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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Running...seeking

I know it's been a while since I've written...I'll catch you up eventually, just not now.

I feel like...I'm being fought over. At this very moment, as I browse some websites, considering my future, Satan is pulling at my soul. Oh, but God is so much stronger. It seems so clear but not at all. I've been distant for a while, but God has been so faithful in drawing me back to his heart. Oh how wonderful he is! So I must pray. I must seek his face, his wisdom...his plan. What will my future hold? I have pieces of a vision. It's like this jig-saw puzzle. I don't have the box and I don't have a clue what the completed puzzle looks like - only God knows that. But I feel like I have some small pieces that relate to the near future. They are pretty clear and I am excited about them. Then I have some other pieces from which I can see a much bigger picture, but it is still fuzzy, there are few details to discern. I feel like I know where I'm headed, but the time has finally come, where that is not enough. Seeking God is now the only peace I will be able to find concerning some decisions that are soon to come.

I want to cry because I feel so ill prepared. If only I had not wondered from this path I would probably already know these things that I will soon seek. It makes me sad to think of all the things on which I may have missed out. So many blessings over which I chose worldly satisfactions. Oh how I wish I could go back...but I don't even know when I left the path. All I know is now I'm approaching it again. Looking back I see my chosen path and hidden is the path I could have, should have taken. If only I had stuck to the plan I would probably know the answers by now.

But...I know I cannot think like this. Coulda-shoulda-woulda's and if-only's only get you in trouble. God has grace on me and I need to give myself grace like he does. One thing of which I was reminded on retreat this weekend is that taking revenge on someone strips them of experiencing God's grace. I've been taking revenge on myself by not giving myself grace. And I've been cutting off myself from God's grace by doing so. Ouch.... What is a girl to do? I am so thankful that my life is in his hands and there's not much I can do that will mess it up. And though I stray, whether it be miles or a few inches, HE is faithful to leave the path, come find me, take my hand and walk me back to the path. The thought of the enormity of his love frequently overwhelms me; I am so grateful.
I have been in this place before
feeling so near to the end of my rope
Numb inside
God where are you now?

It's raining all around me
and I'm lost in the storm
This boat is sinking quickly
and I'm far from the shore

So hold me and catch me
don't let me sink in my sin
Love me, restore me
bring new life within

Lord you know I have loved you from the start
so long ago I gave you my heart

Now it's raining all around me
and I'm lost in the storm
This boat is sinking quickly
and I'm far from the shore

So hold me and catch me
don't let me sink in my sin
Love me, restore me
bring new life within

God I know there is promise of your peace
found in the words you've spoken to me

Now it's raining all around me
and I'm lost in the storm
This boat is sinking quickly
and I'm far from the shore

So hold me and catch me
don't let me sink in my sin
Love me, restore me
bring new life within
(repeat)

["Hold Me" by 11:28]
So I am running back to the place I never should have left. Oh how I have been longing. I'm finding that answers aren't really what I want...he is what I want. Answers will come, but for him I cannot wait.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I finally got some time to write!

Hello blog readers!  I came home from campus early today so I could catch up my blog.  There is much to say so I won't waste time.

Monday through Friday we go to the university campus to engage students in spiritual discussion, with hopes to share the Gospel.  God is doing amazing things here.  There have been close to two hundred conversations, and about 50% of them we were able to share the Gospel.  Three people have trusted Christ, that we know of, and there are numerous others that desire to trust Christ but were not comfortable praying right there (we have yet to hear from them).  Praise God for our new brother and sisters!  The response here is great; people are very open to hearing what we have to say and often tell us they've never heard that message before.  It is amazing how students can go their whole lives, going to Catholic or Christian schools, and going to church with their parents, and never hear a clear explanation of the Gospel.  They often tell us how good of news it is.  Keep praying for God to open hearts here - it is working!

We have seven days left on campus, which is very sad.  We will be leaving soon, but these students that we've talked to will be staying.  So be in prayer for the students involved in Student Life (the Aussie version of Campus Crusade).  Pray that they may be faithful and effective in follow-up and discipleship of these people to whom we have talked.

Well, I guess that's all I really feel like writing.  If I start adding anymore details, I will go on forever.  Don't forget you can email me and I would be happy to tell you more that way.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

We're Here

We are finally in Newcastle and settled. It has been a good trip so
far, but very busy and tiring.

We spent a couple days in L.A. for briefing. It felt somewhat like
like a retreat, digging into the Word and bonding with my team. We
have two leaders - Joe and Tammy. The rest of our team consists of 3
guys and 8 ladies. The first night together was awesome; there was no
scheduled team bonding activities but we did a good job just hanging
out and talking. I learned names very quickly. We have a good mix of
personalities and we laugh a lot. It is wonderful. We also spent some
time seeing L.A. While out, Matt, Dyar, Jillian, and I had gone down
to the beach to take some sunset pictures. God brought a few
Christians into our path. Somehow we ended up talking and before we
parted they prayed for us. It was a sweet divine appointment. They're
names are Luke, Jennika, and Danielle.

The international flight was ok. It was about 14 hours. The plane
wasn't as nice as last year, but the timing was great. We left San
Fran at night and arrived in Sydney in the early morning, so if we
slept most of the flight our body clocks would be pretty well adjusted.

We spent a couple days in Sydney as well, doing the tourist thing.
Some may know that it is/was World Youth Day. Because of that there
were tons of people, internationals, in the city. The majority of them
are Catholic, so the presence of people on fire for God was just
overwhelming. We crossed the bridge and it was so quiet and peaceful.
It was a good break from the multitudes. One lowlight is that
Jester's, an amazing pie place, closed down and isn't there anymore. A
highlight is that Pancakes on the Rocks was still open, so we had
amazing pancakes for dinner. We went to the zoo, which was nice.

So we finally made it to Newcastle and settled in. We walked around to
see the sights one day and the second full day we went to campus for a
tour. I'm on the first dinner team so we have been busy shopping and
cooking. Everyone has loved the food and Tim Tams have become our
staple dessert.

I can't wait to finally get to work on the whole reason we are here. I
feel I often get slightly side-tracked and just don't think about our
mission. But I pray for God to continually burden my heart and I'm
sure once we start praying, studying God's word, and going to campus
things will change.

Friday, July 11, 2008

On My Way : )

Well, I sit here on the plane to L.A. as I write this, but I want to
tell you how God has gotten me here and where I am at.

I could tell of the many ways God provided financially, but I'll share
just one cool story and the lesson I learned. I had a fun/movie
fundraiser night last Saturday. I knew I needed $230 after hearing of
$600 that was coming my way, and that just to cover the project, not
my stateside plane ticket. So out of 11 or so college students, God
provided the $230 exactly that I needed, down to the quarters and
dimes. And from that dollar in change he taught me a lesson about his
providence. Though something may seem small and insignificant it is
not of any less worth, and without it my need would not have been met.
Who am I to not count any part of God's providence? God will provide
in ways we would not recognize or accept sometimes, but unless we take
that which he has given us, we are only robbing ourselves. I have
raised over $4400 (although somehow I only have $4300; I'll have to
figure that out when I get back). And he is still continuing to meet
my goal. Praise God! He is good.

I'm excited that the time has finally come, but there is something I
didnt expect. God is working in my heart to resolve the wounds from my
past. It is hard and I find myself sad. It seems like such bad timing,
but I'm sure God knows what he's doing. It is difficult being away
from friends and my support system for this hard time. Honestly, I
don't like it. But I trust God to comfort me and I am interested to
see how he is going to use this special time to work in my heart. I
know he worked last year through a woman on my team and has continued
to work through her frequent support and encouragment. Too bad she's
not here this time; that would make things so much easier. But I
rejoice in the trials because they provide opportunities to grow so
much more than being comfortable.

Please be praying for:
•the work God is doing in my heart and how I cope with it on this trip
•our team as we meet and get to know each other
•team unity
•preparation for ministry at Newcastle Uni
•the many divine appointments, on and off campus, that God has for us
•safe, productive, and fun travels (it is around a 14/15 hour flight
I believe, then the train and bus adventures in Australia)

I'm here safely and awaiting my baggage and to meet my team. : D

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The past two weeks

I didn't realize how long it had been since my last update. Even
though two weeks is not that long of a time, it seems like a lot has
gone on. I went home for a few days and will be doing so again today.
While in O-town, nothing too out of the ordinary has happened, just
life and getting ready to leave. I have had a LOT of fun with friends.
Activities included anything from Camp Rock, and other movies, to
laser tag, to just sitting around and talking. I haven't laughed so
hard or so much in a while...good times. It wasn't a long summer
vacation, but I guess it's long enough. I definitely enjoyed myself.

As for Australia, once I started doing my part, God took care of the
rest. Since making phone calls, emails, and a fundraiser, he has been
SO faithful and quick to provide. It just tickles me the way he pours
out his blessings and just the right amount too (that story will come
soon).

Spiritually, things have been great. I've been reading quite a bit,
though still not as much as I would like. I'm almost finished with two
books and I'm really excited to start this next one, or two. I am more
satisfied with my prayer life and how it has come back around. I have
had the priviledge of meeting some homeless people and being able to
serve them. I'm really excited to go see them again on Thursday. I
started studying Luke 15 and love my morning times with my Daddy. I
think that is my most favorite thing about summer - not having a time
limit on my quiet time. I can sit for half an hour or three hours,
however long it takes. I feel like it has been so long since I have
been able to do that. Going home is nice because I have the beach, but
at the same time it is hard to get away or be alone for a long period
of time, somebody is always right there or getting worried, or waiting
to go somewhere or do something. I rarely feel truly alone with God. I
guess I have a hard time setting those boundaries and enforcing them,
but the environment isn't very conducive for that anyway, which just
makes it harder.

When I look at the big picture, I see how these last two weeks have
been a rekindling of my first love (see May 1st for the prior story).
I just thank God for being patient and wooing me again. I am so filled
with joy, it's wonderful. I have been praying for God to prepare my
heart for summer project and I can see that he has been hard at work
making lots of changes. I am getting so excited about getting back on
campus at Newcastle Uni (University). I really can't wait to get my
hands dirty in the ministry there and to just work hard for God! I'm
even looking forward to the plane trip so I can read these books about
which I am so excited.

God has blessed me so much these past two weeks, I just can't say
enough about it. But I will say that one of the biggest blessings (and
probably my favorite) has been connecting with friends, new and old,
on the phone, internet, or in person. I love all my sisters that are
so amazing and I love knowing I have brothers that love me and that
are watching out for me. It is great to be embraced by the body of
Christ. I guess it is such a blessing to me because I feel like they
are filling in where my family and my past have left me empty. I think
maybe I am beginning to feel the depth and width of God's great love
for me. How sweet it is to my wounded heart, to feel loved. Thank you
brothers and sisters.

I don't like goodbye's, but that will have to be another post because
I need some sleep.

: )

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wow, good day

So I slept in today and spent the rest of my day with God. A very nice Sabbath indeed. Such a great thing after the semester I just had, and a great way to start these three weeks before I leave. It was a wonderful day and it's so nice to be back to spending alone time with God. *sigh* I just can't explain. : )

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm done!

Whew! I can't believe it is finally over with. I got my paper finished in about an hour and it is amazing to be free of school for a while. And just like with last semester I'd like to take some time to reflect. If there's anything I'm learning from the college of education, it's reflectivity. I read somewhere that life isn't worth living if we don't reflect on it. That maybe extreme, but there's definitely some merit to the idea. I'll break it down again by domains.

Academically, this was my most challenging semester. It was rough. But I learned a lot, academically and about life. I learned much about educational psychology and English language learners, and a little about ethics and legal issues related to education. I also learned about the horrid inequalities that exist in our education system. Kozol's Savage Inequalities was eye opening and, I have to admit, I didn't want to continue reading it after the first few pages. It just broke my heart to read about the conditions in which some people live. It's worse than some third world countries, and it's here in America! Ugh, it just frustrates me. I also learned a lot about how to say no and set boundaries. It wasn't easy, but if I wanted to do my best and get good grades and really learn the material, I had to say no to just about everything except school. I said no to friends, fun, sleep, and too frequently I said no to spending time with God. I learned how to work hard and to keep working when everything in me didn't feel like it. I definitely notice a difference in my ability to persevere mentally. I learned how to be busy all day everyday until the weekend; then I was only busy most of the day everyday. : ) Rough as it was, it feels so good to have conquered it and to make it out alive and well. I don't think I would do it again, but I celebrate it and don't regret it in any way.

Emotionally, I didn't have much time to feel or reflect on my feelings so I can't tell you much about that. I started going to counseling and I'm glad I'm going. I was really unsure at first, but now, I'm glad. There's some things I need to work through. I'm not looking for the process and the emotional upheaval that will take place within me, but I really look forward to when it all settles back down. I'm excited to get to the end result and being more healthy emotionally.

Spiritually, it was good. Like I said, I did not spend much time with God, in my Bible, and just listening. I still talked, and am working on getting my prayer life back to where it was and where I want it. Even still, I think I grew so much closer to God. He blessed me all the time with school and really took care of me. Crusade is going through some changes right now and I'm so excited about it. I feel like we are finally starting on the right path, and he's pleased with the direction we're going. Sadly (that's another story) I'm not involved with the leadership this summer, but it's still in my heart. God has put that leading spirit in my heart and it's so cool to see how he's been telling me the same things he's been telling those who are on the leadership team. So even though I didn't spend much time in the Word, God still talked to me a lot, a lot.

I'm really excited to be done with school and to get on with the next things on my "To Do" list. I really can't wait to start exercising again. I am dying to get out on the court and play some basketball. Hanging out with friends is definitely a contributing factor to my excitement. I've felt so lonely this past semester and I can't wait to be around people again. Well, I know this is not well thought out and I probably forgot some things, but I'm going to play some b-ball before tonight.

Good day, great night!

So I had a good day today (technically yesterday, but whatever). Classes are over, although I still need to finish a paper and get it in ASAP. I still feel relief though, and I thank God for the second chance on the paper. I had an awesome conversation with a friend at lunch! It was just what I've been needing. Oh, it was great! Then, after my last exam, I skipped out on Cru to hang out with some awesome ladies. I haven't gone out and had fun like that in a while, like too long. We hit up the dollar theater and then the bowling alley. That's definitely what I needed after a semester like the one I've had. I think had forgotten what it was like to have genuine fun. Sadly. But I really look forward to hanging out more with these ladies. It's a nice break from the monotony that has become my life. Oh, God is good. I thank God for days like these when it's easy to praise him; they refresh me. So that's my blurb for the day. I can't wait to go hit up the basketball court. : ) I'm happy. What a wonderful God!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I can see it!

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yesterday, I was planning out my assignments for the weekend. After I get these finished it will be all downhill from there. What a relief! Only two weeks left, I can't believe it and I can't wait either. Although, I will be far from free. After classes end I have so much I want to do before I leave for Australia. Fundraising, certification exams, and talking with family are the biggest tasks, but hanging out with friends is a must and a beach day would be nice too. Well, back to homework.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Some of my favorite things about summer

Shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops
Night walks on the beach
Sea turtle nesting and hatching
Walking out of a freezing classroom and instantly thawing
Evening thunderstorms
The strong winds that precede them
The big dark clouds as they roll overhead
The patter of the large drops as they start to fall
The lighting and thunder that displays God's awesome power (and still makes me jump from time to time)
The refreshment once they're gone
Sitting on the back porch with my dog, enjoying a book
The more relaxed state of things

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Relief

I recently shared a struggle with some close friends. It was scary, at first, since it's something that I've never openly shared before. But now that I have exposed the lie I was believing, it is quickly falling apart. Praise God! The real test will be a bad day. I thank God for sisters to help carry the load. : )

As for school, a resolve may have come or may be coming soon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ooooh, videos....

Both of these videos were made in a class of mine at UCF. This first one is a short autobiographical video.

video

This second video was part of a group project, in which we had to create an educational video. Ha ha, I still love it!

video

Praises and frustrations

Wow, a lot has been going on recently. School is really rough. I don't really understand what I'm doing wrong, but it's not going well. I wish God would tell me how to make it better.

As you can see from my last few posts, God has been telling me some cool things.

Support raising has been interesting. The first month the support flooded my mailbox. After I sent in the checks for my first deadline, it stopped. I didn't get any responses for a few weeks. Then I started to get a few. I'm not worried so much as I am confused and just wondering what God is doing (or what I'm doing wrong). On a better note, I received an email from our project director this week saying that he fiddled with the budget and now we only need to raise $4,200, a difference of $500. So, I guess my new goal is $4,600. With that new goal I am at 58% of my goal, with $1,920 to go. Amazing.

One of the tasks the project directors ask us to do is to write our testimony, memorize it, and then practice sharing it in a group setting, large or small. Well, I've worked on my testimony quite a bit, and actually just updated it recently. I've memorized it pretty well and practiced with friends over lunch or dinner. The practice was greatly needed. The first time I practiced with a friend was horrible. I kept stopping, messing up, laughing. It just took way too long to get through it, but I appreciate her patience with me. The following day I practiced two more times, and there was great improvements. Then, that night, I shared my testimony with our Summer Crusade meeting of about 100 people. Everyone said I did really well, my voice wasn't shaky and I had everybody's full attention. I feel good about it. I had class right beforehand, and as class was coming to a close I started to get nervous. Immediately I began to pray for God's peace. I placed it in His hands completely and rested in Him being in control. I put on some music as I walked across campus to get my mind of the nervousness and to help me keep praying. By the time Summer Cru started, I wasn't nervous at all. Praise God for hearing my prayer and answering me. It will be interesting to see if and how God will use it in the coming weeks. My prayer is that He use it to break down walls that people have built around their heart. Some of the things I said are taboo in the church and no one has ever really mentioned it at Crusade before. It was scary to be so vulnerable to judgment, but I know that ultimately God is my Judge and He sees me blameless and pure. At the same time, it was really exciting, because these are real issues that exist that need to be talked about and discussed. I hope that by my vulnerability those taboo barriers would be demolished. I want to see people freed from their pasts so they can worship God with their whole hearts and whole lives, not just the parts of which they are unashamed.

That night, Matt (our speaker), talked about what a disciple is. He said that a disciple finds their identity in Christ, and that that identity expresses itself in worship, community, and mission. I found it perfect, because the theme of my testimony is identity and how God has changed my identity. I could easily see in my life how my changed identity has impacted my worship, community, and mission. I hope others could have seen that concrete connection too.

But more than that, our church communities need some serious help. It's not a community at all. How many times do we run into someone and say that everything in our life is peachy keen, when in reality we are in a deep struggle with pain and/or sin. How can we welcome in broken strangers, when we are unwilling to be broken before each other, our brothers and sisters, family!? How can we expect strangers to come into our church bodies and be real with us when we are fake with each other? I freely share my testimony, first of all to praise God and give Him the glory, and secondly, to be real with my brothers and sisters. There is great encouragement that comes from knowing the struggles and weaknesses of others. We realize we are not alone. We can talk about our lives and experience healing. I praise God for the life that He has touched already by my testimony. There is too much judging that goes on in the church. That is why we are often fake, because we are afraid of judgment. If a member of the body is afraid of judgment, why do we even wonder why new people never come to church, they are just as afraid of that same judgment. We need to get off our high horses, admit our own faults and weaknesses, and welcome in those who don't know the forgiveness of God. It is not our place to judge, but it is our place to love like Jesus loved. It makes me so sick that people don't want to go to church because they think people would look down on them for their lifestyle and choices. Who do we think we are? The saddest part is that they are right. There are so many Christians who look down on others and think that they are so much better. Are they any better than the pharisees, whom looked down upon the "sinners?" We have such pride issues. I tell you the truth, that those who look down on others are worse off than those upon whom they look. We are a bunch of idol worshipers. And you know what that idol is? Ourselves. We meditate on ourselves and all that entails, rather than God and his goodness. Who cares if we are broken? I'm glad that I'm broken and I want to tell the world about it because all the more will God get the glory for fixing me. I think I better stop ranting now.

So as for prayer requests for me, please please please please please pray for whatever is going on this semester with school. Ask God to reveal to me what I need to be doing to be successful. Continue to pray that He provide financial and prayer partners for me and for those on my project. Also pray for the relationships I have in which God is working right now, a friend and classmates. I feel like we're on the brink of breakthrough in someone's life and am so anxious for Him to just hurry and get on with. I guess I need some more patience in waiting on His timing. One of my biggest struggles right now is giving up time on schoolwork in order to spend time on these relationships, which is one reason why school isn't going so well, because my work is not getting done like it should be. So frustrating. Pray for encouragement, because I am getting discouraged. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Breakthrough

Here is a conversation I had with God today. I thought I would share it because 1) I love to show how God is working – I just get so excited when he works in me, I can’t help but share, and 2) I thought maybe you needed to hear it too, and know that you are not alone in this struggle.

The blue is me, the purple is God, and the black is a song that God put it on my heart to which to listen – obviously to help my thoughts.

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Lord, I am burdened.

I do not see your will and have begun to take on the decision myself. What shall I do?

I’ve come to your Word in hopes of finding some guidance.

Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (Isaiah 54:14b-15, italics added)

I resisted my attacker, the devil, and I feel that he is gone.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I do not think like you God. I know this full well. Yet I began to rely on my thinking and human rationalization to make this decision. But that is not how you think. I became discouraged and felt that I cannot do it. But that’s it…because, I can’t. But with your strength, I can. I don’t see your plan, I don’t see the possibility of it, but I trust and have faith that you can do it.

My mom kept telling me that I am on the edge of my breakthrough. God, I don’t want to be stuck here any longer, I want to break through. It’s either my way or your way. Mine is comfortable and easier, I feel I could do it. Yours is overwhelming and will be hard – a lot of work and not much rest…

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. (Isaiah 58:13-14)

…but I know that rest in you is all I need. If I keep holy your Sabbath I can soar through the week and be satisfied in all my needs, feasting even. Though I must be careful of what I do, for I am learning what a true Sabbath is and that it’s not me chilling and doing as I please. I must not go my own way or dismiss things I said I would do – which I have done in the past. Your Word says that your rest will be enough to get me through. I am trying to trust that and let go of my anxious hesitation and human ideas.

Your plan is a bigger step of faith. One to which you may have called me, and if so, this would be my crisis of belief. That being the case, I must step out of the boat and believe that I will not sink, that you will not let me sink – fail. A friend said that I can’t make a wrong decision if it is made in faith. She said you will give me grace either way I choose.

Oh God, I want to break through! I want to move forward, move deeper, trust you more. But I am so scared of sinking.

I want to trust you.

Why can’t I trust you, why is it so hard?

I want to say I will do it…but then I hesitate to dive in.

Here I am in this familiar place again
Standing on the shore of my complacency
Ankle deep in love I once was swimming in
Shallowness has taken over me

But the current pulls the sand
And moves my stubborn feet
From the dryness of the land
To where the wave pound over me

CHORUS:
Take me deep enough where I can see
The bottom of Your heart
Deep enough that I can know Your will
Deep enough to know that we
Will never be apart
And when I get there
Take me deeper still

Take me through the wonders of Your faithfulness
Help me see the depth of my own need
Lead me to the water where Your mercy is
For You and You alone can set me free

I am covered by Your grace surrounded
Far away from shore
As/and You’re taking me to places
I have never been before

CHORUS

I want to drown in the water
I want to drown in Your truth
Take me all the way under
Where I have to trust in You

CHORUS

[“Deeper Still” Scott Krippayne]

My complacency – I’ve been leaning a lot on my own strength rather than yours. Shallowness has definitely taken over me – we used to be so close. Rip tides are scary and pounding waves aren’t pleasant to endure, but if that’s what it takes to bring me back into your ocean, that is where I want to be. I may not know which way is up, but will it matter if I’m surrounded by your love? Rip me away from this life I’ve been living, I’m finding it hard to let go of the dry land that has become so comfortable. Only you can set me free. I’ve never been here before, but what’s so great about where I’m at now – I want more of you. I want to drown in the water, drown in your truth. But I’ve got to trust in you.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

I can do it.

B R E A K T H R O U G H !

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So for you friends that are reading this, please keep me encouraged when I get down and want to quit. Keep me accountable in keeping my Sabbath, as will be so necessary. I guess this is that to which I was looking forward – what God was going to do this semester. Exciting as it is, I didn’t think it would be this sort of challenge, I thought it would be pleasant…but then I wouldn’t grow as much would I. I would much rather have this.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rainbow blessings

I took a bike ride out to a favorite spot of mine, where I like to go to be alone with God. It was beautiful outside. The temperature was comfortable, the sun was bright, but setting, so it was a soft light, and the sky was blue with white clouds. The pond that I overlooked was still, looking like glass, perfectly reflecting the trees on the other side. I wrote in my journal, then sat there singing love songs to Him. I began to see little circles of ripples all over the pond, like when it rains. I didn't feel any drops hitting me, but I saw a little rain cloud coming. I wasn't concerned. I just continued to sit and enjoy God's show. After a while I began to feel the drops, but they weren't much. They were cool and fresh upon my skin. It reminded me of how God uses the rain to wash the earth and make it clean. I felt like he was washing me too, hehe. : P Then it began to rain harder and I stood up to ride away so I wouldn't get soaked. In a moment, I thought, "Why should I leave? I won't make it to shelter in time, so what's the difference. Why rush away from God's blessing?" I sat back down and got comfortable, enjoying the sound of the rain drops popping on the surface of the pond. I could feel the different sizes of the raindrops as they fell, dropping bigger and harder. Then, they lightened up again. Another small cloud passed and I thanked God for the cool, refreshing wash. As it began to lighten up and pass ahead of me, I thought, "Maybe I'll see a rainbow - I've got the right angle and the sun is shining." A few minutes later the colors began to show up. It started at the right side and after a while, it was a full rainbow stretching across the sky. Such a beautiful sight! I continued to notice something peculiar about the rainbow, however, that I never noticed about rainbows before. The rainbow seemed to form a dome of sorts, inside of which the rain fell. Outside of the rainbow you could see the blue sky and white clouds, but as your eyes passed over the colors, to the interior, the sky became blocked by the wall of rain, giving it a gray look. "How peculiar," I thought.

I thought about the beauty of rainbows and how people get so excited when they see one. Then I thought about life and how rainbows can signify something good and pleasant - a good day or season of life, blessings, healing. But it takes rain to make rainbows, which in life is never fun. Rain often makes me think of hard times, with tears and pain, and unpleasant things. When you are in the rainstorm all you see is the gray sky and all you feel is the rain beating on your skin, often getting cold and unhappy. We often times can't see the blue sky beyond the clouds or the rainbow that could be hovering above our shower. But as time passes, and the storm moves on, we begin to see the beauty that results from the storm, the good, the blessings, the healing. Only after the rain cloud travels a distance can you see the rainbow.

So if you feel like you're in a storm right now, hold on tight. With the Son shining there is a rainbow of promise hovering above you, you just can't see it right now. Keep holding on, enjoy the cool cleansing flow, bask in His downpour of care. He doesn't want you to stay dirty forever, he wants to clean up His child. Sit tight knowing that your good Father is lovingly and tenderly washing your dirt away, just like your mother once did when you were young. Once the storm passes, then you'll see God's great blessing to you.

The rainbow is sure worth the rain.

Sisterhood

I just returned from a Women's Discovery Weekend retreat with my home church. It was great. I think the biggest thing God showed me, is what it is like to have big sisters. I've been the big sister for so long, supporting others, and I've never felt the other end of it - being supported by a big sister. It was such a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Catching up on this past semester

So today was my first financial deadline for my Australia summer project. My personal goal was around $1850. I sent in around $2300. God is so amazing! Now, I am almost halfway to my total goal...halfway!

So school has been over with for almost a week and I have about another week before I start my three summer classes. Yeah, three, I'm crazy. Anyway, I'm not enjoying my "vacation" too much. I feel like I have sooooo much to do, and I already have homework. That's right, I already have homework! I can't believe it. Well, I guess I'll tell the long story...here it is from the "beginning." This past semester has been my most difficult thus far (and hopefully ever).

Emotionally, I felt like I was on a roller coaster. One day or hour I was bounding with happiness and joy, the next I was sulking with gloom. I realized that (and this is hard for me to admit) my battle with depression is not completely over (though there has been some progress, about which I will talk shortly). It mainly reflected whatever was going on with my mom, although there has been a lot more going on with my family, in general, that has been weighing upon my heart. I like to think of it as a line graph - overall a positive slope, but spiking up and down, all over the place. The inconsistency took a toll on me and I became very exhausted. Things seem to have leveled out for a bit. I had a good talk with my mom a few days ago. I got to cry in her arms and let go of so much that I had been holding in. It was such a relief and felt soooo good, even though it was scary at first. I feel like God put some more pieces of my heart back together. I know we are not out of this completely, but I have more hope onto which I can hold, to get me through the tough times ahead. I feel stronger and more ready to handle what comes. So finally, after all these years, God is taking the depression that plagued me and is replacing it with hope. Ahhh, what a good feeling it is!

Spiritually, I feel like I've been living two lives. In one, I got really involved with Crusade and enjoyed doing regular evangelism on campus, as well as some prayer. But at the same time, my own relationship with my Father wasn't doing so well. My quality, quiet times were few and far between. I really struggled to get much from reading His Word, though I found other books to be great resources. I've really enjoyed expanding my desire for reading for "pleasure", but I missed being fed by the Word. And in that same life, I failed to honor God with my school.

Academically, I did not do so well, though my grades may not show all of it (because God is so kind). God opened my eyes as to how lazy I was in regards to school. I struggled to do homework and often turned in assignments late or not done well. I am very disappointed in my behavior.

But God has shown me where I've gone wrong and I pray that I make the necessary changes before summer classes start. I will have three classes and no wiggle room for mistakes, much less anything else. God finally answered a question of mine, today, and told me that I have been keeping school and ministry separated (which is probably why I've done so poorly). Especially this past semester, I viewed school as an obstacle to what I really wanted. My perspective really needs to change before next Monday. He showed me that instead, I need to weave ministry through my everyday life, including school, and that school isn't an obstacle for ministry, but an opportunity. I don't really know where my sights got mixed up, but they definitely did. Slowly, I'm giving it to God. It is harder than I thought, I guess because I've been holding onto it for so long and it's just habit.

So this leads me to this coming semester. Like I said, I will have three classes, that's 24 scheduled hours of class a week, not to mention study time in addition to that. So as you can see I won't have any time for the prayer and evangelism I had hoped to start and continue. It's hard to let go of those desires and embrace the change that God has for me. (Man, where did I go wrong?! I'm realizing more and more how my focus has been all wrong, and usually on me, even though it seemed like it was on God.)

I guess God has been showing me this for a few weeks now. A couple of weeks ago God brought up this passage in Revelation that really spoke to my heart.
Yet I hold this against you; you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:4-5a)
He showed me that I too had forsaken my first love, and instead was driven by different things. I reflected upon the place from which I had come and the things I did "at first." It was so sweet to look back at the beginnings of my relationship with God and how in love I was, and how satisfied I was, with just Him. He was my only desire - innocent and pure.

So that is where I'm headed - to God, to God and to school. I feel like there is a lot of change coming to my life and much of that is simplification. The clutter is beginning to be removed and I pray that all that is left is only what God wants. I don't want any selfish desires of mine on the side because that will only lead to more exhaustion and frustration, not to mention spoiling of the fruit that God is trying to produce in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Well, that was a lot, and it's late now, so I'm off to bed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My journey starts here...

The world sends us messages to tell us who we should be or how we should act.  Before I became friends with God, I listened to what the world was saying to me.  It led me down a path of pain, emptiness, and despair.

My parents separated when I was two and divorced when I was four.  My dad came in and out of my life as he pleased, leaving me void of the father I really needed.  This led me to a struggle to feel beautiful, I never felt pretty enough the way that I was.  In fourth grade, I was sexually abused.  In fifth or sixth grade my brother moved out, and after that it was just my mom and me – through middle school and high school.  My mom developed physical and mental health problems, so oftentimes I was acting as the mother rather than the child.  I felt so lonely and often like an orphan.  All I wanted was a mother to love me and to take care of me.  Along the way, I found depression to be one of my closest companions.  I often had thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

I began to listen to the world in search of the guidance I was missing.  As a result I began to compromise my purity.  I often told dirty jokes and my mind was usually in the gutter.  I started to do things that fed my sexual cravings.  I looked to the world to find my beauty and they said, “Sir…err, uh…ma’am.”  My femininity was stripped from me.  I had the body parts of a female, but I felt masculine in nature.  Soon enough, I became confused about my sexual orientation.  The world told me that the answer to my problems was to be gay.  The guidance for which I looked to the world, only made me more confused and empty.  I had no hope for a better family, my impure thoughts and actions always left me wanting more – I was never satisfied, and I just didn’t like the thought of being gay – I hoped that there was another option.

About this time of desperation, my next door neighbor invited me to her church’s youth group.  My mom had taken my brother and me to church when we were young.  I remember accepting Christ at a young age, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant.  I understood that God had rules for me to follow, so I aimed to be a good person and follow the rules.  I thought I did a pretty good job, and because of that, I considered myself a Christian.  Since I was already a Christian, it seemed logical to go to church with my neighbor, so I did.  It was then that my life began to change.  I learned things about God that I didn’t know before.  I learned that this God could be my Father.  I really liked the sound of that, so I started to talk to God and read my Bible.  In this new relationship, I found hope, a hope that gave me the strength to keep on living amidst the pain.  God told me that he had a plan, a good reason why my life was so hard.  His Bible says that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This verse meant that God had a reason why I was going through hard times with my mom and my family.  Whenever I was faced with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, I remembered this verse, and it gave me a reason to keep pressing on.  I now had a hope and soon I found a new family – God’s family.  God was now my Father and I his child, and I gained brothers and sisters who loved me and looked out for me.

Then I started to understand about Jesus.  I had been doing these things that were bad in God’s eyes.  I wasn’t the goody-goody I always thought I was.  I realized that because I had done these things I had put a barrier between myself and God, a barrier that I could not remove by my own efforts.  I also found out that because of my disobedience, I had to pay the penalty.  The penalty for disobedience is death, which is separation from God.  I loved God, He was my Father, and I desperately wanted to be with him.  What could I do?  Then, I remembered Jesus.  I had heard that Jesus paid the penalty of death by dying on a cross.  He paid my penalty, so that I didn’t have to.  I told God that I was sorry for the bad things I was doing and that I wanted to stop.  I trusted that Jesus took the punishment for my disobedience so that my relationship with my Father, with God, could be restored.  But the best part is that Jesus didn’t just die on a cross, he was resurrected, meaning he was brought back to life.  God said that if I trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, that I too would die and start a new life.  This new life would be free from my past; I would no longer be haunted by the things I had done.  Jesus took my old identity and replaced it with his, so when God looks at me he doesn’t see my past acts of disobedience, he sees Jesus and his perfect obedience.  What a joyful realization it is to know that Jesus did the work to remove the barrier between God and me and that because I trust in Jesus, nothing can ever separate me from my Father again!  I had started a new life with God.  I had finally found the love and family I always wanted, and I was finally freed from the guilt that held me captive.

From then on, it has been a continual growth process – I didn’t change overnight.  I began to ask God for my identity.  I started reading my Bible to find out what my life was supposed to look like.  Some things were easy to quit, but other things took years to overcome, and even now I still struggle with wanting to disobey God.  Even though I have started a new life with God, I am not free from hard times.  God is still in the process of healing the relationships within my family, so some days are good, but other days are like things have never changed.  Life is still hard, but now as I walk through life I am never alone, though I may sometimes feel lonely.  At the end of a hard day, I have a Father who wraps me in his arms and comforts me.  He finds me lovely and delights in blessing me everyday.  I have a new perspective on life that comes from my new identity.  I have a purpose filled with love that drives my life forward.  I am no longer confused or guilt-tripped by what the world says, for now I listen to God, my Daddy, to define who I am.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A longer update will be coming soon

So a few things have happened as far as financial support is concerned, 1) I forgot to add in my $200 deposit before, so that kicked up my totals quite a bit, 2) I got another check today, yay!, and finally 3) I've set my own financial goal. I need $4700 for my trip but I'm setting the goal of $5100. I added in $400 to pay for my stateside plane ticket. I am praying in faith, and feel very confident that God will provide abundantly. My mom is praying for $5200, but I don't really know what the extra is for, but knowing how God uses her, she's probably on to something I don't see. So right now I need $375 by May 1st and I am 25% of the way to my new goal. God is just so awesome!

I am almost finished with this semester. Two more papers and I'm free for a couple of weeks, when summer classes will start. Once I'm done writing papers for school I'm going to get on here and write a lot. This semester has been really difficult and I want to reflect on what God has done, because He's done a lot. He's been teaching me a lot and I want to share that too. Hopefully, I will remember it all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another update because God is good!

18.62% with $875.00

$775.00 to go for my first deadline on May 1st (Wow, I just realized I'm more than halfway there, cool!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Support update

I received two more envelopes today. One that really made me smile came from the Z radio station (88.3 FM). I love that they don't even know me, yet obey God by faith, and support a sister. Ahh, I love family. : ) So now I have 85% to go! Awesome! God is good.

My first financial deadline is coming up in two weeks - May 1st. I need to have $1650 total by then. I have $925 dollars to raise in two weeks. =O So far 92 support letters have been sent out...that is amazing! I remember last year when I struggled to come up with 50 names of people to whom I could send letters. Of those, 9 have responded thus far. : ) Aside from letters I guess I'm starting to brainstorm ideas for fundraisers. I'm thinking maybe a field day, bake/dessert sale, movie night-in (stolen idea), ooh, maybe even a walk/jog-a-thon! That would be sweet!

With that said, please be praying for the development, planning, and implementation of a fundraiser (most likely the walk/jog-a-thon for now). Ask God to give me wisdom about location, date, time, etc, and the logistics of how it works. And of course, be praying for God to call on people to participate and help me raise money - without people it will be pointless.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So I just wanted to write a little update

I now have $625 in financial support, and $4,075 to go. I also have five reported prayer supporters, though I'm sure others are praying, I just don't know it.

Aside from that, school is out of control, but after Tuesday the hectic-ness should be over...for a little while anyway (I've already received one summer class' required book list). I had a great day on Saturday. I traveled down to West Palm Beach to visit family then to go see a friend's dance show. I had the best day at the beach playing with my cousins, then back at the house playing with Nerf guns. Haha, it made me feel like a kid again. : ) Then, I went across town to this amazing show complete with live dance (of course), an orchestra, and live opera singers. Did I mention it was amazing?!!! I could definitely go to those kind of shows every weekend. It was the best vacation that I've had in a while, it was a nice surprise and break from my life. I wish the happy effects lasted longer. : / But that's it for now, seeing as I need to sleep and finish my homework.

Friday, April 4, 2008

God's calling is getting louder

So I'm a junior at UCF and I will be graduating next spring. As this realization has made it's way to the surface of my thoughts I have begun to think about what's next. I can't stay with my uncle forever and I would like to move out into a place of my own, and preferably live with some friends, but who knows. But more so than that, what's after graduation? God had revealed some options last semester and they have become more clear over the course of this semester. Some have already started to fade in light of God's plan being revealed. I have been really praying and asking God "What's next?" for about, a week I guess. Tonight, I think I got my answer, or at least the beginnings of one. I was driving home from Crave tonight and the song that just 'happened' to be playing (God does this a lot - uses music to speak to me while I'm driving) was "Lead Me to the Cross" by Hillsong (AmAzInG band!). Here are the lyrics, the bold, italicized ones are the words that really reached my heart tonight.
Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemptions hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost


Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You

Lead me, lead me to the cross

You were as I
Tempted and trialed
You are
The word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you're risen

To your heart
To your heart
Lea
d me to your hear
t
Lead me to your heart
So like I said I've been praying a lot about what God has next for me. Basically the options that I see are get a teaching job and/or continue school, or intern with Crusade (Campus Crusade for Christ). Originally I thought I would be interning with Student Venture the high school ministry of Cru, but tonight I had a new thought. I thought about this semester. I have been so overwhelmed lately with school and homework that has been put on the back burner, mainly just one class, but nonetheless the back burner. I love school and especially the curriculum that I'm learning. I love going to class and learning this stuff and when I leave I can't wait to go study it...but it doesn't happen like that. (Everything I once held dear I count it all as lost.)

Rewind a second. Last summer I went on summer project with Crusade to Newcastle, Australia (and I'm going again this summer!). God did a major work in my heart and when I came back I had a fire burning within me. I had a passion for prayer and evangelism. So I started some prayer meetings, that eventually fizzled out (because they were at 7:30 in the morning) but the times we met were amazing and I really miss it. Somewhere toward the end of the semester I met up with a friend and we started to do spiritual surveys once a week. This semester we continued with the weekly evangelism. It is one of the greatest blessings in my life. I meet so many people and although I haven't seen much fruit from it, I see God working in students' hearts and I see fruit in my life, as well as others who join me. God has continued to increase my passion for His people and expanding His Kingdom.

So to finally tie all these loose ends together...I feel like God is calling me into full-time ministry (wow, that's a scary thing to say, admit, realize, and accept). Probably not my whole life, but at least for a period. Each week I am so encapsulated by doing His work that homework doesn't even matter anymore. It sounds terrible, I know, and I feel bad sometimes that I'm not giving more attention to school, but this is where God has taken my heart. I am currently discipling a fellow college student. I can't explain how much of a joy it is to spend time with this girl and tell her about Jesus and the wonderful things He has for her. I can't even describe with words how it makes my heart soar, to be used by God in such a life-changing way, and make that kind of an impact in somebody's life! You can't get any better than that! I also am a part of giving free hugs on Wednesdays, which is way cool. I mention these things not to try to make myself look good or righteous but to give you an idea of the passions God has put on my heart. When I think about all that I have to do right now, I would much rather be producing eternal fruit rather than just finite knowledge. All this to say that I have a passion for high school and middle school students, but I also have a passion for college students and maybe God is calling me to intern with Crusade at UCF and then Student Venture a little later. I can't think of anything better than sharing God with students all day.

This is big, scary, and I know it. I feel it and it's slightly terrifying. What will my family say? Will they understand? But as terrifying as it is, it's so wonderful and good, because God is calling me to such a larger adventure than I would have taken, and it's exciting! I know He will take care of me, I just have to find rest in that peaceful truth. So please be praying for me as God continues to reveal His will and continues to show me where He is taking me the next few years. Pray for confirmation and peace to come to my soul. Thanks.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My first post

Hello! So I decided to start a blog mainly for those of you who have joined my support team as I travel to Australia this summer, but I'm sure the rest of my life will creep in as well. I have sent out most of my support letters and have received $425 in financial support and five prayer partners in only a matter of days. Can I just express how good God is?! He is amazing! I have been so encouraged by all mys supporters thus far and I can't wait to see how God is going to use so many others. Well, I can't stay long because I have many homework assignments waiting for my attention. Talk to you soon!