Look Up: Part Two

(Part One Here.)

Yesterday Esther begged me to give her a bath, so I did. She’s really cute. And besides, she did need one.

Before we got started, I explained to her about the water going in her eyes, and how she needed to look up, because then the water would go down her back.

She got a little worried and started talking about, “Water! Eyes!” And I said, “Yes, if you look DOWN it goes in your eyes.” And she was like, “Oh.”

The bath commenced, and before I started rinsing her hair, I talked it through. This time, you’re going to look up, and the water will go down!

And–she actually looked up, and the water actually didn’t go in her eyes!

Not just once, but at least six times. No water in eyes, no wailing.

Finally.

I clap and cheer and we smile.

And I smile inside, too, because I am finally starting to learn to look up again.

Oh, there are still waves, still trials, and I still notice them, still look down sometimes, still get a little scared. But mostly I am looking up at Him, believing that He knows, He is good, and He is working all things together for good. ALL things.

When the feelings start coming and they contradict what He is and what He says, I am learning to calmly say, “Look here. That is not true. God IS good. He DOES know what He is doing. He IS working this out for good. He IS a shelter for those who trust in Him. He DOES accept me. He WILL use this for His glory and my good.”

Faith is our shield. That calm, determined trust in God and His promises makes those attacks drop right down–or, they prevent them from getting deep inside, so they only wound us superficially.

Trust God.

The trials won’t leave. But the devastating part of them will, the part where you crumble and there’s nothing solid left.

And even when you’re there–when everything’s crashing down and nothing makes sense–call out to Jesus. Trust Him enough to say I don’t trust You very much right now, please help me trust You more.

He knows your pain. He lived here. Friends betrayed Him. He was homeless. He was misunderstood. He endured the most horrific physical pain. He felt the weight of every horrible sin as if He had done it. He was mocked. He was weary. He was abandoned (for a brief time, but still!) by His Father. He was attacked directly by Satan. He had at least one friend (John the Baptist) in prison. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He was single for 33 years. His friends died. (Yes, He raised Lazarus up–but He still felt that pain.) He was hated. He loved and was not loved back.

He hates it just as much as you do, sin and its consequences. He hates it so much He went through all of that to free us from it. He loves us so much…

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My Life Lately

So… the last week/two weeks have been intense, especially this past weekend. The good kind of intense.

It’s interesting how it works. I started praying more, and then I started getting lots of requests for prayer (Even though I didn’t announce that I was praying more), and lots of opportunities to serve. It’s been so awesome this time, too, because I feel like I finally have started learning to serve out of love and joy for God’s glory.

On Friday I was busy with housework and keeping my siblings busy… in the evening I went and took pictures of a young couple from church at the beach.

Saturday, Hannah and I helped scrape carpet glue off the floors in the new Pregnancy Solutions location (that is about five minutes or less away from our house!!) for a few hours and managed to get blisters on our hands (which was actually kind of cool in an odd sort of way. I know it’s very small, but there was something exciting about suffering in a physical way for Christ.). Then we cleaned and cooked in preparation for company the next day (I managed to burn both of my hands and my face with the jalapeno. Thankfully Hannah knew to put oil on it, so it only lasted a few minutes.) went shopping, and got Panera Bread. We rushed home, did a few last minute things, and then Mama, Emily and Esther got home! (with papa and William and Matthew who had gone to pick them up. They were in Orlando helping family.)

On Sunday a Missionary spoke and told about some opportunities for short term mission trips. Afterwards, he and two friends came and ate tacos with us. (yum!) After they left, I “randomly” decided to charge my phone. Then I took a nap. 😀 We started watching a movie, and then I checked my phone (which is actually a rare occurrence.) and deleted some texts since my inbox was full. Just as I finished that, I got a text from one of my friends and she ended up calling. We had a really good talk that lasted about an hour and a half. The day wasn’t over then either–Papa, Hannah, Emily and I went to church again and set up for Bright Lights.

Monday morning, Hannah and I were at work talking to Papa. And he said, “I think you two and Josiah should go to Central America in December.” We were like, um… okay! So we started looking up the website, printing stuff out, etc. Then we had to pull our focus back to Bright Lights, haha. So we prayed and talked about that… towards the end of the day, I had a talk with a cousin of mine who is quite troubled, and Hannah talked to another friend of ours on the phone who is also going through some really hard times. We picked up one of the BL girls, went home, ate chili and got stuff, went to church, picked up another girl and did Bright Lights. Later I talked to one of the BL girls on Facebook… she’s making hard but awesome decisions. Finally went to bed well after midnight… we were all excited and talking. 😛

There are many other little things that happened in the days before… conversations, prayers answered, new prayer requests and so on.

I guess I just wanted to mention all this to say that… God is amazing. It is an incredible privilege to serve Him. And PRAY. Seriously. That’s where all this other stuff starts. You’ll soon find, as I have, that an hour isn’t long enough.

Also–please pray for us as we get ready to go to Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) in three months!!

P.S. An hour of prayer early in the morning, even if you went to bed late, is much more energizing than coffee. Seriously, you should try it.

Modesty (again, but different)

So, anyone who has followed me/known me long knows that I have already written and talked and taught about modesty quite a few times. But my perspective has changed lately, and I thought it worth explaining.

When I was around 11, I remember getting ready to go swimming with several other little girls. We were going to change in the same room, until one of my friends mentioned that recently they had been reading (or talking about, I don’t remember which) the story of when Noah’s son looked on his nakedness and encouraged his brothers to do the same–and then was cursed. She said that because of that she didn’t think we should change together, even though we were all girls. We were all still quite young–I was the oldest. We hadn’t even had The Talk yet with our parents. It wasn’t about lust, just about listening to the Bible.

Recently, I read an article on the Rebelution about, “The Other Side of Modesty” (men). I thought it was quite good–and, as one might expect, it sparked some intense “discussion”. One comment especially stood out to me:

Perhaps also missing here is the fact that lust is not an exclusively opposite-sex issue. There are many Christians, myself included, who struggle with same-sex attraction. While committed to living lives of sexual purity (which, for me as a same-sex attracted guy, I believe means either marrying a woman or a life of celibacy), we still struggle with lust just like anyone else. This whole discussion centers around the opposite sex’s response to our clothing choices. But what about me? Is it considered immodest when guys undress in a mens’ locker room? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean the temptation of lust is absent. Am I faced with the choice of avoiding all locker room situations (impractical) or asking other guys to be more modest in the locker room (ridiculous)? Do you see the issue here? As widespread an occurrence as same-sex attraction is (and believe me, it’s widespread), you can’t just think about the opposite sex’s response to your clothing choices (or lack thereof). You never know who you might be causing to “stumble.” If you accept this as a reality (and it is a reality), then by your standards, guys must be careful about what they wear at all times, even around other guys. This starts getting ridiculous!

It kind of threw me for a loop. I hadn’t thought of it from that angle, at least not in depth, and I wondered what kind of implications it held.

And then… I remembered the incident I mentioned at the beginning of this post. And I realized some things about Noah and his sons.

They were all guys. They were related. They probably didn’t (?) have same-sex attraction.

And I realized that modesty is not really about us. It’s not about men doing it for women, or women doing it for men, or anything like that. This is something we do for God. For His glory.

Yes, it has the side effect of us being less of a problem for our fellowman. But that is not WHY. A big part of the why is simply to not distract others from Christ. We can’t stop anyone from lusting, but we CAN be less distracting.

And lust is NOT a problem of clothes (or lack thereof) or bodies or women or men.

Lust is the enemy, the sort-of-opposite of love. The cure is not more clothes or less attractive people or being blind. The cure is LOVE. Love for God, love for people. The cure is to WORSHIP God.

The End.

In Which a Sorcerer Comes to Christ

So, about two months ago, I was asked to pray for a man from Nigeria–Nayon, a sorcerer, who was considering becoming a Christian but hadn’t yet. It is a serious decision for him. Obviously it always is, but in his case, he is risking his LIFE.

I started praying, of course, and found that I had a burden for this man’s salvation. (It’s rather hard to explain… sometimes, when I pray for something, it becomes sort of “mine”–I keep remember to pray for it, and I am invested emotionally in it.) I kept praying, looking forward to seeing what God would do in his life.

About a month after I started praying, I just kind of lost the burden I had felt for him. I wondered if something was wrong with me, or if maybe… he was saved.

A few days ago, I asked if there was any news on him or the other man I was praying for (A chief who has refused to become a Christian… I don’t know if anything has changed with him or not. Prayers for him would be great.).

Today I had been feeling rather down and frustrated… until I got the reply. About a month ago (!) Nayon had contacted a missionary there and said he and some others were ready to become Christians!!!

I am seriously so thrilled. I keep smiling randomly and praising God. It’s crazy, in a way. I don’t even know these people. Why should I care? It’s part of being a Christian, I guess. There is truly nothing quite like knowing that another soul has been saved–and that you’ve gained another brother or sister in Christ. Wow.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Psalm 103:1

Stories

So after posting that yesterday, I was pretty nervous. It wasn’t really that I thought people would be mean, just that… I wondered what they’d think. And I was rather startled that I had just said that. On the internet. Where all kinds of people–people I know, people I don’t, people I’m going to see on Sunday–will read it.

But I’m glad I did.

As I thought about what I had written, I realized that whether or not I like it, and whether or not other people like it, that is part of my story. And there’s no point in denying it, in acting like those very influential chapters of my life don’t exist. Of course I don’t need to walk around announcing to everyone that the man I hoped to marry is in prison–but I also don’t need to pretend it never happened. I need to accept it and learn from it.

Everyone has a story. They are all different, they all have hard parts, and they all have some weirdness. What is your story?

Other Things

Hi there.

I’m sort of at an impasse (inside mine own head, which is the worst place for that sort of thing), because I have other things to say that are not related (at least not directly) to the abortion/prolife series. And I really didn’t want to do this, I wanted to continue along nicely with my beautiful outline (That I haven’t even looked at in over a month.) and actually do a proper series for once.

But, alas, it’s just not happening. Sorry folks. I promise I will write all of that, though. It may be a little book. And I may show it to you sometime. Not sure. (Why did I suddenly think of the quote that nothing is certain in this world except for death and taxes? Besides, that isn’t even true. God is more certain that either. Ahem. Anyways.)

So. Now to try to talk about the Other Stuff. There’s a lot of it, this Other Stuff.

(And if you didn’t already notice, this is going to be a rambly post. It may very well make no sense at all. Or maybe different bits will make sense to different folks. One can hope…)

My personality (whatever that is) is INTP: which is also known as the Thinker. I live up to that quite well, I think. (Seriously, I didn’t mean to do that. I thought of saying it before I realized, and then when I realized I said it anyway.) INTPs are also known as “The Warmest Machine”–which may or may not make sense. But the gist of it is that my natural tendency is to think a great deal and feel very little. Which is a very queer way to be, at least if you’re female. I remember even very early on, when my sister Hannah was being praised for being so compassionate (She would cry when other people cried, even if she had no idea why they were crying.) and I’m just there like, “Why on earth are they crying, and why are you crying too, and that doesn’t make any sense, and how is this a good thing?”

It went along like that quite nicely (Sort of) for a long, long time. Sure, I cried–once a month. Nearly literally. Sometimes twice, or sometimes none.  Mostly over stupid things and mostly when I was really out of it. It wasn’t heart-crying.

Until. Until… I loved someone. A boy. And he–he loved me. It was really, really confusing. I still don’t get it. I don’t even know what love is. I only really started understanding it when this happened. And he was on the other side of the ocean, and there were other complications, and–I finally cried. I cried for a lot of reasons. But it was the first time in a very, very, very long time that I had cried because I hurt inside. (*wonders if I ever had before that time* *decides I probably had*)

It opened up this terrifying new world of feeling. I suppose it scary for anyone, but it is especially frighting if you have very little prior experience in that department. From that point on, I would actually cry about stuff. I realized, through him and through this experience, that crying was actually–actually okay. It was even… good. Which was very hard to wrap my head around. But I got it. I learned that pain was good. I learned that God teaches us through it. I learned that He is very near the brokenhearted. I learned that weakness is—is Good. Because then God can be strong in you and for you.

This went on quite some time. There were many ups and downs, many tears, many smiles. Things done right and things done wrong. Finally–he was going to come and visit us, for a month.

And then–and then there was… lightening. Cut right clean through our paths. In one moment, everything, everything, was different. He was……arrested. (Very long, complicated story that isn’t mine to tell.) We never even met.

That night in the airport–well, I will just quote something I wrote before.

Shocked, stunned. Cold flooding through me, my heart racing. Stiff. Still. Trying to comprehend. Matthew started wailing. Emily did too. I tried to calm her down.

Papa handed me his phone and told me to tell [his mom]. I couldn’t figure it out at all and I was shaking too hard anyway. I gave it to Emily and said I need to pray.

I looked around hurriedly… there was a place. I am still amazed that it was there… just an odd little area out of the way, with a plant in front of it. I went in there and got down on my knees.

I prayed so hard it was out loud. I couldn’t help it.

I prayed for him, for peace and safety. I prayed that God would be glorified in this. I told God that He was good even in this, that He knew.  I tried to pray Psalm 20 for him. I prayed that… that they’d let him go. I looked up, wishing, hoping against hope, that I’d see him. He wasn’t there.

I thought how strange it was that we were in the same building and yet… I couldn’t see him. He was there, but he wasn’t.

That was the beginning of a strange, wonderful and dark journey. I realized eventually that it was called “grieving”. Very odd thing. Don’t recommend it. 😛 (Just kidding… mostly.)

It’s been a year and almost 7 months. He’s still in prison. Away from his family, his home, nearly everything he held dear. Including me. I have barely been in contact with him over the past year and 4 months or so. I can’t–can’t explain how many layers of hard there have been. How utterly dark the path has grown. How hard it has been sometimes to simply be–alive. How sometimes (like day before yesterday) you feel like maybe, just maybe, you’re beginning to be more… normal again–like maybe, just maybe, the storm has really subsided. And then… not too much later, and you’re crying again, and you cry out to God and He helps you, but it’s–hard.

And all this is so confusing, so strange, so… deeply personal, that I am loathe to speak of it. I don’t even know why I am right now. And even to those who know, I don’t… don’t like that I STILL have such a hard time. That I STILL don’t know what to do, don’t know what’s right, don’t know what really happened. Because I like things to MAKE SENSE. And  this just plain doesn’t. Not in human terms, anyhow. And I suppose that’s what has kept me sane: looking above the human. In fact, I KNOW it is what has done it.

I look back on all that has happened in the past few years, and I see God’s incredible grace and goodness. He lovingly prepared me in countless small ways for this trial–something that you really can’t be prepared for. And yet… He did it. And even in the stripping away of everything, He was so kind. It all went away so gradually, one thing at a time. Oh, it was awful, believe me. But at least He didn’t take everything in that one night. And I saw–see–His wisdom in it all.

There have been an enormous number of ups and downs and wildly confused turns. I haven’t, by any means, handled this perfectly. There were a great many things I could’ve, should’ve done differently.

I never SAID that I didn’t trust God, but I learned it. At first, I think, I trusted Him. But wave after wave after wave after wave after–and eventually,  I wore down. Or, at least, I saw where I was lacking in trust. It was–has been–awful. Fear crept in and took a very deep hold on my heart.

And I still haven’t completely beaten it. I still am afraid. I still doubt, sometimes. I still have moments of–“I just don’t get it!!!!” But God is working. *smiles* He is so good…
I am learning to trust Him, more than ever. I am learning to rest in the greatness of who He is, of His love.

Well, this post has gone rather differently than I expected.

I was really going to write about the sorrow I know of in other’s hearts. I suppose… I am, in a way, because without my sorrow I would not understand (quite literally) the pain of others.

It my wonderful and terrible privilege to know the pain of so many who read this blog. The broken families. The loved ones gone in one way or another. The trafficking. The physical weakness. The broken hearts. The self-harm. The infertility. And so many other things. It makes me think much harder over what I say and don’t say.

I guess… I guess I just want to say… that… I am so glad.

God has given me an amazing gift in all of my tangled sorrow. The gift of compassion. Oh, what a terrible cost. But it is worth it.

*grins a bit* I’m still awful at showing it, though. So thank you to those who I try to comfort for your patience with my awkward hugs and my attempts at just listening and not fixing (which very often fail. :P).

But know this–my heart hurts so badly for your pain.

Especially when I pray. And that’s the thing. This is such a God-gift. I have long moaned (inwardly) over my lack of ability to feel other’s pain and comfort them appropriately–my natural lack of love, basically. But I realized that it’s actually a blessing–because now when I am able to be like that, I know that it’s God working in me. I still get in the way sometimes though. 😛

For those readers whose pain I know, and for those whose pain I don’t–hold on. God is really, truly good. And He really, truly does know what He’s doing. And He really, truly can make beauty out of your ashes. I know it’s impossible. But this is God we are talking about.

*smiles*

I’m Back (Also a Rainbow)

For those who were waiting for my next post on the abortion issue, I’m sorry I haven’t posted it yet. I inadvertently took a break from blogging as well as social media for the last few weeks… I’m back now. I should be continuing the series shortly. 🙂 Until then… I just wanted to share this with you.

IMG_7454[1]

Yesterday morning, I was getting ready to go to work, putting my things in the mini-van. I sat down inside the side door way, and began praying for the Bright Lights Leaders (we had a meeting on Sunday and they all gave requests.) I looked up for some reason, and to my total shock, there was a brilliant rainbow. My mouth literally fell open. 😀 It was not raining at all… It did not make any sense that there was a rainbow.

It was one of those times where you just feel like God is smiling at you. That He knows, He cares, and He’s looking out for you.

It’s especially awesome because those things are all true. They aren’t just feelings. Still, though, it is very kind of Him to let us feel it sometimes, too. 🙂