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I’m the kind of person who doesn’t worry.

Instead, I PANIC.

This week, I woke up and decided it was high time for some panicking.

Just kidding. But really, I did panic.

It was like for so long I (and we) have been in the dramatic upheaval of marriage and missionary training and moving and starting out support raising that I didn’t have time to panic, only to keep my head above water.

But slowly, things have settled. We’ve unpacked our things. We bought a comforter. Our rings became less shiny and our stuff less new and our marriage less novel, and suddenly I wasn’t just surviving.

And when I finally had enough time to stand and look around, I panicked. Not just panicked, but PANICKED. Like, freaking out, crying, full-blown angry-thrashy-sweaty-nightmare-filled sleep panicked.

Like a child who suddenly realizes they’ve swum into the deep end on accident, I’ve lost my footing. Spluttering, choking, gasping for breath.

How are we ever going to do this? Missionaries? What were we thinking? Really. There are people far smarter, far better, far more spiritual and qualified for this than us. Trust me, we went through training with them.

But here we are. With the title “Missionary” on our marriage license and our tax forms. Doing just that.

But for some reason, God chose us for this. I definitely don’t always appreciate it (last night as we were getting ready for bed, I told Clay that I really wish God could have chosen to make us something more stable, like an office-worker or full-time vacation-taker. He told me the first one isn’t all that stable and the second one doesn’t exist. Dang.) But I know we’re right where we’re supposed to be.

And honestly, it’s a scary place to be. I wish I could say that I wasn’t scared, that I was trusting God completely, that I was at peace. But I’m not. But I’m getting there.

Every day I wake up, I’m dragging these reluctant feet a few more steps, urging this stubborn heart to soften just a little bit more. I’m getting there. I am. I’m just slower than you might expect.

“I believe I will look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

I have clung to this verse like it is life itself. To me, it says so much. It says not only will I see the goodness of the Lord, but that I will see it in the land of the living. Did you catch that? I won’t have to wait until heaven. I will see it here. Now.

Oh, that gives me so much hope!

To know that it’s not the interminable waiting. To know that I’m not stuck on “this side of eternity”, a phrase to me that sounds like being a toddler stuck behind the baby gate, watching all the fun happening in the other room.

To know that I can, right now, in this place, in this situation, experience his goodness, no matter how scared or small or insufficient I feel.

I love that. I need that.

I BELIEVE I will look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. In the land of missionary support raising. In the land of newly-married-ness. In the land of Columbus, Ohio (aka far, far away from the ministry and the students I love.) In this land, right here, today.

I believe I will.

I believe.

 

 

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This past week, 1 Peter 5:8 has become unnervingly real to me. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 

There have been several incidents recently in which I’ve felt the sneaking pull of temptation, tiny whispers in my ear. “It’s not that big of a deal. No one will know. It will make things so much easier. This could help you do God’s work. You can repent later, there’s grace right?”

It’s only after I leave the situations that I look back, and my blood runs cold. It is scary that there is temptation. It is scary to see how specifically the devil targets my weaknesses. It is scary to know that I am surrounded by opportunities to sin. It’s even scarier that some of my thoughts try to rationalize it by telling myself I’ll be serving God.

But I think what scares me most is that last thought. “There’s grace, right?” Yes. Yes there is grace. But I cannot presume upon that.

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” -Romans 2:4

His grace is never meant as an excuse for sin. I shudder to think that my mind could even go there – to use something as beautiful and wonderful and sweet as grace as an excuse for darkness.

It’s also shockingly easy to blame my temptation on where I live. I’m in a college town, the #3 party school in that nation. But something I learned full well this summer is that it’s not where I live that produces sin – it’s the heart inside of me. I could live in a convent and find ways to sin if my heart is not always falling back upon Jesus. I can’t use that as an excuse either. The only thing that causes me to sin is the sin nature inside of me.

So there you go. The dank and dirty corners of my mind. Even though I’m tempted to abuse it, thank God for grace. I truly am “a poor, gospel-abusing sinner.” I am so grateful that in Jesus, God doesn’t see me that way, but rather as his perfect daughter. Moving forward in THAT grace today.

For sin is no game, no toy, no bauble; Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the is committed as in the greatness of the person sinned against.” – Valley of Vision

When I do things out of duty, I show people what it’s like the live under the Law.

When I do things out of desire, I show people what it’s like to live under grace.

But when I do things out of delight, I don’t show people anything – they experience grace right alongside me.

Serving another out of delight.  That’s what my Savior did for me. He died on the cross out of delight. Not out of duty. Not out of desire. Not, “but for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2)

He delighted to suffer, not because suffering is pleasant or desirable, but because it meant He was serving his Father and bringing me home.

Father, I pray – turn our duty into desire, and our desire into delight.

Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. – “Divine Support,” The Valley of Vision

Teddy had it right when he wrote these words. Lately, my joy has been MIA, and I know that comparison is to blame.

It’s really hard to watch your friends do all of the things you want to do – graduate, go on missions trips, join ministry, get married. All of those things I eagerly want, and yet, when I look at myself, I can’t help but to think, “What do I have? A summer at home and then another year of school.”

 My mind starts to race, and runs away.
“They have so much to look forward to – weddings, honeymoons, new jobs, new homes. And what do I have to look forward to? Classes, tests, papers and projects.”

My heart sinks, and my eyes water, and it’s all I can do to hold myself together. And then, no sooner does the wave of jealousy and envy burn in my stomach than a wave of guilt and disgust at my sinfulness hits my like a train.

“Why can’t you just be grateful for what the Lord has given you? What kind of friend are you if you aren’t happy for them? You know this is wrong, so why do you keep doing this? You’re doing a terrible job at being a Christian.”

So there I am, sitting in my living room, wallowing in envy, jealousy, guilt, and self-disgust.

“Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

I know there is but one answer – Jesus. For me, there is one cure for my soul. I need him, his grace, his love. I know this.

I wish I could wrap this up by saying that because I know this, I’ve figured it out. That I’ve found peace, that I’m clinging to Jesus and learning patience. But I haven’t. I don’t know what to do. I’m not sure of my next step.

So if you’re disappointed with your summer, discouraged by your future, disgusted with your sin, I’m right there with you.  And I don’t know what to tell you to do. But I do know one thing – there is grace for this, too.There is grace for my envy, my jealousy, my self-pity and self-disgust. There is grace for my lack of gratitude and my inability to do what I should. There is even grace to cover when I don’t believe that grace will cover my sin.

So no, I don’t know the way out. And yes, I’m still stuck here. But there is grace, and I’m going to cling to that.

“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.”

“When everywhere you go feels like a mirror maze,
and you’re not sure how you’re stuck in this place.
And you got nowhere else to go,
and you’re lost within your own home.
And you’re trying so hard to win,
you keep trying it’s embarrassing.
…Thinking, “How did I get in here?”

This song reflects my heart so deeply right now.

I need Jesus, and I need grace.

God says to me “My little child. Precious. Baby girl. Put down your weapons. Unclench your fists. Come out from behind that shield. Stop. Stop fighting. I love you. You. Ugly you. Terrible you. Sinful you. You think this is new to me? I know that you’re a liar. I know that you’re a cheater. I know that you are filled with jealously, consumed with lust, brimming with anger, spilling with hatred. I know. I’ve always known it.
Beloved, stop hiding. I know what your heart has said. I know that, everyday, you cry with shame as your hear yourself say to me ‘Go away. Leave me alone. Stop telling me what to do.’ But I have bought you at a high price. And I am unwavering. What I have bought, I will keep. And what I keep, I will cherish.

Do you know what that means, darling? It means that I will keep you. I will feed you. I will care for you. I will change you. Let. Go. Stop fighting the hands that are holding you.

Oh, if only you knew how much I love you. If only you knew.”

If only I knew.

Deserts are hard. They are dry. They are wearying. They are dark and scary and overwhelming in their vastness. They stretch on and on with days of monotony and nights of tears. The loneliness is unbearable.

But God often to chooses to meet his people there.

So I will wait in mine.

Typically, Christmas time is difficult for me (as I imagine it is for many people).  Having been raised Catholic, Advent is something that I have been familiar with since I was a small child. Advent is the four week period leading up to Christmas in which Christians are encouraged to reflect upon how the birth of Christ was anticipated, and anticipate our traditional celebration of His birth, on Christmas day.

I am ashamed to admit, however, that my reflection during this period is typically quite poor. In place of reflection on how greatly the world anticipated the arrival of a Savior, I reflect on how much has to be done before the holiday, and count down the days until Christmas is over. In short, I am truly not a Christmas person. And there is much to dislike about the holiday that has become “American Christmas”. I think it’s over-commercialized and highly consumeristic.  The songs (with the exception of the hymns) are obnoxious, and the ads are even more annoying. I think what I hate most of all, though, is how much build up there is. We spend more than a month talking about and anticipating this one day, and when it comes, it usually comes without much fanfare, and then disappears in a hurry.  It doesn’t really live up to the hype, in my opinion, and I typically go to bed on Christmas feeling somewhat deflated.

Two weeks ago, though, my view on Advent (and therefore Christmas) was changed, hopefully forever. My pastor, Kevin, delivered a wonderful sermon on the “Second Advent”.  I will only briefly explain, because he does it so much better in his sermon, which you can download and listen to here. We are currently living in the Second Advent, awaiting the second coming of our Lord. He encouraged us to use Advent not only as a time to look back upon Christ’s first coming, but also to look forward, and anticipate his second, and final arrival.

This changed everything for me. Looking back is so much easier to do when I know why I’m doing so. Christmas can’t be overhyped, because as I spend the day reflecting on how my Jesus came to earth once, I can joyfully look forward to how he will soon come again.

I encourage you all to listen to the sermon, and spend some time this Christmas not only just looking back at Jesus’ birth, but also at the reality of his second arrival, when he will not come in humility and helplessness, but in glory and power.

“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for the weight of glory beyond all comparison” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

When you read this, do you think, as I did, “Wow, um, I don’t think my current situation is “light” or “momentary” in any sense. I must not being doing it right.”?  Instead, why not think “Yeah. My life kinda sucks right now.  This is really hard and I’m really hurting and it’s pretty true right now that “my tears have been my food day and night” (Ps 42:3).  But Paul was making a comparison.  He considered his current troubles “light and momentary”.  And Paul was no stranger to suffering.  He was persecuted, jailed, hated, and despised.  If anyone understood severe suffering, it was Paul.

But he considered all of those sufferings “light and momentary”. Why? Because, in comparison, they were nothing.

But what was he comparing them too? “The eternal weight of glory”.  I could be wrong, but I believe he was referring to heaven, and the reward that we will receive when we get there.

Let’s get this straight.  Paul was intimate with suffering like so few people will ever be. He was imprisoned multiple times.  He was whipped at least five separate times.  He was beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times and spent a time adrift at sea.  When he wasn’t living through these to proclaim the Gospel, we lived in constant danger, whether it be from homelessness, hunger, robbers, evil men, Jews that hated him for proclaiming the Messiah had came, Gentiles that despised him for preaching against their wicked lifestyles, and the general danger that lived on the road.  This man went through it.

And yet, he believed all of these to be “light and momentary afflictions” compared to the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”.

This must be some glory. This must be some prize, some reward, to make all of the things that Paul suffered “light and momentary” in comparison.

So, yes.  Life hurts.  Your current situation sucks.  Things are hard and people are hurting you and you cry yourself to sleep every night as you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.  Life. Is. Hard.  That is a profound truth.

But don’t be discouraged by it. Instead, think “this trial that feels like it may very well crush me before I get out from under it, in comparison to the glory of heaven, where I will see my Jesus face-to-face, is nothing.  It is little, small, and insignificant.  A blip on the radar.  A speck of dust in the face of the sun.  Nothing.

“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for the weight of glory beyond all comparison” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

When I think of this, I feel allowed to both embrace my pain and hope at the same time.  I can cry, but when I weep they are both tears of anguish at my life and incredible joy at the hope of what I’m looking forward to.  I can understand what it means when James tells me to consider it joy when I face trials (James 1:2).  I can truly start to learn to “count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord” (Phil 3:8).

My heart aches, but clings to the Lord and the glories that He has promised me.  I know that His word is true.  I know He can be trusted.  I’ll rest in this promise –

“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for the weight of glory beyond all comparison” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

The concept of forgiveness is a tricky one.

Certainly, it is one mandated by the Bible and a step in experiencing the joy of God’s forgiveness for us more fully.   But, like I’m realizing with a lot of Biblical concepts, the tough part is figuring out how to apply it to daily life.

Right now, I’m wrestling with forgiveness.  Forgiving people who have hurt me in the past used to be a struggle I could barely overcome.  It was too painful, too stinging.  I was hardened by 17 years without Christ.  I’d like to think that I’m making pretty good progress in that avenue, through prayer and some good old fashioned surrender.

The question for me now, though, is this – what does forgiveness look like when the person you have to forgive continues to hurt you, again and again?  When you’ve done all you can – loving confrontation, changes in your own behavior, prayer, and forgiveness for the past – and the hurt continues to come, what do you do?

Of course, I agree that you need to prayerfully and thoughtfully extend forgiveness with each new transgression.  But what about that person’s rejection?

Do you continue extending invitations for interaction and relation, even when 9 times out of 10, it is going to be met with a rejection that will sting?

Or do you withdraw, and avoid contact unless that person initiates?

Part of me keeps telling me to withdraw, to run.  And the other part keeps reminding me that Jesus continually extended invitations for interaction and relation, even as I not only rejected Him, but acted in rebellion against Him.

What would you do? I really am at a loss here.

Forgiveness is hard.

Photo used from http://www.saintdunstanschurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/reaching-hands.jpg

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Past Musings