myself to revisit it in my thoughts and dreams sometimes, but I also think there's a reality in that what I gained from the experience is still present with me. One of those things is the true friendship I ended up with through getting closer to the girls on that trip. I feel a bit like Mandy is the friend I was looking for all of childhood. We can talk about anything, and much of what we talk about probably could or should have been digested earlier in our lives, at least on my end, but better late than never. She helps me stand firm in what I believe in, is an ever-lasting cheerleader for me, and is my side-kick dreamer and soul-searcher. And my roommate Abby, who I was fortunate enough to see get married recently, is very sincere, has shown me how to mesh dreams with reality, and is a rock of a friend, not changing her tune with you despite any major changes happening in her own life.

I'm thankful for these girls, who are among those I'm close with who I feel God has placed in my life to show me a part of His character that I sometimes I overlook. God loves us unconditionally, and although it's much harder for us as troubled humans to portray this to each other, I feel that I am able to understand God's constancy more because of these people who do seem to love me no matter what. Whether right or wrong to connect the two, God, I hope will get the glory, and that's what matters!