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Sunday, June 30, 2013

God Has Been This Way Already

Heard a really encouraging sermon today. The pastor talked about taking his young son fishing and they had to cross the stream to get to a good fishing hole. The water was deep in one spot, it came up to his waist, but it came up to just below the boy's waders. His eyes got real big, he was holding tight to his dad's hand, and at that deep spot the dad took a huge step and pulled his son along with him right through that deep part.

It was so encouraging because the pastor said he knew that spot was deep but he'd been through it many times before so he knew he could make it through safely. And that made me think of God, and how we often come to scary places in our lives that we're pretty sure we can't make it through because the water is too deep and we feel overwhelmed. But if we hold on tight to His hand, He will take that big step and pull us right along with Him and take us safely through those scary spots to the other side. And we don't have to be afraid because He has been this way before, He knows He can get us safely home.

When I tend to get all caught up in emotional drama and stressed, I stop and think about what really matters. And for me, what really matters is going Home. Being in Heaven where there's no more of this miserable stuff we have to endure, no more people dying, no more loneliness, no more worry or fear. So anytime I hear an encouraging thought like today, or read something or hear it in a song, then my heart is comforted because I know that God is there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Walking or Sitting, It's All the Same

Reading My Utmost for His Highest, my favourite devotional book of all time, I came across this:

"we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it. We do lean unto our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts."

I tend to struggle the most with trusting God. It is so easy for me to make logical decisions based on facts, though often those facts are obscured by my interpretations set in previous experiences. Once I've made my decision, I go forward and ask God to bless. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the balance should be. God doesn't use skywriting to tell me what I should do next, He has blessed me with a brain that I believe I should be using, and yet there is also that privilege we have of learning to trust and wait and see.

I do believe that God makes our pathways clear. Sometimes it happens in the moment we least expect it; sometimes we see things carefully unfolding and we just know that God is guiding each event. Sometimes we have to step into the river Jordan, sit down on the hillside and prepare for the meal, pick up the stones and start whirling the sling. Other times we have to wait, like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, Mary and Martha when their brother died, Sarah as she laughed behind the tent door, Jeremiah in the muddy cistern.

Yet whether we are moving forward or simply waiting, we can still choose to trust God with our entire beings. Trust that He is orchestrating every moment in a miraculous way to demonstrate clearly that He is in control. His promises will always hold true and if we choose to trust Him with all our hearts, He will direct our path.

this world

My heart is sad tonight. Heavy with sorrow for those who must hurt because this world is cruel and there often is a dire lack of justice. Christianity is not practiced as it should; instead it is wielded as a weapon to cause guilt and shame. Those who open their hearts to love find pain and fear instead. How long, oh God, before the cup is full and You say "enough"?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Little Snippets

Handwritten notes on lined paper, written in a hurried scrawl or carefully printed with pen or pencil. Tucked into a secret hiding place or slipped into your hand. Little pieces of someone's heart that I treasure. Why did we stop writing notes?

Last night in the midst of that state of being awake and drifting off to sleep, a vivid memory came to mind. Musty cigarette butts, the snap of cold air, greasy thick-cut chips just frying, and the new smell of Argos catalogs.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Time Travel

Time. I heard in a song on the Christian radio station that God is already in my future. I know, you've heard that before. But take a moment and really think about it. God isn't limited to time. He is standing in my present and He is also standing in my future. He knows exactly what is going to happen and He is just waiting to help me make the decisions that will keep me safe for eternity, brighten my life, and strengthen my character. I can say with conviction that I don't have any fears for my future because God bridges time and He is going to take care of me. What an amazing thought!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From the Heart

I should be tidying my room right now. Cleaning the bathroom sink. Reading one of the 3 books I have to finish reading in less than three weeks. Exercising. Cooking. Writing. Doing my accounts. Instead I find myself clicking on "new post" and heading to my blog. For when I feel overwhelmed, I find solace in writing.

Today I am contemplating experiences. Memories. Friendship. Time invested in building our futures. As a third-culture missionary's kid, I've had my share of building relationships over the years, then watching as I lost those closest to me through distance and time. We moved, they moved. And while I've now been blessed to live in a country where I can more easily visit dear friends, I still find myself often missing the experiences we shared and holding tightly to the ones I create now.

Is it worth it? To get to know a person to the point that you know what they will order when you go out to eat, you hear their footsteps or their laughter and recognize them immediately, when you laugh together you laugh from the heart, and you complete each other's sentences? Is it worth the time and emotional energy you pour into your friendship to then watch them leave, because they had to or they chose to?

When I ask this question, then I think about who I was before each person reached out and cared enough to become a part of my life. Each of my best friends have helped to create the person I am today. They've loved me, listened to me, laughed and cried with me. They've taught me how to see the world from a different perspective, to realize that beauty is seen in unexpected places. We've shared spontaneous adventures, serious conversations, and soul-warming moments.

I feel it deeply, every time I have to say goodbye. Sometimes I fear my heart has given away so many little pieces that there isn't very much left. I find myself wondering if I am too weary to start the getting-to-know-you process all over again. Then I imagine my world without friends and I know it would be too dark to live in. Each friend has brought their tiny flicker of light into my life and together have lit it brighter than noonday sun. I am blessed more than I deserve to have been given so many people to love.

So is it worth it? My heart tells me yes. For as I give each piece away, I receive a piece, until my heart is no longer one single colour, one single person's creation. It is a beautiful mosaic of stunning colours, each one representing a person who has been vulnerable enough to love me as I love them.

Monday, June 17, 2013

This Day I Choose

Well, it's that time of year again. The one where if you're 1 you have no idea what is going on, but you know that bright shiny paper on top of the huge box is real fun to play with. Everyone around you seems to be quite excited about what's inside the box, but it makes too much noise, and all you want to do is sit quietly and chew on a sock. If you're 13 you're excited because it's your very first girl & boy party and you feel so very grownup now that you're an official teenager. There are more milestone birthdays, such as 16, 18, 21, each of them looked forward to with great anticipation.

Then there are the decade-birthdays. The 30, the 40, the 50. Thankfully I've only seen one of those so far! Last night I logged on to Facebook and took my birth year off my timeline. I decided I didn't want people knowing how old I really was, even though I've been told I look about 8 years younger. My dear little brother, during prayer at breakfast this morning, happily told God, "and thank you for Maria's ____ years!" I groaned inwardly. "Thanks for the reminder!"

What are birthdays, anyway? A celebration of life, a chance to eat cake and open up presents, time to spend with family and friends, a marker of another year gone by. I woke up this morning and felt like I did on my 30th birthday, not too thrilled about it all, concerned that time had switched from robin wings to eagle wings and was taking me far too fast into my future.

As I took some time to contemplate what my goals and aspirations are for this year, I also thought about the gift of life. Of safety, of family, of love, of joy, of peace, and of friends. I thought about God's gifts of mercy, patience, compassion, grace, longsuffering, forgiveness, and kindness. I realized that I was being ungrateful as I lamented my state of years.

A birthday signals so much more than a year gone by. It means I have been blessed with amazing gifts that cannot be wrapped up or quantified. 
  • Experience
  • Memories
  • Life
  • Wisdom (more, not all!)
As I enter this new year of life, I shall resolve to choose joy and happiness every moment I consciously am able to. To learn to lean on God for guidance in the challenges I face. To always see the best in others and seek to affirm their strengths. To set my aims high and then work towards meeting them. To embrace change even when it causes uncertainty. To live every experience to its fullest, storing up memories of life

". . .blessed are all those who wait for Him." ~Isaiah 30:18b

Friday, June 14, 2013

Can You Run Faster if You Have More Legs?

Earlier this evening I had a rather amusing encounter that I decided I simply must share with you.

I'm sitting on my bed trying to decide whether or not it's worth the effort to move every single box and object from the left side of my room by the window in order to unearth a rather large rather fat spider that scuttled its way in a few minutes earlier. It stopped, we had a stare-off, I grabbed the closest thing that could capture it, a mini Chinese tea cup, from my dresser, and the race was on. 

I jumped off my bed, lunging for the ominous monster, but he saw me coming. I desperately threw the cup in its general direction, but it simply bounced off the carpet as the furry alien shot around the corner of my bed, safe for a moment. I followed in hot pursuit, attempting one more time to capture it. This time the cup stayed firmly put, and I emptied out a large canning jar as backup (something I should have done much earlier!). For some stupid reason I decided to lift up the cup to see if my nemesis was underneath. If he had been, he would have flipped that cup up and over like a weightlifter in a category below its weight limit and I would have had to figure out some other clever way to capture it. 

Alas, like the magic game where you have to guess which cup the egg is under and you never get it right, the spider was nowhere to be found. I stared sadly at the empty patch of carpet. Then revenge took hold and I grabbed a super bright flashlight, started pulling things away as fast as I could, shining the light into every dark corner I could find, hoping to see evidence of scuttling legs and black beady eyes. To no avail. 

A while later, I heard my mom stumbling about out in the kitchen and decided to find out why she was still up. I found out my dear fat furry friend either has an identical twin (which I hope not!) or decided it was too bright in here and so he rushed out as fast as his 8 legs would carry him and skedaddled right into my mom's room!!! She was not amused, she also couldn't get something to smack him with fast enough, so she grabbed the vacuum cleaner. She thinks she got him, there's less stuff under her bed to hide behind. I hope so! At least now I can sleep in peace.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

I watched them sitting there, side by side, quiet on the garden swing. Perhaps she saw a squirrel run up the tree and pointed it out to him. He couldn't quite hear what she said, so she repeated herself louder and close to his good ear. They swung some more. Then she said it was time to go and they got up. His legs were a bit wobbly; she was hunched over from an old muscle injury. They clung to each other and managed to stand in an upright position to begin the slow walk back home. It was less than a hundred steps to their little place but each of those steps took an eternity to traverse with their aging bodies. An eternity.

I thought about what it must have been like when they first met. Was she as loud then as she was now? Did she have that same fire inside of her and was it even more pronounced? Or was she a quiet demure young woman and only now did she feel comfortable to let her true spirit be shown? Did he gently care for her as he did today? Was he interesting to listen to, a learned man who was always ready to share so others could grow?

They lived in a completely different world back then. People met and then they got married. Oh I'm sure love was involved, to a degree. But they were much more practical. Could she cook and clean? Would he provide and was he a hard worker? Were their life goals compatible? They took a simple approach to life, they were choosing to marry because they were looking for a companion, someone to make the load easier to carry, and someone to share in the duties of life. Now, over 50 years later, they were still married.

The world we live in today has gone completely topsy-turvy. Marriage in its traditional sense is mocked. People marry then divorce days or even hours later only to marry again multiple times. We become so particular about the person meeting certain specifications that we end up single because we're unable to be content with quality spouses. Women have babies first, then get married, often not to the father of their child. Cohabitation is the norm.

As I watched the couple slowly tottering home, I thought about what it meant to be selflessly dedicated to someone else, committed for a lifetime, as one learned to love the person they said Yes to. They came from a generation who chose to value the blessings God had placed in their lives, grateful that they had each other, determined to be faithful to their companion. And as I watched them I realized, they had chosen for eternity.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Little Girl Dancing

I paint my toenails. Purple, blue, tonight they are bright cotton candy pink. When I look down at my toes, they make me smile! You know how you have those days when things just aren't going the way you'd planned, you feel lonely, or sad, or frustrated? Where are you looking? That's right, you're looking down. You feel discouraged and don't have the desire to face people as you pass them so you study your feet. When I look down, I see my happy pink toenails and I don't feel quite as downhearted anymore. I'll admit, sometimes I even choose open-toed shoes just so I can look at my toes and be cheered up.

Now you can look at me solemnly, declaring my desire to paint my toes a sinful one, that only clear toenail polish is appropriate, blah blah blah. The other day a pint-sized little thing informed me in a very sure voice that God didn't want me to have pink toenails. I would have to disagree, though. See I've spent almost half my life trying to be sure I wasn't doing the wrong thing. I also spent that time feeling angry with myself because I knew I could never be perfect. I just knew I wasn't going to make it to heaven because I was still eating cheese on my burrito, listening to Steve Green and Boyz II Men, wearing jeans and tank tops, putting on eyeliner and mascara, and watching 7th Heaven.

The journey has been a rather rough one, which you may have picked up on some through various blog posts here and there. I shall not spend much time working through it tonight, however. One thing I have learned from my years of struggle is that I can never be perfect. That I need to stop trying and start surrendering to God Who covers me in Jesus' perfection. I've also learned that God wants me to be happy. And so I step out, hesitantly, trying to figure out how to be happy in this sad world. Sometimes I don't get it right and I have to backtrack. But when I study my friends who have chosen to embrace life and seek out joy along the way, I realize that is what I am looking for. So I paint my toenails cotton candy pink.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Another Late Night Post

I really should be sleeping, it's almost midnight and I seem to have made a habit of staying up rather too late this past week. Perhaps it's the heat, even with an a/c going almost non-stop it still takes a long time to cool down at night. Perhaps I'm seeking to avoid responsibility and the doing of tasks that are not interesting in the slightest to me, such as cleaning and tidying and studying. Perhaps my circadian rhythm is completely off and so even if I were to try to turn the lights off and enter dreamland closer to 10 pm, I would be unsuccessful. Or perhaps it's just because I can, therefore I do.

When I turned 16, my mom told me that I no longer had a set bedtime. I could now go to bed whenever I wanted and boy did I take advantage of that! I don't think I stayed up all night then, but I did decide that my new mission in life was to record Mission: Impossible (the old series) which came on around 11 pm or so at night, as my brother really enjoyed it. I would sit curled up in our family rocking chair, a blanket wrapped around me, tense with the suspense as they would attempt the impossible, succeeding every time. When it was over I couldn't go right to sleep so I would watch cheesy sitcoms like Golden Girls to try to laugh away the action-filled show I had just seen.

I grew up in countries where nightlife was where it all began, so it wasn't too much of a transition for me to stay up late at night watching, listening to Radio Delilah, or writing in my journal about the teenage angst that gripped my heart. However, a not-too-pleasant side effect of staying up so late meant that I wasn't up with the birds at 6 am, but rather grew accustomed to beginning my day closer to noon, or even afterwards if I was feeling particularly generous. It became an easy habit, one which I seem to fall into too often even today.

As I find myself facing a week that I know can be either productive or a completely waste of my time, I find myself wondering how to startle myself into a way of life that gives me a greater sense of achievement. I am a great list-maker and will often create lengthy scrolls that are about impossible to accomplish in a day. Then I'll feel discouraged and won't even try for the next week or two. I enjoy looking back at my day and realizing I did more than I had planned, but it's not so easy to do so when I find myself stumbling out of bed with just enough time to dress, grab a sandwich, and rush out the door to work.

Just because I can do something doesn't necessarily mean I should. Paul writes about it, in 1 Corinthians 10:23, where he says that just because something is lawful, or not going against the law, doesn't meant that it is helpful to do it. As the NIV says, not everything is beneficial or constructive. There is a lot in the Bible about self-control and self-discipline and fighting a good fight to earn an eternal reward. I think perhaps I will spend some time figuring out how to reset my priorities from "I can do this, therefore I shall," to "How can I please God in what I'm doing?" It requires purposeful effort but somehow I think it will be worth it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Finished taking the GRE today. Been studying for it for ages, since July of last year, actually, on and off. Now that it's finally over, I can't believe I can move on to the next project and don't have to worry about x and y and z (pronounced "zee", how sad I have become). I got a good score, enough to make the 25% scholarship level where I plan on studying, but 4 points away from the 50% scholarship level. So me being me, instead of being excited that I can now save almost $4,000 I get upset that I couldn't save $8,000. I know I couldn't have done any better, though.

So this is it. Time to step out into the unknown of graduate school. I've already dipped my foot into the waters, but this time I have to jump in completely. This time I have to commit to completion. Envision my end goal: a piece of paper, no debt, a gown and hat. That's what I am looking forward to the most, actually. The graduation gown. I never got to wear one, thanks to homeschooling and conservative ridiculousness. In three years, though, that will change. Hopefully.

Now to go and place myself in this new reality.