A tribute to my friends :)

3/27/10 — New Orleans

God has an amazing way of working things out, doesn’t He?  Just when we think that everything is going wrong, He proves that He is truly present through all, over all, and in all; He’s truly sovereign!

While walking around campus this morning, I was struck by the depth of this realization.  Sometimes, I take for granted that God is constantly directing the steps of my life.  But after leaving one of my classes, I simply stopped in the sidewalk where I was walking.  I stopped, and in my mind, I traveled back to the place where I was this time last year.

This time last year, I was freshman at a small, liberal arts, private college in Conway, AR.  To say it simply, I will simply say that it was not a good fit for me.  Although I had a few friends, I read while eating many meals alone.  I was depressed and haunted by guilt from my dating relationship.  Every single day, I prayed for friends and for the hopes of a future, God-centered relationship.

With the sun shining down on me this morning, though, I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk on campus, and I realized just how greatly God had answered my prayer.  Not only had He answered it, though, but He had prepared for me a place more amazing than anything I could have ever imagined!

To all of my friends and family, tonight, I want to show you just how much I love and appreciate you!  So often, I receive words of encouragement from y’all, and I want you to know that every single time we talk and every single time I see you, I am reminded of just how great God is.  I’m reminded of how He blesses us with an abundance so great that we cannot even comprehend it!

To all of my friends and family, remember always that I cherish you and that God has blessed me THROUGH YOU!  You have made a difference in my life, and it’s a difference that has taught me what it means to love because God first loved us.

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Workers in a harvest field

For the past three years, I’ve had a desire to do mission work in a Latin American country.  Since November, I became convicted that He was calling me to such work through reading my Bible and praying.  I prayed that He would open the way if it was His will, and He responded by providing with the opportunity for me to teach at a school for missionaries’ children in Pucallpa, Peru for the coming year, maybe more.  The picture above is of a classroom in the school where I would be teaching.

Even after writing that paragraph, I ask myself, “So, why aren’t you going to Peru next year?”  Honestly, I’m not sure that I can fully explain it, but I realized that I had taken my current season for granted.  I felt as though I wasn’t helping as many people here  as I could in Peru.  Worries about money,whether to stay in a sorority, and wanting to focus on school less to focus on God made going to Peru seem like the greener grass on the other side.

That day that I decided to not drop out of school to work and raise money for my missions, that day that I decided to not go to Peru, that day…….that’s when I made the choice to let go of my will and trust that God had put me exactly where I was at the moment.  That was the day that I realized that I was already a missionary–a sharer of the Gospel in every place I went, a lover of His children all around me, a follower of His will no matter what it meant.

We are all missionaries, each and every single one of us.  God has put us each where we are and has given us each talents to use.  While I hope that He will take me to Peru one day, I’ve learned that I simply have to wait peacefully and trust that His will will be done.  We just have to open our eyes to harvest field that we are in–whether it’s a classroom, Starbucks, the office, church, or even a fraternity party.  Once we ask the Lord to send us out into these harvest fields, I think we’ll be surprised by the blessings we gather.

-References to Matthew 9:35-38

We love because God first loved us

This morning, I finally awoke to the sun shining through my window!  My old friend, the sun, was finally back from vacation.  I got dressed to go for a morning run and stepped out into the clear, morning air.  With each stride on the pavement, thoughts filled my head, and I couldn’t wait to get back to my apartment to write them all down.

One of the thoughts that filled my mind was that of 1 John 4.  This passage of scripture is definitely one of my very favorites, but there was always one portion of it that I had trouble accepting.  In the first couple of verses of this chapter, the idea that we love God only because He first loved us is emphasized.

Although I used to not really like this verse, now looking back on it, I think this passage of 1 John is even better because of the statement that God first loved us.  It enhances the passage of scripture in so many ways.  For example, it emphasizes that everything comes from God.   Truly accepting and believing this notion also paves the way for the understanding that God is sole basis from which we act, think, feel, and believe.

Another application of God being the origin of all love is present in Ephesians 3:17-19.   The verse reads, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  In essence, the first part of this passage is saying that since we are grounded in love that comes directly from God, we will have strength and the ability to comprehend all that it means to live fully in God and Him fully in you.

There is so much more that I have left to learn, and on this side of heaven, I know that I will never be able to truly and fully fathom God’s love for each of us.  What a joy this is, though, to be reminded that we are loved solely because we are God’s creation.  It is only from this love that He has for us that we are able to love others.

Beautifully Broken

Let me tell you a story of a girl.  For now, we’ll call her Sissy, and her story goes something like this…

Born and raised in a nice family with a nice house in a nice neighborhood, Sissy lived in outward perfection.  But there was something different about Sissy.  She could feel it.  She looked up to her brother, wished she was funny and thin like he was.  She loved her mother, a stay-at-home mom for many years of her life.  Her lifeline, that’s what her mom was until the day she began to work.  Her father, even now as she looks back on her life, she wishes she knew him better.

But life happened.  Her nice family, her nice house, and not even her nice things could prevent her from the falling of the world.  Satan spoke lies to her, lies of her inconvenience, of being unworthy, and of being alone.  The working world had robbed her of her mother and father.  After all, money, she learned, didn’t grow on trees.  It was just an unfortunate coincidence, maybe, that she didn’t have many friends at school and the friendship with her brother that she so desired.  The glass casing around her heart–a covering like that over a brand new toy–the devil crushed it with his lies.  Trying to gain what was forever lost, Sissy clutched the shards of broken glass until the pain she felt and the tears she shed justified the torment required by the lies she accepted as truth.

This is who Sissy was: a broken girl in a broken world that, to the world, denied she was broken.  Perfection was the veneer she wore and the burden she carried.

Never did she realize that her burden had already been carried, taking the form of a cross on a despised man’s back.  Her law and justification through torment, little did she know that these also were paid in full as the same despised man was nailed to the cross he had carried.  And though He–the very Son of God–died on that cross of the world, He defeated death, and He defeated Satan, Sissy still carried her own.  With His outpouring of faith, hope, and love, Jesus Christ even defeated every lie of Satan; however, Sissy didn’t know this either, at least not yet.

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That is the beginning of my story, but it is certainly not the end.  Had God–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–had each of these not intervened in my life, only God knows where I’d be today.

But God came to me, and He poured words of Truth into the depths of my soul.  “There’s a crack in everything,” He said, “that’s how the Light gets in.”  He even taught me the truth of a verse that I had often heard yet simply skipped over.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.

Therefore, I will boast of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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I live a story much different than that from my beginning.  And though I often trace the scars in my hands and even seek for the shards that left them, I stop and close my eyes.  I feel my heart beating and know that I love because He first loved me (1 John 4:10).  I remember that I am broken, yet I am beautifully broken for through this brokenness, the power of Christ rests upon me.

God is always good

I arrived in Memphis on Friday afternoon.   In the hospital parking lot, I parked my brother’s “Frat-finder,” a car that I never thought that I’d be allowed to drive.

My mom greeted me at the hospital entrance.  A warm smile and twinkling eyes–proof of our shared genome–brightened the stark hospital as the distance between us closed.  I bent down towards her open arms.  Another inch taller, I must have grown.

“Sissy,” she warned me, “remember that she hasn’t eaten in a week, and she has a NG (Nasal-Gastrointestinal) tube in her nose.  They just gave her more medicine for her pain so she’s pretty out of it.”

We jumped elevator “W” and traveled up two levels to reach the fourth floor.  You know how hospitals are…

“She’s in room 402,” my mom said while leading the way.  She looked back at me and stepped inside.  Across the threshold of the hospital door was the collection of Pappaw, Aunt Cindy, and Mom.  But there covered in hospitals sheets was the angel that I had come to see: my sweet Mammaw.

There lay the woman that I realized I love more than I ever thought possible.  The head instructor of “Mammaw’s cooking school” and the sharer of all her favorite magazines–Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Woman’s Day, Southern Living, etc.–Mammaw became something even more to me in that moment.  Sarah Geraldine McGregor Harden became living proof of Christ’s love dwelling among us and the miracle of life.  That is who she was to me when I first saw her in her hospital bed.  Praise be to God that she is still that same woman and even more to me today.

From this season, I am learning many things.  Most of all, though, I am learning this: God is always good.

Just as I wrote that previous sentence, the squeals of my 5, 7, and 10 year old cousins erupted.  “Mammaw tooted!” they exclaimed, and the eruption of a thousand giggles and “whoo hooos!” filled the house.  The picture at the beginning of the post is actually the drawing that Larson, the almost 7 year-old, drew for Mammaw last night to encourage her “to toot.”

But even with giggles in the air, I remember a young girl at the camp where I worked this past summer.  Her name was Alden, and she was fighting cancer.  Even just before the good Lord called her home to His arms, even she believed a lesson that some of us will never understand nor believe:  God is good.  God is always good.

Praise the Lord that we are celebrating how “Mammaw tooted!” but I’m remembering Alden and all that she tried to teach us through her life.  I’m learning that even if the news we were receiving were that from a different story, God would still be good.

God is always good.