Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quietly Belonging

To the girl who stood next to me,
I was on the outskirts of the circle at small group. You casually made your way through the circle and stood by me. You didn't say anything directly to me but rather still remained engaged with the conversations of the group. It was a silent comfort that you came beside me. Though I wanted to be there, I didn't have the heart to talk or furthermore entertain a group with the newest story. Your walk across the room and nonthreatening presence gave me the gift of inclusion...a feeling we all seek whether we're 100% extroverted, shy, or just not wanting to talk.
So thank you. Thank you for allowing me to quietly belong.
your friend.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Orchestration

A new friend, Tiffany Robison, asked me to write some devotionals for her website. She has a passion to reach young people and challenge them to find completeness in Christ.

So here is my first one:

"Orchestration"

It came.
The letter I had been waiting for.
I eagerly tore open the envelope, withdrew the sheet with the distinguished college letterhead, and hungrily read the words before me. My anticipation quickly dissipated to disappointment as I read the unwelcome phrase of, “you have not been accepted.” A crushing feeling swept over me. It had been my dream to go halfway across the country to pursue dance at this particular college. I had flown there twice, once to tour the college facilities, and once for the entrance audition. It seemed to me that my life would be perfect there, yet this letter brought an abrupt ending to that dream. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I sunk down to the floor. What was I supposed to do now? In that moment, I had the decision either to dwell in my sorrow or worship through the heartache I felt, knowing that somehow God was in control. I gathered myself off the carpet and sat at the piano. Sweet melodies of surrender and trust arouse from my spirit, and God met me in that place. He was orchestrating the details of my life, even when I felt that all the options I wanted most had been closed for me.

Whenever you’re nearing the end of a season in your life, such as finishing a school year or graduating from high school or college, people are always asking, “What is your plan?” This question is asked so frequently that I have been tempted to make a t-shirt with all the answers on it, so people can just read it. Their interest is appreciated, yet it can be a trying question to answer when you are searching for the answer yourself. This situation has met me quite a few times in life—right now being no exception. I find myself wondering what God has up his sleeve. It seems that when you graduate from college, you are supposed to get a job and launch directly into the career that you were educated for. But, I haven’t, although I know that the part-time jobs I have now are not in vain. This is not an easy place to be in, but I have found that a remembrance of God’s orchestration builds strength for the moment and hope for the days to come.

I co-lead a small group at my church, and we have been going through the book of Romans. When we came to chapter 8 (read it sometime, if you haven’t read it in a while—it’s powerful!), verse 28 jumped out at me. It is a verse that I’ve heard many times, but the Holy Spirit spoke to me through it. It says, “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 is a perfect description of his orchestration. First, He works in all things, and I mean all! Every detail is aligned according to His plan. Second, He works for our good. Our definition of good may not match His, but He has our best in mind and we need to trust Him in that. Though you may be in a tough place of questioning what is next in your life, be assured at this moment that God is at work. He is aligning situations and opportunities in the background as you pray and seek Him. Ask Him to open your eyes to His orchestration in your life.

When I was in that place of questioning God as a senior in high school, I was not aware of God’s orchestration earlier that year. My parents and I met a family from California on our summer vacation in Switzerland (a gift from my grandparents!). We went on a biking trip with this family in the Alps, and the dad told me about Hope College, where he had gone to. He spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities that he’d had there, as well as the excellent dance program. At the time, I quickly dismissed his comments, because my mind was set on the other school. When I was rejected by that school, God reminded me of his alignment of events. I applied to Hope College, was accepted, had a glorious four years there, and graduated from that school with the knowledge that God wanted me in that place at that time. I knew that Hope had not been God’s second choice, but His best plan for me. There is nothing like the peace that you feel when you know you are exactly where God wants you to be.

Next time you wonder what in the world is next for you in life, know that God standing with you. You are not alone. Rest in the awareness that He is orchestrating every detail of your life for His good and for your good. Worship Him, listen to Him, and follow Him. May He receive all the glory as His orchestration unfolds in our lives.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tracks in the Wheat

About a week ago, one of my friends exclaimed that he loved Black Friday and the deals that it brings. My quick, unguarded response was that I hated it. I really don't...it just fills me with the memories of last year.

Have you ever had moments in your life when you could have been no longer? Moments that were filled with spiritual warfare and unexpected grace?

I can vividly picture two of those experiences when death was eagerly waiting to cease my weary body and God prevailed with His perfect plan. The first experience happened when I was nine and the second was last year, on Black Friday.
Here is what I wrote from that day:

Driving home from work
Music softly filling the car air while sleepiness slowly crept into my eyes after a long day
Dry roads, almost home
Rounding a curve, unexpected sheets of ice
Swerving, fish tailing, trying to gradually let up on the gas and down on the brake
Hitting dirt, flipping
Upside down, only being held by my seat belt
Trying to escape or at least let someone know that I'm here in a field
Unbuckling my seat belt, glass everywhere
Curling up in a ball on the ceiling
Searching for my cell phone, desperate to get help from my brothers
Seeing Eric's form yelling for me to put down my window
Letting my guard down as he held me tight and checked for broken bones
Missing one shoe and two loaves of bread
Being sorry about the new tires that had been put on that morning
Finally safe in my brother's arms
Rescued and protected by the Great I Am.
Struggling later to fall asleep after returning from the hospital
Feeling angels warring for me
Seeking rest in the arms of my Savior who had protected my life
Peace at last.

Until this fall, you could still see the track marks that my car had made. The wheat grew around it, leaving me with the constant reminder of God's protection and grace on my life that night. Experiences we have shape us into who we are today, how we feel and think and relate to others. I think I have a better understanding of what it means to have no control in a situation, the feeling of being trapped, and knowing how much God cares for His children.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

a brave moment

I will preface this story in telling you that I do not like spiders. Killing them is definitely not my favorite. In fact, I have been known on many occasions to put a Tupperware container over a spider or undesired insect, with a post-it note saying, "please kill me!" Thankfully, my mom is a trooper and kills all of them for me. Way to go, Mom!

So tonight I was driving back from the small group that I co-lead at my church. It was raining pretty steadily and I had turned off the music to hear the sound of the rain. As I drove the "silver bullet" (the name I affectionately call our van) down the driveway of the church, one of the lights lit up my van in such a way that I saw a line hanging off of my rear view mirror and a thick, white spider dangling at the end. At first I thought that it was my imagination because I didn't see it after I passed the second light. Weird. Then I made the mistake of letting my imagination get to me and began to wonder if it was crawling on me somewhere. Shudder. Deep breath. I stopped the car, turned on the light, and found the spider crawling around on my dashboard. Phew, at least it wasn't on me. I gathered up my courage and killed the darn spider. I did have a minor freak out after that occurrence, but it was a brave moment for me.

I'm thankful that God gives us just the amount of courage that we need in those moments, regardless of the magnitude of the situation. This little incident will remind me to have courage in tougher circumstances...for if God cares about giving me strength to kill a disgusting spider, he will certainly be there when I am struggling with something bigger.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Uganda Update

Here is the letter I sent out as a thank you to those who supported me and prayed for me. I am still internally processing things that God taught me over there. I'm sure some of thoughts will come out eventually! In the meantime, take a peek at some stories:

On August 16th, my team (8 others) and I began the adventure to Africa, one that would have us in the country of Uganda for two weeks. As the plane lifted off American soil, we wondered what experiences we would have and who we would meet. The goal of the trip was to minister at three conferences (for pastors, women, and youth) and visit existing and potential water tank sites for The Ugandan Water Project, a ministry started by James Harrington and Derek Levendusky. I watched the land of America, a place of comfort, get smaller and smaller, and I couldn’t help but quietly sing, “Father, my home is You.” There was a realization that no matter how this experience unfolded, it was going to be marked with the love and blessing of our Father. This set the tone of the trip.

God’s first, tangible way of showing His favor was through refreshing rain. It began the first night we arrived, which instilled peace in me because I fell asleep to the sound of it, knowing that God had me in an unfamiliar place for a purpose. When it rained in Uganda, Derek, one of the leaders, explained to us that it was a sign of blessing in the natural and the spiritual. Not only were the water tanks being filled, but God was confirming to the Ugandans that we were sent by the Lord. We were welcomed with such honor, and God enabled us to bring encouragement to churches that had been experiencing natural and spiritual drought. One pastor, in his thankfulness, donated a cow for the Pastors’ Conference, a gift equivalent to a person giving $20,000 in an American church. The first day, the cow was tied to a tree across the road, and the second day, each person ate meat, a rare occurrence for Ugandans. Another church, deep in the bush, gave us a rooster, which accompanied us back in our van for the 2-hour ride. This same church had never encountered “mzungus,” white people. A Ugandan friend explained that when these people see a white person, it is if they have seen an angel, a miracle that they will talk about for generations. Talk about not knowing how much impact one person can have on another!

One of my favorite experiences was serving food to the children in the slums. They normally do not eat on Saturdays, but our team was able to provide two meals for them that day. In the midst of desolation, poverty, and the continuous fight for survival, I felt God’s love for these children and the calling that He had on each of them. One boy sang a song of his rejection and of God’s redeeming grace. Listening to him, I was reminded that nothing—and no one—is overlooked by God. He is at work in each place in the world, including the slums of Uganda.

When the African youth found out that I danced in America, they were instantly intrigued. I found that dance could be a way of creating a bridge between our cultures. The youth performed many dances, in their unique African way. Then Derek asked me to dance for the Youth Conference. He told them that this would be a type of dance that may be unfamiliar, but to picture a princess dancing before her King. This set the tone for a powerful experience in dance. It was a blessing to me to be able to use my gift on the other side of the world.

Another gift that God allowed me to use was public speaking. Christy Harrington and I were invited to speak at a women’s conference at the Elim church in Kawanda. (The women thought it was so neat that we came from the original Elim church!) God placed in me an affirming and encouraging message for the women. As I began to speak, my intimidation became confidence, and God enabled me to be a conveyer of His love. It reinforced to me that we are humble vessels that God uses in spite of ourselves. He receives all the glory for all that we do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

33 years

I am breaking this blogging hiatus to celebrate my parents' 33rd anniversary. They are an incredible couple...a fact that I've been re-realizing this past summer. Plus, I'm in the "marriage" mindset after rejoicing with Eric and Rachel as they got married last Saturday. More about that later on.

Thirty three years ago today, my parents got married in a quaint parlor at Big Tree Inn. They had only know each other for 9 months and had decided to get married because God told them to. They were not madly in love, which is a necessary ingredient of marriage as defined by my generation. God had orchestrated events and had woven their lives together in such a way that they figured they should obey God and get married. This story always baffles me because I can't imagine marrying someone I was not head-over-heels in love with and barely knew. Their interactions over those months were few and at many points during that time, each wondered what God was up to. He had quite an adventure for them in mind.

It has been neat to take a front row seat to their marriage, especially this summer as I have returned home. They have worked at establishing a Christ-centered marriage and raising three dynamic children, who would follow all that God has for them. I have seen a deeper commitment in both of them as my mom has struggled with her sickness. My dad is more attentive and supports her as she aims to walk in public places. They take time to listen to each other and then be a voice of reason and wisdom for each other. They also have taught me that marriage is for a lifetime...in every circumstance and season.

So cheers to their 33rd Wedding Anniversary! May there be many more to come!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Desert Song

Rachel Bode shared this song, called Desert Song, last night at church. The bridge has been encouraging me.

Verse 1:
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

Verse 2:
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

Chorus:
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Verse 3:
And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it's way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand

Bridge:
All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Verse 4:
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be empited again
The seed I've recieved I will sow