To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

These past few weeks I’ve found myself up against a new mental and emotional challenge: wrestling with the reality of my own mortality. I’ve always known that I am mortal, but I’ve never put much thought towards what would happen if I were to die in the near future.

Honestly, the thought of my own death is not overly frightening, because, when I die, I get to enter the realm of no suffering with Jesus forever! And while I definitely deeply value my life, and have no desire to die now, if I did, I would be ok. However, I worry about what would happen to those I love if something were to happen to me. At first glance that seems selfless, but the truth is that it is an incredibly selfish thought. If I die, I don’t have to deal with the consequences of my death here on earth, but my loved ones do.

I know these are things no one wants to think about, but lately they’ve been running circles in my mind. Here’s the thing: I know Nepal is dangerous. But when people remind me of the dangers, I want to remind them that nowhere is risk-free, and that humans are terrible evaluators of potential risk. For instance, driving is continually proven to be risky, and yet many of us continue to get behind the wheel on a daily basis.

I do, however, understand why people have been increasingly concerned for my safety in Nepal. In the wake of the recent earthquakes, the dangers in Nepal have become much more visible, both to me, and to those I love. The risks simply aren’t as abstract as they used to be, and I find myself wondering what would happen if something were to happen to me in Nepal and I didn’t return to the States.

But then I realize that that is the voice of Satan tempting me to be afraid. Satan knows just as well as I do that Nepal is exactly where I’m supposed to be this summer, and he’s doing everything he can to keep me away. Fears about my own death are just his latest ploy, but guess what Satan, it’s not going to work!

So for those of you who are worried about my security in Nepal, please don’t be. While I can’t guarantee my safety, I do promise to not be reckless, and I deeply trust both Tiny Hands (the organization planning my trip) and Jesus. I also don’t know the last time I’ve felt so at peace with any decision I’ve made. In the words of my friend Marybeth, “don’t let anyone put a question mark where God has put a period.” I can say with complete confidence that I belong in Nepal this summer!

I know it’s a lot to ask you to release me to go. I truly appreciate your concern for me, and don’t know how to express all the gratitude I feel for your support, but I do have one request: when you feel anxious about my upcoming trip, ask God to help you trust Him. Ultimately I know that I will continue to be safe and secure (in soul if not also in body) in the presence of God!

To Live Is Christ

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The World Is New

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I feel like I’m heading into a new season of life. A new job, an upcoming new school year, and coming home from both college and Eastern Europe with fresh eyes has left me feeling like the world is new. It’s very exciting, and a little terrifying, but I have an overwhelming feeling of, “This is good!”

But while this new season is good, it has given my brain a multitude of thoughts to ponder, and my heart an abundance of emotions to feel. A few nights ago, I was feeling overwhelmed, so I flipped my Bible open to Proverbs 3:5-6, and the words provided exactly the encouragement, challenge, and inspiration my soul needed.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”

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For five years now THE lesson I’ve been learning has been how to trust God. For me, it’s that one lesson I just keep learning over and over and over again. More often than not, when I pray the answer I receive is, “Trust me!” Lately, the answer has become a bit more nuanced, because God has been responding to my prayers by asking me, “Do you trust that I have a good plan for you?” but the lesson is the same. The hard thing is that God asks me to trust him with my whole heart. The heart is incredibly complex. Sometimes my heart feels open and tender, but other times it feels closed and hard. Sometimes it is broken, but other times it is overflowing with love. The heart can feel many things at once, and right now my heart feels excited yet confused, anticipatory yet uncertain, intrigued yet timid, optimistic yet vulnerable. But God is asking that I trust him with my whole heart, swirling emotions and all. So trust him I will!

“and lean not on your own understanding;”

Let Faith Be Your Guide

At face value, I want to take this line to mean don’t trust in your own understanding because it is flawed, but that is a very discouraging interpretation. If my understanding of a situation is completely wrong, how am I supposed to make an informed decision, how am I supposed to feel peace, how am I supposed to proceed? When I question my understanding, my confusion multiplies, and my anxiety shoots through the roof. After looking past the surface of this verse, however, I don’t think that the ultimate reason to not trust my own understanding is because my understanding is incorrect. Instead, my understanding is incomplete. There are certain things in life that I know to be right and true, but in every situation I encounter there will be unknowns. I can only see the present, not the future, and I can only know what I’m feeling because I can’t know what’s going on in anyone’s heart but my own (and sometimes I don’t even know that.) God is the only one with complete understanding, and fortunately for us, he uses that complete understanding to make all things work for our good. So I will lean on his perfect understanding!

“in all your ways acknowledge him,”

How He Loves

This portion seems pretty straightforward to me, but that doesn’t make it easy to do. To acknowledge him in all my ways is to submit everything I do to him. When I’m acknowledging God in all I do, it becomes difficult to knowingly do something he wouldn’t approve of. This creates fantastic accountability, and a high standard to live up to, but the fact remains that I am a human who willfully sins more often than I would like to admit. Making mistakes is a regular part of my life. However, this verse does not say “in all your ways (except when you mess up) acknowledge him.” That’s how we want to interpret this verse, but it’s simply not what it says. So in all my ways, good, bad, and ugly, I will acknowledge him.

“and he will make your paths straight.”

God Will Direct Your StepsI don’t know about you, but in this context I usually associate the word straight with the word easy. I really want to read this as, “and he will make your paths easy.” But in my heart of hearts I know that that is simply not true. God never promises easy. Your path could be straighter than a yardstick, but steeper than a ladder. And no matter how straight your path is, if it is so dark that you can’t see more than two feet in front of your face, it will be anything but easy. Some other translations say, “and he will direct your paths.” I think that is a much healthier understanding of this verse. If you trust God with your whole heart, lean on his understanding, and acknowledge him in all your ways, he will direct your paths. For me, this promise of divine direction is enough to do all I can to trust him! So here’s to a new season of beautiful unknowns and wholehearted trust!

River of Desire

A raging current flows through me

It’s a river of desire

Desire to see him

Desire to be with him

Desire to really, fully, truly know him

Yes, the desire is driven by attraction

But the attraction isn’t purely physical

I love his smile

That plays a role

But it’s his personality that draws me in

Here’s the thing

I’ve felt this before

This current isn’t new

It’s been flowing for quite some time

First with one boy

Then with another

But never quite meeting his river of desire

It feels like I’m floating down this river

Never sure what’s around the bend

I know someday my river will meet his

But I am questioning

When?

If our rivers join soon

Fantastic!

But if our meeting place is still miles away

Fantastic?

How do I come to grips with the uncertainty?

The waiting?

The unknown?

First, I need to take a deep breath

Then, I need to look around

The scenery is beautiful

Here and now

It’s lush and green

Full of life

If I always look ahead

I will never see the beauty that surrounds me

So until my someday

I’m going to enjoy the ride

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Please strengthen me for the task ahead…

For my Bible class this week I had an assignment to read Nehemiah, and respond to it in a creative fashion. I chose to write a letter to God from Nehemiah’s point of view before he returned to the Israelites, and then write a letter from my point of view in light of what I am currently facing. Right now I feel many parallels between what I feel, and what Nehemiah felt, and I am inspired by Nehemiah’s unwavering faithfulness to God. So without further ado, here are the letters.

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Dear God,

A while ago my brother Hanani came from Judah to visit me, and brought the most heartbreaking news. He reported that the Jewish people who survived the recent exile are in great trouble and distress. My heart is broken for my people! Their beloved Jerusalem has no walls or gates, no protection or honor. Since I heard this news I have been fasting and praying, trying to discern your will for your people. After spending time with you I know what I need to do. I need to go to King Artaxerxes and ask for permission to go to my people. They need me to lead them to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The thing is, I’m scared. What if the King says no? Or even worse, what if he gets angry and kills me? Even if he lets me go, I know I will face opposition. The people surrounding Jerusalem will not be happy with our building project. But I know this is right! I just have to trust that you will be with me. You are the God of the impossible! If you want the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt, you will make a way. Please strengthen me for the task ahead.

Sincerely,

Your Faithful Servant,

Nehemiah

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Dear God,

Back in October I was presented with an opportunity to go on a summer serve trip to Romania and Moldova. I really wanted to go, but I also wanted to be sure it was what you wanted for me. I spent much time praying and listening to you, and I felt you give me the go-ahead to apply. When I was first accepted to the trip I was extremely excited, but now the fear is starting to set in. I am going literally halfway around the globe to a country where I neither speak the language nor understand the culture. I will be traveling with people I met mere months ago, and to top it off, I need to raise $3600 to go on this trip. I know the money will be there when I need it, but I just can’t see how. The fear is real, and it’s eating away at me. But I know this is right! Your purpose is so evident in every part of this trip. I just have to trust that you are preparing the way. You are the God of the impossible! Please strengthen me for the task ahead.

Sincerely,

Your Faithful Servant,

Kelly

Ice Skating

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Ice skating is not my thing. Give me roller blades over ice skate any day. Maybe I don’t like ice skating because I’ve only been three times, and consequently don’t know how to, but whatever the reason is, I simply don’t like ice skating.

Yesterday, my family decided we were going to go ice skating. It was a glorious day! Sunny, and cold enough to freeze the ice without freezing us. We hiked to the pond, laced up our skates, put on the Little Women soundtrack, and were ready to go. Or should I say they were ready to go.

For the first twenty minutes they zoomed around the pond while I stood firmly in the middle with my hockey stick, aka the only thing keeping me upright. I was trying to stay positive, but to be frank, I was failing miserable. I alternated between being frustrated with my family for dragging me out there, and being frustrated with myself for not just going for it.

Let Go

You see, I’m a very awkward ice skater. While I don’t sit on the sidelines and refuse to even try, I also never truly embrace the experience. I shuffle my feet, and move just enough to not be accused of standing still. I know I would greatly improve if I just went for it, but the truth is, I’m afraid. What if I make a fool of myself, what if I fall and break my wrist, what if, what if, what if? The fears play in my head like a broken record.

Yesterday, however, I got tired of being miserable and afraid, and I made the bold decision to let go and truly try to ice skate. So I put down the hockey stick and started skating in little circles, that grew and grew until I was actually enjoying myself. It was still scary, but so worth it.

Looking back, I can see that my inability to ice skate didn’t come from a lack of experience, but from an unwillingness to just go for it. How often do I respond in the same way to situations in my life? How much life am I missing because of my fears? When I am presented with welcoming a foster girl with my family, finding a job for the spring, liking a boy, picking the right classes, knowing which friendships to pour into, or going to Romania, am I letting fear or faith guide my decisions? I’m done with the awkward ice skating. It’s time to find my mustard seed faith!

Unknown Future Known God

Mountains


MountaintopMy family is in the midst of a process, and we’ve hit a point where the entire situation is out of our control. There are monumental decisions to be made, yet we don’t have the authority to make a single one. We’ve come to a place where all we can do is pray, but the prayers don’t come easily. They come with wrestling. In order to move forward with peace in my heart, there are two things I must come to terms with.

First, I must have faith that God is capable of moving mountains. In this situation, there are some mighty mountains blocking our way. They seem pretty darn immoveable, but God is in the business of working miracles. On many occasions I have seen him overcome insurmountable obstacles. But although my head knows that God moves mountains, my heart struggles to believe it. Jesus give me faith! “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 New Living Translation)

Reflection

Secondly, I must trust God’s plan. Although it is important to believe that God has the power to move mountains, I also need to trust that his plan is best, even if the mountains remain firmly in place. This is almost more challenging than believing he will overcome obstacles. It demands a complete surrender of my plans and preconceived notions. By nature, I’m a planner, and letting go is incredibly difficult for me. But his plans are always better than mine.

Earlier I mentioned needing to believe these things to move forward in peace. Philippians 4:7 says, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (New King James Version) I used to view peace that surpasses understanding as peace that is better than anything we know. While I still think that’s true, I have a new perspective on peace that surpasses understanding. It’s having peace, even when I don’t understand. My family needs peace, even though we don’t understand.

Mountain Beauty

Wake Up Part 2 – Apathy

My life moves in seasons. Some are good, some are bad, and some are right in the middle. When I’m walking through a difficult season, I find comfort in knowing that difficult seasons often give way to beautiful seasons. Frequently, however, beautiful seasons give way to apathetic seasons. Why is that? I understand why hard seasons lead to wonderful seasons, but why do wonderful seasons lead to seasons of indifference? Maybe it comes down to my dependence on God. In the challenging seasons I turn to God because I recognize my desperate need for him. In the good seasons, however, I don’t ever feel the same need for him. Even though it shouldn’t be this way, my dependence on God is based on my perceived need for him.

I always need God, whether I feel like I need him or not. Apathy stems from feeling like I don’t need God. While the hard seasons of life are, well, hard, the apathetic seasons of life are a far scarier place to be.

Although apathetic seasons are scary, needing God is also scary. Depending on God means my life is no longer in my hands (as if it ever was in the first place.) As humans we desire control. We want to be in charge of ourselves, and we want a say in where our lives are heading, but that attitude doesn’t allow us to press into trusting God.

Where’s the hope in all of this? If apathy is scary and needing God is scary, where’s the good news?

The good news lies in a simple truth. God is trustworthy. No matter how frightening it is to trust him, trusting him is always worth it. “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 a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God has never broken a promise, and his desire is for us to thrive.

What would happen if we chose to trust God? How would our lives look different? I think we would all be living better stories than the ones we’re currently living. His plans are better than anything we could orchestrate on our own. But in order to trust God, we must be willing to feel. Are we ready to feel again?

Come back tomorrow for Part 3!