Sunday, December 28, 2008
"Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me"
Right off the bat I knew I had made the right decision in going to church. The first passage read was 1 Peter 1:1-11.
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Since the first time I read this verse it made sense to me, and I think of it often. The message today talked about all of the resolutions people make, and how without desire most of them fail. He challenged us to make this our New years resolution, and I thought it was a great idea. Then the kicker. He gave us a bunch of verses to reference how we could increase our chances of keeping this resolution and gave psalm 51:10-12.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Umm...wasn't that just stuck in my head right before church??
Tonight message was on gratitude and thankfulness. God commands us to have a spirit of thankfulness in ALL things...whew.
I am deeply grateful for so much, but I was challenged by the question posed of what that looks like from day to day. I have been delighting in the gifts God has given me, especially lately with all of His crazy provisions. The key though, is delighting in the giver, and that's where I can pinpoint my longing for more, I need more desire to know God.
The connection between the two messages seems to get deeper the more I think about it. In 1 Peter, the idea is that we already possess all of those things, we just need to add to them. To me this makes sense, a constant cycle of perseverance, goodness, love, etc... How can that not be a good thing? Then throw is a life that portrays indescribable gratitude? Sounds like a recipe for a good year (and I'm sure for much longer than that)
So there you have it....my New Years Resolutions, to increase and add to my faith, get to know the Giver, and to have a spirit of gratitude in ALL things. Think people will look at me funny when I tell them that??
Sunday, December 21, 2008
~Hi my name is Breanna. My favrite color is turquise. My favrite food is ice cream. My favrite animel is a cat
~!!!Hello!!! Hi my name is Maria. I live in the U.S.A. My favorite color is purple. I hope you get better soon!
~Get well soon! Hi my name is Maria. My favorite color is hot pink. My favorite food is french fries. I am living in America. I hope you feel better soon! Bye!
~Get well soon. Hi my name is Emily I love to play in the park
~feel better. Hi my name is stephen I like to fish. I hope you feel better (his card had a picture of him fishing for what looks like a platypus on the front)
~To: you From: Josie Feel well soon! Hi! My name is Josie. I like to go out to play. If you wot to sed me a letter it is ok.
~I wish you sunny days and happy days! A happy sun is a funny sun! My favorite colors are pink, blue, and brown. My favorite subjects are math and art. I am in 5th grade. My favortie things to do are play soccer, doing gymnastics, and making art. If you feel down grab a pencil and paper and draw what your imagination can think of. Their are no mistakes in art. I am sure you will be better soon! Be a shooting star
And then the one that put me over the edge... The Maria that loves pink must have made a few cards, each one with a different design.
~Hi my name is Maria. I live in America. My favorite color is pink. I hope you feel better! Even though we are far away we still care.
Thank you so much Ms. Amy and class!
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
Monday, December 15, 2008
28 days until I leave for Texas
82 days until I take my first steps onto a ship in Africa I will call home for 9 or 10 months
I have to be honest. These numbers felt like the weight of the world a couple of days ago. I was out looking for a few things for my trip and felt this weird sadness. I'm not good with closure or saying goodbye. I know what you'll say, "its not goodbye" but I'm thinking "see you later" is also pretty freakin' tough. I couldn't explain why I felt sad, but I think Jenny was right in telling me she thought it was a somewhat normal emotion. I am ridiculously excited for next year. I have never been so sure of something in my life, which still amazes me as I write. I trust God so fully with my life, something which has been refined over the last year and a half or so. I am being called to do something that I can't do on my own. On my own I would never leave my mom and the ability to hug her and tell her I love her whenever I wanted. I would never intentionally miss out on my dads "bob-isms" as I call them which make me laugh and love him more every time one comes out. I wouldn't leave the special moments I have with my sister when we both laugh a little too long at someones joke or going out to eat "just because". I would never turn in a letter of resignation at a job I love so much. You wouldn't see me waving goodbye to girls who have become like sisters to me and have walked beside me in life the last several months. By myself I am not strong enough to do even one of the things on this list.
These little, everyday things that I will miss threaten to leave a lump in my throat every time I think of them.
Every time they come up I need to remind myself that God knew the plans he had for me before I was ever born. He knit me together to serve a very specific purpose. This is all a part of His plan, I am a part of His plan and He will provide all of the strength I need.
I am willing to sacrifice a lot, but am I willing to sacrifice it all? I'm scared God will call me to do this long-term. That after 10 months He will say I'm not done yet.
I am instantly reminded that God will never give me more than I can handle in one day. That's it~ One day. I can do one day.
"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."
I can do that.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"I thank my God every time I remember you."
Sunday, December 7, 2008
When I went into the room Raffi was playing and my little patient was laughing and laughing. With him there are no spoken words, no simple gestures to help us know what is going through his mind. When he smiles and laughs you have this overwhelming sense that all is well in the world. A familiar song came on and mom and I sang along.
I like to eat, eat, eat, apples and bannana's
I like to ote, ote, ote, opples and bonnono's
That got him belly laughing, and my heart swelled.
I had 5 minutes left for a med to finish infusing so I hung around and did some tasks in the room. I am so happy I did.
Before I left "He's got the Whole World in His Hands" came on. "so sweet" I thought to myself. Then the kicker.
"This Little Light of Mine" came on and I got the chance to sing one of my favorites to my little friend. This time there was no contagious laugh, only a sweet smile at a nurse on the verge of her heart busting open with joy.
A few weeks ago I had a craving to listen to some black gospel...don't ask, I don't know why. I think I wanted something different and exciting. I couldn't find anything I recognized so I just downloaded this Little Light of Mine by a southern choir and put it as the first song on a new mix. I've been humming it for a week and listened to it just this morning during my ride. My prayer this morning was to be a light, and I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine
Let it shine
Let it shine
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Two guys are talking to each other, and one of them says he has a question for God. He wants to know why God allows all of this poverty and war and suffering to exist in the world. And his friend says, "well, why don't you ask Him?" The fellow shakes his head and says he is scared. When his friend asks why, he mutters, "I'm scared God will ask me the same question." Over and over, when I ask God why all of these injustices are allowed to exist in this world, I can feel the spirit whisper to me, "You tell me why we allow this to happen. You are my body, my hands, my feet."
Later on the author somewhat quotes Gandhi by saying, "I heard that Gandhi, when people asked him if he was a Christian, would often reply, "Ask the poor, they will tell you who the Christians are."
And since I'm on roll, here's a part that broke my heart when I read it, something you would never think about(at least it had never crossed my mind). As a preface I remember the first missions trip I ever went on. I was at an orphanage in Haiti and immediately noticed when I picked up one of the kids, they didn't instinctively wrap their legs around my waist. This happened again and again, until I realized they hadn't been held enough in their life to have that automatic instinct. I still remember that as if it didn't occur nearly 10 years ago, and it still saddens me. The author at this point in the book is in Calcutta spending time in a leper colony:
"It (leprosy) is a disease of the outcasts, the untouchables. One of the lepers explained to me that oftentimes lepers don't even know the words thank you because they have never needed to say them. They had rarely experienced occasions when they used language of gratitude."
How do I even end this post? I've read these passages over and over and still my mind races with so many thoughts. This world needs love, compassion, mercy...God. Whether it is your next door neighbor, or an orphan in some far off land. We are His hands and feet and we are called to serve, to put others before ourselves, whatever that looks like and wherever that may be.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."
Monday, November 24, 2008
I am currently reading the Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Early in the book he describes calling Mother Theresa on the phone (yup, she answered her own phone over in Calcutta). He expressed how he wanted to come be a missionary for a few months with her and without any details or information she also simply said "come and see". From the things I have read about Mother Theresa she was a simple woman, with a simple faith. Here is what she had to say about faith:
"Following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts and then love more."
Is it really that simple? I think so. I think we all have an inherent ability to complicate things in life. When I think about people I have seen in third world countries I smile at how precious their faith is. It is simple, but not by any means easy. Often times all they have is their faith. I have been trying to simplify my life as much as possible, its funny because I have always described my faith as simple which I am happy to say. I am excited to continue learning and growing in faith, and I will always fight the urge to complicate it. I know things won't always be easy, but I am determined to love until it hurts, and then love some more because I believe I have been called and designed to do just that.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I realized yesterday that my days leading up feeling sad about my upcoming departure were actually positive. Don't mistake the fact that I am ridiculously excited to go, it has just been getting more "real" recently that I am leaving. I was feeling sad about leaving a new group of friends who I feel I am just starting to get close to. I was sad about leaving an incredible job that I LOVE, and mostly I was sad about leaving my family. What I realized yesterday was if I wasn't leaving, I wouldn't appreciate what I have here nearly as much. My prayer request last night was that I can continue to cherish every moment spent with people I love while I am still here. I went to bed feeling great with plans of getting an early start to today and being productive.
This morning within hours I felt like a bomb had been dropped. At first I thought I had too much coffee, however you can never have too much coffee :) Seriously though...I had that jittery feeling and was overwhelmed by normal things and things unseen. This feeling is almost completely foreign to me. I never feel anxious. I can probably count on one hand the times I remember feeling true anxiety over something. There was no indicator as to why I felt this way...I just did. Nothing seemed to make it go away. I tried laying down, taking a shower, praying...still nothing. I went off to a meeting for work and listened to the CD I was talking about in my previous post. That combined with some yummy passion tea seemed to calm my nerves a little, but they still lingered. After verbally "barfing" on my friend :) about everything on my mind I decided to sit down with my bible and journal and go to town. I looked in the concordance, flipped right to anxiety, and went through all of the verses. The second to last reference was out of Philippians and just as I was about to look at the next one I felt the need to read through the whole book of Philippians.
The verse on anxiety is Philippians 4:6-7, however this is not the verse that stuck out to me the most. I was struck by verse that follows.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
All day I never thought about anything lovely or excellent. I let anxiety take hold and instead of finding something good or praiseworthy to focus on I got wrapped up in feeling like crap. I think there are plenty of anxiety-causing factors bubbling underneath the surface for me. I felt like today was a picture as to what it could look like if I let myself be consumed by those things. I feel at total peace now. Part of me wanted to come home tonight and turn on the t.v. in order to numb my mind a bit. I am so happy I felt led to read and just sit in the quiet presence of God. In the beginning of the book of Philippians my application bible gives a breakdown of the book. This particular one talked about happiness vs. joy. I liked this quote "happiness comes from happenings, joy comes from Christ"
I need strength to get through each day, whether it be perfect day like yesterday or a not-so-perfect day like today. Its funny to me that today the line "the Joy of the Lord is my Strength" means a whole lot more to me than it did yesterday. Today it rings even more true (and I've got that joy joy joy joy down in my heart again :)
Sunday, November 16, 2008
"While I was in Africa I kept a notebook in my back pocket and would write down thoughts. Here's one of those entries. The things I saw today should never be seen, they shouldn't exist. Mountains of unbelievably stinky garbage whose ooze mixes with raw sewage to puddle up in mud streets. Atop these mountains are vultures and pigs, and women and children, rooting for rotten food. You don't know whether to vomit or cry, surely hell cannot be worse than this, but it is. Because hell means separation from Jesus, and that is not the case here. Amid the squalor, sickness, and stomachs aching in hunger, there are scattered smiles the likes of which I have never seen. There is a joy here because they know their risen savior and in their smiles you find the courage to help. We praise the same God and cling to the same promise that our trials here are but temporary, there is a glorious day coming. A day in which the hunger, disease, and fear will be gone forever. And on that day without doubt I know I will wear a smile like theirs as I listen to millions of my brothers and sisters from Africa sing to the King."
~In come the voices of the kids singing:
Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether wonderful to me
Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness.
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You
Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether wonderful to me
King of all days
oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly You came
To the earth You created
All for love's sake became poor
So why Africa? I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but my heart was broken for the people there. I feel an absolute need to get up and go, so much that I couldn't picture my life without this trip being a part of it. The people there, their smiles, their faith, and so much more, grabbed hold of me and its not something that is letting go. This track brings me incredible joy and breaks my heart at the same time. I really believe God has instilled this desire deep within me and I am amazed at how everything is so perfectly planned. I worship an amazing God, one who has promised all His children will spend eternity with Him, I can't even begin to wrap my mind around that.
By the way, most of the children in the choir are orphans. Not only do they live in repulsive conditions, they don't have parents to protect and love them. We could stand to learn an awful lot about how to love and trust God from people, children, who have nothing yet worship God with hearts of full of joy...
Friday, November 7, 2008
If to distant lands I scatter
If I sail to farthest seas
Would you find and firm and gather 'til I only dwell in Thee?
If I flee from greenest pastures
Would you leave to look for me?
Forfeit glory to come after
'Til I only dwell in Thee
If my heart has one ambition
If my soul one goal to seek
This my solitary vision 'til I only dwell in Thee
That I only dwell in Thee
'Til I only dwell in Thee
I have been emailing back and forth with one of the team leaders from my last trip to Benin. Her signature on emails is Micah 6:8:
"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God"
I love that verse, it is so basic yet it says it all, mmm, I love it.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Over the last year and a half I have faced a lot of disappointments, mostly with old friends. I have had so many doors close on friendships I held so dear. I can't pinpoint exactly when the doors closed, just that recently I have realized they are no longer very interested in my life. I have a habit of holding expectations of people. These aren't necessarily high expectations, but I want to always believe people are inherently good and won't let me down (with the big things), but sometimes its just not the case. This isn't the place to get into all of the incredible people who have come into my life this year, I just want to mention that I am of course incredibly thankful and blessed to have my new friends.
I know there is a time to drop all expectations, for instance next year I am going in with no expectations and want to be open to all God has planned. To have expectations of people first requires trust..which brings me to my point.
While closing up and praying tonight I realized when I pray I sometimes avoid certain things or don't trust God to answer. I have been convicted to be a better witness at work, I even bought a book by a Christian author for a guy I work with. His daughter's boyfriend was going to be coming to him to ask for his permission to ask her to marry him. This guy was totally freaked out about it. After praying for a way to witness I was at the bookstore and found a book titled "So you want to marry my daughter". It was perfect, and the guy actually read it. He seems like an impossible person to reach with any talk of God, he is anti-religion and faith. So why have I not prayed for him?
Why am I concerned with raising money for next year?
Why don't I pray for things with a heart full of un-doubting faith?
I think I'm afraid to be disappointed....
Which is crazy, right!?
This is God we're talking about. His ways are not our ways. Being a disappointment is not on Gods resume.
I was on a trip this year with a girl who lead a really cool devotion one morning. She said sometimes life is similar to a closet. You know the one with all of your junk. Every week you stuff more and more into the closet with the promise to yourself you are going to clean it out on the weekend. The weekend passes and the closet is still packed. You continue packing things into each corner, a shoe here, a jacket there. One day you open the closet and all of your crap comes tumbling out. Now you are sitting in the middle of all of it and you have to figure out what to do. Some things need to be thrown out. Others need to be thought about for a bit, figure out if you need them or not. Still other things need to be brushed off and brought out again.
At work I write progress notes on every patient I take care of. I write about all of the things I did that day, mention changes from the day before, etc...
This is my progress note. A year and a half ago I was sitting in the middle of a big pile of "stuff" not knowing where to start. Now I am finding myself organized and feeling good about how things are looking. This trust issue is similar to the shirt in the proverbial closet that you see and ask yourself "where did that come from and why have I kept it for so long?"
I know I need to toss this trust issue out. I'm glad I found it and figured out where it came from. I am excited to see what God has in store for not just the coming months and years but for my life in general. I read this verse the other day and I keep reading it every night before bed, I love it.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
When I got to the garage at work I faced a major traffic jam where people just seemed to have forgotten how to drive or something because it was one of the worst I have seen in a while. I watched people in their cars frustrated and decided that instead of just sitting there patiently in addition I would smile while waiting. It was beautiful outside, I had the window down, and a good song was on, so I smiled at the extra couple of minutes I would gain enjoying it from traffic that wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
In these instances I found myself relax a bit. Maybe it was the endorphines. All I know is that it made me feel good inside to smile at the things that could potentially annoy. I remember the teacher also saying that you don't even have to emotionally feel like smiling (or be truly happy) to feel the effects. Right now just smile, for no reason. Feel it? Next time you're annoyed or frustrated try just smiling, even if its the last thing you feel like doing.
And now for what prompted me to write this kinda silly post. I opened my friends blog today to find a very special post that made me smile big. She is so special to me and has a great big place in my heart. She has supported me so much in my preperations for next year and has been a part of every step including my excitement, concerns, joy, questioning, seeking, and finding. Shyla, you make me feel awfully special and you make me smile! love you my sweet friend.
It makes me sad to think that people go through all of the trouble to hide or get rid of wrinkles around their eyes. I hope that people can someday clearly see my smile wrinkles and know that I am filled with something worth smiling for. Inside of me is a peace and happiness that only comes through knowing who created me and who loves me with this crazy, incredible, undeniable, undefinable love.
My God is an awesome God, and I will never cease to smile at that truth.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
As I mentioned in Part 1, every single expectation I had up until that email was gone, wiped away. In talking with my best friend (who was also a bit speechless) she put it well. I was confused at what I was feeling, unable to form words or sentences and she said "Basically you just left the expectation of bringing life to people for a year to finding yourself helping people die for a year". The thoughts following that were incredible and pivotal in this process. Mercy Ships brings "Hope and Healing to the forgotten poor". My picture of healing were the examples of people with major tumors, cleft palates, fistulas, and club feet walking out after being "healed" of their deformities. Here is where God stepped in (well, He was always there of course, but this is the point where I heard Him softly remind me of something). At some point I took off my "nurse" hat and cried when I realized this: People facing imminent death are in dire need of hope and healing, especially so if they don't know Jesus as their savior. I saw Beth Moore speak last week (Gods timing is ridiculous, seriously) and she spoke about how there is life in death. More so, when we die to ourselves, Christ is able to live through us. I prayed over and over to help me die to anything I still held onto, things I wasn't even sure I was still holding on to, and then I got that email 3 days later.
In thinking about giving care at the end of someones life, what better example then being able to share with them that they can LIVE a new life, one without disease, poverty, or sorrow, all after they die. By dying to my expectations and selfish desires to be comfortable on the ship as a post-op nurse, God can use me bring the hope and healing to these people who need it so much.
:side note: as someone who doesn't cry very easily this process is a serious emotional roller coaster, in a good way!! :)
Following my spiritual "inventory" on Saturday morning I was mentally exhausted. This exhaustion was mostly from trying to even fathom how incredible God's work in my life has, is, and will continue to be. The scripture about how His love defies our knowledge is so true and I am humbled by it every time I try to even come close to understanding. I decided to give up on being productive and succumb to an afternoon of reading. I have been reading about the history of Mercy Ships and again found myself crying over some of the pictures in the book, and was especially struck by one of them that shows a line of somewhere around 5,000 people waiting to be seen on a screening day. These people come out and wait (and wait, and wait) to be seen with hopes of receiving free surgery and to be healed. Unfortunately, many of these people have to be turned away and sometimes it is because they are too sick to even survive surgery. Guess what? That's why they decided to create a Hospice team! I seriously should not be so shocked every time these things happen. During Saturday alone I was shown lessons in faith, one, after the other, after the other. This my friends, is why I started this post with how I am thankful for Gods faithfulness, it does not fail...ever.
So I emailed my contact and said yes, I would be honored to be considered for the position of palliative care nurse, quite excited really.
I must mention this in closing. One of my favorite things about God (if you can have favorite "things" regarding the creator of the universe?!) is I believe He is a creative God and maybe even has a sense of humor. I have been telling people that I thought it was really cool that Mercy Ships has big white Land Rovers with their logo on the side. I was finding myself LOVING the idea of driving one of them, even thinking about finding someone with a manual car so I could brush up on my stick-shift skills, just in case I ever had the opportunity to drive one while there. I was going through my new job description list mentally checking off things that applied to me. At the end of the list I laughed out loud when I read this:
-Ability and Willingness to drive in West Africa
Its as if God winked at me and said "See Suzanne, I KNOW you"
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I'm realizing now that this is really vague, it will make more sense when Part 2 is written. How do you put into words how powerful Gods work is in your life?
So back to the car. I finally got to the garage and started writing down the different verses from the songs that spoke to me and became my prayer. Here they are:
"My heart and my soul, I give you control. Consume me from the inside out
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fails. Never ending Your Glory goes beyond all things. The cry of my heart is to bring You praise. From the inside out Lord my soul cries out."
"Your will above all else my purpose remains. The art of losing myself and bringing you praise."
"When you call I won't refuse."
This morning I woke up to do my bible study and smiled at the days topic. In the very fist paragraph I read lines that more or less summed up my prayers over the last weeks, but more so in the last 24 hours. The author was talking about decision making in our life and what the best way to pray looks like.
"Lord, whatever I know to be your will, I will do it. Regardless of the cost and regardless of the adjustment, I commit myself ahead of time to follow your will. Lord, no matter what this looks like, I will do it."
The author then asked at the end of the topic for the reader to make out a list of spiritual markers in their life, a spiritual inventory. The basis behind this exercise is this:
"When God gets ready for you to take a new step or direction in His activity, it will always be in sequence with what He has already been doing in your life."
I found it interesting that I was finding myself doing a spiritual "inventory" within less than a day of needing to make a big decision, hmmm....
The more and more I contemplate this decision I realize the reasons for NOT doing it seem to all be selfish so far. I think I know what I will say, I think I've actually known since I got the email. I needed to go through this time of reflection and time with God to be sure. I will update tomorrow!
Monday, October 13, 2008
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young girl, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young girl paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young girl replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young girl, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young girl listened politely. Then she bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
The necklace does not have to be from Tiffany's (I would like to keep my record of staying out of that store going strong actually) but I think my idea for a starfish necklace will actually hold more meaning to me now. I never want to look at being a missionary as a hopeless task, rather as a way to make a difference to every individual I come in contact with. Afterall, it makes a difference to them.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Psalm 43: "Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put you Hope in God for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
My spirit was renewed, I felt good and truly at peace for the first time in days. I rested easy knowing that by surrendering my life and letting go of any personal desires or wants I could put my Hope in God to take care of the rest. I don't know what the catalyst for this "funk" was, sometimes I wonder if it is something that creeps into my sub-conscious and takes hold without me realizing it for a while. I'm sure there are anxieties or fears or thoughts of "what if" concerning leaving home for a year that are laying right under the surface. If I even remotely try to conquer these feelings myself I'll be totally at a loss. So for now I will continue to surrender myself every night, and will resume my optimistic outlook on life and my faith. There is joy to be found in every day, I am certain of that. Some days I suppose you just have to look a little harder (and the bible is the best place to start looking).
Thursday, October 2, 2008
This is all great and everything but what might you ask have I been throwing out internally? I have been falling asleep to the t.v. going every night for years. A few months ago I started making time for a 5-10 minute prayer and then right to an episode of scrubs. I think I looked forward more to the show then the prayer, twisted, I know. This week I stopped turning on the t.v. at night. I started a prayer journal where I am finding I spend 30min just writing out everything on my mind and heart...and addressing it all to God. I go back and really meditate on the written prayers. I've never felt closer to God then during these times, and now I can't wait for that time each night. When I lay down my thoughts are on God, not on J.D. and Turks antics and humorous dialog. I was feeling far away from God, not disconnected in any way, just that He was way off out there somewhere and I was here just trying desperately to hear Him. Now I feel closer than ever, hmmm...just keeping the t.v. off brought me closer to God, wow. In seeing this I am asking through prayer for God to reveal to me other things that may be keeping me from getting closer to Him, we'll see whats next!
At the end of the day I could care less about material things. Sure, I have my comforts that, well, make life more comfortable but I think I could even give those up without much of a fight. I am seeing life as more of a journey towards a kingdom where I will meet my maker. I'm pretty sure He won't say "Of look, its Suzanne, the girl with the salon perfect highlights and sweet trailblazer." Instead I hope He looks at me and sees his Son's heart, that of a humble servant to His kingdom.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Monday, September 22, 2008
A Prayer for the Children… by Ina J. Hughes
"We pray for the children who put chocolate fingers everywhere, who like to be tickled, who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants, who sneak Popsicles before supper, who erase holes in math workbooks, who can never find their shoes. We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish, who give hugs in a hurry and forget their lunch money, who cover themselves with Band-Aids and sing off-key, who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink, who slurp their soup. And we pray for those who never get dessert, who watch their parents watch them die, who have no safe blanket to drag behind, who can’t find any bread to steal, who don’t have any rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser, whose monsters are real. We pray for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories, who shove dirty clothes under the bed, who never rinse out the tub, who get visits from the tooth fairy, who don't like to be kissed in front of the school, who squirm in church or temple or mosque and scream in the phone, whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry. And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime, who will eat anything, who aren't spoiled by anybody, who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep, who live and move, but have no being. We pray for children who want to be carried, and for those who must. For those we never give up on, and for those who never get a chance. For those we smother with our love, and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it."
Monday, September 15, 2008
"Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, it will keep you longer than you wanted to stay and will cost you a lot more than you wanted to pay."
I realized that this is exactly what had happened to me. Those days that felt carefree turned into dark, troubling times over the course of 10 or so years. I ended up in a pit of insecurity, shame, and doubt, I was so lost. It was only by grace that I was saved. Sin took me to places no one would ever want to go, it kept me there for 10 years, and cost me so much that I still have healing to accomplish from decisions in my past. I know temptation will always lie around every corner, I also know that because of my past I will never turn my back on my savior and redeemer. While doing my bible study this morning (Experiencing God-highly recommend it), I came across an analogy I really identified with.
"Suppose you had to cross a field full of land mines, and a person who knew exactly where each one was buried offered to take you through it. Would you say to him, "I don't want you to tell me what to do. I have free will!" I don't want you to impose your ways on me" I don't know about you but I would stay as close to that person as I could and certainly would not wander off. His directions to me would preserve my life. He would say, "Don't go that way, because that way will kill you. Go this way, and you will live." This is the purpose of Gods commands. He wants you to receive life and have it abundantly. When the Lord gives you a command, He is trying to protect and preserve the best He has for you. He does not want you to lose it. When God gives a command He is not restricting you. He is freeing you."
At times sin seems appealing because it is "freedom" from rules or the standards of being a Christian, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Sin is binding, it brings you into a dark captivity that is filled with lies and hurt. It starts off fun and seemingly innocent and before you know it, it has taken hold of your life. I am amazed everyday at how powerful God is. I am also excited because by spending time with Him everyday I am growing and maturing in my faith which is the most important thing in my life. In a way I am thankful for my past because there is no question in my mind of what life looks like without God, therefore I never want to pay that price again. I keep saying Psalm 119:105 in my head while writing this post, so I'll leave off with that.
"Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Growing up my mom brought up the word potential about 10 times a day (not really, but it seemed like it at the time). I hated it so much I asked her not to say the word 'potential'...ever. Instead she called it the "P" word, which we still laugh about when we talk about it now. I barely graduated high school due to pure lack of desire to even show up for class. I think my GPA leaving high school was 1.2 or something just as pathetic. The prospect of nursing came into play about two years later and the rest is history. Once I was dedicated to becoming a nurse I went full-force, nothing could stop me. I wasn't walking with God yet he was undoubtedly guiding me and "carrying" me through the trouble spots. I tried the other day to write out my life and all God has done has done throughout the years, I couldn't even scratch the surface! One thing I do know is my becoming a nurse was Gods plan all along. Nursing isn't a job for me, its who I am, through and through. God is using me and my profession in really awesome ways, and I don't think I could have appreciated it had I not gone through all of the other "junk".
Thinking about it now I think it is awesome that my mom saw my potential even when I was screwing up, it is just one of the many signs of her love for me. What's incredible is God also knew my potential and even though I had turned my back on him He continued to be faithful, every day. His love astounds me. Tonight when I finished my final quiz I was shocked. I couldn't believe I was done. I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. Right away I thought about thanking God (after I thanked Jenny for helping me with the math quiz). My thoughts were immediatly on Him. A few years ago I would have thought about how to celebrate, likely with a night out at some bar. Tonight after I said I felt like jumping and collapsing all at the same time a friend suggested I do both. So...after the quick jumping up and down I took her advice of lying outside and star-gazing. Although there were no stars I had a really special moment. I just got on my knees and prayed, right there in my front yard. I just kept thanking God for where I have come from and where I'm going. I thanked Him over and over again.
I am so grateful to the people in my life who never gave up on me and believed I had potential. I am most grateful to God who gave me the potential to be and do more, even when I wasn't looking to Him for guidance. Looking ahead I know life won't always be easy, but I do know I will always have God leading my steps and helping me live up to his "potential" for me ;)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
"Imagine going to heaven and standing by God as He lovingly shows you the calendar of His plan for your earthly life. It begins on the day you were born. Once you received Christ as savior, every day that follows is outlined in red. You see footprints walking through each day of each week of your life. On many of the days, two sets of footprints appear. You inquire "Father, are those my footprints on the calendar every day and is the second set of prints when you joined me?"
He answers "No, my precious child. The consistent footprints on your calendar are mine. The second set of footprints are when you joined Me."
"Where were you going father?"
"To the destiny I planned for you, hoping you'd follow."
"But, Father, where are my footprints all those times?"
He answers, "Sometimes you went back to look at all old resentments and habits while I was still going forward, hoping you'd join Me. Sometimes, you departed from my path and chose your own calendar instead. Other times, your footprints can even be seen on another persons calendar because you thought you liked their plan better. At other times, you simply stopped because you would not let go of something you could not take to the next day."
"But Father, we ended up OK even if I didn't walk with You every day, didn't we?"
He holds you close and smiles, "Yes Child, we ended up OK. But, you see, OK was never what I had in mind for you."
"Father, what are those golden treasure boxes on certain days?"
"Blessings, My child, I had for you along the way. Those that are open are those you received. Those still closed were days you did not walk with Me."
2 Corinthians 2:14 reads "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him."
I have been realizing recently that I need to surrender myself EVERY day to God. I know there's some inspirational qoute about a life being made up of individual days, but its true. I may stumble, but if I am walking with God I will not fall. I want to walk every day with my savior, thats a pretty awesome way to live if you ask me.
Yesterday I read Isaiah 30:15 "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."
I have an application study bible so I read the explanation below the verse. It says "No amount of fast talking or hasty activity could speed up God's grand design. We have nothing to say to God but thank you. Salvation comes from God alone. Because He saved us, we can trust him and be peacefully confident that he will give us strenth to face our difficulties. We should lay aside our busy care and endless effort and allow him to act."
Here's to living life one day at a time...with Him
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?"
This same God calls us to have a personal relationship with him...and I am captivated by this! Music also moves me in incredible ways...always has, pretty sure it always will. Shawn McDonald's song Captivated has basically been on repeat this week in my car (as loud as it goes). I'm putting the lyrics below because songwriters seem to have a way of putting things I want to say into words, and this song is EXACTLY what is in my heart right now.
When I look into the mountains, I see Your fame, when I look into the night sky, it sparkles Your name
the wind in the clouds and the blue in the sky, the sun and the moon and the stars so high that's what draws me to You
[chorus] I am, I'm captivated by You (You know that You do) I am, I'm captivated
when I wake unto the morning, it gives me Your sights, when I look across the ocean, it echoes Your mights
the sand on the shore and the waves in the sea, the air in my lungs and the way You made me that's what draws me to You
The wind in the clouds and the blue in the sky, the sun and the moon and the stars so high, the sand on the shore and the waves in the sea, the air in my lungs and the way You made me, the blood in my veins and my heart You invade, the plants how they grow and the trees in the shade, the way that I feel and the love in my soul, I thank You my God for letting me know
Thursday, August 7, 2008
This morning I had a lot on my mind and just couldn't seem to calm my thoughts. I opened my email to find a note from another new friend and also a link to a couple of chapters out of a Max Lucado book she was reading this morning. She thought of me while reading it and I am so incredibly thankful that she shared it with me.(Elyse~thank you so much my friend:) The opening paragraph was this:
"Should you? Can you? Do you dare? Overcoming the past takes faith… and something more. Courage—that’s what it takes to shed the problems and mistakes of the past and to dream again. When shame and darkness hide all glimpses of the future... when relinquishing the past means an uncertain tomorrow... when you’re at the end of yourself and about to give up.. . you can find refuge in the shadow of Jesus. Listen as he gently whispers, “It’s all right, my child. . . I will help you. I will never leave you.” Together with him, you will find the courage to dream again."
The chapters that followed were nearly word for word answers to prayers from just this morning. It is very easy to look into our past and see the sacrifices that come from becoming a Christian, sacrifices that continue to affect us now. Just today I was able to see what an incredible reward I have received because of those sacrifices...friends who know what is in my heart and make me feel so loved. I have the courage to face each day, knowing that I will be rewarded for living this new life in Christ.
One last "timing" thing, because it is always about timing :) My bible study yesterday prepared me for all of this, even if I am only realizing it just now. The days topic was about happiness and joy and how they differ from eachother.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."
I am joyful even during the trials of late, and I can only attribute this joy to knowing God and having faith in Him. I think sometimes it is easy to forget why we do all of this, why we sacrifice so much. The answer is eternal life. With this as our reward how could we NOT do something as simple as face trials with Joy?
"Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:4.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Last year around this time Den was undergoing one of his 17 neuro-surgeries of the summer. This year the organizers of Soulfest asked him to speak in front of thousands for a "True Love" point. With all of the chaos Den had no time to prepare and with just prayers he went out on stage. I can't explain the faith that this man has, it is astonishing. He shared his "life" verse which sent tears streaming down my cheeks as it had the first time I heard him recite it. His verse is Acts 20:24 "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." I am proud to be considered one of Den's recruits for Mercy Ships, believe me when I tell you I am one of many. He is an avid witness and so wise although often regarded as mentally retarded by people who don't take the time to know to him. He is an example of someone whose life is regarded as pointless or useless in this society, but Jesus refers to him in Luke 9:48 "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all-he is the greatest." (By the way this was the verse Den's parents read when they were praying about whether or not to adopt a child with special needs)
Now for my reality check...
I have had a long week which included just 4 something hours of sleep last night before a 12 hour shift today. I had one of those days where everything was 10 times harder than it needed to be and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was so exhausted and although I rarely complain out loud, what was going through my head was fairly pathetic. I could not WAIT to get out for the night and go home for a good night's sleep. On my way to the elevators the overhead speakers came on and announced a "code blue" on our neighboring unit which houses the transplant patients. When a code is called the air takes on this charge, almost an electricity, and it is sickening when you realize a child is on the other end of the emergency. I got to the garage and just prayed for everyone, the child, their family, and for wisdom and discretion for the doctors and nurses present at the code. As I was driving I started realizing how devastating this situation is. Imagine waiting for your child to receive an organ that is often their only chance for survival, just to have that promise of a new life taken away. Those kids in particular are really sick, and survival although good, its not 100%. I found myself feeling intense empathy for the parents of the child and other children who don't survive and the word "Why" started creeping into my thoughts. Immediately Psalm 46:10 came to mind. "Be still and know that I am God". We don't understand God's plan, it stretches through eternity, the concept of which we can't even begin to comprehend.
God is present in every moment of every day, He does not turn away from us in times of hardship. During those times sometimes we need to be reminded to "Be still".
Needless to say I felt pretty guilty for my ridiculous self pity earlier in the day. My perspective on life is back in check for now. I'm sure I will always need reality checks, my lesson today was to be open to them so I can learn from them.
The first time I heard Psalm 46:10 was when I heard Den's mom tell me a story. I came in one morning and she told me the night before that Den had been in considerable pain and in the middle of all of it he looked at her and said "Mom, God just told me to be still and know the He is God". This was just weeks before he would start undergoing his 17 surgeries. God is undeniable, none of this can be dismissed as coincidence, we just need to all be open to what He has to share with us and keep life in perspective.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Now for the gift :)
I started a book called "Redeeming Love" while on vacation a couple of weeks ago. I read almost the entire book in one sitting but had about 100 pages to go. I hadn't found the time since to sit and read until this morning. The book was inspired by the book of Hosea. The story is of a man who is called by God to marry and love a prostitute. The man represents the heart of Christ. The prostitute feels completely undeserving of his love and runs from it over and over. She is never healed of her shame and despair until she realizes God is her only answer for salvation and redemption. I can't put into words exactly how I have completely been rocked by this book. I joked with someone how I never mastered "forgiveness 101" in becoming a Christian. I accepted Gods forgiveness but was holding out on forgiving myself out of guilt for things in my past. I read the authors note about why she wrote the book and came across this quote:
"There are many who struggle to survive in life, many who have been used and abused in the name of love, many who have been sacrificed on the alters of pleasure and "freedom". But the freedom the world offers is, in reality, false. Too many people have awakened one day to discover they are in bondage, and they have no way to escape it."
Well that just about describes me until recently!
On April 24th of last year I came across Psalm 71 and was struck that morning by verse 15; "My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." I prayed that morning for direction from God in my current relationship with a boyfriend. Within hours I was devastated by lies and deceit within that relationship and had my bags packed. I went back to Psalm 71 that same afternoon and verses 20-21 came to me as a promise from God. "Though you have made me see troubles many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again."
Last year on my 25th birthday I was at one of the lowest points I can remember. Everything I had put my faith in had crumbled. All I held onto was this promise of restoration from a God I was just getting to know. This year I have grown and matured spiritually, all the while holding on to insecurities and guilt. Now, exactly 1 year later, I am a new person. I have come to know and accept grace, forgiveness, and feel restored. The fact that I finished "Redeeming Love" today and learned these lessons was not an accident, it was a precious, thoughtful gift from my father and friend. Every study, verse, and sermon in the last 3 weeks has prepared me for today. Let me leave off with one last verse from Psalm 71, which has again proven to be a very special Psalm in my life.
"My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you-I, whom you have redeemed."
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Ok, so this is one lonnnggg post but I've been wanting to post on my recent trip to Africa because it is still impacting my daily life so much. I was asked to write this out for the monthly newsletter for Genesis so I figured I would post it here as well.
This trip to
During the week we worked at a couple of different locations running clinics. From a medical standpoint (and for a nurse who loves the gory side of the profession) we saw some pretty incredible things and were performing tasks completely out of our scope of practice here in the states. The most important thing was that of the 1000 people we saw we prayed for nearly all of them (with the exception of those who would not let us). I cannot explain the great joy in the people eyes when we asked them if we could pray and placed our hands on them. We worked as witnesses to God, his glory, and his mercy. We were pushed to our limit physically, mentally, and emotionally. In the middle of the week one night I was praying and feeling discouraged because I wished my heart was in a different place. Sure I was serving, but personal hurt and my past had caused a wall to be built around my heart. I was mad at myself for not letting the trip affect me on an emotional level in that I was not outraged at the way some of these people were living, and this bothered me tremendously. I just prayed for God to break open my heart and let me serve whole-heartedly and to the best of my ability. The next morning during devotions another girl on my team started out by reading Deuteronomy 30:6 which reads “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendents, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” At that moment God opened my heart and I was overwhelmed by his timing to the point of tears.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God"
Grace is a gift, and it has also been the ruling theme of my life over the last year +
Over and over I am touched by grace and this theme is undeniably God working in my life. For fun I looked up the definition of grace and these are some of the definitions I found:
-Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
Gods grace is a gift, one that is ok to accept. Once in a while I guess I just need a reminder :)
I'll finish this with a verse from amazing grace that touches my heart each time I see it, simple and traditional yet beyond comprehension...
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace
Thursday, July 10, 2008
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.
When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!
Friday, July 4, 2008
My whole life I have been fascinated by kids. I love interacting with them, playing with them, talking with them, and sometimes just observing them. Throughout my life I have always been involved with kids, whether through teaching Sunday school, being a nanny, and today working with them everyday as a nurse. The above verse has always been close to my heart and one that I have found myself saying over and over again more recently. I believe that this verse is a reminder to us adults to have a childlike faith, and I will talk about that right after these examples.
Have you ever noticed as adults many of us surround ourselves with quotes such as "Everyday is a gift" or, "Dance as if no one were watching". How about "Laugh often" or "Love much". There are a thousand inspirational quotes out there, but what I realized is if you take 5 minutes to watch a kid you would see they perfect so many of those quotes daily. Have you ever watched a 4 year old girl run? Sometimes I think their feet don't even touch the ground. My favorite is making eye contact with a little kid in the grocery store. They look away at first but if they look back and you are still watching them they almost always break into a huge smile, and then you can have an impromptu hide-and-seek game with them right then and there.
I was watching home videos of me as a little kid a while ago. As a kid I would do ANYTHING to impress my dad. I was 7 or 8 and he had me practicing my diving into the pool. On an ordinary day this wouldn't seem crazy, however this particular day was 50 degrees and people commenting on "the little girl swimming in the pool" were saying the water wasn't much over 50 degrees either. If you go back years before that day when I was learning to swim, you would see that I would have never been doing that if my dad wasn't there to catch me when I jumped into the pool, promising he wouldn't let my face get wet. What I am getting at is trust. As a kid I trusted my dad with everything in me, and would do anything he asked of me. I knew my dad would never let me be put in harms way. To this day I trust my dad with so many things. Why do I trust him? I think it goes back farther than I can even recall, but it certainly stems from my childhood.
Now onto how I am trying to live with a "childlike faith". Over the last few weeks, and months I have found myself somewhat stuck. I couldn't put my finger on it until just last week. You see just over a year ago I thought I had it all figured out. Dream job, great friends, the boyfriend who was supposedly "the one". In one day everything came crashing down on me and my life as I knew it changed forever. Not only did I loose the perception I had of the great life in store, I lost friends who didn't have the courage to stand up for me and recognize how much I was hurting. Looking back now, that one day saved my life and was a true communication from God. I trusted back then within minutes that God knew what he was doing in my life and I gave over complete control to him. God has blessed me so much. I have new friends (yay for LIFEgroup!) who I connect with on a truly special level. I have a new appreciation for my job, so... what might you ask is missing? Trust. I say I trust God, but those are just words unless you put them into action. With trust in God there should not be fear for the future, no thought for tomorrow. Last week I was freaking out about what the future holds. Am I supposed to be a missionary? Will I ever get married and have the family I have always dreamed of? When is my life going to start? I read a book recently and one of the lines was talking about the future saying when we look to the future we rarely see God there in it. Ding Ding!! That was the moment I stopped and re-evaluated my faith.
Trust is not easy. As humans we are so tainted by the world and generally grow up and learn not to trust anyone or anything. For me personally I have always been overly trusting in relationships that didn't deserve trust, therefore getting burned a lot. For me I have to go back and remember standing at the edge of that pool and making the decision to trust my dad...and then making the leap into his arms. Instead, this time its God. Everyday I can wake up and consciously decide to trust God. If we put our faith in God he will never betray it. He will never forsake us. If we worry about tomorrow we can miss what today may bring. I know God has plans for me, and now I also understand how to trust him with my whole heart, just as a child would, after all I am of his children.