Monday, December 14, 2015

what do you want

This wasn't exactly the question I expected when I sat down after (all but one of) my exams this afternoon. I grabbed my Bible, journal, pen, and music to spend some alone time with the Lord and after a few moments of reflections and prayer I felt this question, not harshly, but genuinely,

"What do you want?"

uh... Excuse me, Maker of the Universe sir, what? Why does this matter right now? I'm trying to pray and repent and get my life more together. I am trying to pass exams and apologize for not living and being the way You called me to at all times. I don't think that You should be asking me about the things I want. All these things and still I felt the question,

"Grace, what do you want more than anything else?
The desires of your heart, given from My heart, will be fulfilled.
I promise. Trust Me."

Impulses and sensors go off thinking, "PROSPERITY GOSPEL! WARNING! CAUTION!" But then I stopped. This is Biblical (Psalm 37:4). Not that God is some big red jolly Santa in the sky with magical powers, but that He changes us and really those desires that we have in our hearts that are from His heart are promised.

And truthfully (and slightly cheesily) my desires can be boiled down to 3 things.
For God to receive glory in my life
To adventure with Him
To be satisfied in Christ

So I prayed and really broke those things down.

for God to receive glory in my life
"Baby girl, you don't even know. You just don't even know."
When we truly live in the constant state of this being our desire, when we live with this thought on the forefront of our minds, we can't even see the impact we have. We don't really comprehend the difference it makes to smile at that guy you pass on the sidewalk. We don't know what it means to someone when we tell them a truth from the Lord that we see in their life. We can't understand the ripple effects and change that is sparked when we are faithful in small. The big things matter. Of course they matter! If the Lord puts it on your heart to present the Gospel, Do it! But if the Lord asks you to refrain and be patient and share simple truths of who He is, do that just as faithfully.

To adventure with Him
"Trust Me. No matter where you go or what the circumstances, not a day will be any less."
#boom. Ain't got anything else to say about that.

To be satisfied in Christ
"Welcome to the inception that will forever be your life with Me. Remain in Me and you will be satisfied... but you'll also be forever wanting more... but you'll be satisfied."
I was watching a teaching by Todd White one day and he said something to effect of "If God is not your Father, you'll always be an orphan." I wrote that down and continued to stretch it out.
"If I am not your Father, you'll always be an orphan. If I am not your Mentor, you'll never learn what I have for you. If I am not your First Love, you'll never be satisfied and whole." Satisfaction is not something that I can come up with within myself, find in another person, or will to be present in my life. Satisfaction is a state of peace within and contentment. And Christ Himself is our peace (Eph. 2:14), He's my satisfaction.


Monday, September 14, 2015

hi, my name is Grace and i have no idea what's going on

does it catch anyone else by surprise?
I told Jesus that He could have every day of my life.
and, to be honest, I'm really not entirely sure what all has happened since then...

sometimes I stop and realize that it's absolutely insane. nothing short of madness, what has happened in my life, where I'm at, and how I got here. I really don't know how it all happened and came together aside from one thing person, Christ.

sometimes I get to share stories and my own mind gets blown away by what God has done. sometimes, let's face it a lot of the time, I dream of the limitless possibilities that He lays before me. I marvel often at the worthiness of Christ to go, be, and do anything He leads me to.

then sometimes I moan. straight up I forget. I forget how I got to where I am. I forget why I live in (presently) Chicago. I forget where Christ has brought me from and lose that small glimpse of what He has for me beyond the present. I forget the past, present, and future promises. I lose the vision, which really means losing  the focus being on Jesus. 'Cause really why else? Why else has my life played out the way it has? Why else take this course? And I lose my perspective more times than I care to admit. My focus turns to immediate things. I focus on making good appearances in my beginning impressions, making a good grade, and other "good" things. It brings me to moments when I obsess over the trivial. The problem is when I forget why. I become so un-content and lose the closeness with God. It all becomes so fleeting just like Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes. But God is so faithful. And it perpetually blows me away. He draws me back. He gives me fresh vision and purpose. He reminds me of where I've been and how He has carried me. He stirs up hope for the future. He gives me the faith for the present. Real talk, even at a super Christian school, you can talk about the Bible, Jesus, etc. all day and never say a word to Him. So *raises hand* guilty. And in case it was ever in question, I couldn't do this in and of myself. I love adventure. I love the craziness that is my life (most of the time, Jesus help me though). However, 100%, when I try and do this in and of myself, I don't just trip a bit, I fall flat out on my face. But, praise God, that He laughs with me at my pitiful attempts, utter mess-ups, and humbling stumbles; then He picks me up as we chuckle and start strolling together again.

So here's to yet another shift of perspective, Jesus be my focus. again and again.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

onward



15 places to sleep
14 hours in the Atlanta airport 
13 flights
12 animal friends
11 homesick children comforted   
10 teammates
9 modes of transportation
8 roadtrips
7 goodbyes
6 rooftops
5 pulled teeth (campers' just to clarify)
4 addresses
3 continents
2 national landmarks licked
1 calendar year
Countless new friends and late nights,
cups of tea and stories shared,
laughs and yes even tears,
prayers prayed, songs sung, and life-changing Jesus moments.

May the adventure begin... and never end.

And the words are even more true today than they have ever been. A year ago I don't think I could have imagined it all: the now memories that are part of my life story, the heart surgery God has done and is continuing, and all the ways that God has provided for all I needed and for that which I didn't see was part of Him working in me. So this move to Chicago makes the above list complete. I feel that I could ramble for ages on all this past year has meant. I am so grateful for the friends who walked it with me (whether right next to me or otherwise), the lessons learned, but mostly for God Who is faithful and trustworthy... and I am perpetually learning to do that, trust. Just as Abraham heard God and began walking not knowing where he was going, here we go, Jesus and I adventuring again, onward. 

The eternal call of my God: upward
The movement of my feet: forward
The passion in which the Lord leads me and the destiny in which I walk: onward
In peace, in hope, in truth, in victory.
Onward.
Ever Onward.
(Unknown)


Thursday, August 6, 2015

a star

Just the sketch of a star. Why? Well I am glad you asked. There are a few different verses/passages that I have really clung to, Romans 4 and Psalm 8:3-4. These have definitely been huge to me and God has used them and continues to use them to teach me more of what it means to follow Christ.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

God, I look up at what You have made. The majesty and glory of everything you have created before me and who am I that You would care for me... But the point is that He does, immensely.

Romans 4 recounts a nice portion of the life of Abraham. If you haven't read about him in a while (or ever) you should. Because he is legit. The initial story of his life is found in Genesis and he gets a good mention in Hebrews 11 as well, but Romans 4 encompasses a lot of his story and its meaning. Quick re-cap: Abraham is getting really old as is his wife and they don't have any children. But God promises that they will have a child. Lots of things happen around this but the main focal point is a promise from God and He promises by saying that his children will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Now hang with me, it's all about a promise. Even now, everyday, Christians live for a promise and that's Christ and forever living with Him. I live holding on and knowing that one day every single  thing in my life will be worth it when I see His face. Not alright, not tolerable, not bearable, but entirely worth it. Abraham lived by faith. He walked by faith not knowing where he was going but relying on God knowing that He Who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

"Walk in the footsteps of faith... (God) gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope... No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised." (excerpt from Romans 4)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

once upon a time



once upon a time
or so some stories began
but not this one
this one began back in eternity
written in the scars of my Savior’s hands
there
right there
grace was carved
and then my life established
“child, loved child, My beloved one”
before I even had a say in the matter
You bore all and still You call
shouting “Loved” into a hallow shell
through eyes blurred by tears
You spoke courage
“take heart, I have overcome your fears”
then
right then
it all changed
changed doesn’t even scratch the surface
altered, transformed, died
yes, I died that day and was remade
and didn’t have a clue
yes, in part I knew what I had been through
but had no idea what You would do
that You would adopt and show me family
that You would send me adventuring
that You would lead and guide
and absolutely never leave my side
but then it came time
after growing me out of the old self’s shell
You asked for the walls too
if You had told me to jump I’d ask how high
but ask for my pain and hurts and I shrink back and say that’s mine
but tenderly You spoke over me
mercifully pouring in love, forgiveness, and hope
speaking words I had rejected
much like the children’s tale my “heart grew three sizes that day”
and everyday as I learn to be Your child
Opening up to grief that it would be swallowed by joy
pain that it would submit to healing
hardship to know worth
the questions that I would find You greater than answers
“Oh, One that I love, why do you search for Life among death?
Let go, My burden is light
My very name Truth and Life”
here
right here
I stand
I sit
I lie on my face
in desperate need of accepting Your grace
because “Grace changes us…

and change is painful”
but pain is not hopeless
pain is not unbearable
pain was bore on a tree for me
You took it already
so all that’s left is love
for fear of love
and denial of grace
I have perpetually pushed You away
but all along, You, Love
have been before
behind
and embracing me
now
right now
I am surrounded by
the all-consuming love of my Comforter
the utterly complete acceptance of my Father
and the unbearable forgiveness of my Savior
“child, My beloved child
I care immensely for you
I know all about you
I have forgiven you
I see no flaw in you
I long for you
I love you
come lay in My arms
weep tears of joy and despair
and find the only source of satisfaction
experience My love”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

when joy doesn't smile

what is joy?
how do you define it?
is it an emotion? a feeling?
is it simply happiness? or something entirely different?

Merriam-Webster defines joy as:
1 a :  the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :  Delight
b :  the expression or exhibition of such emotion :  Gaiety
2 :  a state of happiness or felicity : Bliss
 
I am sure that if you have spent a lot of time in the church you have heard that joy isn't dependent on circumstances.
Many times I feel that as a Christian I am required to always be "good".
 
"Grace, how are you?"
Good, fine, #blessed.
 
But sometimes I don't feel fine.
Sometimes times everything isn't good.
 
So what is joy? Is joy lying and plastering on a face?
What is joy when a friend is diagnosed with cancer?
What is joy when you loose a loved one?
What is joy when family is fighting?
What is joy when there is no "success, well-being, or good fortune" displayed in your life?
What is joy when emotions and feelings are filled with sadness and a lack of understanding?
Is it just a smile?

Now these definitions are well and good but I would say that the third and final definition that they give is more accurate.

3:  a source or cause of delight
 
In 2nd Corinthians 5:11-6:2, Paul talks about reconciliation/restoration with God and how we are made new, entirely and completely by the grace of God. He then goes on in verses 3-13 to describe many hardships that have come because of following after Christ. He mentions beatings, imprisonments, hunger, among other things and says that they endure by the Holy Spirit, genuine love, and the power of God. "We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known;" and continues until you reach verse 10.
 
"as sorrowful; yet always rejoicing"
 
If joy is happiness then this cannot be.
But I would say that joy is much much deeper. Earlier in the same letter Paul writes saying that they are "perplexed but not driven to despair" (4:8). Perplexed is defined as in doubt, at loss with oneself, and not knowing which way to turn. But despair is utter loss and has renounced all hope. Joy is found mingled up with faith and hope and encompassed in love. Joy is embracing the sadness, feeling the hurt, yet declaring that the source and cause of delight is found in Christ. In Daniel 3, you can read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they were to be thrown into a fire because of their dedication to the Lord and yet even in the face of that they stood before the king and declared that God could save them. And then they say some very powerful words, "But if not"... If we aren't spared, He is still worthy. 
 
Joy looks at the pain and declares,
God is good, even though my circumstance isn't.
Jesus loves me, even though I don't feel lovable.
Everything will be ok, even if the worst case scenario comes true, because I am holding fast to a promise. 
And this promise says that even in the midst of tears now,
one day they will be wiped away.
 
"Oh My lovely child, one day you will wake up and see Me with the biggest smile, arms open wide, and you will get the embrace you so desperately long for. You will wake up and every pain will cease, the ache for My fullness satisfied. One day you will wake up and better than merely a bad dream, this will all have been worth it."

This is my promise. So when I am "as sorrowful", I don't have to pretend to be happy but I cling to the promise and know... that even as sorrowful, even in tears, I am always rejoicing.

Monday, April 27, 2015

how meeting the Pope changed my life




(Photo credit: Will Howland)

Take a seat my dear reader and let me tell you a story...
Once upon a time in a land far far away...

As most know I spent from mid-December of 2014 until the beginning of March 2015 in the Middle East. I was just one small member of a group of 11 Jesus lovers who have a passion to see Him praised. (Another way you could put it is that our desire is to "know God and make Him known", some of you will get that...) Many days while we were overseas were spent prayer walking. We would pray over high places, well known places, the neighborhood, for dreams, for nationals, and everything in-between. One day our group went downtown and had divided up in such a way that we were to cover most of the area. Each small group of about 3-4 would go to a different section and then meet up all together. It was a beautiful thought and plan... until Will (one of our leaders), Billy (a dude from the UK), and little ole me were put in a group together...

So we split off as planned and before going anywhere, like good Christians, we decided to pray and ask God to guide and direct us during this time and provide "open doors" (that's important) for us. No sooner had the amens been spoken than what seemed like a school marching band comes around the corner. Loud music. A crowd. And the ADD senses begin to tingle. Naturally all plans that had been so excellently planned flew out the window. We followed the crowd, having no idea what was happening, right into a church. We walked confidently past the people standing at the first door and walked into the courtyard. In the middle of the area was a flight of stairs leading into the actual church. People lined the stairs and procession goes on into the church. We attempted to follow suit and were stopped by the man at the bottom saying that we could no longer proceed. So naturally we went around the stairs... and turn a corner... and there is an elevator, with its doors, literally, I kid you not, OPEN. open doors. This was a mind blowing moment. Never had such a seemingly cliché prayer had such realistic application.

To attempt to keep the story shorter... The elevator led straight to the top of the stairs. We waltzed right on in. Both Will and Billy had cameras and next thing we knew we were right at the front with all the photographers. A kind man saw how blatantly confused we were and explained that the Ethiopian Pope of the Coptic church was there with the Ethiopian Ambassador. One thing led to another and we were not only at the front but face-to-face with the Pope himself. We each got blessed by him and maybe I did it wrong, but yes, I kissed his hand... oops. Interviewed by some local TV station after that and the whole time ended with saying to a camera that we were so satisfied with the Peace that comes from God and had assurance that He has the best for us so fear has no place, even in the Middle East.

So how did meeting the Pope change my life?
It wasn't because he "blessed" me.
It wasn't because of the TV people.
But open doors.
God has showed me numerous times how faithful He is. And I have questioned Him at least just as many times.
"If I _____ God will You really be there with me?"
"God is it really worth it to step out and do what You call me to because I am afraid?"
"God what is Your plan because I don't know where to go from here?!"
But He always provides. The Way. The funds. The "open door".
He always listens to my prayers no matter how angry, confused, or broken I am.
And He is always there. I have a good Father.

"My God is only as big as I let Him be and I am not gonna limit Him with my disbelief.
My God has always, always been there for me and I am not gonna limit Him with uncertainty.
I don't have much! But it might amount to a mustard seed."
•Levi the Poet


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus is Better

(The words in quotes are from the song "Jesus is Better" by Austin Stone)

"In all my sorrows, Jesus is better - make my heart believe"
I was 12 when my grandfather, friend, and great-grandparents passed away. At that time I didn't want to face the sorrow and grief of loosing so many close to me. Needless to say the sorrow that was already slightly over-whelming became much heavier with time. But Jesus, oh my sweet Jesus, He is still good. Jesus is better. Oh my heart, as much as it might stray, make it believe.

"In all my victories, Jesus is better - make my heart believe"
I learned a lot during my time with YWAM, about God, myself, and our relationship together. This has been a great victory over the past, over sin, and has greatly impacted my life. If I never "felt" or "thought" (for you thinkers) differently because I worked through things with Christ, if I never shook off the weights from those things, if it wasn't tangible, if I couldn't see the difference from it, it would still be worth it to "let go". To surrender to Christ is worth it and in that is victory. May I never look toward a feeling/thought or a time in my life or anything else before Christ. Even the victories are really all about Him. Jesus, make my heart believe that I am not just a victim and look to You as my ultimate Victor and see that You raise me up to be one too.

"Than any comfort, Jesus is better - make my heart believe"
Physically, yes. But many times we overlook another area of comfort.
"But it would just be so awkward and uncomfortable to talk with ______ about *the Gospel/my testimony/etc.*" More than my comfort, my fear of man, my social status, Jesus You are better. Make my heart believe.

"More than all riches, Jesus is better - make my heart believe"
Last year I went with a group from my church to Guatemala. At this point I was already working one job and the money from that was being saved for school for the next fall. I felt God leading me to being a part of the team and so I submitted my application and was accepted. I told God I had no ability to pull this together and He said, "Just watch." The very next Sunday, before I even had a chance to ask for help or even tell people about the trip, I was up the children's ministry and the children's pastor asked me if I wanted to work as their intern. "I'm sorry, I don't know if I can. I already work, these are my hours, and I have school." Oh, don't worry you can choose your hours and it's very flexible. Started within a couple weeks. Each pay check lined up perfectly with deadlines for ticket payments, etc.. Jesus, You provide. Make my heart believe.

"Our souls declaring, Jesus is better - make my heart believe"
Oh, that my life would declare that Jesus is better, that He takes priority, that He is worthy. Because He is. More than anything else, Jesus You're better, make my heart believe.

"Our song eternal, Jesus is better - make my heart believe"
John Piper, "Missions exists because worship doesn't." Eternity is going to be spent worshiping Christ. The song of my life, Jesus, may it scream of who You are. Make Heaven real to me and from that that my heart would believe in the worthiness of You.

I believe. Help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

winged mechanical buses of the sky and broken jars

sitting in the Frankfurt airport in Germany.
3 months have come and gone since I set foot in America.
now I am less than 12 hours away from being there once again.

The instinct is to "wall up". Don't think about it. The mind set of simply "moving on" wants to kick in. Create emotional/spiritual/mental/etc. distance with the physical distance. Then it doesn't hurt as bad. Then you can just walk back into life easy, ordinary, unchanged...

But is that really worth it? We think of standing and confronting the emotions, sadness, etc. as the difficult sacrifice. But the reality is that the sacrifice would be taking the "easy" way. By retreating into myself I am suppressing not only the feelings of sadness but also suppressing everything Christ has taught me. I would suppress the memories filled with joy and laughter as well as those of holding back tears. And it isn't worth it. Because God is so good, to give me these friendships, to show me love, to allow me into others lives and them into mine, and so much more.

So real talk, as I stare out the wall of windows looking onto the runways and winged mechanical buses of the sky (aka planes), I am... Broken. And it hurts. I miss the Middle East. I miss the adventures. I miss the friendships. I miss tea in tents and deep comversations. I miss the smiles on the faces of the children. I miss the struggle to attempt and take off your incredibly muddy boots before going into a home. I miss the bus rides and looking out the window upon mountains, deserts, mosques, ducans, and beautiful people. I miss hearing stories from the lives of the people and bringing hope. I even miss being awakened by the call to prayer and whispering sweet prayers to Jesus which are always heard.

But thank God...
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 ESV)

My heart doesn't have to be all together. Thank God because it's not...
I don't need to look together. Thank God because I am not...
I don't have to tell myself to suppress the feelings. Thank God because I don't think I can...

"I know I knocked the table over because I watched the jar break
And I've been trying to repair it every single stupid day
But won't the cracks still show no matter how well it's assembled
Can I ever just decide to let it die and let you go?"
-la dispute (a broken jar)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

Here I am. A simple jar of clay. Broken. Reassembled poorly by myself. Re-broken by God and given a new heart. And yeah, my cracks still show, but that's ok.

So this is the sacrifice I choose: to continuously lay aside my pride, because I know I'll pick it up again, so look at these cracks, look at these scars, look at these tears. It's real. This is real. And I have become tired of being a façade so here is honesty. I am broken... (I never thought I'd say this...) and it's ok.