Monday, November 14, 2011

Obedience, Part II - Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh

So a few months ago I wrote about obedience. It was part one of two, implying there was more on the subject I wanted to say but part two never quite formulated in my head. Until now. And it's not with joyful heart that I convey this post. Heck, maybe I asked for this by writing about obedience in the first place. Either way, here's my latest thoughts on obedience.

I've been doing a study this semester with my small group ladies called, Jesus, the One and Only by Beth Moore. It's fantastic. Throughout this study I've really become aware of Jesus' authority in our lives. He has power. He IS power. He exhibited that repeatedly throughout Scripture, throughout the course of His ministry. And He exhibits that in our lives, and I think longs to exhibit more authority if only we'd ask for it. I've also become increasingly aware of His compassion. This was my prayer. I wanted to feel what He felt, in a sense. To have my eyes opened to what He saw. Holy cow. I will never understand the weight of what Jesus carried as He walked step after painful step on this earth, but the window into His heart that I have seen has marked me. It's heavy. His burden was unbearable. No wonder He went off to pray alone, to plead on our behalf to His Father to intercede in our lives. For healing. Restoration. They were a lost people, just like we are. How His heart broke as He saw firsthand the result of sin, shame, disobedience. The pain must have been unbearable. And He wasn't even hanging on the Cross yet. As I've had my eyes opened, even just a little bit, it has increased the sense of burden for others in my life. For family, for friends, for youth group girls, for small group ladies, the list goes on and on. Sickness, complacency, broken relationships, death, unsettled hearts. I struggle with the weight of all that. I've yet to figure out how to manage it, but I'm getting there.

In the midst of this increasing burden, I find myself struggling to be obedient once again. To be obedient in spending time with my Father. I feel a pull for more. Like what He wants to show me, what He wants to say to me will require more time than I'm currently giving our relationship. And I fail to give it. This morning I overslept again. Not enough to be late to my job, but enough to be late for my date with God. It's a scene that is all too familiar in my life. And I'm wrecked. Why in those moments of clarity, when I'm not sleepy or groggy or huddled under the covers, why in those moments is it so clear? My mind says, Just get up! It's not that hard, is it? But something clouds my mind in those early waking moments as my alarm clock is blaring. I read in Proverbs 31 about the woman of noble character. She gets up while it is still dark and accomplishes more than I could hope to. I want to be her. But I'm not doing a very good job. What's so frustrating is this isn't a new struggle. It's been present in my life for years. I've been acutely aware of it in recent months, as I sense God drawing me in, I sense myself wanting more.

As I (once again) fought with feelings of guilt, disappointment, and frustration, I thought Man, this whole getting up on time thing is really a thorn in my side. I want it gone! Paul wanted his thorn gone too. But it remained - to remind him that God's grace is sufficient for him. That God's power is made perfect in weakness. Which is hard to swallow. This grace thing. I continually stand in amazement that God continually gives it. I would have given up on me long ago. No more grace for Erin! Yet in those moment of clarity, those moments of surrender and heartbreaking humility, I am repentant. But by mere definition of the word, doesn't that mean I turn from my ways? Yet I still fail. WHY? My spirit is sincere. But my flesh is so weak. I don't want to do the things I do, yet I continue to do them. I wonder if it breaks God's heart more to see the sin and disobedience in His children than those that don't yet know Him? I know better. And yet I still disobey. And yet He still gives me grace. But grace doesn't erase consequences. That. is. heavy.

And so I move on in my day, unable to go back and fix this morning. Or the other hundreds of mornings where I chose broken sleep over moments with Peace. But there is hope. I am redeemed. I am loved. I am forgiven. That will never change. And in addition to that, I have a God who supernaturally protects me. His Spirit is IN me, interceding for me when I no longer have words to say. I must pray and trust that God can pull me out of this. And that He'll use this lesson, this pain, for good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Acorn Dreams, Revisited

So a few months back I wrote about acorn dreams. How God gives us dreams, a desire to see something come to fruition, but He requires us to give it back to Him to plant and grow. This past weekend as I was driving into the mountains of North Carolina visiting this amazing lady, I listened to a podcast sermon from September that I'd missed. Kevin Queen was shedding light on the fire of faith that Paul talks about in 1 Timothy. As believers we have this fire burning in each of us and we're called to pass it along. It's a great message, you can watch/listen to it here. Somewhere in the midst of his words I felt hugely convicted. I don't know exactly what KQ said that sparked it, but I was instantly reminded of my acorn dreams. I sensed God asking me, If they're so important, why aren't you praying more for them? Hit me like a ton of bricks. Tears welled in my eyes and I realized how after awhile, after giving the dreams back to Him, praying about them, I sort of lost sight of them. I wasn't praying for them with the fervent passion I once had. Praying with expectation. With a purpose and a vision.

I contemplated why this had occurred. In my case, I think it happened due to a few hiccups in life. And time. Time always has a way of weaseling in and distracting us. I was reminded to not let my heart drift. Keep my gaze steadily on Him. Pray for those dreams. And believe. Because He who promised is faithful.

No wonder the Bible talks about praying without ceasing. There's so much to talk with God about...the only way to cover it all is to converse with him nonstop!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Obedience, Part I

There is a large part of me that hasn't wanted to write this blog...for a long time. It's been brewing for months, believe me. I've wanted more clarity, more organization to my thoughts. But God won't let me let it go. The word "obedience" is coming up everywhere - my thoughts, Scripture, facebook posts, sermons, songs. The time has come to get my thoughts out there, so bear with me. Caution: this may take more than one posting; I will do my best to make it worth your time.

In all actuality, my pondering of obedience and God really began in 2008. My coworkers at the time and close friends will tell you I fought a hard war all over my hands with warts. Holy cow, they are stubborn little devils. What started as one quickly turned into more than 30 in little clusters all over the fingers on both of my hands. Thinking back, I can remember trying to hide them. They were a huge source of embarrassment and self-consciousness. Sitting in church, I'd fold my hands in certain ways so people couldn't see them. I'd keep my hands in my pockets or fold my arms when in conversation. I tried several things to get rid of them. I should have bought stock in Dr. Scholl's wart remover. I used duct tape like it was going out of style. I had them frozen by a dermatologist. I had them surgically removed and burned until my hands looked like a bloody war zone. And they grew back. Every time. I began to research medical reasons - vitamin deficiencies, chronic dry hands, soap chemicals, etc. Nothing seemed to make a difference. I eventually began to think that maybe God was trying to tell me something and until I listened, the warts would remain entrenched in my skin. Like there was an area of disobedience that was causing them to remain. Finally I read that my body needed to recognize the wart cells as foreign and that attempting to kill them all at once would be overwhelming and unsuccessful. The key was to target one, blast it, get it to go away completely, then hit another one, until the body gets the idea that it's foreign and bad, and then it will take on the fight itself. It worked! It was amazing. After years of treatments and money, it took two weeks to conquer the first one, then they all disappeared. Every single one of them.

How does that relate to obedience? I think we can get overwhelmed with so many areas in our lives that we want to see change happen that nothing we do works. If we are able to focus on a spot or two, really dig in and seek change, the momentum will move on to those other areas. It's starting with the small things. Little steps. Just like a parent does with a child. A child isn't taught all areas of discipline at one time. That would be too overwhelming. A set up for failure even. It's really a process. Growth. Obeying once leads to obeying again. The level of trust increases as the child demonstrates their ability and willingness to obey.

And as I was telling a friend last week, obedience sure does feel good. It just feels right. And you can't be neutral. You're either obedient or you're not. There's no halfway. If you're asked to take out the trash and you take it halfway down the driveway, you weren't obedient. In the same way, if God tells you to stop and say hello to someone you've never met before, and you pretend you don't hear the prompt, you weren't obedient. Being in a place where you can't hear or see doesn't make you more obedient - you're just blind to what He's asking. And I've experienced firsthand how disobedience hurts. We all have.

Sometimes I find myself asking, how do I know it was God that spoke that to me instead of just me thinking it? Does it matter? If it's a good thing, if it's beneficial, isn't it better to have done it and it be of me than to not have done something God was asking? It goes back to trusting Him. I am currently reading through the book of Daniel. Man, that guy trusted. Can you imagine finding yourself being thrown into a den full of ravenous lions and completely trusting that God will care for you? But life feels like that sometimes, doesn't it? A den full of ravenous lions. And we're expected to trust and obey. Easier said than done, eh? But it's steps. One leads to another. God is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105). He didn't say He was a lamp a mile ahead on the road. He's the lamp at our feet. Guiding the next step. And then the next one. No wonder obedience feels good. It's us walking down the right path. The guided path. The steps may be so small at times we wonder if we're getting anywhere, but if we're listening to our Father, really listening, He's got us right where He wants us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What a Relief!

Goodness gravy, I about tackled an 83-year-old man today. Just out of the sheer joy of seeing him again. Peter, my favorite regular at the bakery (I'm not ashamed, everyone knows it), and a man who I call my friend (read more about him here and here) has not come in to the bakery for several weeks now. I have been worried sick. I've asked every one of the other mall walkers if they've seen him, I've asked all of my coworkers if they have. I've even had some of my blog readers ask about him. No one has seen him or heard from him. I knew the Brit had a trip to his homeland planned for this fall, but I knew it wasn't this early. Something had happened. I could just sense it. I have prayed for him often, wondering what was keeping him from his daily morning walk through the halls of the mall and his cup of Columbian coffee with a splash of cream. Of course my mind went to a million different reasons, but I kept telling myself that his good friend who looks after him surely would have let me know if something serious had happened, or (ack!) if he had died. She just would.

So today I was helping a customer and out of the corner of my eye I see an elderly man walk in in a suit coat and dress pants. He slowly walks up to the coffee bar, his back to me, and starts getting out his wallet - an action he's done a million times before. It's Peter!! The familiarity of this scene hits me and I mumble something to the customer as I race across the bar to embrace Peter. I exclaim his name as I hug the heck out of the frail trembling man. He proceeds to tell me about his three week stay in the hospital with pneumonia, being released, then readmitted because he lost 30 pounds in a week. Boy could I see it. He was so frail. So much the same Peter he always has been, yet different. He couldn't hide his exhaustion. His hand shook when he brought the cup of coffee up to his mouth. He had walked from Nordstrom to our store and needed to sit. Usually this man walks two miles with hardly breaking a sweat. He said he had come to the mall the day before to run an errand, but waited until today to come to the bakery because he knew I would be there today. Ugh, it melted my heart. After fixing his coffee the way that he always does, he made his way to the couch to regain his strength before making the trek back home. It brought me such joy to sit with him, hear all about the past several weeks, share with him how much of a scare he gave me, and let him know that he must call me if he has a need for anything. I hugged him again just before he left, receiving a kiss on the cheek.

I'm so glad to have Peter back home. My how I've missed him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Acorn Dreams

This past weekend I had the opportunity to relax and refresh with my fellow youth group leaders at the Simpsonwood Lodge. The beautiful retreat center just outside Atlanta is nestled in miles of wooded land. Turning into the driveway, I could sense my sprit coming alive as I drove past tree after tree. Friday night we ventured into the woods for a bonfire complete with worship, prayer time, and ending with S'mores (of course!). It was truly an amazing time. God must have thought so too as He showed up with rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightening nearby as we sang and prayed. The Holy Spirit was definitely moving in our midst.

As amazing as that was, it wasn't my favorite part of the weekend (it was a close second, with a Spoons marathon coming in at 3rd). First place slot goes to Saturday afternoon. Setting: the Prayer Labyrinth. Characters: me and God. Plot: acorn dreams. Let me elaborate...

We had a few hours of free time, and I knew right away I wanted to check out this place. I set out with my Bible, journal, and trusty ipod. Walking up to the Labyrinth reminded me of my favorite place in the botanic gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand. My heart instantly began to beat faster. There's just something about walking with God in nature - it's like that's how it was supposed to be or something (oh, to be in Eden!). I took off my shoes, let the music begin to flow, and began walking through the maze. Partway into it I looked down and saw an acorn. A perfect acorn. It stood out because it was shiny and colorful, unlike the gray rocks, dirt, and fallen leaves amongst my bare feet. It was like a treasure. I knelt down and picked it up, turning it over in my fingers. It took on the symbolism of a dream. A dream you or I would have in life. The walk of the Labyrinth is life. We follow the twists and turns, sometimes able to see ahead, sometimes longing to look back, but only present in the steps we are taking right at that moment. Along the path are twigs and branches, things that may trip us up, but then there are also acorns. Seeds, implying life and growth, which will one day become oaks. I continued walking, thinking about what my dream in life would be. Then I happened along another one. I picked it up to join the first one in my hands. I pondered another dream that God has given me. As I continued to slowly walk, I saw how these acorns, these dreams, cannot remain in my own hands. If they do, they will never survive. On my own I don't have the ability to give them life. Only God can water them with living water. Only He can provide the ground in which to grow them. If I kept them, they would die.

But why does God give us these acorn dreams along our path if we can't keep them? I think because He desires for us to pick them up, hold them awhile, create a space in our heart for them, then give them back for Him to plant. They give us glimpses of what to long for, what to turn our eyes and ears toward. But they are His to have. He plants them in due time. He waters them with His eternal water. He grows them. And then He brings them into our lives again at some point. But only if we give them to Him...completely. 

So I walked with these two acorn dreams for awhile, through cool shady spots and hot sunny spots, continuing to slowly make my way to the center as I let my thoughts rest on the acorns. There was a little basket holding written prayers of others nestled amongst some rocks in the middle. I sensed it was time. It was time for me to release the acorns, to let them fall into the basket, out of my hands and into God's, releasing them to the One whom I trust more than any other. To the One who holds my heart. I let them drop with a sense of peace. Trusting that their presence along my path wasn't an accident. Trusting that one day "[t]hey will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor" (Isaiah 61:3, NIV). I am eager to see how he grows these little acorns and brings them back into my life!

What are your acorn dreams? Are you holding onto them?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dream. B-I-G.

I went to the library today in search of a few books (duh). After a rather unfruitful hunt, I sat down to continue my current read, Radical, by David Platt. It's such a good book, but I just couldn't focus. There were too many things running through my head. And it was too quiet there. I needed some stimulation. Something in pace with my brain so all these thoughts could come out instead of getting lost in the silence of the library.

Naturally, I went across the street to Starbucks. While searching my car for a pen (it never fails that when I change purses, I forget to transfer something of great importance), I happened across a Starbucks gift card. Certain it had no charge on it, yet hopeful I wouldn't have to scrounge together enough change for a cup of tea, I decided to give it a go. Ladies and gentlemen, that little plastic goodness was loaded with 10 bucks! Thank you to whomever gave it go me. May you be blessed with a life full of caffeinated beverages. The tea must still be coursing through my veins...I'm losing track...

So, I opened up my brainstorming notebook, which I had conveniently remembered to grab just before I pulled out of the driveway. I stuck my earbuds firmly in my ears, Brooke Fraser and Needtobreathe (who else?) pounding through the tiny speakers. My pencil - there was no pen to be found in my car - firmly in hand, and I began to dream. Dream BIG. I let it all loose. Formulating ideas, jotting down visions from years past, passions, desires. All of it interweaving in some great stream of chaos. I'm sure those around me could have glanced at my face and wondered at its contortions more than a few times. But I continued to write, attempting to piece together some semblance of order to my thoughts. To gain some knowledge as to the purpose of my history, my experiences, that have all brought me here, to this place, in this moment.

The afternoon was glorious. Intertwining Scripture and lyrics and thoughts. I felt like an author or songwriter or artist on a mission. I'm not sure if any of what I wrote down would make sense to anyone. Well, to be honest, it probably would. But I'm not going to share it. Not yet anyway. I'm praying you'll get to see the fruits of my purging session soon. For now, I've just told you about it, an effort to hold me accountable in a way. The brainstorming did happen. Something will come to fruition. I dreamed big. And I believe in the God who gave me these dreams.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Alright, it's time for me to stop reading everyone else's blog and post to my own. Any other bloggers out there who've ever felt the push to blog about something but for whatever reason try to avoid it? Sheesh, that's not like any other area of my life at all....(if you didn't catch the sarcasm, you can soon read more on how I like to avoid giving attention in my life to where it's needed most and the lovely aftermath that results in...whenever I do get around to blogging about it). This morning's distraction? Max Dubinsky's writings about "the relentless truth of life, and the honesty of creativity; nonreligious views from a man who is mad about God's unconditional love." Beware, you might kiss your productivity goodbye as you pour over his words like I did. And then you might just become a fan on Facebook. And if you're really gutsy, you'll follow him on Twitter. But don't worry, I won't call you a copycat.

As for today, I'm finally giving proper attention to a curious little five-letter word that is currently wrecking me. T-r-u-s-t. Yup. It's pretty simple isn't it? You trust your bed to keep you warm at night. You trust your coffee to properly wake you up in the morning. You even trust your car to happily take you from place to place without protesting.

But do you trust God? Do you trust Him enough to give up yourself, your life? Give up everything you've wanted, everything you are. To trust Him. Because that's what He requires. See, the more I press into Him and spend time with Him, the more I understand what being a Christian really isn't. It's not attending church every Sunday, accepting Jesus into my life, listening to Christian music, and turning to Him only when life gets tough. It's a day in day out submission to His will. It's living for Him. Not me. Nowhere in this does it include my desires. My plans. My wants. But oh it is so. much. more!

All I have to do is say goodbye to a comfortable little home filled with a husband and kids, the constant smell of baked goods wafting from the kitchen, and the cozy little glow coming from the fireplace we're all sitting around. Easy, right?...Right? I'd like to say yes, but in all honesty, it's not that easy. It's not that easy to give up dreams you feel are woven into the very fabric of your DNA. Desires that have been around for as long as you've been playing dress up and house (or, in the guys' case, micro machines and legos.) It's everything you've imagined, everything you thought you were created for, sacrificing it all for the sake of bringing glory to the name of my Saviour.

All He's asking me to do is trust. Trust that His plans are bigger than mine. Trust that His plans for me are for good and not for evil. Trust that He will direct my paths, if only I seek Him. His Letter to me is filled with this promise. The desire to get me to see what a life lived with him really is. Here are just a few samples:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." (Proverbs 3:5-7, NIV)

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped." (Psalm 28:7, NIV)

"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands." (Psalm 31:14-15a, NIV)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13, NIV)

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken...[t]rust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:1-2, 8, NIV)

And you know what happens when we do? We see how His love is better than life! He gives us "his great and very precious promises, so that through them [we] may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:4, NIV). We are more than conquerors through His love, and nothing can ever separate us from Him (Romans 8: 37-38). We just have to trust Him. With everything we've got. Giving up everything we've got. 

Why have I been wrecked by this? Well, for one I've recently left my job at the bakery (for reasons I will explain in a private message to you, just not in this blog). It was time. I'd lived in stagnancy long enough. So I once again find myself in a place of questioning what the heck I am doing on this earth. I've helped deliver babies. I've traveled the world. I've brewed countless cups of coffee and decorated cookies and cakes. I have a passion for baking. A passion for writing. A passion for Jesus. And telling people about Him, particularly students. It is one crazy ride. I have yet to see how it all ties together, but I trust. I'm challenged with it every day I wake up. It's a choice I have. I don't have to trust, but let's face it, the alternative to trusting God would be trusting myself, and when has that ever seemed like a good idea? So I literally wake up every day and claim God's truths, which give me the confidence to trust. He's concocting something fantastic up there, something greater than I could conjure up on my own. And that's the point. If it was up to me, my life could maybe be good, nothing fantastic, and certainly not anything that would point to God. But when I trust Him with all of me, well, then I leave Him room to come in and supernaturally work in my life, ultimately bringing Him glory. His fingerprints need to be all over my life for anyone to see it's not of me. 

And since this life isn't about me, well, I'm trusting Him.

Friday, June 10, 2011


There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
-Nelson Mandela

601 Sharpe Street - my childhood home
I first read this great quote years ago but was reminded of it again last Thursday. My brother, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and I were traveling (all in one minivan!) to South Dakota to surprise our Grandma Jucht for her 80th birthday. Our trek across country had gone quite well so we found ourselves a bit ahead of schedule. After 20 hours in the van we were hungry, to say the least, and happened to be passing the exit for our hometown, Vermillion. We decided to take the exit and pick up a Pizza Hut pizza to devour in Prentis Park. (Both hugely nostalgic points of interest.) It instantly felt familiar. The feel of the grass between my toes, the warm wind on my face, the dandelions, the bugs, the trees. We swapped memories as we finished off our meal. As we drove the main streets of the town, my siblings and I marveled at how spot on our memories were. We recognized the slide at the pool, the sign at the front of the park, the library, our schools, the ball fields. It was almost as if the town had been frozen for the past 16 years. It was so much the same, albeit a smidgen smaller (or had we gotten bigger?!). One must-see sight was our old house: 601 Sharpe Street. We could hardly believe how unchanged it was - the same soft blue paint, the same cement steps along with the same black handrail. The maple tree still stood proudly out front, only bigger and grander now. Floods of memories came to mind: the countless mud pies I made on the curb after it rained, my dad standing in the front yard throwing me as high as the roof so I could catch a glimpse of the backyard, sitting on a blanket in the front yard reading books with my mom, climbing the weeping willow in the backyard and singing for hours. It's where I learned how to walk, talk, and ride a bike. Some Friday nights we'd order a Bigfoot pizza from Pizza Hut, rent a movie and VCR (yes, that's right, we'd rent the VCR too!) from Hollywood Video, and settle in the basement for family night. I could go on and on...

A whole heck of a lot of life has happened since we left that house. I learned how to drive a car, went off to college, had my first career as a nurse, traveled the world. I've learned and experienced so many things, yet when I set foot on that soil, there's something in me that feels so right, so at home. It's as if I never left. I think that's what it's like when we spend time with God. We were created to be with Him, to relation with Him in perfect holy union. But things changed, we sinned and the world became a different place. We could no longer know God in the same way. But He had mercy on us and we were saved by the sacrifice of Jesus. We can now turn to God and relation with Him as His redeemed creation. It's like returning to how things were supposed to be. Nowhere else on earth feels quite as right as when I'm sitting with my Father. He is unchanged. We go through life's twists and turns, altering each step of the way. And then we rest in His presence. It's everything familiar, it's everything peaceful. It's home sweet home.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I need to go to a pool. Or a lake. Or the ocean.

I'm craving water. Not like a glass of water to drink. And not a body of water for laying on a beach towel and tanning either. I want water I can submerse myself in. Be fully consumed by the stuff. I've had this recurring water theme for awhile now. I remember being struck by the profound implications of it a year ago while on a hike with my mom. (check out Peace Like a River) There was a stream flowing along most of the 8-mile trail. It hit me that streams are moving, constant; powerful at times, softly flowing at others. Never stagnant. Just like God and His love. This week I was reminded of an image I had a few years ago when I was on a run at Freedom Park in Charlotte. It was a cold autumn morning...and it was raining (my favorite time to run!). The park was vacant save for the geese and worms. I paused for awhile by the pond and gazed at the water. I had an image of me taking off my jacket and shoes and diving in. As I hit the water and was fully submersed, I was filled with the most incredible feeling of peace. It was as if I was surrounded by God's love, completely covered. If only I would jump in the water. But I didn't.

For some reason that image and all the feelings that went with it stuck with me. I was reminded of it on Thursday on another run, this time at Little Mulberry Park (newfound addiction, thanks to my friend Jenna). There's a pond there, too. And it got me thinking of water again. That feeling of diving in and being perfectly at peace - is that what it feels like to completely trust God? I've been working on trusting Him. Like really trusting Him. There are some things in my life going on right now that require me to give Him everything. To faithfully put one foot in front of the other and trust for no other reason than He is God. But that's reason enough.

This morning I was pondering what trusting my Father really looks like in my life and listening to the Passion Here For You album. David Crowder's "Sometimes" started playing. (listen to it here) The song is magical in the way that it builds instrumentally with Crowder's bold voice piercing through. It makes my heart beat faster and a little bit feel like it's being squeezed tighter and tighter. He says "It's Your love that we adore, it's like a sea without a shore, we're lost in You, we're lost in You." I'm thinking sheesh, this is just what's been on my mind. And then my favorite lines hit:

Don't be afraid, Don't be afraid
Just set your sail and risk the ocean
Show me grace
Let's risk the ocean

THAT is what I want! I want to risk the ocean...and rest in God's grace, trusting Him wholly to guide me. And you know what, I believe He will. Why? Because He promises this in His Word - it's all over! Jeremiah 29:11-13, Psalm 138:7-8, Psalm 34, Mark 11:22-26....I could go on and on. He just asks us to trust Him. And we have no reason not to. Hebrews 6:17-19 tells us "it is impossible for God to lie." Since all these promises are true, I have no reason not to trust. And Crowder says "don't be afraid"...but golly, that's easier said than done! It feels kind of I want to go to the ocean. I want to dive in, feel the cool water surround me, the peaceful feeling of gliding through its currents and imagine my Heavenly Father guiding me just the same.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Be Like a Child

I've just gotta tell you about the way the Lord answered a prayer yesterday. It was a Monday morning; enough said...but let me elaborate. My soul had been discontent all day Sunday. When this happens I tend to not sleep - I have a hard time closing my eyes at night because I think some epiphany will hit me while I'm awake and wasting time, namely facebooking (please tell me I'm not alone in this!). So Monday at 5:45 hit pretty hard when I'd only fallen asleep a few hours before. Naturally, I overslept and had to rush to get ready for work. God's grace came to me as I arrived at work and discovered I was the only one there and didn't have a key. How is this God's grace? Well, it provided a perfect opportunity to pull out my Bible and read as I sat on the patio to wait for my boss. My soul opened up immediately. My soul was weary and dry. I asked God to speak to me - I felt like I hadn't heard Him in awhile. I reminded myself that the Holy Spirit was IN me. He is with me every day, everywhere I go. And I asked for peace. I've felt a block when I come to the Lord, as if I don't have the words to say. It's like I'm almost back at square one asking Him how to pray.

Soon my boss arrived and the day began. But I couldn't shake this needing to hear from God. A couple hours later, as I found myself behind the counter being the morning barista, wiping down the counter for the hundredth time, it hit me. A memory hit me  - a memory so vivid I could almost taste it. I was in the Drum Cafe in Christchurch, NZ. I was sitting at a table, back to a wall, looking out the window. Bible open in front of me. Amelie Soundtrack playing in the background. There was a German couple sitting a few tables over. The smell of warm breakfast food surrounding me. It was cold and rainy outside, but I was nestled in this little cozy nook for hours. I remember feeling really content. And I also remember journaling about this day. (I journaled nearly every day on my trip, which I've been grateful for countless times.) As I tried to figure out why this memory flooded my head, the only thought I had was to read. It's as if someone kept saying over and over Drum Cafe, go read your journal, Drum Cafe, in December, go read, find the words. So at 11:45 last night, I did. First page of my journals in December say, "Found myself in Drum Cafe in Christchurch today. Drank a delicious hazelnut latte...did my devo in the shop today..." I was reading A Pilgrim Finds the Way. These are the words I copied down from page 60:

“Children: for them everything is a “game.”  They are “deadly serious” about everything.  They do not “worry” about food, clothing and shelter.  What they need they just ask for, and keep asking till they are satisfied, whether it be material things or attention or affection.  They “trust” everyone instinctively.  They speak right out what they are thinking.  They are inquisitive and searching.  To them everything is new and wonderful.  They ask questions not because they have doubts or because they want to gain control, but in order to learn and understand.  They need to be constantly reaffirmed about their worth and value.”  The pilgrim here seems to be meditating on Jesus’ command to become like little children if we desire to enter His Kingdom.  We can learn from this how we should relate to our Heavenly Father."

Are you kidding me? My answer, loud and clear. God was saying, come to me as a child comes to me. I don't expect you to have this all figured out. Simple words. Just express your thoughts. See, typically I like to come to God having my desires figured out and expressing them to him in a mature composed way. I found myself coming up short. I didn't know how to put it all together. And this right here was telling me I don't need to. Ask like a little child asks. Inquire with the curiosity of a 5-year-old - and let me tell you, after living with one, that's one heck of a lot of curiosity. I'm reminded of Luke 18:15-17 where Jesus rebukes his disciples for sending the children away. He says, "let the little children come to me...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

I smiled to myself and thanked God for giving me this answer. Even if it took all day for me to eventually sit down and read my journal. He was faithful and kept reminding me. And when I was obedient, He put the answer right there. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Haiti Musings

I have pages and pages of journal entries from the trip. My last blog entry simply wasn't enough to truly capture what the 9 days held for us. So after debating the best way to not bore everyone to death and yet share more about my experience, I've settled on laying out some snippets from each day - believe me, you wouldn't want the whole of it! Feel free to skim, browse, or skip altogether...

Day 1: Saturday, April 2, 2011
Ok, weariness evident by falling asleep before takeoff on first flight and sleeping through it! Never done that before. Starting a trip this weary isn't ideal, but not much I can do about it now. This is such a great group of people. I'm really excited to be with them all week. Admittedly I feel unsure of the actual work we're doing - am I prepared? Uff-da. God's gotta carry us from here...
My contacts have been in for 28 hours so far...
Listening to Phil Wickham's new album - I feel like being on this plane is crossing the line between Heaven & Earth.
Mountains = love for God...
PRAISE GOD! No luggage lost, all flights on time...
Met Dave and Beth Watters (World Hope missionaries in Haiti) today. LOVE them! So great to hear their story, see them shine Christ's love. So inspiring...
Being in town reminded me so much of the Philippines only on a larger scale. The mountains cried out God's majesty. They were awesome! I felt such incomparable love in my heart for God. A deep love. A love He keeps pursuing. He amazes me. I've teared up several times since being here and it's only day 1. God is stirring in my soul - I want to decipher his message!

Day 2: Sunday, April 3, 2011
Omelette for breakfast - lots of onions and a "hot dog" in it. White bread and a banana...
Off to the mountains after that to do VBS/church with the kids, then fed them lunch. So grateful for Aaron's natural oil stuff to help with car sickness!... (Seriously, was a lifesaver!)
Loved interacting with the kids! So cute and eager, once we got past shyness they were so engaging. Did David & Goliath skit/story with them. Sang song, played soccer, jumprope, bubbles. Served them a wholesome meal - food stretched to feed everyone! - very wholesome meal, quite possibly the most filling meal they'll have all week...
Felt very weary after getting back "home." Supper - rice and beans, some pasta stuff, potato salad, plantains, fish (literally a fish on the plate...with eyeballs).

Day 3: Monday, April 4, 2011
INADEQUATE. That's the best word to describe how today went for me. I felt like I didn't have enough to give. I didn't know enough medications. I didn't speak the same language. I didn't have a pen or paper when I needed it. Everyone needs something - water, food, better nutrition, vitamins, prescription meds, antibiotics. The Haitian doctors asked me what and how much to prescribe. There were so many more things we could have used. But even then it's only a short-term fix...
I need to turn to God more, more prayer, more relying on Him. I felt very alone today - it was a great morning, but the further into the clinic we got, the more alone I felt. My heart cries out to do this [medical missions] more though. Not sure what to do with that...
So I feel better after talking with the group - there were lots of good experiences that everyone had - I saw lots of neat moments: Sarah teaching hygiene, Brad with his hand on a child's head praying, Lauren fitting a woman for eye glasses. I did what I could.

Day 4: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Today will be better. I'll know more what to expect. I'll be familiar with the meds and doctors. I have a better grasp on what we can and can't do for people. Human interaction - smiles - touch - that's what we have an unlimited supply of. 2 Corinthians 12:9 came into my head last night: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." Believe and be satisfied, Erin...
Things I want to remember but may not be able to explain: extremely rough road driving up the mountain; driving through the river (literally), people washing motorcycles, tap taps, their clothes, themselves; goats, pigs, donkeys all around; piles of trash and burning trash; plastic bottles everywhere; buildings along the street are vacant but people are everywhere; children walking in school uniforms; women with stands of fruit, veggies, rice and goods; heat; sun; smells...
Saying "bonjour" or "bonswa" with a smile will almost always break a barrier...
Another clinic today. Felt less inadequate. Saw about 100 people. One child with a fever of 104, another with malaria, another with ringworm, another with scabies. It was so hot out there...
Debrief time on the rooftop of our hotel with our team. Great time together sharing testimonies. Each story is so full of meaning. God's fingerprints all over. I love hearing their stories, such depth and feeling...
Heard a Haitian church service in progress down the road from our hotel, so we went to join them. Such a neat experience - encouraging for both the Haitians and us. Pastor spoke on John 3, the Vine and the branches. Clint sang a worship song. Neat to meld together as brothers and sisters, singing in two languages yet in unison. Very cool. 

Day 5: Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Didn't sleep good last night. Was hot all night and dreamt. Will fake being refreshed this morning. :)...
Another great clinic today - saw about 110 people, mostly children. Lots of headaches, worms, trouble sleeping, coughs, fevers, etc. Gave out probably $5000 worth of meds...
More great testimonies tonight!...
I smell. Gross. But I shower every night. I feel great though. No sickness! No sunburn!!!

Day 6: Thursday, April 7, 2011
Morning alone time on the rooftop. Cherished moments each morning. I wouldn't trade this time for anything in the world. Reminds me of David on rooftop with His Lord. 2 Cor. 12:7-10...about thorn in Paul's side to keep him humble - possibly like my feelings on inadequacy? Feeling like I'm never smart enough, can never remember enough, never measure up to those I compare myself to. Brings back memories of times in high school, college, nursing job, etc. I've struggled with this for years...
Plantain soup for breakfast. Verdict still out on that one...
Went to school down the road for VBS with 5 and 6 year olds - little Haitian Coopers! :) We colored pictures with them, shared the gospel with them, prayed over them - their little heads bowed and hands folded...would melt even the hardest of hearts. Got to play with them after class. Pat-a-cake, Ring Around the Rosie, holding their hand and spinning in circles, singing French songs. We danced and twirled. Lovely beautiful laughs and smiles...
Went back to the Haitian church tonight. Clint led us in worship, Brad gave the message. We laid hands and prayed over them. They laid hands and prayed over us. Extremely powerful moment. I felt great heat on my head and hands as the pastor prayed over me in Creole. Such intensity. Such peace. Whew, it was a very Spirit-filled moment.

Day 7: Friday, April 8, 2011
GREAT God time this morning. Up on the rooftop again - it's a beautiful morning. Bright sun, a bit of fog/mist over the mountains in the distance. Shane & Shane, some Chris & Conrad ("I'm At Home" and "You're the One")streaming through my iPod. Psalm 145. My heart is so full and at peace...
Went to the dedication service for MaryLucy's school. What an amazing school - very conducive for a great learning experience. Our team sang "Our God" at the ceremony. I love that song!...
Headed back to the school down the street. Lindsey, Brad, and I went into a class of 15- to 20-year-olds. We shared the gospel with them. One kid named Johnny came forward and became a believer! They asked a ton of questions on what it is to be a Christian. Questions about nightclubs, drinking, premarital sex, tattoos, earrings, girls wearing pants, pornography. It was a neat time of discipleship. They kept going and going with questions. They were hungry to be led. Each of us jumped in where we could to explain and guide and speak truth. We prayed over them at the end. Such a need for believers, Christ's hands and feet, to walk with these teens...
After dinner tonight we debriefed with Beth. She is so kind. God is working in and through that woman all over. She has such a dear heart and said great encouraging words about us and to us, and described what re-entry to life in the States will be like. Had great team-building time afterward. Sitting on the rooftop in the dark sharing stories, laughing until our sides hurt. We were all very aware that moments like that are rare. Cherished the time to get to know each other better. Yay for Transitional Community bonding time!

Day 8: Saturday, April 9, 2011
Packed up this morning. Braided lots of hair for the girls on my team. GREAT God time again on the rooftop - my last morning! Beautiful time with my Father...
Loaded up and drove back over the mountains to Port au Prince. Honestly, I don't have the energy to describe everything I saw on the drive. The memories are etched on my heart. Pictures capture some of it, but it's why you have to travel yourself. There's something about the sights, smells, feelings all combined together. It can't be captured completely in a picture. Thank you God for allowing me to experience this.

Day 9: Sunday, April 10, 2011
Time to go home. Part of me isn't ready to leave. Part of me will never leave. And another part of me is so ready for a hot shower it's ridiculous. 

Whew! You made it through (or skipped a lot)! Congratulations. Thoughts on life after Haiti - the struggles and life lessons coming soon...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Man, what a trip! I thank you for patience in waiting for the stories. I wish I could have written while in Haiti, but honestly, it might have been a distraction. Being there was the most at peace I've been for awhile. We had a really busy week, but there were so few distractions. I had no cell phone. No internet. No movies. No bills to pay or errands to run. No emails to return. It was truly living in the moment. Being fully present with the tasks before us and trying to take it all in. And boy was there a lot to take in. Crowded chaotic streets, women carrying baskets and bags of goods on their heads, bleating goats, honking horns, children laughing, burning piles of trash, malnourished people and animals, the list goes on and on.

My amazing team in the 12Stone parking lot at 3:30 AM - ready for departure!
All 21 of our suitcases! THANK YOU for all your donations!!!!

trash on the side of the road
crowded streets
beautiful children
stunning mountains
me (on the roof of our hotel) with a tent village in the background

I can tell you it is a truly beautiful country. Beautiful people. Beautiful landscape. Every time I see mountains I fall deeper in love with our Creator. These mountains proved no different. We drove through breathtaking scenery on our way from the capital city of Port au Prince to where we would spend the week in Jacmel. All ten of us and all 21 of our suitcases made it safely to Jacmel. It all went so smoothly we could hardly believe it! We concluded God's favor was on us and tucked that encouragement away as we started the week.

There are stories upon stories to tell, but for now I'll share with you three of my most heart-capturing moments. The first one was on Monday during the clinic we held in the mountain village of Terra Rouge. A shy young woman carrying a tiny bundle slipped onto the rickety wooden chair in front of me and one of the Haitian doctors. She moved the blanket in her arms to reveal a four-day-old sleeping little girl, her daughter who couldn't have been more than 5 and a half pounds. She was a precious baby, but she had an eye infection. Through the help of interpreters we discovered that some unclean water had accidentally splashed into the baby's eye at birth. The eye was swollen and matted shut. We gave the baby what meds we could. I had the privilege of holding her while the mother learned how to open the medicine bottle. Can you imagine? She was a young new mom. Her baby was sick. She had no other alternatives, so she swaddled up her newborn and made the long trek to the clinic. She was determined to give her baby a fighting chance. She had the sweetest smile. And she was so grateful. It broke my heart to see her walk away. How far did she have to walk to get back to her hut? Would her baby's infection cause blindness? Would she even live? What pain was the mother feeling after delivering a baby a mere four days earlier? Her determination and strength was beyond inspiring. I will never forget the look on her face as she thanked us before walking away. 

The second moment involves a patient on the opposite end of the age spectrum. A few days later we were doing another clinic in a different area. Several elderly women came through - some for glasses, others for stomach issues, others for rashes or wounds that aren't healing properly. But one woman stuck out to me. Like most of the people coming through the clinic, they willingly wait hours to get to the doctors. While they waited in line, our team got to love on them - blowing bubbles, playing games, massaging lotion into overworked hands. This particular woman had her nails painted in the most lively bright shade of red you can imagine. She carefully eased herself down on the bench as I prepared to take her blood pressure. I noticed her red nails right away. I knelt down to hold her palms in my hand, showing her I was admiring her beautiful hands. I "ooohed" and smiled over them and when I looked up into her face, the look of kindness in her eyes was paralyzing. It was like this 70 or 80 something-year-old woman had stepped back to her childhood, like a child showing off her new dress. Her clear eyes shone with gratitude and the multitude of wrinkles on her face deepened as her mouth curved into a big grin. I thought to myself, I'm looking into the face of Jesus. And it had never looked more lovely.

The last story involves several children at a school we visited to do VBS. We spent the morning in a classroom of 5- and 6-year-olds. Precious little children in their pale blue uniforms. They were more attentive than I've ever seen kids that age, hanging on every word as we shared with them the story of David and Goliath. We laughed as the story was acted out, giving several kids the opportunity to fall to the ground as Goliath did. We colored pictures with them, swapping crayons and oohing and aahing over their colorful creations. We shared with them the gospel and prayed over them, each one bowing his or her head as the words were spoken. After the class was dismissed and we'd visited with other children, I saw these kids out in the quad area outside. I went over and started interacting with them, attempting to play games through our lack of verbal communication. They smiled and giggled and fought over who would get to hold my hand next. We started twirling each other and dancing even though there was no music. I asked them to sing for me and the next thing I knew I was part of a circle of 8 or so children who are all singing in French. We're holding hands and walking/running in the circle, like we would if we were playing Ring Around the Rosie. I didn't know what the words meant, but it melted my heart to hear their voices singing in unison and see their eyes looking to me for affirmation. It has never been more fun to share laughter than with those eager little ones.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Oh the Roller Coaster

Man alive, these last two weeks have been busy! Work, small group, youth group, out of town, a musical, a million little errands to run, bills to pay, prayer night, baking...whew. I'm tired all over again just from typing it all. I'll be honest, I'd hoped to be more well-rested for the trip to Haiti, but there just hasn't been enough time. In fact, I'll make this short so I can get a few more zzz's before departure.

As April 2nd creeps closer and closer, I've felt the ups and downs of the roller coaster all the more. Thinking about the people we'll meet, the work we'll get to do, the medical care we'll provide, the games we'll play - takes me pretty high up! But then there's the errands, the daily life that still needs to be lived, the thoughts of inadequacy or that feeling of having forgotten something - it can bring me down. The frequency in which I vacillate between the two has taken me by surprise. Literally one minute I can be up, the next minute down. It's amazing, however, how those little moments of solitude and prayer can change the mood. Just opening up the communication with God brings such peace. I have to challenge myself to counter every negative thought. Thoughts that not much can be accomplished in only 9 days...or without a building and medical supplies who can we really help?...or I''m just not equipped enough for a trip like this. They're lies. And I'm grateful for our great and mighty King who will accomplish His will for me (Psalm 138:8)! People often ask me if I'm nervous for the trip. To be honest, not a bit. I'm so excited to travel again (after a over a year since my last trip, it's about time!)...and this time I get to go with people! It's a testament to God's faithfulness that I have no fear. I've struggled with fear a bit in my life, and still do in several areas, but He's helped me conquer this trip. I only have excitement and anticipation, not a hint of fear on the horizon. I believe God has significant things in store for our team!

Speaking of our team - they're pretty incredible. They're hearts are crying out to serve. We've prepared and prayed and opened ourselves up. We've packed up 20 suitcases with crafts, clothes, medical supplies, and games. The time is here to allow the Spirit move in, around, and through us.

We'll be landing in Haiti in about 34 hours...!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Apathy Acts Like An Ally

As the departure date for Haiti approaches (April 2nd!!!), I find myself increasingly eager to begin the trip. I've received all my shots and pills, I've collected gear and supplies, I've fasted (13 of 21 days done so far) and prayed. And yet I'll never feel fully ready to go. At the end of the day, I may be safe from Typhoid and Malaria, I may have a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope, but I'll never feel fully prepared. That's where I get to do all I can do and trust God to do the rest. I get to give Him my weaknesses, my failures and shortcomings, and see Him shine in the midst. I fully expect Him to work in great ways in our team and in the people we meet. And the more I pray, the more my heart yearns to engage with the Haitians, the more my perception of their pain comes into focus. I cannot imagine what changes they have been through in the past 14 months, nor can I begin to understand the depth of sorrow they've experienced. But I long to be with them, to share a smile, to validate their pain, to encourage and pray with them.

Brooke Fraser's "Flags" has been my theme song of the month. Click here to listen to this amazing song. I sense my emotions triggering when I hear "reality has left you reeling" and it's just downhill from there. It's rare to end the song with a dry eye, yet Brooke's poignant prose speak of something oh so hopeful. It's got God's promises spelled right out:

You who mourn will be comforted
You who hunger will hunger no more
Oh the last shall be first, of this I am sure

In Luke 6, just after choosing His disciples, Jesus makes these promises to them. It is with this truth settled deep within me that I will pray with expectation as I walk on Haitian soil. That is the hopeful part...but there's also the part that haunts me every time.

While apathy acts like an ally
My enemy and I are one and the same

Uuuugh, it just makes me grown inwardly. How often am I apathetic towards those who mourn, those who hunger, those who weep? Do we turn away and move on or turn towards and press in? It's easier to just move on, but we're called to press in. The Great Comforter has commissioned us to be His hands and feet. We are the physical embodiment of His Spirit on earth. If we turn the other way, who will be there? I'm challenged to think of where I miss opportunities, where I let my busyness distract me from seeing the need of those calling out. Preparing for this trip has made me aware of not only the needs in a far off country, but also the needs of those in our own circles. Sure it takes courage to fly to a foreign country and share Christ's love. But isn't it just as courageous to extend your hand to those right here?

In light of recent natural disasters - the earthquake in Christchurch, NZ (which was close to home for me) and now the wreckage in Japan - I'm also challenged to not just feel sadness at the weight of the tragedy, but to DO something! No, we can't jump on a plane to every country in need, but we can pray...unceasingly. Let's set ourselves apart from the enemy, raise our weapons, and fight the spiritual battle in prayer for them!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Disobedience Hurts

We all know the scenario...alarm goes off at some ungodly hour of the morning, in a groggy state you reach over and hit snooze...again...and again...and again...until finally you rouse to some level of consciousness that reminds you there was a reason your alarm went off when it did. You finally stumble out of bed and wearily begin the day.

That was my morning. And boy was I mad. Not at my alarm. Not at my bed for being so darn comfortable I never want to leave it. I was mad at myself. Plain and simple. I had my morning all divided up: 30 minutes with God, 30 minutes to shower and get ready, 30 minutes to eat and get out the door. I don't like to rush in the morning, so the 30 minutes schedule works quite well. Unless you get up 30 minutes late. I had to skimp on something. I couldn't bring myself to completely cut out any of the three activities (let's face it, it would take some serious security to step out of the house and work a full day with no makeup). So if nothing was removed from the schedule, how would I get ready on time? I ended up shortening all three. It was the best solution I could come up with in my sleepy state, but it made me sad. I did get everything done, but I had to rush. And I skimped on my time with God. That was the most saddening. It doesn't matter what I might say to Him, my actions speak clear as I reach over and hit snooze for the third time. And I think really? I would really choose an extra 5 minutes of sleep over spending that time resting in the presence of my God? One who satisfies all desires, who has plans to prosper me, the One who created the mountains and yet formed every detail of my being. This morning I chose sleep over all that. And I was so sad. I couldn't shake it for some time. I know He is also a God of mercy and grace, a God who redeems me every day, but I let Him down - I let myself down. And like a child who disobeys his parents, I was hurt by the disobedience. No, God didn't ground me. He didn't send any lightening bolts either. But I missed out on time with Him. I was the one who suffered for my own actions. Disobedience pulls me away from Him, the opposite direction of where I want to go. So I was left to spend the rest of the day changing my trajectory. Although my initial actions, before I even rolled out of bed, didn't put Him first, I had the opportunity to set it right. At some point I had to stop being mad at myself and move on.

You can bet I'll be faced with the same dilemma tomorrow. Satan (and pretty much everyone else) knows I'm not a morning person. He's very aware that the less time I spend with my Father, the more likely I am to listen to his lies. So it's not just about that extra 30 minutes of sleep. That decision sets the spiritual tone for the day. It's a small action that can win or lose the first battle I'm faced with each morning. This morning I lost. But I've got a battle plan for tomorrow. And I've got God and the angel army on my side. I will win.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Divine Valentine

I'm gonna go ahead and call myself out on this one. "Divine Valentine" is just plain cheesy. No way around it. But it's also true.

Today has been one of the best, if not the best, February 14th in my adult life. Let's face a kid, it's the greatest day next to Halloween...pretty decorated Valentine boxes, secret admirers, gobs of free candy...what's not to love? Then you enter adulthood. Single adulthood. And the holiday seems to generally be a slap in the face. There have been years of, let's see, loneliness, bitterness, pity-partiness (yes, I'm aware that's not a word, I had to match the theme). The list goes on, but who wants to dwell on that, ay? This year this day was different. I woke up almost tangibly aware of God's love. The lyrics to "Your Love Never Fails" were running through my head - even before I swung my feet off the bed. Then on the way to work I listened to one of my faves - Phil Wickham's "Divine Romance." And it hit me: I've got a Divine Valentine. No bouquet of roses delivered to work or doily-esque cutout heart with words of gooeyness written on it or a kiss on the cheek. BUT, He did give me a natural world full of life and color! He also gave me His Word full of promises (my eyes treated themselves to Psalm 139 this morning). And the sunshine kissing my cheeks as I drove home with my sunroof open....that moment couldn't have been beat. Walking into work I heard a most beautiful birdsong. I got to talk to Him all day - even while I was at work. Then I got to end the night with my small group - a great time with fabulous ladies! 

So I could have spent the day belaboring the fact that I had no date (although I did receive the sweetest card from my dad, just as I do every year...and I hope he knows how much I look forward to getting his card every year). But sheesh, had I spent all my energy focused on the negative I would have missed out on so much! It was a seriously lovely day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What an Experience!

Ok, I've stared at this blank screen for minutes now, trying to find words to express what is within me, grasping at some way to eloquently explain the details of Monday night through Wednesday morning. Forget eloquent, I'm just hoping for adequate at this point. Here goes...

Monday evening I began to send support letters to friends and family for my upcoming trip to Haiti. The key word in that sentence is began. You see, I never got a chance to finish. Within 48 hours of sending the first letter, God had provided in a big way! I woke up Wednesday morning to find my personal need of $900 met. Done. Finished. I hadn't even sent all my letters! I was fully prepared to embark on at least a month-long endeavor of support-raising. I've seen it firsthand. I lived with a dear friend who does full time missions. She and several friends have shared with me the joys and trials of support-raising. To be honest, I've more often heard of the trials. So I bolstered myself with a prayer of faith (probably the size of a mustard seed...) and approached the dreaded task. I'm not one to love math, but even I couldn't help but try to work out equations of "this many people would need to give this much to meet my need..." Each time popping the math bubble in my mind with an abrupt reminder of God's faithfulness.

And faithful He was. Our Jehovah Jireh not only confirmed my call to go on this trip, but He also caused my faith to deepen significantly. I spent most of Wednesday in disbelief, longing only to fall flat on my face and praise my Creator. I blared praise music louder than ever before...if that was even possible. I teared up time and time again. I almost did a cartwheel down the hallway at work...almost. It was truly a feeling I've never felt before. I felt like God had picked me up, twirled me around, and set me back down to continue on with my day. The God of the Universe had given me this incredible blessing! I am, of course, beyond grateful for my family and friends. Their love and support will walk each step with me in Haiti. 

While my personal goal has been met, I do however encourage anyone to continue with what you feel God is leading you to give. There are vaccines and supplies I need that are not covered in that $900. Also, anything above and beyond my personal need will go to help the other team members - and if there is any left after that, we will buy supplies to donate. I know that there are a few people on the team specifically who do not have support of their families in this trip, so they may benefit greatly from  the overflow! Donate to the Haiti trip by clicking here.

I'll close with some Scripture that speaks to where my heart is firmly planted:

Psalm 52:8-9
...I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise You forever for what You have done; in Your name I will hope, for Your name is good. I will praise You in the presence of Your saints.

Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

Praise Him!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Those That Wish to Remain Unnamed

Fear. It's a four letter word that likes to hold significant power, yet it doesn't get this power on its own. We have to give it. It's amazing how much it can affect the outlook of my life, my week, my day. At the same time, those I interact with on a daily basis probably have no idea of the fears that nag inside. We all have them. So how do we get rid of them? How do we remove them from our lives, reclaiming all that God intends to be ours? We name them. That's right. Giving them a name, calling them out, shining light on them (ugh, I don't like the sound of this either), that is what causes them to shrink and disappear. So, without tons of explanation, I'm naming some of mine. For all to see. I've had friends who've done this via blog. I sense it's freeing. And scary, but mostly freeing. So here goes...

I fear failure...I began to conquer this after arriving in New Zealand - I apparently need to reconquer.
I fear missing the point of why God has me this world, in Georgia, in this season of life.
I fear not being able to follow through on the point of why I'm here...lacking gumption.
I fear all things financial...enough said.
I fear I will have to "go it alone." (Wording from U2's "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own.)
I fear getting's a fact of life, but I'd sure as heck love to avoid it.
I fear hurting others.

I sense God desiring me to purge these fears. As I said in my last post, He's working on some things in me. I think He has some things to show me that require a progression, a deep-set call to continual attention, not just a sudden change. I feel like my verse of the year is 2 Corinthians 12:9: 

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 

As God began working these things at the start of the year, something became clear early on that I am seeing come to fruition. And it took some fear conquering to get me on board. Ever since my experience in the Philippines, I've been longing to go back. And I believe I will someday. But first, He's asked me to go somewhere else...

HAITI. I've been accepted to travel with a team from 12Stone Church on April 2-10!!!! I felt the pull to apply one night while I was listening to Louie Giglio talk at Passion2011. There was a heaviness in my heart for this country and an excitement that I could be a part of the hope in the rebuilding. I had heard of the opportunity a few weeks earlier but to be honest, I felt nothing. I talked myself out of it before I even gave it a shot. Fast-forward a few weeks to the first weekend of the year. Getting the last-minute opportunity to volunteer at the conference, I knew there was a reason for me being there. Worshipping with thousands of others seeking God. Meeting a dad and his daughter from Haiti who have suffered greatly from the earthquake. Talking with a doctor who pinpointed the reason for my medical burnout. He encouraged me to pursue nursing outside the US, in a place where getting medical care is a luxury, where red-tape, protocol, and all sorts of other passion-killing things aren't even on the radar. All people want is proper medical attention. I had lost sight of the need for medical care. It's common and expected here. And so much of it on the healthcare provider side is so far from the personal interaction. It's paper and charts and computers and red tape and people making decisions from behind a desk that have never walked a day in the life of a nurse. And so I'm going to Haiti. A medical team of me and 9 others will be serving in any capacity we can. And I'm pumped! Beyond excited. I'm begging God to wreck me. Yes, you read that right. To take these now named fears and give them no ground to stand on. To blow them so far from my life they'll quiver at the thought of returning. It will take vulnerability. And transparency. And emotion. Just a few things I like to shy away from. One could even call those weaknesses in my life. But that's just the spot for God to enter in and reveal His power! 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Pull and Tear.

There is a certain pull on my soul as one leading a life following Christ. The world and all its expectations try to tell me one thing. Beliefs and faith tell me another. It's easy to feel the pull to become one among the crowd, to be "normal" along with everyone else. We have TV ads, magazine articles, educations even telling us who and what to be. Pursue this career, move to this area, read this book, watch this movie. The world even goes so far as to tell us when we should be married and starting a family. But then there's Jesus. He also tells us what to be. He doesn't say anything about being one among the crowd or being normal. His life, in fact, was quite radical. He shattered expectations on so many levels. And I believe we are called to do the same.

But there's still that annoying pull. That innate desire to go with the flow of life, of the world's expectations. Sure I desire to be settling down, getting married, starting a family. It feels OK to follow this for awhile, but at the core I know something is wrong. My focus begins to shift off the One who leads me and starts to settle instead on instability. I wander off the solid ground of Truth, and my footing becomes shaky. But all the while I'm praying for God's will to be done in my life. Praying that He would become greater and I would become less (John 3:30). Praying for Him to have His way with me. Society and cultural norms call loud and clear (even when we don't want them to). Yet God's still small voice is ever-present under the din of worldly temptations, if I would only listen. I sense the pull getting stronger toward the true, narrow path. God's Spirit is moving in me, pulling me back to Him. And then it happens. The pull gives way to a tear.

I've lived in that pull the past few months. Desiring some sort of safe, comfortable, normal life. One where I might meet someone and "settle down" - whatever the heck that means. Basically desiring a life that I can fit into a box. Here's where the problem starts: God doesn't work in boxes. He is so outside of the box its ridiculous! But in my prayer for Him to have His way with me, what did I expect? Did I expect comfortable or radical? Safe of crazy? To be honest, it was the comfortable and safe. I tried to see how God would work all the while limiting Him to the safe box. Longing for a way out of what seems to be this holding pattern stage of life, I looked to how He might be shaping the future. But then there's Crazy Love. His crazy love! What does He want for my life? Marriage and family? I don't know. I just know I've felt the pull to get a routine, a sense of a comfortable life. And God can be in that. But I'm sensing that's not for me right now. He's asking for more. Something more radical. And so I tore.

It happened this past weekend as I volunteered at the Passion 2011 conference here in Atlanta. There's just something incredibly moving about worshiping with 22,000+ university students, serving for an amazing ministry. It will take awhile to unpack the great messages I heard, the enlightening conversations I had, the passion that was rekindled. I was reminded that this life is all about Him. It's really not about what I want. It's about me bringing Him glory. That's it. That's why I'm here. So what happens in the wake of the tear? Well, I don't know exactly. I can say so far that God is entering in and beginning to change my outlook and my mentality on a few things. It's strange, there's seemingly less certainty in this spot, but oh the peace! The joy of knowing He's at the center of it all. The exact "tear moment" that happened this past weekend is something I'll elaborate more on in the very near future. All I'll say for now is it involves a more radical outlook on my current purpose, more fully embracing this Crazy Love and beginning to pursue expectations outside the box. And it might just involve me taking a short trip outside the country...