Made to Worship

From my lack of posts for the last three weeks, you can probably tell that I have been pretty busy! 🙂 Nowadays, I feel like everyone is busy. When I ask how someone is doing, their answer will most likely be, “Good, but busy!” I have written posts about the importance of rest, and I have written about seeing God in our everyday, seemingly mundane activities; however, God has been teaching me these past few weeks to worship him in the busyness. 

One act of worship that the Lord has really grown me in this year is my “quiet time” with him in the mornings. I love to get up, open my window, get out my numerous colored pens, highlighters, stickers, sticky notes, my journaling Bible, and 3 other journals (one for prayer, one for entries about my day, and one for sermon and Bible study notes – I am going to try and streamline this process soon, haha!).

Writing this all out, I can see how over the top my system is. I don’t know if any of this resonates with you, but this all began when I followed some Instagram accounts that share the different ways they study the Bible. They posted pictures of their “perfect quiet time,” including pens, journals, a candle, and a cup of coffee. This made me feel like I had to do the same thing. While there is nothing wrong with pens and journals (There are certainly ways that they have enhanced my studying of the word!), here are some problems I believe this “quiet time” attitude poses. 

  1. This time could easily slip into being about me. 

Believers all over the world wake up and immediately reach for their Bibles, digging into the scripture with all of their might. They don’t do this because of their fun journals and pens. They do this because they know they are going to need the Lord’s strength throughout their difficult day. They are fully dependent on him. It is truly a time when God becomes greater and they become less. Their time with the Lord pushes them to action, so they go and spread the Good News throughout the day. 

This is what I desire for my time with the Lord in the morning. I want to run to him because it is the deepest desire of my heart, because I thirst for him. I want God to be magnified. I don’t want to focus on myself and what the passage means “to me.” I want to listen to what God is saying. I want this time to push me to action in my daily life. I pray I don’t get distracted by all of the extra “tools.”

2) These tools can put restrictions on your time with God. 

I realized that I might have a problem when I found myself with time to read my Bible, but I hesitated because I didn’t have my little box of pens and such readily available. Isn’t that crazy?! God’s word is alive and active, and he can speak to us through it anytime and anywhere. 

Anytime and anywhere… I also used to think that I just had to read my Bible in the morning or my whole day was going to be a mess. How could I forget that God is absolutely everywhere? Whether I read it on a lunch break, before bed, listen to it in the car, pray in the hallway at school, or sing to the Lord on a morning run, God is there. He gives us so much grace and freedom. Quiet time is worship, and I tend to forget that my whole life should be an act of worship to the Lord. This is what I was made for. 

In all of the busyness, worship the Lord. You don’t need coffee and a candle. He is oh so worthy of all of us.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me that…

My time with you should push me to action.

1 Chronicles 16:23-24

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people. 

I can worship you anytime and anywhere. 

Psalm 1:2

…but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

There are so many different ways to worship you – not just with pens and journals. 

Psalm 43:4

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 

You and I were made to worship

You and I are called to love

You and I are forgiven and free

You and I embrace surrender

You and I choose to believe

You and I will see who we were meant to be

“Behold the man upon the cross…”

Today, I would like to share a story with you.

When I had two great friends from America come to visit, we did lots of sightseeing. On this particular day, we headed into Paris to see Sacré Coeur. It is a beautiful, white cathedral on the highest point in Paris. After walking up some steps, entering the cathedral, and seeing the amazing mosaic of the risen Christ, we walked around the area to do some shopping in this really cute, touristy corner of Paris. I don’t normally buy many souvenirs since we are spending the whole year here, but I saw a really cute sweatshirt that I wanted to buy with some Christmas money. Since I didn’t have the money with me, I handed the sweatshirt to my dad for him to go purchase and promised to pay him back. 🙂 My friends also bought similar sweatshirts, and we exited the shop and continued walking down the street. Before I knew it, the shop owner appeared in front of me and said in French, “I am missing a sweatshirt that was not paid for. You need to come back to the shop and I will show you the cameras.” My friends and family said I behaved maturely, but on the inside, I was absolutely outraged. How dare he accuse me of stealing! I wouldn’t ever do anything of the sort! My cheeks turned bright red as I marched back to the shop with him exclaiming that I did not steal it. My mom ran to get my dad who had the receipt and was also way ahead of us on the road. While I waited at the shop, my friends said they had paid for everything. The shop owner confirmed and said I was the one who had stolen something. Then, I realized I needed to tell him that my dad was the one who paid for it. I explained that my dad had paid with a debit card, he asked his colleague if he had sold a sweatshirt to a man, and he said yes. The shop owner muttered a lousy, “C’est bon” (It’s good) and entered back into his shop. This made me even more angry!! He accused me of stealing without double checking with the other cashier, and he didn’t even apologize when he realized he was in the wrong! I turned around to walk back towards the car with everyone, and I started crying.

I may be dramatic, but this incidence still makes me very mad, even as I am sitting here typing it. I think it enraged me because he was so sure that I had done something wrong. He was accusing me of something I didn’t do. I know of someone else who was accused when he was absolutely perfect, and he didn’t even fight back. Here are two passages that God brought to mind.

John 18:19-24

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Matthew 23:32-41

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”And they divided up his clothes casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

I am thankful for this small incident that caused me to think about how amazing Jesus is. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I am a sinner and have done so very many things wrong in my life. Yet, I was so full of anger when being accused of stealing. Jesus was slapped in the face, mocked, and crucified without ever doing one thing wrong. I wonder how he must have felt. 
  • He could have easily fought back when the official slapped him. He could have easily blown up like I did with that man in Paris. He could have called down angels from heaven to end his crucifixion. Yet, he calmly endured lots of questioning and suffering for our sake. What incredible self-control. What incredible love. 
  • I am amazed that he asks the father to forgive those crucifying him. I was so mad at the shop owner who didn’t see my point of view, when I didn’t see his point of view. Jesus loves and understands each and every one of us, even those who crucified him. He is so patient and forgiving. 
  • I can’t imagine what suffering Jesus endured to free me of my sin. I pray I never take the life he gives for granted. 

Behold the man upon the cross

My sin upon His shoulders

Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice

Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held him there

Until it was accomplished

His dying breath has brought me life

I know that it is finished 

Voice of Truth

It was such a blessing to have a word for 2019. It caused me to have a focus on God in everything I did and helped me grow closer to Him. I am so excited for my 2020 word. It is…. know

I first started thinking about this topic in October when I heard a sermon on Matthew 15:1-9:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father and mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

These people honor me with their lips, 

But their hearts are far from me. 

They worship me in vain;

Their teachings are merely human rules. 

The pastor talked about how the Pharisees erase the word of God and fill it with tradition. They are trying to give a finite sense to infinite things. Jesus puts things back in order. He tells them that the word of God has ultimate authority. It is above everything. 

The Pharisees sounded pretty crazy to me when I first looked at the passage. Why would they think their rituals and traditions are more important than God’s word? Upon further reflection, I realized I can be guilty of this too. In a rough translation from the French statement the pastor shared, “We have the Bible, but we also have culture, practices, and traditions, only created by man. We need to be able to discern the difference.”

I feel like this day in age, people can so easily adopt a “shallow faith” in which they listen to a sermon, but never open their Bibles throughout the week. We question why God isn’t speaking to us, but we never read his Word. We argue about topics without seeking the answer in the authoritative word of God. We practice Christian tradition without knowing why we do what we do. We call ourselves followers of Jesus and never bother to read his life-giving story. 

Quite simply, I want 2020 to be a year full of God’s word. I want to read God’s word a lot. I want to think about God’s word a lot. I want to give God’s word priority in my life. There are many reasons why this is a good thing, but I would like to share three that come to mind. 

  1. It makes my faith deeper. 

Sometimes, I feel far from God, and I wonder why. Oh, how silly I am! (I sure do find myself saying this phrase a lot ;). If I would simply open up his word and listen to what he has to say… Reading his word causes me to love him more, trust him more, and it prepares me. Down the road, when I am in darkness, I can cling to the truths that he showed to me in the light. If I delight in and meditate on his word, I will be like “a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3a)

I also want to make sure that I am not simply reading his word and not doing anything about what I have learned, like James 1:25 warns against. Practically, I like to take notes as I read and write the answer to these questions in my journal after I read:

  • What does this passage say about God?
  • What does this passage say about me?
  • How does this passage point to Jesus and the Gospel?
  • How does this passage apply to my walk with God and the way I live my life?

Then, I like to write down the central idea of the passage to reflect on and remember throughout my day. 

2. It opens my eyes to truth. 

On the daily, I am overloaded with information from so many different sources. I look on social media, read books, and listen to music. While these are good things, and oftentimes Christian things that challenge and push me in my faith, I must remember that they are not the Bible. I must be in the word, so I can know when something claiming to be a biblical truth really isn’t. 

For example, I have heard arguments that contemporary Christian music is actually hurtful. It can focus too much on our feelings and not on the truth of who God is. While this is not always true, I want to make sure the songs I sing over and over again are biblical. I want to make sure I don’t just accept it as truth because it is labeled as “Christian.” Again and again, I want to make sure God’s word has authority in my life. 

Furthermore, I need to remember that the world tells me lots of lies. Here comes the song…

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me

Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed

The waves they keep on telling me

Time and time again. ‘Boy, you’ll never win! ‘

“You’ll never win”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story

And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”

And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory”

Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

When the world tells me I am useless, God’s word says I am valued. When the world says everything is going wrong, God’s word talks about the hope I have in Jesus. When the world says I can do everything on my own, God’s word tells me how much I need him. 

Amidst all the different voices, I will listen to the voice of truth by reading his word. 

3. It is a big part of my purpose in life.

Originally, I had chosen “knowledge,” as my word for 2020. I wanted to have knowledge of the word and to be a “fact checker” similar to my ideas mentioned in point 2. Then I saw this tweet:

“If your pursuit of doctrine and theology is making you more intelligent without making you more loving, compassionate, and humble, then your pursuit is not of Christ, it’s of pride.” – Dale Partridge 

The Bible is so much more than a textbook. I shouldn’t be seeking knowledge, but I should be seeking to “know” God. I firmly believe that our purpose on this earth is to know God and make him known, and reading the Bible is the main way I know who he is! 

The more I know who God is, the deeper my faith is, and the more open my eyes are to truth. The more I know who he is, the more I will look like him. My theme verses for this year are 1 John 2:3-6:

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Here’s to 2020 being a year of reading my Bible a whole lot, and knowing God a whole lot better.

Lord, I Need You

When I started this blog, I had no idea that I would actually stick with it. By the grace of God, I have been able to post weekly (well, almost weekly :)), and it has been such an encouragement for me. I pray that it has been an encouragement to you, too. Thank you for all of your kind comments, support, and prayers for our time in France. It means more to me than you could possibly know. 

I can’t believe it is only 5 days until Christmas! This season has been filled with such fun times with friends and joy in celebrating the coming of our Lord and savior. We have more fun times up ahead, so I won’t blog again until the new year! When thinking about what my last post of 2019 would be, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the year. 

In December 2018, my mom told me she had heard some people talk about instead of choosing a New Years resolution, they chose a word that they wanted to define their year. For example, someone she knew chose “love” because they wanted to love God and others more that year. I loved this idea! I thought and prayed about what I wanted my word to be, and I decided upon “dependence.”

I remember going to a Casting Crowns Christmas concert last year, and the lead singer shared an awesome quote: “Jesus is not life support. He is life.” I realized that I simply came to Jesus when I felt like I needed him. I was convinced that I could take care of most things in my life by myself, but I could ask God for help when something really tough came up. Oh, how silly I am!!

2019 (the second half of senior year and the first half of our year in France) was a year of realizing how very much I need God in every single big event and small detail of my life. When I tried to do things on my own, I would leave frustrated. However, when I depended on Jesus, my desires lined up with his desires, and I had his perfect peace and joy. 

Realizing that I needed God every hour, minute, and second pushed me to spend more time in his word and in prayer. I realized by lifting every request up to him, I was depending on him, acknowledging that I can’t do anything on my own. Spending time in his word allowed me to learn more about him. In learning how good he is and how bad I am, my desire to seek him every day grew. 

In 2019, I also became more aware of how quick I am to take credit for things that I did not do on my own. I am powerless, but God is powerful. It is only through him that I am able to do anything: get a good grade on a test, do well in a band competition, go on a mission trip, or even breathe. It is only because of him that I am alive and able to do anything at all. He deserves every ounce of glory, and I struggle in my pride to give it to him. He is so very patient with me. 

Anything that is good comes from God, and I spent 2019 trying to acknowledge that. It is only through Jesus that I am saved from my sins. It is only in him that “all creation holds together” (Colossians 1:17). It is only in him that I can find true purpose. I am in such dire need of him, and he deserves all of the glory. 

I learned that depending on God is what’s best for me, and for everyone. Praise him that he loves us so much and gives us everything we need. Depending on him can still be a struggle, in my sinful desires, but praise him that he grows me to look more like him every day. I can’t do anything, but He can do everything. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Apart from him, I can’t do anything. That is why I must depend on him completely. 

I pray that 2020 will be year of more dependence on the Lord. I am also praying that the Lord would place a new word on my heart. I can’t wait to share it with you in the next post!

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You

Every hour I need You 

My one defense, my righteousness 

Oh God, how I need You

Joy to the World

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely LOVE Christmas. Sometimes, I forget that everyone else doesn’t feel the same way. I was reminded of this fact when talking to some of my older friends that said they HATED Christmas with a passion. I asked them why, and their sincere response was, “Why do you love it so much? Because you get presents?” They described it as a horrific time that allowed kids to simply be greedy and for parents and grandparents to spend a bunch of money. It made me so sad to hear this because those of us who know Jesus know that Christmas is a time of complete JOY. 

This last week, on more than one occasion, I had conversations with people about why there is so much bad in the world. I think that is also part of the reason people hate Christmas. How can we take time to celebrate a God who allows so much bad to happen? For people who don’t have much family, or have lost loved ones, this time of year becomes even harder. I want to be sensitive to their feelings and understand their hurt. I also want to show them that there is a reason to be joyful, even when life is extremely hard…

JESUS!!! I LOVE that I get to tell people about the true meaning of Christmas. I am amazed every time I think about Jesus….

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8

WOW! Jesus came to dwell among us. On the cross, he took my sin on himself and took the punishment for me. I can’t DO anything to have a relationship with God because my sinful self can never, ever measure up to his perfection. I just have to trust that the cross took care of it all for me. 

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

So, I just wanted to take a moment today to quite simply remember the amazing JOY that Jesus gives. I am not at all denying the extreme bad that happens in the world. We are all allowed to feel sad, mad, and many other feelings, and to bring them before God. However, we can feel this JOY always, in the midst of our sadness and frustration. We can have extreme joy in knowing that one day, God is truly going to make everything okay. Here is an encouragement that Jesus speaks to believers:

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. Luke 6:22-23

The hurt and pain and suffering we experience on Earth is nothing compared to an eternity in the presence of God. I have incredible joy because:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

How awesome it is to say that I don’t love Christmas because of temporary things like presents. I love Christmas because of the amazing JOY I have in Jesus coming to make a way for me to have a relationship with God forever! This is a joy that never, ever runs out, and it can be alive in our hearts all year round. 

Great is Thy Faithfulness

We sang this song at church on Sunday (in French). 🙂

Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see. 

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; 

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I have been thinking about God’s faithfulness. This is defined as the quality or character of being faithful; fidelity; truth; loyalty; constancy.

Every Tuesday, I go to seminary with Dad. I get to sit in on his New Testament Theology class, worship and hear a message in chapel, eat lunch with other students, get a coffee from the magic coffee machine, and head back for the second half of class. It is pretty much the best thing ever. 🙂 I am learning so much, and I am so very grateful for this opportunity God has given me. 

Today, I came home home from seminary, and my heart was overflowing. Not only has our awesome God given me the opportunity to go to seminary, he has lead me to be involved in so many things. I have recently started going to help kids with their homework at the elementary school on Mondays and Fridays. Wednesdays, I go to work in the food pantry at the Red Cross. Thursdays, I go talk and play games with Alzheimer’s patients and go to a Zumba class. On Fridays, I also have orchestra rehearsal. Saturdays are mainly spent with sweet friends, and Sundays are spent at church in Versailles. I am in awe and overwhelmed at all of the opportunities God has given me. 

This blog is really cool because it allows me to keep track of my experiences and lessons I have learned this year. I would like to share a little bit of my very first blog post with you. It’s called “Fear is a Liar.”

“I have some different feelings and circumstances this time around. First and foremost, I won’t go to school. I am an adult, so that gives me a lot of freedom. I can even drive here, so I can do everything that I wish to do. While this sounds great, it scares me that I won’t have a set schedule. I know that I will go to seminary with Dad once a week, and I know that I will go to church. Other than that, how I spend my time is up to me, and that scares me. On the way here, while most of the plane passengers were sleeping, lots of doubts that I did not expect to feel crossed my mind. What if I completely forget how to speak French? What if I don’t know what to do most days and feel useless? What if, at the end of this year, I have not accomplished anything for God’s glory?”

Looking back at what I had written just a few short months ago, I laugh. I laugh for a couple of reasons. One, I have not driven here once!! I thought I would be able to since our car is an automatic, but it is absolutely terrifying on these tiny roads, and I think I might cause my dad to have a heart attack. 🙂 I walk most places, and Dad very kindly drives me anywhere I need to go. Two, I laugh because I had no idea what God was going to do. I had no idea that he would lead me to the Red Cross where I would find amazing volunteer opportunities. I had no idea that he would lead me to the perfect community orchestra, where I have so much fun making music. I had no idea that my church would be so excited to have a bassoonist play on Sundays. I had no idea that I would make so many new friends. I had no idea that instead of doubting that I would accomplish anything for God’s glory, I would start doubting that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do and spend time with everyone I want to spend time with before July 1 rolls around.

Yes, you read that right. I am doubting things again. Even though God has been extremely faithful in guiding me in the right direction, I am again worried about how to spend my time. He is so good and so consistent. I am extremely sinful and unpredictable. Yesterday, my family and I were planning out the month of December, and I became worried. Am I going to be able to get it all done? Am I going to be able to accomplish everything God has laid out for me?

I have only one solution to this, and it is the same conclusion I came up with last time. I know God will lead me to this solution again, and again, and again. I must trust in the Lord. I must spend time in his word and bring all of my worries, doubts, requests, thanks, and praises before him in prayer. I must spend time with other believers, being held accountable and growing in the Lord together. I want to start lifting every activity up to him, asking if it is part of what he wants me to accomplish. I want to pray that he gives me discernment in everything I do. The more I seek him, something begins to happen. I love how this quote sums it up:

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

-C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

When I spend more time with the Lord, I realize how BIG he is. I realize how he is in control of everything, how he is perfectly faithful, perfectly kind, and perfectly in charge of my life. When I spend more time with the Lord, I also realize how small I am. I realize how I am doubtful, inconsistent, selfish, and sinful. These two realizations combined make me love the Lord more and more. My time spent with him makes me trust him more and more. In God’s word he says:

Psalm 77:11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

Looking back on my doubts and realizing how God provides in ways that I could never imagine, I know I can “Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; In all of my ways I will submit to him, and he will make my paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6).

He is faithful, and he will never, ever fail us. Praise him!!

Have Patience

I read a devotional about patience this morning, and some verses immediately came to mind:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

I used to think that these were qualities I had to work really hard at to produce on my own. While it is true that it takes some effort/willingness on my part, I was missing the whole point! These are fruits of the Spirit. These qualities are a result of being close to God. If I remain in Christ and he remains in me, I will bear much fruit (John 15:5). 

I hadn’t really thought about this before, but patience is an area I have grown in this year. This song that my parents used to sing doesn’t annoy me so much anymore:

Have patience, have patience

Don’t be in such a hurry

When you get impatient, you only start to worry

Remember, remember that God is patient, too

And think of all the times when others have to wait for you

I sat there, wondering why, and it came to me! I am simply spending more time with the Lord. God has been drawing me into a deeper relationship with him through prayer, Bible study, and community. When I do these things, God changes me to look more like him. It is important to remember that he changes me by his goodness, graciousness, and nothing I could ever do. Just like when I accepted Jesus as my one and only Savior, I am relying on God’s grace power and love to change me each and every day. 

Sometimes, change can be super painful. I am a human who lives in my sinful ways and doesn’t like the trouble that comes with looking more like Christ. Other times, I think God changes us without us even noticing! Simply by regular time in his word and prayer, I can look back and see how much God was growing me all the while. This is what occurred when I reflected on patience.

God is growing me in ways in France that wouldn’t have happened in America. I’ll start with somewhat of a silly example, but it gets the job done. 🙂 Because of where we are located, we have extremely slow internet. If I want to FaceTime a friend, I normally have to tell everyone else in the house to get off of the wifi for the call to be able to go through. Sometimes, Netflix takes forever to buffer when I am at the best part in the show. This has built such patience in me. Instead of complaining that the call dropped or that the show is buffering, I am starting to sit there in patience, being thankful that I even have internet. By teaching me in a small way, God is preparing me to have patience on a bigger scale. 

I have also learned about patience from French culture. One thing I love about France is meals. It is truly a time of learning about each other’s lives and loving each other. When I go to the seminary with Dad, all of the students and teachers sit and eat together for a wonderful hour of fellowship. We have enjoyed lots of evenings catching up with friends and sharing a delicious meal together. I have had wonderful meals in America too, but I feel like we tend to rush. We are impatient. Whether it be in waiting for the food to be served or waiting for everyone to finish so we can leave, we tend to impatiently scarf down our food at mealtimes, claiming we have other stuff to do. God has taught me to slow down, to patiently enjoy each moment he has given me. 

On a much larger scale, I am learning about waiting patiently on the Lord. My devotional book titled NOW by Andy Blanks talks about how it is important to have a “vision” on how we want to impact the world for God’s glory. It also explains that while we have a rough plan, it is important to remember that God’s timing is different than our timing. As a planner, I think I know the time I will finish college, the time I will finish seminary, the time I will get married, and the time I will step out into the mission field. If things don’t happen exactly when I want them to, I get anxious and feel like they are never going to happen. Just as I said last week, how silly am I? God’s plan is perfect, why would I not wait on his perfect timing? Habakkuk 2:2-3 says:

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision, make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. 

I would like to share with you what the book says about waiting, because it is worded much better than I could express this idea. 🙂

“Sometimes, as we seek to be used by God for a specific task, we have to wait for the timing to be right. Now, there’s a right way to wait and a wrong way to wait. The right way to wait is productive waiting. As you wait for God to set in motion the big thing, be faithful in the little things. While waiting on God to answer a prayer or open a door, make sure that you life is making a difference in the world while you wait.” – Andy Blanks

Praise the Lord that he graciously produces fruit in us, only by his grace and goodness. I pray that we may all remember to serve him while waiting on the video to load, serve him while we are enjoying a nice, long meal, and serve him when we are waiting for him to set the “big thing” in motion. 

Trust in You

Each week, I try to spend some time in prayer and reflection in order to figure out what to write on this blog. God faithfully teaches me each week and places something on my heart that I enjoy sharing with you. It keeps me accountable because I try to carefully listen to the Lord’s voice. However, to be honest with you, I had trouble thinking of something to share today. 

Last night and this morning, God brought a specific moment that occurred yesterday to my mind. I was sitting on the couch editing some essays I am going to submit to my future university soon because I am competing for scholarships. I could even earn a full ride! I am very, very thankful for this opportunity, but the stakes are very high. So, I was editing, and all of the sudden, I felt a knot in my stomach. I felt extremely anxious that I was going to fail miserably, that I wouldn’t get the scholarship, and that I wouldn’t be able to pay for college. I began spiraling out of control in all of my crazy thoughts, and let me tell you, this is certainly not the first time something like this has occurred. God has really been teaching me to trust in him. 

At first, I did not like the idea of writing a post about trusting in God. There are so many sermons, books, songs, and social media posts written about this topic. I wasn’t quite sure what I had to add. How many times do we hear that phrase in response to something that we are stressed or anxious about? “Oh, you just have to trust God!” As someone who struggled with anxiety throughout school, people told me this a lot, and as bad as this sounds, I really began to resent this phrase. I began to resent verses that are meant to bring peace such as 1 Peter 5:7 and Philippians 4:6. God has really grown me in this area, and I pray that my humble and incomplete thoughts on the topic of “trusting God” can provide some encouragement to you as well. 

The first thing I realized about my struggle with worry is that I wasn’t “casting all of my anxieties on God” (1 Peter 5:7), and I wasn’t “presenting my requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). I thought I was praying but I was really just bottling everything up and worrying about it even more. I would ask God to take care of whatever I was worried about, but in my heart, I still felt responsible for it. I saw a beautiful post on Instagram not to long ago, and it read:

Reality check: Who is the one who can accomplish absolutely ANYTHING? Who is the Creator, the One who made the sun to shine and the grass to grow? The great Designer, who knew and knit YOU together in your mother’s womb? Who is the master, the Provider who owns all that is contained within the universe? Who is your truest father, the One who has your greatest GOOD at heart? Who is the Giver of WISDOM, the Alpha and the Omega who knows the course of all things, from the beginning of existence to the far reaches of eternity? Who is the Lord of Hosts, the One who commands the armies of Heaven to march into battle on your behalf? Who is the Sacrificial Lamb, who loves you so much that he laid down his life for your freedom? If you have not been living a life of PRAYER, drenched and directed by the realities above then REPENT! Stop complaining, worrying, doubting, and quitting. Take it to the Lord in prayer. 

– Naomi Vacaro

This really hit me. How silly was I to think that I could take care of my problems? How silly was I not to speak to the creator of the universe, who so loves to hear from me and wants to help me? How silly was I to try to control my life? I heard another quote on instagram that said, “Stress and anxiety are signs of self-reliance,” and I know this to be very true. When I feel anxious about something, it is because I am grasping it with all of my might, trying to make things happen the way I want them to. I decided it was about time I truly handed things over to the Lord. I wanted to BE STILL or stop fighting (Psalm 46:10), and place it all in the Lord’s hands. As this song by Lauren Daigle says “I’ve tried to win this war, I confess,” but I wanted to stop trying because the Lord has it all under control. 

So, I brought this specific and intense worry about college to the Lord in prayer. I laid it all out, writing in my cute little prayer journal, sharing my thoughts with the Lord, and low and behold… the Lord gave me peace. He gave me the peace he promises in his word. He gave me the peace he promises us when we stop trying to take control, acknowledge that he is 100% in charge of our lives, and trust in him, having full confidence that he will take care of everything for us. 

While I would like to say that all of my problems were solved the day I truly offered my worries up to the Lord in prayer, that is not at all the case. Those of us affected by anxiety know it likes to creep up again and again and again. I live in a sinful and fallen world, and I know that I will probably deal with this struggle until the day I go home to be with the Lord. But that is okay. That is okay because I can joyfully bring these worries to the Lord again and again and again. He never tires of hearing from me. 

God has also been teaching me a lot about persistence in prayer. I think I told you about the study on prayer I did by Cynthia Heald, and it contains a chapter about this very topic. It talks about how presenting the same requests to God over and over allows him to grow us many ways. That daily choice to rely on him changes our hearts. It causes us to rely on him completely, not attempting to take care of anything ourselves. I have even become thankful for my struggle with anxiety because it pushes me so much closer to God. I am more quick to pray when I feel that knot in my stomach, and God always gives peace. 

Thank you for sticking with me through this long post!! 🙂 Lastly, I would like to share a quote by Andrew Murray with you:

The blessing of such persevering prayer is unspeakable. There is nothing so heart-searching as the prayer of faith. It teaches you to discover and confess, and give up everything that hinders the coming of the blessing; everything there may be not in accordance with the father’s will. It leads to closer fellowship with Him who alone can teach to pray, to a more entire surrender to draw nigh under no covering but that of the blood, and the Spirit. It calls you to a closer and more simple abiding in Christ alone. Christian! Give God time. He will perfect that which concerneth you. 

What an awesome God we serve! I will put my trust in him, having full confidence that he knows what is best for me and has planned out my life way better than I ever could! 

This is the Day that the Lord has Made

I took a break from blogging/posting on social media last week for a couple of reasons. First of all, France was on vacation so I thought I should join in on that and take a break. Even though writing these blogs doesn’t take too much time, it was nice to change my routine and take some time to rest. God is still teaching me to slow down and recharge every once in a while. 🙂 Secondly, I did not have any pictures to post!! The picture attached to this blog is the ONE I snapped during these two weeks on the way home from the Red Cross. I thought the fall leaves on our street were very pretty. Otherwise, I apparently didn’t think anything I had done was noteworthy or worth capturing for others to see. I had just been living my life. 

Social media has always been tricky for me. I never used it regularly because I rarely felt like I had anything super exciting to post. I always just enjoyed sharing in others lives and seeing funny memes. 🙂 However, once I came to France it provided a wonderful way for me to keep in touch with my friends at home and show what my life looks like here. It has really been so much fun to write about what we are up to each week. On the other hand, that can lead to me feeling like I need to have something super awesome to post every single week. However, we all know that we all have days we simply spend hanging out with our family or getting things done around the house. Those days may seem mundane, but God has reminded me that they are special too. 

I just started going through The One Year Through the Bible Devotional and I read one the other morning that really struck me. The title of the day’s reading was “Refined by the Grind” and it focused on Genesis 39:19-23:

“Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.”

The devotional talked about how Joseph had every reason to despair in this hopeless situation, but he “did his best with each small task given to him.” He took it day by day and faithfully served the Lord with whatever job he was given to do. Joseph’s days probably felt menial, repetitious, unimportant, and mundane. As cheesy as this sounds, he probably wouldn’t have had any awesome pictures to post in social media. I love that the passage repeats over and over again that “The Lord was with him.” It didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing. The fact that Joseph was faithfully serving the Lord and the Lord was with him is what made these prison days special. 

I am not at all saying my situation is similar to being in prison, (Have I mentioned how much I love it here?! :)) but I was very encouraged by the idea of faithfully completing small tasks. Some days will be excitingly busy and others will be quietly mundane, but I pray all of them will be in the Lord’s presence. I have begun to understand Ecclesiastes 3:1 in context because I am in such a different season this year. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

I am learning that the things I do are important to God, but also the timing in which I do them. Some days he has called me to faithfully clean the house, and other days he has called me to faithfully spend time with my awesome friends. I am learning that he has a different timeline for me than he does for my neighbor. I think social media causes me to compare my timeline with everyone else’s, and that is not what I am called to do. I am called to trust the Lord completely, in each and every season, with each small or big task that he gives to me. As my dad says, “God has us all on our own growth plan.”

I had a hard time thinking of a title for this post. I thought about naming it something other than a song, but I just had to keep the trend going. Then, it hit me! “This is the Day that the Lord has Made” (also Psalm 118:24) is a song I used to sing with Max and Mom on the way to school. Even then, God was teaching me that no matter what he had in store for me that day, it was noteworthy because it was spent in the Lord’s presence. My prayer is that we may have the same attitude as Joseph, faithfully serving him throughout our “prison days” and our “second most powerful man in Egypt days.”

This is the day that the Lord has made

I will rejoice and be glad in it

This is the day, this is the day

That the Lord has made

Come as You Are

In driving to Spain for the conference this last week, we passed a lot of McDonald’s. They have an interesting ad campaign that has caught my eye many times. Most of the restaurants have “Venez comme vous êtes” written somewhere on a billboard or window. This translates to “come as you are,” and it seemed out of place for McDonald’s to say, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Mcdonald’s wants everyone to know that they are happy to serve you no matter your age, race, gender, etc. It made me think of this song by David Crowder. 

So lay down your burdens

Lay down your shame

All who are broken

Lift up your face

Oh wanderer come home

You’re not too far

So lay down your hurt

Lay down your heart

Come as you are

That is such a beautiful truth. I don’t have to do anything to make God love me. I can come to him right away, with all of my faults, tears, and everything that is going wrong in my life, and he will welcome me with open arms. He loves me – just as I am. Many times when I wake up in the morning, feeling anxious, trying to get my life together, he simply draws me into prayer with him. He simply wants to spend time with me, even with all of my faults. I love this C.S. Lewis quote: 

“God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants us.” -C.S. Lewis

As a believer, my desire should be to look more and more like God every day. This got me to thinking – Is God’s attitude of acceptance one that I exhibit in my every day life? Do I love people with abandon no matter what they have ever done to me, no matter what they are struggling with in their life? Do others feel free to come to me “as they are?” That is my prayer. When I ask God to help me to see others the way he sees them, my heart fills with love for my neighbor. There is nothing quite as beautiful as loving with God’s love. While my love is selfish and circumstantial, His love is unconditional and everlasting. Talking about love brings a very famous passage to mind. 

1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This passage reminds me that nothing I do has any value if it is not rooted in love. I once read somewhere that starting in verse 4, we should strive to be able to replace the word love with our names. That exercise is quite convicting. However, God allows us to come as we are, and then he works on our hearts so that we may look more like him.

That’s just it – with God’s love, people can come to me as they are, but I should also love them too much to let them stay that way. Because of my deep love for them, I should want them to come to a saving faith in Jesus and begin to live a life that honors the Lord. 

It is absolutely mind blowing that that is God’s attitude towards me. I can come to him just as I am, and he loves me so much that he works in my heart to make me look more like himself. He loves me way too much to let me keep being “just as I am.” The song doesn’t say “you’re perfect the way you are.” It says we are burdened, shameful, broken, and hurt, and God loves us so much that he will help us through all of it. 

Remember: You can go to God as you are and he will help you accept others as you are. When you ask him to help you see others the way he sees them, you can’t help but love everyone you meet.