Thursday, July 14, 2011

He Knows

Summer is made for adventures
Or maybe it is
Adventures that are made for summer.

Either way,
The two go hand in hand (as well as adventures and Caroline).

Adventures have found me many a time this summer.
They find me alone, with friends, with family, and even with strangers.
I have sought out adventures on foot, by bike, by paddleboat,
By kayak, by canoe, by plane, and by car.
Adventures are present at all times of day—morning, afternoon, midst a sunset,
And even in the moonlight. 
I have set out on adventures that have a destination,
But also ones that have no more plans than to see where the road will lead
(my Trek and I personally enjoy these kind the best).
Adventures have taken me to a Renaissance Fair
Where running away from a carney was necessary,
To a swamp where leech gathering took place,
To a dinner party that turned into a search-for-the-neighbor’s-chicken party,
Next to a bonfire where head-wraps and accents were present,
Sitting around a kitchen table with dear friends at late hours of the night filling the room with laughter,
At a concert where I was serenaded on my birthday,
Reconnecting friendships that I never thought could be rekindled,
Releasing a “2011” balloon with strangers in hopes of bringing in a good year,
A grueling 80 mile bike ride,
Learning how to drive a motorcycle,
Unloading trailers full of hay,
And a never ending journey of self discovery.

This summer has surprised me;
I have surprised myself.

I never expected to be spending this summer within the confines of my own home.
Camp Wakonda has been my home for the past two summers
And not being there has been heart wrenching at times.
To know that I am not able to be there playing capture the flag after dinner every night
Or even to share a meal with the amazing kids that God brings to camp every summer is a little tough, I will admit.
But somehow,
 God always knows what is best for me and knows where I need to be.

This summer has turned out to be more than I could have asked for.
I have bonded with my dad,
Spent time with my mom,
Hung out with my little brother,
And enjoyed the company of my older brother and his girlfriend upon their visits.
Family has become more important to me than ever, as well as my friendships.
When our schedules allow and I have the time to see my friends,
There is so much happiness and laughter that tears swell in my lacrimal glands.

The adventures I have had and the people I have had them with are priceless.
I would not trade them for anything.
I have learned so much, through them and with them,
About myself and my walk with God
That I almost feel like a whole new person.
And I know that if I were to be any place but here, at my home sweet home,
I would have been too distracted to realize these things.

It’s funny to look back at the past year of my life
And to see how much planning I have done, including the plans for my summer,
And to see how much things have changed.

Jeremiah 29:11 has become a verse that I lean heavily on.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

He knows.
He knows everything that will happen in my life.
He has it all planned out
And here I am frantically planning this and that.
I can just imagine God lovingly chuckling and shaking His head.

I can only imagine how ridiculous I must look making these plans for my life
That change every other day and panicking when nothing comes together.
I am like the 5 year old who is frantically flailing their arms and legs
In water that is only knee deep
Because they are too busy doing so to stand up and realize that they are okay
Because they think they know everything.
But they don’t.
If only they would stop and look around,
They would realize that everything is under control.

Thankfully, I am constantly learning.
I am learning to trust God more and the mysterious but amazing ways in which He works.
I know He is in control, 
I just need to remember that when I find myself in times of decision-making.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way should go;
I will guide you with My eye.”
Psalm 32:8

Lord, I am following you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Birthday, a Time for Thanksgiving

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Is the day I turned 19.

On Sunday, distant family joined me to celebrate my birthday a few days early.

As we were sitting down for dinner,
My dad said a prayer.
Like usual, he thanked God for the food
That He provides so abundantly
And then,
He thanked God
For bringing me through to celebrate yet another birthday—my 19th birthday.

That really got to me.

I seem to often forget that God is able to at any moment take my life away.
I am so blessed that I have had 18 years of life on this earth
And that God is giving me yet another year.
I don’t know why He is keeping this sinner around,
But I am so thankful for His loving mercy.

Since then,
I can’t stop thinking about all the blessings I have had in just the past week.

My sincere apologies if you are getting sick of my rants about blessings
But I can’t get over them!
God has been way too good to me.
I feel like a child who is getting candy not just given but
thrown at them!

Yes, life is that good.

Seven is a good number,
A number that represents whole-ness,
And my favorite number.
So here are just seven things that have made my life over-flow with happiness this past week.

I live in the country.
When I say country, I mean that the nearest town is about 6 farms away
(equivalent to about 10 miles)
And consists of a grocery store, a Subway, a McDonalds, and 3 gas stations.
Country as in
The country roads by my house are so untraveled that I could go running in my Swimsuit and no one would ever know.

When I look out the back window into my back yard,
 I can’t see past a dense forest of trees.

My summers consist of chopping and stacking firewood for the winter
And I rake the mowed grass to put in my mom’s garden.
The only noises I hear when my window is open is the breeze running through the leaves and the birds singing their song,
Which is only interrupted every once in a while by a car cruising through the country.

Life has a leisurely pace here
That is only rushed by the setting of the sun.

The country is my home
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m not one that cares to make plans for my own birthday.
I don’t really care for having the attention on me
And presents aren’t a big deal to me.
However, my friends made a point to celebrate my birthday with me anyways.

I was surprised with presents, a cake,
Front row seats at my favorite band’s concert,
 And was serenaded by the band upon request by my friends.
But beyond all of that,
They were there to put a smile on my face
And make my day memorable.

My friends are the greatest.

On my birthday,
I received a phone call that made my heart skip a beat.

My friendship with the person that called me had disintegrated in the fall
And I was left bitter.
I didn’t understand the meaning of our friendship when things came to an “end”
But this phone call showed me why.

In time, God has showed me the highest quality of friendship in this person.
Though things ended roughly,
It was because they were doing what was in my best interest.
I had never experienced a relationship before in which someone was so self-less.

Despite the “end” in our friendship,
They reached out through this phone call
And made an effort to once again show their care for me.

The phone call was bittersweet.
I was happy to talk to them
But afterward, I was left haunted with the great memories we shared
And knowing we would never again be that close.
However, this call finally removed my bitter feelings
And has left me with peace knowing that we have finally reached the point where we can be friends again.
I felt as though a 20 pound weight was lifted off my chest.
I was finally felt at peace with the situation concerning this person.

It is amazing to see how God has in time revealed the reasons for that friendship after I had questioned it so much earlier.

A phone call has never meant more to me.

I went for a bike ride with my dad and younger brother on Memorial Day.
It’s safe to say that I fell head over heels for biking.

I love how the world looks different from a bike.
You ride fast enough so the scenery is changing often
But slow enough to look around
And notice things you would miss when driving in a car.
I love the challenge of up biking up-hill
And the freedom of cruising downhill.

If my approximations are correct,
I have biked about 50 miles in the past two days.

Yes, I think I’m madly in love.

I have made plans to
Go to Joplin, Missouri at the end of July
 To help with tornado disaster clean up.

There is nothing I love more than helping someone else.
It makes me feel worthwhile.
It puts meaning into my life.

I think this is a great opportunity
To which I can dedicate my time to.
I will be able to help people at a time of great need
And share the love of God.

This will be something to remember.

My older brother, Michael, is the best.
I don’t think he realizes how much I look up to him
Nevertheless how proud I am of him
And his astounding art achievements despite his under-grad standing.

I was in a little pickle earlier this week
When I turned to him for help with a decision.
I guess I knew the right decision all along
But something was tempting me to rationalize the bad decision.

Like always,
He was there to help me out
And set me straight.

I love him!
Enough said.


I think what makes me the happiest is noticing all the blessings in my life,
To just see God all around me
And to be surrounded by His love.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of His love,
I am able to keep my head above the water.
I am not consumed by this world
Because His compassions never fail
And they are always new.
And He gives me happiness.

My God is amazing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No More

I went for a walk today.
It seemed to be the only fitting way to celebrate the end of such a beautiful day.

I set off alone with no destination in mind
And was quickly distracted with thoughts.

For the past few weeks,
I’ve been slightly frustrated but mostly confused as to why God chooses to
Put something in my life and then take it away.
I’ve spent a great deal of time
Questioning it and
Trying to figure it out on my own
Because that’s what I do—I want to make sure things get fixed
Just incase God forgets about it or doesn’t make His way back to me.
 (Even though I know these thoughts are completely silly.)

So, here I was walking,
Staring at the ground,
And having this little chat with God
While yet again trying to rationalize everything that has happened
When I stumbled upon a dead possum
That had been run over on the side of the road.

I missed it by a few inches
As my heart skipped a beat
While my respiration rate increased.

It was a horrendous sight
And all of a sudden, I didn’t want to be alone anymore.
But as I was walking around it,
I noticed the breeze—the breeze that had been there all along
But that I was too busy to notice.

I was dumbfounded.
Why am I always worrying and trying to fix things
When God is always there?

How could I ever think that He could forget about me?

He has never forgotten to change the seasons at their due time
Or makes the flowers bloom
And like Matthew 6:26 says,
“Aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?”

To be honest,
I feel quite selfish to have wanted answers from God
When I know that God’s timing is perfect
And I know he has everything planned out.
God himself says,

"For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

So no more doubting or questioning,
Whether good or bad,
I trust you God.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dearest Southern

Dearest Southern,

You have been good to me, almost too good if that’s possible. In fact, you make it hard to return home. We had a rough start and those things I’ve said about you, I take them all back. I don’t know what brought us together. There is no other rational explanation than to give God the credit. He always knows what is best for me, despite how bad things seem to be.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting upon this past year and it is amazing how God has worked in my life especially when I was searching for Him because I didn’t think He was there. I had a really rough start to college. I was essentially friendless because I didn’t come from the network of academies and my heart wanted to be somewhere else. On top of that, I couldn’t find myself. I didn’t know who I was or what I stood for. I essentially hated life my first semester, and I hated God for making me suffer like He did because at the time, I thought it was all pointless. I was miserable and I didn’t see any benefit to any of it. If at some point in the first semester, someone would have told me that I could get up and transfer, I would have been out of here in the blink of an eye. But God didn’t let me.

I didn’t know it at the time, but God was establishing my faith that first semester. I have never had an experience in my life where I strayed away from God but neither had I ever felt a real relationship with Him until now. I began to see Him in every aspect of my life. I saw His guiding hand and I saw His love for me in every part of my day. Sometimes God lets us fall, but He always catches us before we hit the bottom.

Every day of first semester, I had questioned God, “Why am I here? I don’t belong.” But though I feel like I fell a long, long, long way, He has raised me up to be ten times higher, stronger, and happier than where I was before. He has blessed me in too many ways to count; I don’t feel deserving of it.

The biggest blessing in my life is the people He has brought into my life. Making friendships from scratch was really tough. For the longest time, I didn’t feel like myself. I was strangely quiet though there was a lot that I wanted to say and I simply lost all thought processes when I found myself in a conversation. I literally would forget words. It didn’t help that when I did feel comfortable people didn’t seem to understand my jokes, quirkiness, or simply my train of thought. All I wanted was to go home to my friends that I knew would understand me. But again, God had different plans for me and though I was bitter at the time, looking back, you have no idea how thankful I am for that.

My friends here are like none other. I love them so much. They have helped me embrace myself and my “free” spirit and taught me to be comfortable in my skin.
Like friends do, they accepted my weird self. They laugh when I say stupid stuff, understand when I didn’t think anyone else would (especially when I can’t formulate my thoughts into sentences), and act weird with me instead of judging me. Most importantly, they have taught me to embrace myself. It’s those differences, those quirks, that make me, me and those are the things they love me for.

Southern, you have become my home away from home. You have become a place that is my own (even though I have to share you with about 3,000 other students). You make it hard to say goodbye knowing that I may not see some of my friends ever again on this earth, but I know we’ll have the best reunion ever in heaven!

It’s crazy how much one can grow so fond of a place and grow so close to people after just one year. It’s scary to know that I have to leave and I’m not coming back next year. I’m overwhelmed with emotions of excitement for adventures that lie ahead of me in Europe next year, but sad because of the goodbyes left to said before my journey starts and knowing that I will not be here with the rest of my friends next school year while life goes on.

As this year ends, I realize that I still have a lot of room to grow. My faith in God is tested every day. I definitely don’t understand the things that are happening my life, but like I have learned here, I am going to trust God because I know He has it all planned out.

Southern, you have been the best thing that has happened in my life, without a doubt. Here, I have made life-long memories with unforgettable people that I will miss more than words can possibly express. Thank you for everything, the good and the bad. You have brought me to where I’m standing today.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Too Good to be True (Not!)

At my church,
At some point in the service,
It is not uncommon to hear the question -
“Have you been blessed this week?”

I feel as though in the past I have always answered yes to that question.
But I answered yes
Because I didn’t want to disappoint God
Or make Him think I was ungrateful.
People at church would always talk about how they felt God’s love
And I always was jealous of them
Because I wanted to experience that unexplainable love that oozed out of them and the blessings they spoke of.

In these past two weeks,
 I have felt so blessed.
I now know what those people in my church were talking about.
Words can’t even come close to describing the feeling of being blessed.
In fact, it’s overwhelming.


It’s everything!
God didn’t provide me with a check large enough to pay for my school this year
But over and over He has faithfully shown me His love through every little thing in my day,
Which means more to me than any sum of money.


He wakes me up every morning
And leads me through every single stressful minute of my day.
And When I’m at the peak of my stress and feel helpless, not quite sure how I will possibly finish my to-do list,
He makes everything fall into place.

I go to an amazing school
Where every morning I am privileged to walk on the promenade
Amidst the white blooming trees
And the flowers that God sends us every spring
Accompanied by the rising sun.
And it’s here that I have the privilege of gaining a profound education from respectable professors
In a Christian setting.
I love that classes start out with prayers
And everything returns to and is focused on God.
It returns our focus to where it should be in the first place.

In addition to being at am amazing school, I have made super cool friends here.
No for real, they are the coolest.
They make me laugh so hard that no sound comes out and I can’t breath
And they don’t judge me
No matter how cheesy I may be, how weird my laugh may come out,
Or what stupid thing may blurt out of my mouth.
(Or at least they judge me lovingly.)
They must be heaven sent because there is no other explanation.

The hockey intramural season just ended
And though we lost every single game,
It was the most fun I have ever had playing a sport
Not to mention with the coolest girls on campus!

The soccer intramural season is starting this week.
I am so excited to run around like a maniac
While chasing an inflated leather sphere
On a vast field in the beautiful outdoors that God created.
(Yes, I am aware, I love running a little too much.)

The fact that God has given me the ability to walk nonetheless run
Whether it be
Through the flooded greenway,
Pouncing in puddles,
Or even on the plain, dry pavement
Brings me such joy.

I spent Friday night stargazing with friends
While talking about God.
Simply amazing.

My entire weekend was spent talking about God.
I cannot explain how uplifting that was.
If only you could have experienced how fired up these conversations were.
I saw my friends on fire for God.
And it was inspiring.

Sophomore year.
Next year, I’m studying abroad in France!
What, what?!
Yea, I still can’t believe it.

I have breakfast with friends on days of A&P quizzes
To get some final minute studying done
But without fail, we always get sidetracked by amazing conversations about God.
And if you knew me,
You would know that I would normally freak out if I don’t get my studying done
But I am perfectly content with our distractions
Because it’s the best distraction -

So, as you can imagine,
The list goes on and on
As do God’s blessings.

And His blessings fill me up with His overflowing love.

I was sitting in church today
And I found myself smiling.
Not because the speaker said something funny
Or I saw a friend
But because I could feel God’s love.
 It makes me so happy that it seems too good to be true
But get this
(this is the best part)
It's not too good to be true.

I wish I could explain it better
But words are not sufficient enough to explain any aspect of God
Nonetheless His love.
However, this Bible verse will suffice.

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
-Psalms 4:7-8

It constantly baffles me that God would choose to bless me, a sinner.
But then I remember that that is Satan trying to get me distracted
However, that fails because God’s love is unrestricted, undeniable, and unending.
Experiencing it these past two weeks
And seeing how real He is has made me realize that
I never want to leave His umbrella of love and protection.

You can stand under His umbrella-ella-ella (ay, ay, ay) too!
And the best part is that there is always more room.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nothing Compares

How many times do you skip your daily devotion with God because
a)    you’re too tired in the morning
b)   too busy during the day
c)    too tired right before you go to bed, or
d)   rather do something else when you are actually free?

I don’t know how many times I’ve done it so
I’ll simply plead guilty.
And I hate speaking for others
But I’m sure you do too.

God loved us so much
That He died on the cross so that we may live
(Even before we were even born!)
And how do we show our gratitude?
Chan illustrates our actions nicely.
“God gets a scrap or 2 only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing.”

How ridiculous is that?!
We give Him only what is left of us on a busy day.
Never a full devotion or bible study.
Just a mumbled prayer as we are half asleep.

Because we are greedy.
People are greedy.
We are only interested in what we want.
That’s how it has always been.

When the priests in Malachi’s day were preparing for the offering,
They would pick out the spotless animals
And not sacrifice them to God
But instead keep them for themselves.
The less desirable, or second best, was given to God.
This totally applies to our actions today.

And we’ve got it all wrong.

“God wants our best,
Deserves our best,
And demands our best.”
But do we give him our best?
Sadly, no.

We get caught up so quickly in our worlds.
Sometimes we don’t even notice when it happens
Because we are so engrossed.

Take me for example.
First semester I was miserable and bitter.
Every day I woke up and questioned God
Why He had allowed me to make the decision to come to Southern.
And because of that,
I was missing the point.
By getting caught up in my frustration,
I didn’t allow myself to see or love God.

Thankfully God is a God of grace
“His mercies are new every morning.” Lamentations 3
Because without it,
We would be lost.

So, our mission is to love God.
How important is love you ask?

Well, Paul claims that if “I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2-3

“According to God, we are here to love. Not much else really matters.

Following Christ isn’t something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side.
It is not a label we can display when it is useful.
It must be central to everything we do and are.
Most of our thoughts are centered on 
the money we want to make,
the school we want to attend,
the body we aspire to have,
the spouse we want to marry,
the kind of person we want to become…
But the fact is that nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God;
It’s about eternity,
And nothing compares with that.”
Crazy Love by Francis Chan

We need to get our priorities straight.
Yes, school is important
But will it guarantee your eternal life?
Your worldly desires and possessions may get you in the “in-crowd”
But will it get you into heaven?

So, our relationship with God is now bumped to the top of our list.
But how do we love?
What does he want from us?

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,13 (below)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never end… faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Now, re-read the passage but ever time you read the word “love”,
Replace it with your name.
And that is how we are to love.

When we love God,
When we are truly in love with Him,
Our love will spill over into every aspect of our lives
And people will see that.
They will be drawn to it
And most importantly, drawn to Him.

So now think about this:

“Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants?
Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life?
Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter,
Unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?”

Loving God won’t be easy.
God even admits it.
“The road is narrow and few will find it.”
But He also says,
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Luke 18:27

So, love the Lord with all your heart and soul and strength.
Love with no end
As He has loved you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

See the sparrows in the sky?

When you graduate high school and start college,
I guarantee your thoughts will be consumed by one question.
“What am I doing?”

As in, “What classes should I be taking?”
“What should I major in?”
“Where am I going to school?”
“Should I transfer?”

The scary thing is,
You never know what the right decision is.
You may think you know, but how would you?
There could be other possibilities out there that may be better, quicker, or more suited for you that you may not even know about.

I feel like lately, I have been pressured to make one decision after another.
I hate it because I don’t know which one to take and which one to decline.
I always think about how different my life could be depending on which decision I make and that is terrifying.
I could make or break my life in one decision?
Why am I given such power?

I’ve had several conversations about the future and decision making with people in the past week.
And though I talked to different people,
Someone always ended up saying something along these lines:

I am so overwhelmed with decisions.
I don’t know what to do anymore.
The only thing I do know is that I need to put my faith in God.
He has to lead the way because I have no idea where I’m going.

I won’t lie,
Having faith can be very difficult.

My faith has been tested to the extremes this semester.
And for the longest time I was frustrated and bitter thinking
Why God have you put me in this situation?
Why did you let me make this horrible decision?

At low points, I dared to question God’s love for me.

I can’t believe how wrong and selfish
that was of me.

Silly me.
 I was so caught up in my selfish lifestyle that I didn’t realize that God’s actions were all out of

First of all, God does not let us go through anything that we cannot handle.
And second, He loves us with an indescribable love
So He will not put us through anything unnecessary.
Everything has a purpose.
In fact Chan says it nicely,
“Even though we could die at any moment and generally think our puny lives are pretty sweet compared to loving Him,
He persists in loving us with unending, outrageous love.”

Outrageous love.

I like the sound of that.

It just gives me comfort to know that He loves me no matter what.
No matter what decisions I make,
Whether I decide to become a doctor and am really successful
Or am a failure and have a job that provides me barely enough to live week to week
 Because his love is
Without exceptions.

There is a song (“Everlasting” by Hillsong)
That I have been listening to a lot lately and it gives me comfort in times of decisions.

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

He will always love me and forgive me
No matter what my decisions are or what they lead to.

And on top of that,
Because He loves me,
I know that He will guide me to do the right thing
Or lead me through the experiences that I need in order to grow.
I just need to have faith.

If your faith is growing weary
Because you feel like God isn’t there or doesn’t care,
Think about these lyrics from “It’s Alright” by Melissa Otto.

“[God] said,
“Oh you of little faith,
See the sparrows in the sky,
Unaccompanied by the cares of the wild...
How much more to me are you worth than these?”

He loves you,
(more than the birds in the sky)
Cares about you,
(more than the birds which He provides with everything they need)
And will help you through every decision
If you just have faith
And take time to listen to Him.

So take time out of your hectic schedule,
To not talk to God but
To be still and
Just listen.
He will point you in the right direction.
He will never fail you.