“If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking” “Your grace abounds in deepest waters” These lines are lyrics from a couple of my favorite worship songs. They’re not my favorite because of their popularity among the church culture, although I probably wouldn’t have heard them if they were not popular-but they are my favorite because of these individual lines here. I have spent more time thinking about these two lines than maybe any other lyrics of any other song. Why? Because I have a fear of the ocean. Why? I have no idea. I have never had a seriously bad encounter with the deep waters of the ocean. I once was stung by jelly fish in the Gulf Shores, twice in a row actually. Besides flying over the ocean, I have only ever been off the shoreline once when I visited the platform my dad used to work on. But even then I was high above the water and very safe, even though that grate for a floor to see the deep abyss beneath me sent me clinging to the railing. It is so deep. SO DEEP! Some parts of the ocean haven’t even been discovered yet [I may be completely making that up; either way, that thought terrifies me]. Perhaps one of the things which scares me about the ocean is how little I know about it. I have seen countless movies about the wild and scary creatures living there-duuunuh….and even more movies about people’s planes crashing into the ocean, or being ship wrecked. Maybe I watch too many movies-I’m going to say that is a fact. What I know about the ocean has not been gained by my own experience. So what does all of this have to do with my favorite lyrics? “If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking” This is from John Mark McMillan’s popular song “How He Loves Us”. What I love about this lyric is how it represents the act of receiving grace. We cannot earn grace, it is something that God chooses to bestow on us, because He loves us. And when He does this, there is nothing we can do but live. Does that make sense? So picture yourself in a pool. You can picture yourself in the ocean if you like, but if you are like me and want to avoid a small panic attack, start out with a pool. Now, imagine you are holding your breath and lying flat somewhat on top of the water. Now let that breath out through your nose and you start to sink to the bottom. Our instincts tell us to start kicking our legs and moving our arms to get us back afloat. Our lungs begin working overtime with adrenaline to take that air back in. Now, imagine yourself in the deep, deep ocean. Go ahead, try it out…I’m panicking a little with you. No land in sight. No life jacket. No raft. Not even goggles or a snorkel. No telling what is in the water with you. You’ve been treading water for far too long and you are worn out. You begin to sink. But instead of the feeling of suffocation, something miraculous happens-you are still breathing! It is not like breathing air for you are under water, but that does not stop your lungs. You no longer have to move your body, it is in a total state of relaxation. And you sink. Deeper and deeper into that overwhelming dark abyss. Your eyes adjust and you are able to see what you could not before. The beasts which live there, though terrifyingly big still, are swimming so freely in that home of theirs. They cannot harm you. Nothing can harm you. And you continue to sink, not drown. “Your grace abounds in deepest waters” (Oceans by Hillsong United) The deeper into the ocean one goes, the higher the pressure one encounters. But one would suffocate before even reaching the bottom. “Oxygen becomes TOXIC under pressure. 21% of air is oxygen – this becomes toxic at depth, so there are different artificial gasses and different levels of oxygen in some [scuba] tanks, allowing divers to go deeper. The maximum depth [one can dive is] 1800 feet. Beyond that, there is no way for divers to breathe.”-someone on the internet who knows more than me. We were not meant to breathe under water, that is obvious. When we are thrown into that scary scenario I laid out for you up there, we are not where we were intended to be. There are safe ways for us to experience the ocean, but up there [scenario] is not it. God created us to live in perfect community with Him. When sin entered the world, we were then separated from God. But because of GRACE, God made a way for us to live with Him again; faith. Specifically, for you and I today, faith in Jesus Christ. Even in grace, we still sin. But to the believer, grace may have become like second nature-no longer feeling supernatural. For the one who has never encountered it, it is the most freeing experience in the world. The truth is, however, we were all on the bottom of that ocean floor-out of air and lifeless. No one could swim to the top, no one could go lower. And most times, it is when we are in the deepest parts of the ocean where we really see God’s grace as most awesome. We all have the equal abyss of grace for God to come to us through. Won’t you let Him? All we have to do after grace is trust and follow Him. So let that sink in. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
I choose joy.
I watched the sun set last Sunday from the backseat of my aunt and uncle’s car on the way home from Sante Fe. It had been raining off and on so the sky was overcast and the sun wasn’t as visible as I like it to be, but the light and colors were enough over the plains of the Oklahoma/Texas border. I wanted it to look prettier to take a picture, but it wasn’t what I hoped for. But it was still beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ugly sunset. It wasn’t one of those moments that takes your breath away; I had to look more intentionally. I chose to find beauty it in.
Throughout the 23 years of my life, I have learned that not everything will be as I hope for. I have very little to no control of what happens in the big picture of my life and the lives around me. Yes, I am responsible for my actions, choices, and reactions, but I know Who really holds my life in His hands. Since last Sunday’s setting sun I have encountered more opportunities to choose to find the beauty, and if none, choose joy.
I love my friends. I love to laugh with them and talk about the important and goofy things in life, because we can’t be serious all the time. I love to play volleyball, camp, play board games, watch movies, and eat with them. I hate to see them hurt. Hate it. It physically pains me to know a friend is hurting. Over the last week, three of my very dear friends have called or texted with struggles and situations I can’t imagine going through. And these are tough friends; not ones to complain much or ever. I listened and prayed and loved as best I could. But I couldn’t take away their pain. I can’t change what their going through. On Thursday I found out I did not get the job I really wanted, and Friday my car broke down on the way to my current part-time job. To be honest, it’s hard to find the beauty in it all. Is there any? I don’t know. I don’t say any of this for pity on me, or my friends really. Life is hard. Crappy things are going to happen. But I, we, can choose how to react. It’s okay to be upset and hurt with friends who hurt. It’s okay to be bummed about not landing the “dream” job. But if I react that way and not hold on to my joy, I will become miserable.
We often interchange joy and happiness, and that is a big mistake. Happiness is a temporary emotion; it is fleeting. Happiness can also be faked. Joy is genuine and is not dependent on a given circumstance. Joy is what we find when we have seen Jesus. Jesus never left my friends or me in the midst of those dark or frustrating life moments. It may be hard to see Him, but if He is here then there is opportunity to choose joy. Choosing joy does not fix the situation or make it all better, but it will open your eyes to Who is better. Just like the sun was still setting behind those clouds, I couldn’t see it, but I still saw its light. Actually, we never see the sun itself, the giant ball of gas that it is; we just see the light it gives out. I take some comfort in that. I see the light from this source I’ve never been close enough to actually see, and I feel the heat from what I can never be close to touch and live. God sent His Son to be the light that I’ve only seen in my heart and the hearts of those who believe. He sent Him so I could feel Him in my soul and in the warm embraces of those who love Him more than themselves.
He is the reason I choose joy.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV
You may not know the friends and the situations I speak of, but if you are a friend of Jesus I ask that you please pray for them. Thank you.
OKC Memorial Half-Marathon
After much running, reading, driving, resting and sleeping, I am finally sitting down to write an update on my earlier post from January, Shooting for Goals. Some have been easier than others, but I am happy to say I’ve been sticking with and have completed a couple!
Last Sunday, April 27th, I ran the OKC Memorial half-marathon with my favorite team, FBC Norman!
But before I talk about the actual marathon, I must walk you through the training process…or should I say jog you through it…
I had never ran more than 4 miles before training for this 13.1 road of physical pain and emotions. So I started with a program (Hal Higdon Training Program) and did my best to stick with it. But my best wasn’t cutting it. I was running on my own for most of the beginning of training and it was not good. I kept walking and getting bored and thinking negatively about how I was doing. When it was time for me to be at 6 miles, I was still at 4. It became more of a “Ugh I have to go run” instead of “I get to go train my body for something great”. So I reached out to my teammates. All it took was a group text to set up a group run and boom, I had accountability. Accountability is so important for making goals. Someone who knows what it means to you, and especially someone who has the same goal as you…there is so much good in that relationship.
Krystal and I ran our first run together with Joey and Dustin. They were much faster than us so we kept each other at a good pace that was more comfortable, but challenging enough. We ran 7 miles that day, our longest run to that point! It was so much easier to keep running with her by my side. So we kept at it. During the week we would run together, just she and I, and on the weekends Connor joined us. Though I joked about being a third wheel runner a lot, I truly enjoyed those times of running with them and hanging out afterwards trying to catch our breathes and not die.
One particular training day, Krystal and I ran from my house to campus and back, totaling up to 5 miles. When we were done it felt like we’d only ran 3! What was the difference we wondered? Well it was probably the 8 miles we had previously ran that weekend, which was super difficult, so running less wasn’t as difficult. “Oh, so that’s how training works. Who knew?” But really, the encouragement that Krystal gives when we ran was so great. When I felt like I needed to walk for a bit, she would run back to me and jog beside me until my lungs were working properly. This was super humbling for me, because when I’m doing badly I just want to be alone and take my time. I don’t think she knew this, and I’m really glad she didn’t. Thank you, Krystal 🙂
Race day morning started early as I woke up at 4am to eat a good snack of breakfast and pick up a teammate across town. It was pleasantly warm as I picked her up and we drove to meet the rest of the team, chatting excitedly about the endeavor ahead. We met at Truman to carpool, and as everyone was stretching and getting pumped for the drive up there we saw the flashes of lightening that were to later postpone the start of the marathon. It sprinkled only a little on the way, but by the time we walked to Coffee Slingers it was raining and stormy and the officer nearby told us the race was delayed 30 minutes. So it ended up being an hour and 50 minutes of us waiting in a coffee shop and then drive-thru bank, huddling up to keep dry and warm, and joking about I can’t even remember what. Honestly it was a blast because of the people I was with.
Then the clouds began to move on, and the crowd’s spirits began to lift. We jogged over to the start line and I first laid my eyes on about half of the people I would be running with, which still looked like one million all bunched up on the street, stripping their rain gear off as the weather was warming up quickly. The energy was amazing! Our bright shirts were helpful in keeping up with our group, but only until we go there and saw about 2,735 people wearing the same color. So we did our best to keep together and move up the line.
There we were, finally at the start, the place we’ve been working up to for so long. The people and the scenery was so much to take in and all I could think was “Oh man this is awesome..but don’t start out too fast…” Then the gun went off and about 4 minutes later Taylor and I were running across the start line, she running on ahead of me as I told her I’m slower 🙂 First awesome thing to run by were the men and women in their firefighting uniforms, walking with the Oklahoma and American flags. As people ran by them, they shouted thanks and support and I was trying not to cry. Here the reality of of why this marathon began in the first place really hit me. Though I don’t remember April 19, 1995 very well, I have grown up seeing the impact it has had on this state and it’s people. “We run to remember” they say, “We run for those who can’t”. Beautiful. I kept this in mind and tried to just focus on all the neat things going on around me as I ran; the funny signs, the music, the people dressed as bananas on Gorilla Hill, the people I saw along the way that I knew. I can honestly and happily say I don’t recall having any negative thoughts about how I was doing while I was running. My knee was hurting off and on and so was my hip, so I ran as much as I could and walked a little when I really needed to. I took the water and Poweraid, and one time took the pretzels, but immediately spit them out when I realized how dry they made my mouth. Why pretzels?! Bananas and oranges were a pleasant alternative later on though. Mmm.
The mile markers got higher and the amount of people passing me wasn’t as much as it was in the beginning and I really began to feel like I was doing something great for myself. I knew I could finish it as where before I’d ran more than 4 miles I didn’t think I could really run 13 at once. It was a pretty cool feeling; proud of myself in a most humbling manner-through the pain. Then came the last mile, which I told myself I was running all of no matter what. Bystanders on the side kept telling us we were so close, and I clung to their words. And then the straightaway…the last one…the one that led to the finish. I couldn’t believe I was there. I kept moving my legs and told them to go faster. I thought again about those who can’t tell their legs to move faster, or to move at all. I thought about precious Finn, and I dedicated those last 100 yards to him as I picked up speed. For those reading who do not know Finn, He is my University Minister’s son. He’s an adorable 2 year old blonde-haired, blue-eyed sweet boy who has spina bifida; something I knew nothing of until I met the Armstrong’s. They are such a great family who mean so much to me. And oh that sweet Finn-if you don’t know him, drop what you’re doing and come meet him now! If his parents say it’s okay..just do it. I thought about him a lot during the training and the race. He and his family have taught me so much. And then I finished.
Legs exhausted, knee throbbing, hip cramping, and smile growing I walked on through the line to get my medal and searched for Krystal and Connor. I found them almost immediately and we embraced with smiles and congratulations. There is such a difference for me between feeling great because I’m done with something and feeling grateful because I had done something worth while! My final time was 2:34:37, just around the time I was hoping for for my first half-marathon.
I did it!! I set a goal to run in and finish the OKC Half, and that is what I did. But what I have learned through this experience is so much more-really, it would be an entirely new blog. Maybe I’ll write it sometime, but for now, I rest again.
“Let not your hearts be troubled.” John 14:1
Jesus tells His disciples this right after He explains that He will be leaving for a while. They must have looked confused, sad, and scared at hearing this, for while else would Jesus tell them to not be trouble? He saw their faces; He knew their hearts.
Anytime that I am doubting the future-scared, sad, confused-I can know one thing; Jesus. From there I can have all the confidence I need because Jesus is the way, the Truth, and in Him I can have abundant life (John 14:6) Jesus. Just that name; just that person.
He sees my face and knows my heart, and yours as well. And He says,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
What does the world give? Well worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10) Jesus’ peace produces life and hope. Do not be troubled.
When I hear the word ‘mercy’, a few things come to mind: my favorite band growing up, MercyMe; forgiveness; grace; my momma laughingly responding “mercy, child!” to many overly rambunctious moments I had (y’all, I was HYPER); the way it sounds like “thank you” in French if you pronounce the ‘e’ like ‘eh’. Mercy. Merci. Thank you.
I’ve been reading through Matthew lately and in my journaling I found a theme: Mercy. In chapter 9, Jesus calls Matthew to follow Him and they end up dining in Matthew’s house with “many tax collectors and sinners”. The King of Kings reclining with the lowly. Ah, what a picture of mercy. But the Pharisees, blind from pride in their knowledge, they did not interpret the scene as so.
vs. 11-12 And when the Pharisees saw they, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he [Jesus] heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” [emphasis added]
Later in chapter 12, Jesus and His disciples had been healing and teaching many crowds. They were tired, and they were hungry, and it was the Sabbath. They happened to be walking through a grainfield so they plucked the heads of grain and ate. Perfect timing to be walking through a grainfield, right? Again, that’s not how the Pharisees saw it.
vs. 2-7 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him [Jesus], “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which is was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”[emphasis added]
So much could be unpacked from both responses Jesus gave, SO MUCH. There is grace, freedom, love, His calling…so much, people. But since He said “go and learn…if you had known…I desire mercy over sacrifice”, that is what I will attempt in this post.
Jesus had many things to say about the Pharisees. They were knowledgeable of the law and scrolls written of old, but only kept the parts they wanted, and added as they wished. Obviously one of the parts they missed was Hosea 6:6; “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Their knowledge was false, or else they would have known Jesus as Messiah. They would have been loving the tax collectors and sinners with Jesus rather than condemning them and the King that ate with them. They would have not cared that work was being done on the Sabbath, but have taken joy that Jesus and His disciples were able to eat when they were hungry. Oh but I am just like the Pharisees. I question the motives and hearts of my brothers and sisters and miss out on what God is really doing in their lives. I judge the sinners for being sinners, when I myself do the same thing.
But the question I keep asking as I’m reading these passages, what were the Pharisees sacrificing in those very moments that The Lord was saying He did not desire? They weren’t at alters burning calves or anything. They were out walking. So why did Jesus bring up that piece of scripture? My guess-and hear me, I’m no John Piper-is that Jesus was referring to the Law as a whole, and how He had come to fulfill the Law, because man alone cannot. Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice to atone for sin, so they no longer needed to do it on their own with burnt offerings. Also, by not accepting nor showing His mercy and compassion, the Pharisees were sacrificing a relationship with Jesus. When I choose to take in a moment with judgement rather than mercy, I sacrifice joy. When I show pity on a person rather than compassion, I sacrifice the joy that comes with meeting that persons need through Jesus. Jesus does not take joy from me, I give it up when I give myself the power to condemn. But who am I?!
Jesus took on the full meaning of mercy; a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion, shown especially to an offender. You and me, we are the offenders of Christ. Just like our world demands punishment to those who do us wrong, our wicked heart and crooked ways have condemned us to death; eternal separation from God. But justice is not the same here on earth as it is in heaven. Praise God for that!! Justice to God is mercy. And that He showed when He sent His holy, perfect Son to this merciless land and let Him die a wicked man’s death. The power of the Holy Spirit rose Him from the grave, and now that very same Spirit gives us the opportunity to choose mercy; to choose Jesus! Hallelujah!!
This blog has the title “Greater Desires” because that is what I want to seek-the greater desires of God, not this world. And I can only seek and find when I ask. (Matt.7:7) So if God’s desire is mercy, then that should be our desire as Hid children. How many times must the Holy Spirit tell me to love my enemy? Or how can I be showing mercy when in my heart I am questioning someone’s motives and judging their actions? I reckon I will relearn these lessons many more times in my life. But God is still God, and I am not. And in those moments of my mess and weakness, He bestows upon me and reminds me “Mercy, child. Mercy.”
Merci, Father. Merci.
Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. [emphasis added]
Shooting for goals
I know it’s already 11 days into January, so maybe a tid late for a “new year” post, but I’m a good procrastinator and a bad goal setter-that’s an attractive combo, I know.
I’ve honestly never thought of myself as someone who sets goals. In junior high my dad made a deal with me that if I made straight A’s till I was sixteen he and mom would buy me a car. I did it. In fact I kept going after 16 and graduated as 1 of Chandler High’s 7 valedictorians for the class of 2009. Cool! This is one of the only cases I can think of when I set a clear goal to accomplish something in return for something else; a reward. I’ve had desires to go places and do things, like Wales and China, but I haven’t really ever thought of those as goals, but journeys. (Though the rewards from those times are FAR greater than any car…no offense Coug). But I digress.
College-I wanted to graduate in four years. I didn’t want to fail any classes. Done. Cool. Now what? See what I mean? I don’t think it’s bad that I am where I am; I love where I am! But I wonder, not too often though, where I’d be if set different, more defined goals. Well I can’t answer that, and I don’t need to. I trust God has plans for me. But couldn’t I be more intentional in seeing what those plans may be? Maybe so.
I’ve been helping coach the girls Upwards basketball team at church with the dad of the family I’m living with. It’s the first and second graders so A and E, his daughters, are on the team. Today was their first game and it was sooo fun to watch! And funny. Very funny. But anyway, the girls call making a basket “shooting goals”. Maybe because they played soccer, or because it’s a goal they’re shooting into? I’m not sure but it makes sense and it got me thinking about my little goalaphobia. I want to shoot for some new goals.
I’m interning at my church for our University Ministry this semester and am really excited about it. On day one, Joey (UM minister) said one of his goals for me is to know by May (end of intern) where I am going. Whether it be overseas, seminary, here in Norman, Mars..just that I would be confident in that calling and decision. I agreed completely with this. It’s awesome that we have a God who knows and loves us so personally that He will put the same desires for our lives in the hearts of friends around us, to help and encourage us. Thanks God! And thanks Joey! So there’s a big goal.
But the girl’s basketball team, they’re a lot smaller than the rest of us, so they have to have a shorter goal to shoot at. So that also gave me the idea to make some short term, or just smaller goals. Some for the fun of making goals and finding out their rewards.
Here’s a few I came up with:
Read more. Specifically, read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month, along with everyday Bible reading. I’ve already read my fiction thanks to Joey!…again!
See better films in theater. Specifically, not wasting money on something I can really wait to see when it hits redbox. I think I’ve been doing a fairly good job of this..but maybe I could spend less money in that area. This sounds like more of a resolution I think, but I’m still figuring out this goal thing?
Run in the OKC Memorial half marathon, and finish.
Just a few, but that’s more than where I started. Hey, I just accomplished the goal of setting goals. Let’s go, accountability!
Confession; I have idea-sharing envy. I have been reading a few blogs lately, written by some beautiful and gifted friends, and I’ve been catching myself thinking “wow, this so close to what I was thinking the other day!” or “this is exactly what I wanted to write about!” Even in church or Bible study when someone says what I was thinking, I sometimes get really jealous or upset with myself that I didn’t say it first. And often times some have better formulated thoughts to share and I then get jealous of how they were able to say it. Really guys, I do this, and it is a problem. To clarify, these blogs and ideas are about faith in Christ, scripture understanding, and spiritual growth. And these covetous thoughts I have about others Spirit-led revelations are quite gross.
Several things are wrong with my thought process.
First of all, these aren’t new ideas. Someone wise once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9) These shared understandings of God’s love or insights on how to walk more closely with Him are not new. People have been following Jesus for many years, and there are several who have written the very same things under the influence of God’s holy presence and guidance; a.k.a, the Bible. And God can reveal to us the same ideas in new ways and ask us to share them with others so that they may understand and come to know more of Him, that is not wrong or out of His character to do if it truly is the Word of God. That’s why there are so many Christian books out there (not saying all are true and Biblical, and they shouldn’t replace our time in Scripture). But this blog isn’t to argue the posting of such revelations, it’s to look at our heart on how we receive these ideas.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. “(James 1:17)
Another thing I have wrong is the source of good ideas. They are not mine nor the author of any blog or books ideas. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) If we are followers of the True God then we have the same Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That “new” us has been brought by the Spirit of God. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16) There should be no surprise that my fellow followers of Jesus are having the same ideas as me, because we share the same Spirit. “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18) Christian, we have equal access to our Father, but does He have equal access to us? Perhaps I wasn’t allowing Him to use me to write those blogs or share those answers in Sunday school because I wasn’t willing to let go of my pride. Maybe He knew I would take the acclamations. Now I may have gone a little off topic here, but the point is, we share God’s Spirit and He is the one who gives us good ideas; we do not simply come up with them on our own.
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Lastly, I should rather be encouraging and uplifting my brothers and sisters instead of being jealous of them and what they have the privilege of doing. By boldly sharing what has been laid on their heart; they are being obedient to what God has been showing them. To envy what they do does not help me nor them.
“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—” (Ephesians 4:1-4)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
I am sure many people have written something just like this blog, and more than likely it is written better than this, and that’s okay with me now as long as it is truly from the Holy Spirit. But my final thought and question come down to this; our time on earth is limited, so why don’t we choose to spend it encouraging one another and doing His Kingdom work together? Let’s not be jealous of how people get to do that differently, but let us strive to see where God wants us to be used for His glory.
In China most people don’t celebrate their actual day of birth, they just celebrate their year. Like this year it was the year of the dragon. When I told people I was 22 they thought I was born in ’91, but I was born in ’90 and I had to explain to them how in America we see one becoming a year older on the same date as their birth. But I did like this idea of having gained a year in age because it is, in fact, 23 years after 1990. So I got used to telling friends I met that I was 23. Well, in Beijing some of our American friends were talking about their age and one girl said she was 23 (not Chinese 23) and I said, “me too!” I said my birthday was coming up on the 23, not even thinking they assumed I was turning 24. Oops. Even I got confused on how old I really was. So I’ve been feeling 23 for about a month now.
I turned 23 on the 23rd, so this is to be my “golden year”. I’m not sure what that means, but I do like the numbers matching. Actually it was neat reading Jesus Calling yesterday with “golden” in mind because it was about turning our attention to Jesus in that moment of reading and letting His “gold-tinged love wash over you and soak into the depths of your being.” (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) I like that image of something visibly beautiful being washed over me.
Yesterday was great. I started it off with breakfast at Syrup with two lovely friends (I had the funky monkey). They came back to my new home with me and spoiled me with some fun gifts, and then we got to catch up on what all God was doing in each of our lives. Talking about Jesus with my friends is a perfect way to spend any day, especially my birthday. Afterwards I played outside with my new and oh-so-fun-and-adorable roomies! They are precious, and I ‘m blessed to be here with all 7 of them. Then I went to dinner with Kaitlin and caught up more with her while eating Charleston’s yummy food. mmm. I’m so blessed by Kate. The waiter brought us ice cream and sang an original birthday song for me, and after finishing up we went on our merry way to Ashley’s for girl’s Bible study. Suuuuch a blessing to be back in that community and read God’s word and how He he desires for us to be beautiful on the inside, and so should we. It was a filling evening, spiritually and physically…Kate bought me more cake…
All in all my birthday was special because I got to spend it with people I love, doing things I love. Thank you to everyone who was a part of it, even the calls, texts, and posts! And thank you Lord for another year.
Oh give thanks to LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1
Well I’ve been back in the states for a week now, and already I’ve been able to eat oodles amounts of junk food..particularly delicious chocolate cake and Braum’s shakes, two things you cannot even come close to substituting for in China. My mom, grandma and I drove from Houston to Chandler on Tuesday. Dad had to stay for work. Since I’ve been back in OK I have seen some dear friends and have (almost completely) gotten over jetlag. But I still haven’t figured out all I want to say for my “last update”. I think I’ll continue this blog, and maybe one day I’ll be posting from another country again. We’ll see where The Lord leads!
My time in Asia was nothing less than a blissful adventure. I have visited other countries, met amazing, Godly people, tried interesting new foods, seen amazing views, bought cultural gifts, and filled my camera card with nearly every bit of it. But the most important thing I take away from my time overseas is how amazing our God is. This should be the obvious right? But it’s so easy to get caught up in all of the new sites and sounds that I lose sight of Who sent me. I think I even do that here; I get so comfortable in the familiarity of things that I take them for granted and again lose sight of Who put me here and keeps me at peace.
I love reminders like this to show me how creative and good God is. Being on the Great Wall was surreal. For the first few minutes I couldn’t stop smiling and saying “oh my goodness oh my goodness oohh myyy goooodnessss”..okay maybe I did that the whole time. I am just in awe of our Creator! He gave us the most perfect day to show off His glory in nature. Needless to say, but if you’re ever in Beijing, go to the Great Wall!
So I am back in lovely Oklahoma where the leaves are changing colors and the cool, crisp weather is a wonderful welcome from muggy GZ, and Houston for that matter. I am going back to Norman today and officially moving in with a family from my church to help out as a nanny. I am really looking forward to living with this wonderful family and learning more about what God has for me here or wherever across this world!
A verse that’s been good to read in the midst of all my traveling and life changes occurring is; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
His plans > my plans
This is our last full week in GZ. Next Wednesday we will fly out from here and have an extended layover in Beijing to stay with some of Rachel’s friends and check out some places we’ve never been to like THE GREAT WALL! So pumped. I cannot wait to climb a piece of history, a wonder of the world, and take in the magnificent wonder of God’s beautiful creation…but I must wait. In the meantime, we still have some cool things to do here, but not all of which I was planning on.
As things would turn out, God’s plans are better than mine. We won’t be able to check everything off our goal/bucket list for GZ, but I have seen the Father place far better things on it and check them off Himself. Example, last night we got to hang out with our sweet friends from last week and I witnessed something very special. A few of them will be traveling next week for purposes I cannot fully explain here, but the rest of the group had a chance to personally encourage them and talk to The Father on their behalf. This was so special to me because I have longed to see how Father is working in The Body, specifically those members of my age, in other parts of the world. I’ve wanted to know if it looks like my Wednesday nights with brothers and sisters opening up to one another, or if it were a more formal experience, or less intimate setting. I just want to see His work in them, and I did. Though I could only understand maybe 10% of what was being said and conveyed through nonverbals, I knew that what they were saying was given from a true heart of love. They also lifted us up for our travels next week, and they thanked the Father for bringing us here. I was humbled thinking of how I barely held a full conversation with these friends but they had still been able to show so much love to me through their actions. I pray I learn to speak less and be more loving through my actions.
Another thing He added to mine and Rachel’s agenda has been to meet with a Shepherd’s wife every Thursday (Shepherd of the Word and Body, not literal sheep). A mother of three and the wife of a leader makes for a busy woman. She has wanted to learn English for some time but hasn’t been able to get out much to do so, so we make the hour long trek by subway and bus to meet with her. Every time we meet with her I leave being more thankful for her and her family. When she’s not at home with her family she’s out sharing The Truth or with the body encouraging them. Again, I am no English teacher, but thankfully her skill is good enough that we can read through some stuff and discuss what it means. More or less, she’s been discipling us and we, discipling her. God is so gracious.
These are things I’ve desired to see upon coming here, so I should not be surprised that The Lord has shown them to me, but I am in awe of how He loves me. Even when I was sick last week, running a fever and not being able to leave the apartment or do hardly anything for a day and a half (definitely NOT in my plan), I was still thankful to be sick in a place where I never thought I’d be, because I can say I’ve seen The Lord at work here, all because He placed greater desires in my heart than I ever thought could be held there.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is The Lord’s purpose that will prevail. Proverbs 19:21