Different

Our car, Tali, getting a car wash!

As stated before, I absolutely love it here. There is only one thing I could think of that I would like to change – the color of our license plate. Our license plate is red, and while I have nothing against that color, I have seen no other license plates that are red. With all the places we have driven in the 9 weeks we have been here, not one red license plate has appeared. I am beginning to think we are the only one. While I know that is a silly thought, I don’t like the loneliness that the red license plate brings along with it, and I certainly don’t like the stares we get because of it. The license plate labels us as temporary, as it is put on cars that won’t be permanently in the country, and it causes lots of people to wonder who we are and what we are doing here. I don’t like that it makes me feel like an outsider. 

If a license plate is a red flag that I am not from around here, speaking English in the grocery store is like holding a huge, neon sign above my head. I am not at all mad at anyone for looking my way when they hear me speaking English. I would certainly look in someone’s direction if I heard them speaking French at the Walmart in Forney, Texas, but it just reminds me that I don’t quite fit in. Even when I try to speak French with the best accent I possibly can, there is a still little something in my word choice or syntax that indicates I am not a native. Sometimes, I wish I could fit in a little better. 

A red license plate and speaking English are very material things that cause us to stand out, but to be honest I have always felt a little “different.” I even felt different in Texas surrounded by people who grew up in the same conditions as me, and I know why. The only explanation is God. I have given him my life, and allowed the Holy Spirit to mold me and grow me into looking more like Jesus each and every day. God’s word teaches us that being different is not at all a bad thing. In fact, we are called to be just that. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:2

I may be a foreigner in France, but as I have talked about on this blog before, nowhere on this Earth is actually my home. I will be a foreigner wherever I go. If we have faith in Jesus, we will stick out, just like he did when he walked the Earth. Sticking out is part of God’s plan! If we seek Him in all that we do, we are going to look different. If we look different, people are going to wonder about us. If they ask me why I am so different, I can joyfully share the love of Jesus with them!! 

I love the book/movie Wonder about a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome who goes to public school for the first time. He struggles to fit in because he looks so physically different from everyone else. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when his family is dropping him off for his first day and his sister whispers to him, “If they stare, let them stare. You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” I feel like that is what God says to us as believers! He has called us to stand out. Through Auggie standing out in Wonder, his classmates learn to love and accept each other. I know that God uses believers standing out to bring others to him. 

So, our red license plate and my American wording doesn’t bother me much anymore. However, I pray that isn’t what causes people to stop and stare. I pray that it is my love for others and my joy in tough circumstances that I have because of the Lord. Only through God am I able to look different from the world. This song by Micah Tyler has become my prayer:

I wanna be different 

I wanna be changed

‘Til all of me is gone

And all that remains 

Is a fire so bright

The whole world can see

That there’s something different

So come and be different

In me

Dear Lord, thank you for molding and growing me to look more like your son every day. I pray that through your work in me, I may stick out like a bright fire. Please use my countercultural actions to draw others to a saving faith in you. Amen.

Goodness of God

My Thanksgiving blog post is coming a little early this year, as lately God has been teaching me about being thankful. 🙂 I can say so far, spending this school year in France, I am very genuinely thankful. I can’t go a day without praising the Lord for our sweet cat, the beautiful weather, precious time with my family before heading to college, and the sweet friends I have been able to reconnect with and make. This is an attitude that I am not totally accustomed to, and I wondered why I feel this way here and not all the time while I was working hard in high school.

There was a time in my life when Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” truly convicted me. While I would complain about homework or having no down time, I realized that put the focus on myself, and it was a very selfish attitude. If I looked for things to be thankful for, that put the focus on God and switched my attitude to one in which I had no room for complaining.

Ding, ding, ding! Focusing on God was the difference. Focusing on God is why I feel so much more thankful here than I did in the middle of band and classes and homework and work and more classes and more band. Here, in a new environment where I can do nothing but trust the Lord and rely on him, my senses are heightened to what God is doing, and I am much more thankful. 

The fact of the matter is, God is no more present here than he is in my hometown of Forney, Texas. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus promises us that while we are working to make disciples, he is with us “always, to the very end of the age.” While he is shining through me in all of my activities here, he is with me and while he was shining through me at school or band practice, he was with me. At that time, I simply wasn’t looking for Him.

The idea of “looking for God” brings up something that I remember from many youth ministry retreats. Every night, we would be encouraged to complete an “Ignatian Examen.” Upon further research, I learned there are several versions, but we simply journaled our answers to three questions – Where did I see God today? Where did I miss God today? What can I do better tomorrow in seeking God? When I completed these every night, I was amazed at how much I saw God working throughout the day. In turn, I had so very much to be thankful for. 

I feel like thankfulness can go two ways. Sometimes you work to be thankful, and therefore see God more. Other times, you seek God and therefore have so many reasons to be thankful. In any case, thankfulness is imperative in the life of a Christian because it draws us closer to God. It acknowledges that we are in desperate need of him and would have nothing without him. That is the number one thing to be thankful for – God’s presence in our lives. 

Psalm 146 showed up in a study on prayer I am doing by Cynthia Heald. I love the attitude of thankfulness that the Psalmist has, and I want to have the same in my life. 

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea, and everything in them — he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the wasps of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord. 

This Psalm reminded me of a song by Bethel Music. Here are some of the lyrics:

And all my life you have been faithful

And all my life you have been so, so good

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

Lastly, I would like to share some quotes about thankfulness that really resonated with me.

“Praise and thanksgiving do not radically change my circumstances. They radically alter my viewpoint. Praise and thanksgiving bring me back into the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures evermore.” – Jennifer Kennedy Dean

“We need to discover all over again that worship is natural to the Christian, as it was to the godly Israelites who wrote the psalms, and that the habit of celebrating the greatness and graciousness of God yields an endless flow of thankfulness, joy, and zeal.” – J.I. Packer

I praise the Lord for teaching me about thankfulness and instilling that attitude in me anew every day. May I continue to look for him and see the many, many ways he blesses us. May I always remember that his presence is the most important thing in my life and the greatest thing I have to be thankful for. 

Come to Me

On October 4th, I turned 19. As weird as it sounds, I truly don’t feel 19. I feel like I should maybe be turning about 12 and enjoying my 6th grade year. Time always goes by so, so fast that I wonder what time is actually supposed to feel like. I am pretty sure that its normal pace is just fast because it hardly ever feels slow. As I was thinking about how long I have been on this Earth, I began to reflect on my life. As crazy as it sounds, I began to ask myself if I had done enough. So far, have I done enough for God’s glory? Have I done enough in serving him?

This is also a question I have been asking myself pretty frequently this year as I have become more in charge of what I am involved with, who I hang out with, and what I do with this year that God has given me. I felt the Lord telling me that I have been thinking about this question all wrong. It is not about what I have done, it is about what the Lord is doing through me. He is teaching me more and more to seek his guidance in every action. He sets up my schedule and my appointments. I just have to listen to him. 

God also reminded me that if I think this way, I am forgetting about the salvation I have through Jesus. I can’t earn his love. He already loves me through nothing that I have done. Thank goodness because I will never be able to do enough. In Christ, I have the freedom to relax and not worry about everything I do because He is enough. I simply have to rest in his love. 

Rest – that is something else I have been thinking a lot about. In my birthday reflection, I felt God telling me that my schedule was very full with lots of awesome activities he had lined up for me in this wonderful country. It was necessary that I stop adding things on my plate because in His word, God tells me:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

I have to remember that I am human, and it is impossible for me to work at EVERYTHING with all my heart. The Lord will give me discernment on what activities to say yes to and what activities to say no to. As a human, I require rest in order to serve God to the absolute best of my ability. 

Rest is never something that I have been good at. My personality is such that I feel guilty when I rest. I feel as if I could be out telling someone about Jesus or volunteering somewhere. I feel as if I am wasting time. However, my personality is also such that I require a fair bit of rest. I am an introverted extrovert, so while I love being with people – it makes me tired. It is important that we know these things about ourselves so we can take care of ourselves. 

When thinking about rest, this song by Jamie Grace comes to mind. The chorus says:

Come to me when

You’re weary and

I’ll give you hope when you’re hurting

I’ll give you rest from your burden

This comes straight from Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light. 

How wonderful is that?! Jesus is telling us to come to him, and we will I find rest. I shouldn’t feel as if resting is a waste of time because Jesus tells me to do so. God created us with the need to rest. In my rest, I am glorifying God because I am acknowledging that I am human and I am tired. I know there is no way I can make it through this life on my own. I am acknowledging that God is greater and he takes care of me. He gives me rest. 

This is a continuous struggle for me. I know I need to rest, but I tend to keep pushing and end up completely exhausted. I am so thankful for the Lord’s grace and how he is teaching me to slow down and glorify him even in my rest. I am genuinely trying to make Sundays a true day of rest. I used to come home after church and scramble to get more things checked off the To-Do list. Now, I am trying to come home, take a nap, and then cuddle up on the couch and watch TV with my family or read a book. I am learning that even in those moments, God can be glorified. It is all about the state of my heart. 

So, back to my question of “have I done enough?” God is teaching me that it doesn’t matter how much I do. It may not even what specific activity I am doing. What matters is how I do it. What matters is if I am loving people through every single situation the Lord puts me in and shining the light of Jesus. 

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Whether I am working or resting or whatever I am doing, I will do it for the glory of God!

Life Changes

Last Thursday, I had one of those moments when my mind seemed to leave my body and I just thought, “Where in the world am I?” I was volunteering with the local Red Cross unit, sitting with some sweet people that had Alzheimer’s, and telling them about my life in Texas. It was such a special time of sharing, a wonderful workout for my French, and it felt surreal. I have learned that that is often how we feel when we let God take the reigns of our life and follow wherever he leads. I never imagined that I would be involved in such a special moment so far away from my home, but God does “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Where I was sitting last Thursday afternoon was completely different from the classroom I had been sitting in at this same time just one year ago, and it reminded me of a song that was sort of a theme for me over the summer as we made the move over here. “Life Changes” is a secular song by Thomas Rhett that contains these lyrics:

Ain’t it funny how life changes

You wake up ain’t nothing the same and life changes

You can’t stop it just hop on the train and 

You never know what’s gonna happen

You make your plans and you hear God laughing

Life changes, and I wouldn’t change it for the world…

As I look back on 14, 15, or 16 year old me, I laugh too. I had and still have so many plans that I think need to happen, but praise the Lord that he has something different in mind. He knows what is best for me, and I wouldn’t change his plans for the world. I have no idea what I am doing, but he knows exactly what he is doing. 

Recently, I have been learning that change that comes from God is a wonderful thing. It pushes us into a deeper reliance on him. However, that does not mean that change is easy. Sometimes, I feel sad when I look up and realize how radically my life has changed. Sometimes, I FaceTime my sweet friends still in high school and long for the days of pep rallies, football games, and band competitions. But then I realize, this is where God has me. When so many things change around us, he stays the same. Forever and ever. 

Over the summer, I began to memorize Psalm 46 because I love verse 10.

He says “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth.”

However, I had never taken time to read the whole Psalm or to reflect on what that verse truly meant. The first two verses say:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the Earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 

This has been a wonderful passage to cling to during a time of such change. I know that moving across the world is not the same thing as the Earth giving way or the mountains falling into the heart of the sea, but I certainly had times when it felt like that to me. These verses reminded me that God is always my refuge, he is always my strength, and he is always my ever-present help. Verse 10 also began to make more sense to me. I learned that instead of meaning quiet reflection, it has more of a meaning of “Stop fighting, and acknowledge who God is.” So when God brings the change, I won’t fight it. I will know that his way is the best way, and I will simply be in awe of how awesome he is. 

Yesterday at church, our pastor shared some other verses that bring great peace in times of change. Romans 8:38-39 says: 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He reminded us that no change or hard time we ever go through will keep us from the love of God, and that is so very important to remember. He loves me in Texas, he loves me in France, and he loves me wherever else he may send me!

When we follow the will of God, he tends to take us some pretty amazing places. Although, where we are is not the amazing part. What we are doing is what is truly important. To serve God and to simply love everyone he puts in front of you with his love, that is his plan for us. I want to encourage you to shine the light of Jesus in every aspect of your life, whether you are going to school, work, or the grocery store. He is using you in mighty ways, in bigger ways than you could ever ask or imagine, and that certainly feels pretty surreal. That might bring about some crazy change. But remember: He is your refuge. He is your strength. He always loves you. Stop fighting and hop on the train of his amazing plan for your life! 

Pour cet Immense Bonheur

I decided to change things up a bit and title this post with a French hymn that we sang together during our church weekend.  I actually had the joy of playing this song and others on my bassoon, but it honestly took a little while for me to realize that it truly was a joy. 

As many of you know, I am a perfectionist, and this caused me some stress last weekend. I am not very good at picking up a piece of music and playing it right away, and I am not good at moving on and acting like I didn’t just make a bunch of mistakes. I like to have time to practice and make everything sound just right. However, during the church weekend, I was given some music I had never seen or heard before. After a small rehearsal on Saturday night, we all went to sing, play, and worship with one song together. As to be expected, I did not play very well. I was so mad because I knew I could have played so much better had I just had time to practice. I was also nervous because I was going to play the next morning at church, and I didn’t want to play badly again. 

The next morning arrived, and I reluctantly put my bassoon together and waited for our run-through to start. In those moments, my attitude completely changed. I spent a few minutes being worried and mad at myself, and then I began to pray. It was as if the Lord whispered directly to me, “I don’t care,” and I knew just what this meant. God did not care if I missed a note here and there. God did not care if I had to take a breath in the middle of the phrase. God did not care if I had a bad tone or even if I squeaked. I realized that I was missing the point completely in focusing on these things. God was simply delighted that I was there worshipping him as he deserves to be worshipped, and He was delighted that I was doing my best. After this somewhat of a revelation, I had a wonderful time in worship. I got lost in the hymns and praised the Lord for who he is. I don’t even remember all of the mistakes I made because I was focused on the beauty of the Lord. 

This lesson I was learning reminded me of a time I was in the car with my sweet aunt (who is probably reading this :)), and my cousin. We were listening to Christian radio, and my aunt was singing her heart out, praising the Lord. My cousin told her to stop singing because she sounded bad, and my aunt responded with something to the affect of, “If God had wanted me to have a good voice, he would have given me one, so just let me sing!” I laughed at it in the moment, but there is so much truth to it. Psalm 98:4 says:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

There are so many times the Psalms say to make a “joyful” noise, but I can’t find one place where it says to make a “good” noise. Like my aunt said, God doesn’t care if we sound good, he only cares that we are joyful, praising him with everything that we have.

Up until now, I have spent this post talking about serving and worshiping the Lord through music, but I want to remind you that this truth applies to any capacity in which you serve. You don’t have to be the best Sunday school teacher, or the best evangelist, or the best preacher, or the best blogger (haha! :)) or the best encourager, or the best organizer, or the best leader, or the best volunteer. The list goes on and on. You simply have to do your best, joyfully serving the Lord. The Bible doesn’t say you have to be perfect at serving God, but you have to “love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and with all you soul” (Deuteronomy 11:13b). If we are willing and give our all, God will take what little we can give and use it in mighty ways. He is just so awesome like that. 

A missionary we know used to say “The way they are doing it is better than the way I’m not doing it.” The fact is, I am certainly not the best bassoon player in the world, but I am there. If I am present, willing, and ready to worship the Lord to the best of my ability, God takes delight in that. I want to encourage you to simply be “present” in the ways God has called you to serve!

I want to leave you with the words of the third verse of this hymn in French first (because it is just so beautiful :)), and then my rough translation. It is called “For this Immense Happiness,”and it talks about all of the reasons we have to praise the Lord. I rest in the fact that God doesn’t care if this praise sounds “good.” 

Que chaque jour, à chaque heure, alléluia

En moi, tu aies ta demeure, alléluia

Que ma vie soit une fleur, alléluia

Un parfum pour toi, Seigneur, alléluia !

That every day, at every hour hallelujah 

In me, you have your dwelling, hallelujah

That my life would be a flower, hallelujah

A perfume for you, Savior, hallelujah! 

You Say

This is a bridge over the Seine in our town!

I am currently sitting at the kitchen table in our home in the picturesque town of Meulan, France. The windows and doors are wide open, the sun is shining, and no bugs are flying in. This morning, Mom, Max, and I walked to the farmer’s market that is right by the Seine. We bought some fresh fruit, and then headed to the boulangerie to buy fresh, warm, French bread that Max and I ate most of on the way home. I think it is very safe to say that most of my friends’ lives don’t look like this at all. I know they are swamped with homework and most likely sweating in the Texas heat. Bless their hearts!

We left a piece of our family and of our hearts back in Arkansas to complete his junior year of college as a music education major. I know he is also dealing with lots of homework and lots of heat. We recently had the joy of talking with Michael on the phone, and he told us about his super busy schedule. He said when asked if he was jealous of us living over here, he answered that he was mainly jealous of me! I get to enjoy this year and not go to school or work. He said it all in fun, but it really got me to thinking. 

I can understand why it may not seem fair. Sometimes I worry that people are judging me, thinking I am wasting my life while they are taking steps closer to their career. I worry that people might resent me because I was given this opportunity and they weren’t, and I don’t ever want to seem like I am boasting. To clarify, I know that nobody really thinks this. Everyone has been so, so supportive of our trip here, and I am so grateful. These are simply worries that I have that stem from a problem I have dealt with all of my life: people pleasing. 

God is so good to teach me and give me reminders of his love through music. The song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle is very popular in America, but apparently it is popular here too! I heard it walking through the grocery store one time, and I couldn’t believe it! A few days later, I heard it coming out of a radio that a man was listening to on his bulldozer while doing construction work. I love it when God gives us moments like these. One line of this song really sticks out to me:

The only thing that matters now is everything YOU think of me…

Wow! It is the perfect answer to my doubts. Here I am, worried about what everyone else thinks about me. I am worried if they approve of what I am doing every day and if they think my year in France is worth it. Did I ever stop and ask what God thinks about what I am doing in France? The answer to that would be no. So, I spent some time in prayer, and I felt at peace remembering that God has placed my family here. He wants me to be here serving him. I should only be concerned with pleasing him daily. Galatians 1:10 comes to mind:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 

This verse is convicting because it reminds me that pleasing people is equivalent to serving myself. I want people to recognize me and think I am awesome. I want to feed my pride. Throughout school, I was so concerned with doing my assignments exactly right, in order to please my teachers so that they would praise me. In the same way, I want people to praise me for what I am doing here, and so I am worried about what they think. This is completely backwards of how I should be thinking. 

It is impossible to seek to please man and God at the same time because one option seeks to glorify ourselves and the other option seeks to glorify God. I shouldn’t be pleasing people so that I can be lifted up. I should be pleasing God so that he may be lifted up. I would like to share a quote with you that wraps these ideas up well:

“You don’t have to please others. Just do what God wants you to do, because at the end of the day, it is only He who can satisfy your heart. Not the approval or applause from other people. – Anonymous 

I pray that this truth encourages you as much as it has encouraged me: It doesn’t matter what other people think about you. It only matters what God thinks of you. Serve him with all of your might. That is the only thing that holds any significance in the end. 

Mess Like Me

This beautiful song by Lindsay McCaul begins with these lyrics:

Some days the sun shines bright

And I’m up on top of the world

Next day those clouds roll in 

And in the rain pours down on this girl

I don’t know if I have ever heard something that could describe me better. Some days, I wake up and spend time with the Lord. I work really hard to honor God, to love others well, and tell people about him. I go to bed with the joy of the Lord in my heart and ready to give every second to him again tomorrow. However, I felt God pushing me to be completely transparent this week and tell you something that becomes more evident each day: I am an absolute mess! A lot of the time, I roll out of bed a little too late and selfishly skip out on the time with the Lord that I so desperately need. I try to do good things and claim they are “for God’s glory” when they are really just for my own pride. I fall into bed not thinking much about God because throughout the course of the day, my relationship with him has been fractured due to of all of my sin. 

I have always tried to be “good.” I am always willing to be kind towards others and share a smile, but I must honestly ask myself where my motivations lie. A lot of the time, I am trying to make myself look better, become popular, or advance my own agenda in one way or another. I found this C.S. Lewis quote once and it rings so, so very true in my life: 

“No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good.”

Amen to that! This has become even more evident these first few weeks of my time in France. I tend to fall into the trap of thinking “Look at me! I am awesome! I can do so much on my own (without the Lord’s help).” It is at that moment that I am reminded of how utterly imperfect I am. I think I am doing so well at speaking French, and then I say several sentences that make absolutely no sense. I try to encourage someone with my own personal strength, and I fall flat on my face and don’t help them at all. I try to make my family dinner, and I make a big mess and almost break a few plates. The moment I think I am looking cute walking down the beach, a seagull poops in my hair. There are countless examples I could give you, but I would like to start sharing the good news right now.

C.S. Lewis also says, “It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of his presence.” 

Because of my pride, I tend to hate these moments that remind me of how imperfect I am. However, I am so very thankful for them. The Holy Spirit is highlighting this “dirt” in my life and reminding me what a horrible person I am, but that is not where the conversation stops. God reminds me that when I am imperfect, he is perfect. When I am wishy-washy, he is constant. When I am completely covered in sin, he washes me clean. He welcomes me with open arms, forgives me, and loves me. He will take my willing heart and make me more like his son each and every day. This simple verse has been at the forefront of my mind:

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

You see, there is nothing special about my sinful self. I am only special because God has forgiven me through faith in his son Jesus. Through grace, God has made me who I was meant to be: his child. But, praise the Lord that it doesn’t stop there. Not only does he forgive me, He desires to USE me for his honor and glory. Just as he used Paul, who killed numerous Christians, to spread the Good News of Jesus. He can use anyone of us once we let him become greater and greater in every area of our lives and we become much, much less. I can assure you that the genuine kindness and joy that comes out of me is not in fact from me because I am sinful and self-centered. That is Jesus, only Jesus shining through.

I would like to share another C.S. Lewis quote with you. If you can’t tell, I like him a lot! 🙂 

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

So this “less of me” idea is not supposed to create sadness like it did when I was younger. It is not becoming less of Madeline, it is becoming the original Madeline I was intended to be! 

Thank you, Lord, that…

…Your hands are holdin’ me 

When I’m falling apart 

Your peace keeps calming all the crazy in my heart

Breaking down or bustin’ up

You always help me see that

Your love won’t leave

Even a mess like me…

…just like the song says.  Thank you for the daily reminders that I am completely imperfect and in desperate need of you. Please become greater in my life each and every day. I pray I may become less and less each day. Thank you for not only forgiving me, but using me for your purpose. You give me so much more than I deserve. Amen!!

Where I Belong

We spent our first two weeks in France at an Airbnb because our rental home would not be ready until September 1. Last weekend, we spent some time at the beach and then headed to our “permanent home” where we will be until July 2020! Up until now, we have been happily living out of our suitcases. However, in the car on the way to our rental house, I had a burning desire to unpack and organize all of my clothes. As silly as it sounds, I was excited to get “settled in,” and I think this is a feeling humans normally have. 

I wondered if my little brother felt the same way I did. I turned to him and asked, “Are you excited to move into our new home?” He replied, “I guess. I’m glad to finally have some stability in my life.” While he said this in his joking tone, I knew there was some truth to that statement, maybe even more so for him than for me. While Max knows he is following the Lord’s call coming to France, things haven’t been super easy for him. He feels somewhat out of place because he doesn’t speak French. All of his friends back home are starting high school, marching band, and Friday night football games. He had to say bye to his 3 cats that he loves so very much, and he misses Dr. Pepper. 🙂 

I struggle somewhat to relate to him because all of my friends went to college, so we were going to have to say goodbye anyway. I speak French and love the country of France, but this desire to unpack my suitcase helped me relate to him. Then, this song by Building 429 started playing from the playlist we were listening to in the car on our way “home.”

All I know is I’m not home yet

This is not where I belong

Take this world and give me Jesus

This is not where I belong…

This longing I feel for an organized closet or that Max feels for Dr. Pepper, this longing we feel for the comfort or stability of “home” – this is not something that the world can satisfy. This is something only God can give. Since I have trusted Jesus as my one and only savior, I will truly be home when I am in Heaven with him forever.

I praised the Lord for giving my family this encouragement. In this moment, God reminded us that while we may miss Texas, he is preparing a truly permanent place for us where we will be in his presence for all eternity. There will be no crying or pain. It will be the way God originally designed before the huge problem of sin messed everything up. Because of my sin, I don’t deserve this permanent home with the Lord, but he freely gives it to me through faith in Jesus. What an incredible promise!

During the car ride, my family shared some quotes with each other about this promise:

“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

You see, we weren’t made for this temporary, sinful world. We were made to be in a relationship with God. This is the only thing that can truly satisfy us. So, I will work to serve him daily until I can worship him for all eternity in my forever home. I want to encourage you that whatever suffering you may be going through today will end soon. This longing for a permanent home will end soon because our lives here on Earth are but a speck in comparison to eternity. James 4:14-15 says:

“Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

It brings me amazing hope to know that I will truly be home soon, but I include verse 15 as a reminder to myself. I don’t have much time here on Earth, so I should only be concerned with doing the Lord’s will. I should be concerned with “walking others home,” telling them about the saving grace of Jesus that allows us to have a relationship with God and a permanent home with him. 

I praise the Lord that he is with us every day and continually shows us his love. One way I currently feel God’s love is through our neighborhood cat, Lolly. Max was missing our cats at home and God gave us one that frequently visits here. What a beautiful reminder of his ability to satisfy our needs and wants. I long for the day that we are in his presence, completely satisfied in him.

Until then, as I walk through this world stained by sin, I will remember that “I am not home yet.” 

Would you like France updates?

Hello, everyone! I wanted to explain very quickly about two other ways you can receive updates about our time in France.

I felt called to use this blog as a way to share my personal experience in France and what God is teaching me, but I realize some of you may be reading this and want to hear more about Dad’s work with the seminary or the work we are doing with churches here. We send out a monthly update to our American friends, and we can easily add you to the email list! Simply comment on this post with your email, and we will add you. As you pray for us, we would love to pray for you too. Once you are on the email list, you can simply respond to those emails with specific prayer requests.

Also, I try to post weekly updates on my facebook about our time here. If you would like to send me a friend request (Madeline Burer), and comment that you did so, I will do my best to accept it. 

Thank you so much for your interest in what we are doing in France! 

Do Something

I hadn’t planned on naming every post after a song, but God keeps bringing them to mind. We will see how long this trend lasts! 🙂 I have also always loved this song by Matthew West. The lyrics that stick out to me are:

If not us, then who

If not me and you

Right now, it’s time for us to do something

If not now, then when…

This is a lesson that God has been teaching me during our first week in France. As I sat in our beautiful Airbnb, I kept saying to myself that I would take this week to rest. I would relax and get acclimated, and then I would get started on whatever God had laid out for me to do. While rest is something we definitely need as humans, something about this plan did not sit well with me. I realized how easy it is to have this attitude in life. It is so easy to fall into the trap of saying things like: Once I graduate high school, my life will start. Once I grow up, God’s plan for me will start. Once I get past these two really hard, busy weeks, I can truly start to serve the Lord. 

I have always been excited about God’s plan for my life, but I have generally looked at God’s plan as something far in the future. God is teaching me that his plan for my life is happening right now. It is happening today, in this very moment. I shouldn’t just look to him to know what to do for my career. I should look to him to know what to do daily. I would hate to look back on my life and realize I spent that whole time making plans or waiting around until I got older. Life is happening right now. 

God used some very specific instances to solidify the importance of this truth. I was flipping through Facebook, and a quote popped up by Bob Goff. It said, “Quit waiting for a plan; go love everybody.” I am definitely a planner, so this quote bothered me at first. I thought to myself, “If I don’t prepare at all, things are definitely not going to go very well.” Upon further reflection, I realized that lots of things do require diligent preparation, but even during this time of preparation I can accomplish God’s plan for my life. There are some more general things that I can do right now to honor and glorify God because this is his ultimate plan for everyone. It is God’s plan for me to have a relationship with him through prayer and reading his word. It is God’s plan that I love people with the love that He has shown me through his son. It is God’s plan that I share the amazing story of Jesus whenever I am presented with the opportunity. It is God’s plan that I encourage others to grow in their faith.

As I thought about these ideas in France’s 70 degree weather, God also brought another quote to mind that I heard in the 100 degree weather of Dallas. When we were debriefing with the youth after our mission trip this summer, my mom explained she had had reservations about coming on this trip as an adult volunteer when we had so much to prepare for France. She then said, “I am never sorry I took time to do something for God’s glory.” I realized this applies to my life too. I won’t be sorry if I leave this Airbnb and go love people, but I might be sorry if I look back and realize I waited around. 

Lastly, I was impacted by this idea when I looked at a devotional book that had been given to me as a senior gift from my youth leaders. It is written by Andy Blanks, and right on the cover it says in big bold letters NOW. Underneath, it describes “impacting your world for Christ, right now.” The first devotional talked about a passage that we are all familiar with, but I would like to share it with you here. It is Jeremiah 29:10-14.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

My devotional book taught me that Jeremiah’s words to the exiles contain some principles that are true for my life too. God loves us so much that he has a plan for each of us. These plans are for his glory, which means they are also what is best for us. In order to know these plans, we can pray and God will answer. He reveals his plan for our lives through his word. 

I am so thankful God loves us, and wants to reveal his plan for us. I know his plan is not only the future, but something that happens right now. So, I decided that I had done enough sitting around and it was time for me to “do something.” I simply went out and loved people, and I pray I continue to do so, like God instructs me in his word. Doing this, working to accomplish God’s plan, did not only bring him glory. It brought me ultimate joy and peace. Thank you, Lord, for teaching me that I am never sorry when I take the time to “do something,” because your plan is happening right NOW.