Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Greatest Gift

I don't even know where to start with this post. The reasoning behind the title is that today is my 26th Birthday. I'm not one for big celebrations, I don't get excited for big huge gifts, quite the opposite actually. The greatest gift in my opinion is one that is thoughtful and shows how much someone knows and loves me. The thought truly is what matters to me. Last night and this morning I thought it would be really good to spend the day reflecting on my life over the last year and this meant spending time with God and being open to what He wanted to show me. I started off with my daily bible study which is Beth Moore's "Breaking Free". This study has changed my life and faith beyond words. If you look back to my post on Grace I touched on how it has been a theme throughout my new walk as a Christian for over a year. Since that post and accepting Gods Grace as a gift, I have seen how that acceptance has changed my life. One of the topics in the study a few days ago was about trading ashes for a crown of beauty. Wearing ashes back in biblical times was a sign of mourning. I was blessed by this imagery of trading my ashes for a crown of beauty and so thankful for its timing. Today the study was about beauty and seeing myself as Christ would see me. It touched me that the worldly definition of beauty can completely ruin a woman, and no one can ever feel truly beautiful unless they know Christ. I made the decision to cast away insecurities and doubt in order to trade them for a life where I am beautiful through Christ.
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.
Psalm 71:23
"My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you-I, whom you have redeemed."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deutoronomy 30:6

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 Africa was my forth missions trip although the first completely on my own, without family or friends with me. It was a medical mission’s team so including myself there were eight nurses and two doctors traveling. We had a rough start to the trip which included one of our planes between Paris and Benin losing an engine one hour into the flight. I smile thinking about it now because there was never any fear or doubt God was in control, holding all of us in the palm of his hand during those tentative hours. To anyone reading this that has been to a third world country you know I will not do any justice to the conditions there by writing them here. It is beyond comprehension how some people in this world live. Even while you are there you can’t get over how surreal it all is. The sights and smells are sometimes too much to take in. During our initial de-briefing one of the leaders Gary spoke to us about how we were there to do Kingdom work and the rest was just a bonus. This resonated so deeply in me and I can still feel the emotion it stirred within my heart.

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.

God used this trip to circumcise my heart and teach me about how to live as a true servant to his kingdom. It makes me happy to think that our team helped save lives, and not with our medicine or by the work of our own hands, but through prayer and being a witness to God’s mercy. I know Mercy Ships was put in my life as a very direct way to serve God. It has also helped me look back and realize how God has prepared the way by giving me talents as a nurse, something I hold so dear. For me it took going to a foreign country and being stripped of all comforts to allow God to circumcise my heart. I urge you to let God do the same; he will meet you wherever you are. Do it so you may live!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Well this post will not likely do justice to its title, grace is too big a topic for me to even scratch the surface of. The topic of grace is been one I ponder often and one that has again surfaced just now. There are times in my new life as a Christian when I truly feel how alive scripture really is. I have had countless times where I open the bible randomly and the verse(s) I read seem to jump off the page and relate to exactly what is going on at that very moment. Last night I was praying and found myself remembering things from my past that I am not proud of. I realized a lot of things I was praying about and feeing guilty about were things I had already asked forgiveness for. God's grace is so encompassing I have a hard time just accepting it sometimes. I believe I am forgiven and have been able to forgive myself for so many things through God, although clearly I am still trying to grasp the concept. I am excited to mature spiritually and grow to understand grace more deeply, I can't even put into words how much I crave it. So anyways, fast forward to about 10 minutes ago. I was getting ready to call it a night and saw a little notebook sitting on the coffee table down at my cape house. Someone had bought it as a way for people who rent our house to write notes about their stay. On the front in tiny writing was Eph 2:8. Upon looking up the verse this is what I found:
Ephesians 2:8
"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.
-A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
-A favor rendered by one who need not do so

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'm a Christian...

I read this a long time ago and thought it was really a perfect way for me to try and relate to others, mainly my oldest friends who are not believers. I want desperately for them to really understand I don't think I'm better than them because I am a Christian. I know sin very well, and I let sin consume my life for a long time. I am not the person I was just over a year ago, and I thank God for his grace every day. I was talking with these friends the other day about girls who are "high-maintenance" in terms of relationships with men. I asked in general if my friends thought I fell into this category. One answer surprised me. One of my oldest friends told me I was not high maintenance but I set my expectations too high when talking about potential relationships. Huh?! All she had to base this on is I expect the guy to pursue me, and if he doesn't I refuse to be the one to pursue him. What if she knew my expectation was to have a guy running towards God with all of his heart, one who has dedicated his life to serving the Lord? What if I told her I wouldn't date someone who hadn't died to themselves? To be honest I wish I had said it, so is life I guess. I am pretty sure I have friends who think I am crazy or "holier than thou" for being a Christian, so why haven't I sent this poem to them? I read it over a month ago and thought about sending it. Here's to on the spot conviction, after I post this I will be sending it out as an email to my oldest friends...

"When I say I am a Christian," by Maya Angelou

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
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

Matthew 19:14 (one of my favorites!)

"Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Well, for a long time I didn't see the point in blogging. Who would care to know the daily or weekly ongoings and thoughts in my life? I realized recently that my story and testimony may serve as a witness to the people who take the time to read this. I have been forced out of my comfort zone in many ways over the last year, and this is just another instance of that. In perspective, I do not live a hard life or one that has been filled with unspeakable tragedy. I have a home, a great family, an awesome job, and so many other blessings. I have however experienced my share of circumstances in which I was pushed to a near breaking point mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am not writing this as someone who has it all figured out...far from it. I have however found the strength and courage through God to face each day, whatever it may bring. Each time I blog I intend to leave the verse or quote which inspires each entry. This is important for me as the words and stories I will write will not be drawn from me, rather, they will bear witness to how God is working in my life and the healing that can take place only through him. Since this is my first entry, I will leave you with 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. These verses were used at a devotional during a recent missions trip and I have been impacted by them in so many ways.

"Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."