a lot has changed since i last blogged here: new name and marital status (oh yeah, engaged and married within the past 6 months!!), new job (now freelancing full time) and new location–both physically (now in atlanta) and on the world wide web. which is the reason for this posting. come catch up with all the newness at my new blog: http://lifeblessons.blogspot.com

love!

 

lifeblessons screenshot

this season in grand rapids has taught and challenged me and been a real refining experience in a lot of spiritual ways–especially in prayer and reading scripture. starting over from scratch with (very) little social calendar gave me the opportunity to really dedicate myself to these disciplines of digging into the Word each day and trying to pray through everything and find solace in these rather than in the world. it’s given me a great foundation that i know will continue to strengthen and support me throughout my life. and these are just two of the areas where i have changed in leaps and bounds from where i was just seven months ago.

it’s funny because i thought God was pulling me up here for a job and for community. so i came. i listened and i followed. but i soon realized that what i was actually getting were quite different things because neither were at all what i’d expected. both were good and have taught me things, but i think the greater success comes in what i didn’t realize i needed: more of God. even though i didn’t get what i bargained for, He has totally outstripped my expectations because my relationship with him and my roots in Him have grown. yes, they’ve totally wobbled and shaken in times of despair and “what did you bring me here for?!” but they’ve held strong and i think that’s what matters most.

it’s interesting looking at what i think i need and what God shows me i need. i know that all too often i go to God with all these things i want to work on, which are all worthwhile endeavors (a job that will draw me closer to God, friends that will draw me closer to God, etc) but then i realize that there’s something even deeper and more longlasting and more vital than those temporary connections and that’s just me and God, period. those other things come and go. but my heart with God is what lasts and what matters most. those other things are great and can definitely hlep tether me to Him, but what happens when they rip away as all things of this earth do, when they seem hopeless or lost? these disciplines have become the new tethers in more beautiful and fulfilling ways than i’d ever imagined. i’ve seen Him prove that to me: prevailing and sustaining and providing in the midst of my homesickness and stress and worry and disappointment and loneliness. and here i am. still standing, still staking the tethers, one day at a time.

“If the LORD doesn’t build the house, the builders are working for nothing.” – Psalm 127:1

“Those who wait for perfect weather will never plant seeds; those who look at every cloud will never harvest crops.” — Ecclesiastes 11:4

i love the wisdom in this verse–and it’s call to step out in faith. just because things aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean we should act. God may not open that door for us now, but by the time we get right up to it, if it’s His will, we must have faith that he will.

this verse speaks volumes to me, time and time again, season after season. the first time i read it and journaled about it was september 16, and i hadn’t lived here in Grand Rapids for a week even. i’d just started my new job the day before–and my world was feeling ever topsy-turvy. so this revelation, not to let worries or “not-so-great circumstances” hold me back from sowing and trust God for the reaping, was so of-the-moment. it was also early into my relationship with michael, and we’d been doing the long-distance thing for over a month. in so many ways i looked at my life and the incumbrances that seemed to loom all around me and this verse caused me to whisper over and over again: “keep sowing. keep trusting. persevere.”

and here i am, more than 6 months later. both of those situations still get to me: i have my hard, feeling-all-alone and desperate times here up in Michigan and i still miss Michael and wish we lived closer. but i’m glad i’ve stuck it out. God has done such great things in both of them. i’ve learned so much about Him and grown in such a relationship with Him through my starting-over process up here. it’s been a great catalyst for drawing me near. and i’ve learned so much about humility and selflessness in my relationship with Michael, which has had to mostly take place over the phone as we sort through issues and hardships and dreams and everything else.

so for now, i don’t know what the future holds. i’m trying to let go of that. i went for a walk today (it’s finally getting warm enough to make that bearable up here) and that was the thought pervading me: “i don’t care what happens next. i don’t want to rush God with this. i’m OK with whatever he’s got up his sleeve.” because I know Him, and i know that whatever he’s having me wait for is totally going to be worth it. there is going to be a harvest!

i’ve heard various ways of relating to the Scripture and how to make it cling to our hearts and in our lives, from singing verses over ourselves to replacing the “you’s” with “me’s” and inserting your own name into the promises. both of those examples are great ideas, but didn’t really seem to work for me–they didn’t seem to strike a nerve in my faith.

but in january, we started the Beth Moore “Psalms of Ascent” Bible study, where we’re studying Psalms 120-134. (i’ve learned a lot through this study and would totally recommend it, and am sure i’ll share more of that at another time.) one of the things i especially like about this study is that upon studying each of these psalms and ruminating on them, she has us rewrite them in regards to what they mean to us and regarding the emotions and circumstances of our own life currently. even that might sound boring to you, but i’ve found it to be so amazing.

though there are some Psalms that I definitely identify with and will pray, word-for-word,  there are others that I just think, “that doesn’t apply to me,” whether it’s times when David’s talking about his enemies hunting him down or fleeing and hiding and near-death misses or being righteous and unblameworthy. i don’t ever really feel that way, so often i’d just breeze past and dismiss those Psalms.

as i started rewriting the select ones for this study, though, i started seeing that, well, if i truly took the time to reflect on them, i know that it will relate to something in my life or in my prayers, even if that’s not the exact way i’d pen it. and there’s the beauty of this exercise–making the Bible personal. much of the Bible is God’s Word to us, but the Psalms reflect humans’ words to God. so it’s beautiful to take another person’s prayers, draw from them, and make them your own.

here i’ll give you an example (in hopes that you might consider this exercise for yourself):

BIBLE VERSION

Psalm 10
Lord, why are you so far away?
Why do you hide when there is trouble?
Proudly the wicked chase down those who suffer.
Let them be caught in their own traps.
They brag about the things they want.
They bless the greedy but hate the Lord.
The wicked people are too proud.
They do not look for God; there is no room for God in their thoughts.
They always succeed.
They are far from keeping your laws; they make fun of their enemies.
They say to themselves, “Nothing bad will ever happen to me;
I will never be ruined.”
Their mouths are full of curses, lies, and threats; they use their tongues for sin and evil.
They hide near the villages.
They look for innocent people to kill; they watch in secret for the helpless.
They wait in hiding like a lion.
They wait to catch poor people; they catch the poor in nets.
The poor are thrown down and crushed; they are defeated because the others are stronger.
The wicked think, “God has forgotten us.
He doesn’t see what is happening.”
Lord, rise up and punish the wicked.
Don’t forget those who need help.
Why do wicked people hate God?
They say to themselves, “God won’t punish us.”
Lord, surely you see these cruel and evil things; look at them and do something.
People in trouble look to you for help.
You are the one who helps the orphans.
Break the power of wicked people.
Punish them for the evil they have done.
The Lord is King forever and ever.
Destroy from your land those nations that do not worship you.
Lord, you have heard what the poor people want.
Do what they ask, and listen to them.
Protect the orphans and put an end to suffering so they will no longer be afraid of evil people.

REWRITTEN VERSION

Psalm 10 from my eyes
“Lord, why are you so far away” when I’m facing trouble? Why do you seem to be hiding? Lord, now is the time when I need you to rescue me–rescue my heart from this evil world. Our society is filled with evil, everywhere I turn: suffering of the innocent, the greedy prosper, the wicked brag openly about their misdeeds–they no longer fear the Lord. “They do not look for God; there is no room for God in their thoughts.” Lord, I am being affected by this–my heart is in turmoil and I look all around me at the assault that lies are having on Your people. Save us from this raging wickedness that is eating at our souls, at our values, at our identity. Restore us to our initial beauty, as we were originally made in Your image. Use me in this fight. Dress me with your armor and make me hate sin as you do. Lord, I know you will act–you will not “forget those who need help.” You see all these things so you will do something. You are our help, you are the One we look to in need. Lord, this world is yours, we are yours, I am yours. Redeem us all, restore us all, protect us and put an end to the suffering this world knows.

though it draws from the themes of the first, now it’s a message that i can relate to, that is relevant to my world and my season right now and the desires of my heart. i’m sure that in another year or even a month, i’d be inclined to write something different. but that’s another beauty about God and His Word–He is always meeting us right where we are, providing us just what we need, and taking us along to that next step.

one of the ways I’ve seen God’s provision most is absolutely, positively through the relationships He’s placed throughout my entire life. I can look back and see how there was special purpose to so many of the friendships i had and even bad dating relationships that i had. as i’ve become a christian, that reality has only grown and shown itself to be even more true. such was the case when I moved up here to Grand Rapids and barely knew a soul–but instantly had a new best friend.

essentially, when Mallory and I had visited, we went to Mars Hill for church and were going to go grab pizza and play games with the one guy I knew in this entire city. as we were gearing up to go do that, a girl walks up and she decides to come join us. end of story. we got along great and when she found out I was moving up here, she called me and we made plans to hang out when I moved up, she invited me to join her Bible study, to go to Mars Hill with her–the whole shebang. and that friendship, which started off so briefly, has been so amazing for me, growing my faith and encouraging me and opening a ton of doors for me.

one of which is the aforementioned Bible study she invited me to join. it’s been phenomenal. i have to say, that is the one thing I look forward to most every week. I’d done small groups before, but what I absolutely love about this one is how diverse it is. it’s all women, but women of all ages. in my group, i’m the youngest and there are moms with teenagers, younger single women, older single women, grandmothers. and it’s beautiful to see how they can all minister to one another and be an encouragement for one another. like when i was sad and just flat-out admitted that i missed Michael and wasn’t enjoying the whole “long-distance” aspect of our relationship. i expected them to pooh-pooh me and shove it off because dating is not marriage and you don’t know love until you’re married. but they didn’t. they looked me square in the eyes and said, “yes, that has to be hard. i understand. i remember. that’s hard.” to feel understood and to realize, “you mean, i’m not crazy for feeling this way? i’m not acting like a cheesy middle school girl? it’s ok to feel this way and still be a grown-up?” it was so touching.

it’s also here that i’ve started meeting with a woman who is giving me some insights into what i trust God has for my future, which is marriage. i’m stepping out in faith and trusting that that desire that is on my heart is one He is going to fulfill. so, while I wait,  I wait in faith and begin preparing, even now though that hasn’t come to pass yet. when God promised Abraham that He’d give him so many descendents that he wouldn’t be able to count them, Abraham had to shake his head and say, “Well I have no idea how that’s going to happen because from my vantage point it seems impossible…but…i trust you LORD. I know in you all things are possible.” (well of course he didn’t actually say those things, but essentially that’s the circumstance he found himself in and that’s how I relate to it.) i want to, when i see the seemingly impossible before me, KNOW that it’s not too big for God and step out in faith, waiting expectantly and excitedly for God to provide it. and I’ve seen the firstfruits of that promise already, in an amazing boyfriend who has already defied so many of my expectations. God has done an amazing work in him and, though i often forget and somehow manage to take his heart for granted, he still is someone that i just simply have an awe for–because of how I can see him live out Christ and chase after God and humble himself and just love. it’s not that i’m putting him on a pedestal, but it’s recognizing the amazing treasure that’s before me.

that epitomizes many of my relationships right now: both with the new freinds in my multi-generational Bible study and with Michael and with Him.

“Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty,  “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” — Malachi 3:10

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” — Eph. 5:14

it seems as though i’ve been sleeping, everything here has lain dormant for so long. but, just as with the winter, though things look dead and untouched on the surface, deep below there’s a great explosion of life going on!

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?” — Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message)

yes, God has been doing a great work in me during this season that’s planted me, for the past 6 months, in a new place called Michigan. sometimes i feel like everything is stagnant and nothing at all has really happened. but then i stop and actually consider my heart and where it was before i moved up here, and i know that that’s a complete lie. i am a new song.

and that’s what’s pushed me back to this little corner of the blog-o-sphere. because i have seen God do such great works in my life and i want to share those with whomever i can–favorite friends or online passersby. one of the things i’ve been learning during my time up here is the importance of testimony and the spiritual power it has, as stated in Revelation about how Satan is overcome:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. — Rev. 12:11

our words have tremendous power, and all we do ought to be to bring glory to He who gives us all that. so here i return to take the gifts of wisdom and insight and revelation that He’s been granting me and instilling and inscribing on my heart, and putting them back out into the world, in hopes that what has blessed me will bless many others. and if anything i say can bless you, then share it!–it’s that whole power of testimony thing. when we band together and share what God’s doing, powerful things can happen. so let’s step out in faith and watch that happen.

welcome back!

i love how God is always thinking of me and dropping little presents my way. i didn’t really ever pay attention or appreciate that until just now. the reality hit me: what a great Lover he is to be doing those things, whether it’s giving me confirmation about decisions or pointing me to passages I need to hear or articles I need to read. it is such a display of, “See I was thinking of you,” “See, I saw this and thought of you,” “Here, I knew you needed this.” it is quite the lovespell He’s weaving…

I get excited when michael sends me an unexpected text that says, “thinking of you.” if a friend sends me a letter in the mail, it touches my heart. and those are things that only occur occassionaly, not on the consistent basis that i’m used to receiving these sorts of things and revelations from God. and yet i never stop to think of how flattering and loving and deep, down rich it is the way that God speaks to me.

and i don’t even notice or appreciate it.

i know He’s God and maybe he’s “supposed” to do that, being all powerful and all knowing everything, but that’s a pretty crappy and disrespectful and unappreciative and non-fearing way to view the generosity and grace he delivers to us, lovingly and thoughtfully, day after day.

here’s how i finally realized this truth: lately I’ve been thinking about how i spend my time and how i want to make more time for God but how that’s been just so darn hard lately. i try but seem to always be “failing.” michael and i even talked about having our devotions at the same time so that we could hold each other accountable and talk on the phone afterward and not let our own phone conversations get in the way of each other’s time with the Lord.

then, i was working late and catching up on some reading for work and (one of the many cool things about working in a Christian company) I was reading “Bible Study magazine” and right there, on the opening pages was one of those tied-up-with-a-bow, just-because presents that God, who truly is the ultimate Lover and Pursuer and Wooer of our hearts, gave:

an article called “Finding Time for God.” it was from a young mom who talked about how hard it is to make time for God. but she came upon a perspective that changed her view of devotions, in that we often think that it’s up to us when it comes to growing closer to Christ. now, don’t get me wrong, part of it does. we are told to step out in faith and i believe that applies to every way we live out our faith–including the time we spend with God. the difference, though, is that it’s not wholly on us. because we have a God who is a gentleman and will meet us where we are and once we step up in faith, he will fling open the door wildly and invite us into great and mighty things. he is a God who “specializes in making something out of nothing,” a la the loaves and fish. we know that because He is a God who loves to give and be generous and be merciful, that he will take our paltry offerings and multiply them beyond our wildest imaginations. because that is His nature. even if it’s only a few moments that we have to give, He will take them and He will multiply them and make the impossible possible. because the reality is that because he is so good, we can never give enough. it will always be too little, whether it’s minutes or hours or days or years. He deserves infinitely more than we can ever give.

but that’s OK. because when we have confidence in who he is and believe that He will merciful and bless those offerings, then those few minutes can become so much more than we ever thought possible. because that’s our God!

that was the little gift God bestowed to me today–one page in one magazine. but for the first time, I got a glimpse, a real, hearty glimpse, into the depth and the height and the width of His love for me. I’m heartened.

welcome back.

yes i’ve been gone.

no i don’t have any excuses. just that i’ve let “busy” become my middle name.

yes i miss you. yes i miss the revelations i used to come by so easily. yes i’m praying my little heart out for those to return. and for me to return. 

if you’re still here, thank you! i will try to meet you again soon…

Random, I know but:

 

Here are some of my favorite things about my new job:

  • I have my own office. With a door. Pretty phenomenal. This means I can listen to music without headphones. It means that if I want to have a Panini for lunch, I can bring and plug in my sandwich maker. (OK well I’m not sure of the technicality of that, but still: no one can see it or smell it, so I’ve gotten by scott-free! And I really have done that, but only once…so far!)
  • You don’t have to bring your own mug or silverware. They have a community set of odds-and-ends utensils, plates, cups, mugs, you name it. You just grab what you need and when you’re done, put it in the dishwasher and someone else will clean it all up for you! It’s really such a smart idea because there’s no need for plastics, it gives you a place to dump old silverware or place settings you don’t need anymore, and it’s just downright easy!
  • Along with that, they also provide coffee and… hot chocolate! That gets major thumbs up in my book. Really. Truly.
  • OK, so on to the more “meaningful” stuff. It’s cool to be able to write stuff and include the word “God” or “Bible” or “Scripture.” It’s cool to be able to think about God’s truths and how those will apply to different audiences who are reading different publications. It’s cool to think of ways to get those truths out to those people. It’s cool that I get paid to do that!
  • Also, it’s cool to be in a community where people also believe in God. And where you can talk about God. Now, I admit that most people here still don’t talk about God at all. In that regards, it’s really no different than working in a regular corporate environment. But the difference is that the potential is there. For instance, I had a great conversation today about God with my boss—I was telling her about how he allowed my job back in Cincinnati to be replaced and how in doing so, answered every single prayer I had about leaving. We had a great conversation about that. Which is yet another blessing.
  • Oh yeah, and did I mention I get free books? So far I’ve only nabbed a couple, and haven’t started reading them yet, but I’m looking so forward to it! The other perk is that I get to research all our upcoming books, which means I get a headstart on deciding which ones I really want to read and get a sneak peek at their content before anyone else!

 

Some of the things I’m not too thrilled about:

  • My computer keyboard is going to give me carpal tunnel, I know it. I’ve asked to get it fixed (because it won’t sit level, but always leans forward) to no avail.
  • No window. This is probably the hardest part of my job. Not seeing the blue skies or the sunshine is going to be a tough one for me. So far, I’ve been trying to get out of the office as much as possible on clear days, but I know that come winter, it’s going to get gloomy. I started looking into sunlight light bulbs and hope I can find a cheap alternative that way…
  • Also, my office can get really cold. The day that I was wearing two sweaters and a blanket was the day I said, enough is enough! I toted in a space heater the next morning, and haven’t looked back since. (And I secretly love when people come in here and say, “Boy, it’s toasty!” That’s the way I like it!)
  • My lunchbreak is only 30 minutes long, which is only enough time to eat. What about everything else there is to do on a lunch break?!. I used to love being able to go and have some intense reading times or journaling or even just cruising to the mall or lunch breaks with friends. I suppose I can still do that occasionally, but it’s standard fare around here to be 30 minutes.
  • My office is tucked away in a corner of the building and so it’s just me and my fellow publicist coworkers. It’s nice because it’s quiet, but it’s hard because it makes it harder for me to reach out and socialize/meet others who work in the building. Fortunately, God has been taking care of that and has allowed me to hang out with some of the other girls here and I’ve started getting plugged in with them, which is so sweet for them to include me. So far I’ve been invited to a movie night and then to a craft night at different girls’ houses. Needless to say, it’s not “home” yet, but I know that it will be before too long!

michael played a show on friday and performed one of the songs he wrote for me! can’t wait till i get to see him play live in person, but for now, video (and a few private showings!) will have to suffice:

isn’t that so sweet?! reason #283 why i love him!

so of course in the midst of all things changing with the move, there’s also the obvious factor that now i have a boyfriend who lives states and states away and who i really love.

the long-distance thing has admittedly been a bit of a struggle, but it’s also something that i’ve known from the beginning: if God allowed it to happen, it has to be for a reason. it has to be for the benefit of our relationship, not the detriment.

and i believe it has been. it’s really encouraged deep and healthy communication that’s often been absent from other relationships in the past. we talk about our days and our thoughts and our struggles and, before we wrap up our conversation for the night, we take some time to ask some “get to know you questions,” which range from “what were you like in high school” to “if you could only have one table utensil to eat with for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?” i know it sounds silly but it’s really been so much fun! (and for the record, michael’s questions are usually a lot more interesting than mine, but the idea itself was mine, so i guess that makes up for it!)

then, the distance makes it so that we have to be intentional about connecting with one another, so we started our own little book club together. we’re reading the same book together and then once a week, we go through, chapter by chapter, to discuss what we read and what we thought about the readings that week. it’s allowed some really theologic and thoughtful conversations. and we don’t always agree, but the fact that we’re able to be open and really get to know each other’s thoughts has been quite a privilege. and i don’t think we would have been that intentional if we were living in the same city.

because even now, when we do visit each other, it’s so easy to get caught up in the ordinary tasks of hanging out like watching tv or running errands. which are also totally a part of the relationship-building equation, but can easily become a distraction from talking about life’s deeper side. we can go the whole weekend and wonder where our time went together.

we’ve only been dating for about 2 months now, but it’s been awesome. i feel like we’ve really gotten to know each other and he’s truly become my best friend. and of course, as in most friendships, we don’t always agree on things. but the fact that we’ve been able to talk through those disagreements and open up and still love each other through them… has been really encouraging. i don’t feel like we’re faking it. i feel like we’re able to be totally ourselves with one another (or at least we’re getting there), and things are still good and we still love each other.

he’s coming up to visit next weekend; i’m already counting down!

so i’ve now officially lived in grand rapids for 3 weeks, and i finally feel like i’m starting to get in the swing of things. it’s been a little wild because i’ve already been out of town twice (first for a business trip, on day #4 of the new job, and then the following weekend to atlanta to celebrate michael’s birthday).

so adjusting hasn’t been the smoothest process because there have been so many interruptions. i spent the first week trying to unpack all of my stuff. (and if you didn’t hear, there was a big predicament with my moving truck and so we ended up having to drive everything up to michigan and then go back to cincinnati and then the next day i officially moved up here… yes, that’s a lot of driving time, because it’s a 6-hour drive each way.)

i’ll be the first to admit that i really struggled that first week or so, and i still get moments where i wonder “what am i doing up here?” “how did i leave such a good life behind me?” but then i have to remind myself that God left no doubt in my mind that this was where i was supposed to do, with doors swinging widely open all around me. now it’s just a matter of figuring out why here.

fortunately, i already have started making a couple friends here and there. when i first came to visit in june, we ran into a girl at mars hill who i hit it off with smashingly. so when i moved up here, she was the first to call me and invite me to her bible study and help make GR feel like home. (just another element of God looking out for me.) then other friends have been good about helping me make connections, and there are some girls who i work with who have been really nice about inviting me along and reaching out. it’s pretty cool how inviting and approachable everyone’s been up here. it’s still lonely at times, but i know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

the one thing i’m trying to be careful at, as i start over with a clean slate, is about how much i do commit to. sometimes in cincinnati i felt really overwhelmed at everything and everyone i committed to. if i was lucky, i’d get one evening to myself a week. that’s crazy, and i know it took a toll at times on my relationship with God. i want to make sure that i put that as my top priority while i’m here, because i really believe that’s a major reason that God brought me here.

so right now i’m looking at different options for volunteering and serving. i know that’s definitely something i want to build into my schedule but i want to make sure i’m intentional about it, because i believe that every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re also saying “no” to another. so i want to make sure that no matter what i’m choosing, it’s a “yes” to growing closer to Christ. so that’s the next decision i have to make…

(by the way, if you were wondering: yes, it is already cold here. we’ve turned our heat on and i’ve been wearing jackets and light sweaters. i don’t know how i’m going to make it through the winter!)

Exodus 14:13-14 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

today i asked a bunch of people to be praying for me because i’m just having a hard time adjusting to the newness of a new town, not having my best friends right there by my side to grab coffee, trying to make new friends, trying to juggle a relationship and sort it out, and then try to focus on and pursue God. it’s quite a task, and one i feel like i’ve been garbling of late.

so in the tradition of james 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,” i asked and even though things are still up in the air, i do feel better about them. i do feel that peace eeking in and settling my soul, bit by bit.

i’m just so tired of the topsy-turvy nature of things, from feeling God’s love and blessings rain down and then be bombarded by questions and hardships. i know that’s the nature of life and not God, but it’s really a drag. sorry–that’s just me being honest!

anyway, here are some verses that some very intelligent and wise and God-loving ladies have sent me today. perhaps they’ll speak to you, too:

Proverbs 25:2 

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
       to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Jeremiah 15:16

Your words are what sustain me, they bring me the greatest joy and have become my heart’s delight.

Proverbs 16:9

In his heart a man plans his course,
       but the LORD determines his steps.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Luke 12:32

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Psalm 91

 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
       will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. [a]

 2 I will say [b] of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
       my God, in whom I trust.”

 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
       and from the deadly pestilence.

 4 He will cover you with his feathers,
       and under his wings you will find refuge;
       his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 5 You will not fear the terror of night,
       nor the arrow that flies by day,

 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
       nor the plague that destroys at midday.

 7 A thousand may fall at your side,
       ten thousand at your right hand,
       but it will not come near you.

 8 You will only observe with your eyes
       and see the punishment of the wicked.

 9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
       even the LORD, who is my refuge-

 10 then no harm will befall you,
       no disaster will come near your tent.

 11 For he will command his angels concerning you
       to guard you in all your ways;

 12 they will lift you up in their hands,
       so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

 13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
       you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
       I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
       I will be with him in trouble,
       I will deliver him and honor him.

 16 With long life will I satisfy him
       and show him my salvation.”

are you still there? do you still think to stop by, despite the fact that every time you have over the past month, it’s been desolate and dusty?

 

this past month has been nothing less than a whirlwind, as nothing in my life has gone unchanged. from my location to my job to my friends to my calendar to my love life, everything’s completely different. part of that is exciting (i’ll let you guess what part that is!) and part of it is terrifying.

 

last week, when i’d just started the new job and i was only days into my new life here in grand rapids, i got overwhelmed with being homesick and questioning the decision i’d made to move here. i wondered if this was really where i was supposed to be, because it didn’t feel good and things were hard. i moved here for community, and i didn’t feel that swaddling me like it did in cincinnati. i wasn’t finding myself surrounded by inspiring, on-fire-for-God people like i’d hoped and prayed. i was having a hard time adjusting to my new job and all the new demands and figuring out whether i’m good enough at it.

 

in short, i was doubting that God had really brought me here (had i been tricked or led astray?) and if he had, i was rushing God to fulfill those promises. i cried a lot about it. then i started reading this book that Michael and I are going through together (like our own two-person book club, which i absolutely love!) called anonymous. i posted about it on here before, but–because God is always and forever so good–it happened to be that the part i was at in that moment of distress and questioning, was exactly what i needed to hear.

 

i was reading about Jesus’ temptation in the desert and how the devil first tempted him by appealing to his appetite. the book points out how food and eating is a good and natural longing. but it turned into a temptation, a lure to disobey God because Jesus was in the midst of fasting and was waiting on God until he finished. though hunger is not innately a sin, when we rush past God to grab at it, it can become one. that’s exactly what i was doing: wanting a godly community and wanting to be fulfilled by my job are both good desires. and i believe they’re both desires God wants to fulfill–but that’s going to be in His own time, not in mine. for now, while i’m waiting on those answers, i must allow Him to be enough, rather than rush past Him onto His provisions and creations and blessings.

 

it makes me disappointed in myself how i can treat Him that way and forget His goodness and all the ways He’s blessed me and answered me so many times in the past. but i know that’s what makes me human. that’s why the Old Testament is so full of phrases like “God of Israel” and “God of Jacob” and “God of Abraham”–because we constantly have to be reminded of what God’s done for us in the past and what he’s promised to bring about in the future.

 

so now things are good. i’m trying to be patient and allow God to work and lead and guide me as those promises come to pass. i’m trying not to get distracted from the reason he brought me here. i’m trying to keep the focus on him and not on my schedule or my to-do list. that’s been the hardest part, hands down. i really need to watch how i spend my time and make sure he’s getting the chunk he deserves. so if you can be praying for that for me, i’d really appreciate it.

no time to spare at all but…

today was my last day at HOW.
last night, my coworkers threw me a “Carmen’s Sandwitch Party” (yes, we edit and spellcheck for a living, and that was totally by accident!), which was really, really sweet and totally touched my heart. i’ll have to show you the little plaque they gave me and the goodbye memory book they made.

and now i’m off to the airport. to go to atlanta. to see michael.

it couldn’t be more bittersweet if i tried! i feel like the pages are turning right now, and the next chapter happens right here, right now. here’s to the future!

things here seem to quickly be coming to a close–almost too fast for me to grasp or realize. it doesn’t feel like i’ll be moving 6 hours away in a matter of days. i haven’t really packed. i still haven’t foundd a place to live (although i think i am very close!). i haven’t really started saying my goodbyes.

last night my dear friends threw me one last, themed going away party, and that’s when it all started to sink in. “this is goodbye.” there are certain things that are hard for me to wrap my head around, and “goodbye” or “changes” often fall into that category. i can’t imagine things any different than they are right now, and so it’s hard for me to get sad about these sorts of life changes, even though i know that this is a great fork in the road and i anticipate that it will be quite a new beginning for me. but it doesn’t feel like i’m losing; only that things can only get better because this is where God is pulling me and intends me.

i think that’s another reason it’s hard for me to get scared or nervous or sad about things: i’m excited to see what comes from this move. the doors could not have swung open wider and God could not have shown his face any clearer, step after step after step. so any doubt has been wiped clean. and i love it that way.

so it was great to spend one of my last nights in cincinnati, surrounded by friends, where the whole place was full of love and celebration. even though it’s hard for me to fathom that this is a last time that i’ll be able to partake of these sorts of gatherings, it was really awesome to have that as a memory to stoop myself on. because i know that upon moving to grand rapids, things are probably going to be hard and i’m probably going to yearn for those sorts of moments. so now i have them, freshly tucked away, still smelling crisp and new: friends and lovelies and everything i love about Ohio crammed into one room.

thanks, friends 🙂 i love you!

when i find myself talking about everything that God’s been doing in my life lately, the words i keep coming up with to explain it are, “it just blows my mind.”

and it’s not just the new job and new city that have me saying that.

the day after i had my second interview in grand rapids, i had my first date with my now-boyfriend, Michael. (yep, he’s a music man!)

sometimes i don’t write about things until they’re a done deal because i don’t want to jinx them or i’m afraid of getting the presses humming presumptuously. but this is something different. i’m not afraid to jinx anything because i do truly trust God with what he’s done and what he’s doing and with my heart. plus, i have a great sense of peace about the whole situation (despite that the “situation” includes a few hundred miles distance). it’s just that the idea of trying to put “it” and “him” to words boggles my mind. i don’t know how to say it or give it any justice.

but suffice it to say that the whole verse from isaiah that’s been ringing so true has as much to do with him and our relationship as it does with everything concerning grand rapids. i really do feel like who he is “just blows my mind.” all this time, i’ve been expecting “bronze” from men and dating and here God has shown me “gold.” i just never expected someone like him to really exist and to really want be my boyfriend. it’s pretty amazing. he’s pretty amazing!

and the distance thing (he lives in atlanta) isn’t what i would have liked, but i think that it will be a good thing. i keep praying that God will bless that and make it a good thing instead of a bad one. and i trust that that’s exactly what he intends, because i can already see how it’s shaping our relationship and forcing us to be intentional, especially about keeping God first and keeping communication open and talking things through rather than letting them fester. (Michael’s been absolutely amazing about both of those!) it’s also made it easier for us to delve into deeper things, i think, and helps us pace ourselves from moving too fast or getting distracted. besides, i’ve already booked flights to see him in two weeks and then again for his birthday at the end of september. so we’re making it work 🙂

it’s just been so crazy to see God working so much overtime in my life lately–because i know it’s totally Him in all of this! and i know i don’t deserve it and sometimes i wonder why God is being so good to me, but i know it’s because that’s who he is and that he loves doing that for all of us! and i also know that these are all things that i’ve been praying about and so to see him answer them in ways that are so much glorious than i ever could have imagined just, well, blows my mind! i know i shouldn’t be surprised, but it really does grow my faith even more and helps me understand who He is and fathom His love even more.

it just blows my mind–Him and him and you and you. thanks for the prayers. let’s continue praying for each other.

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.
The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
the LORD will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel.

-Psalm 125

this verse has been like my anthem of late:

I will make you the everlasting pride
and the joy of all generations.
….Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and righteousness your ruler.

Isaiah 60:15-17

i read this article late last week and, as it retold the story of the Israelites being led from Egypt, it was a great reminder about not doubting God’s provisions or forgetting all that he’s already done and already provided:

Just as God had to continually remind the Israelites of what He’d done for them and what He was going to do for them, I need to continually remind myself of the truth of who He is. I need to remind myself that my circumstances, or at least how I see things with my limited perspective, don’t define God’s character; His Word does.

Author David Kyle Foster implores us, “Make a conscious effort, that when things go wrong, to assume the best about God rather than the worst.” When I was struggling with so many questions about God, I remember saying, “God, You could fix this if You really wanted to — so why aren’t You?” God wasn’t coming through for me as quickly as I wanted Him to.

The truth of the matter is that God is not a vending machine. Often we view God this way, as if we should be able to put in our token prayer or request, and in a timely manner an answer should show up on our doorstep. Sometimes it does happen that quickly and to our satisfaction. And some of the time, the answer we get from God is silence. Instead of riding in like a knight in shining armor, He tells us to keep on asking, and asks us to wait in expectation for His answer. Other times, we’re so focused on receiving a specific answer that when the answer comes in a different manner than what we’re expecting we miss God’s response completely.

….

We need to continually remind ourselves of how God has come through for us in the past — that He has always been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful. Like Joshua and the Israelites, having crossed the Jordan River, set up 12 stones as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to them, we too need our own “memorial stones”: reminders of who God is and how He always comes through — in His timing and His way, but always.

“All Around Me” by Flyleaf

My hands are searching for You
My arms are outstretched towards You
I feel You on my fingertips
My tongue dances behind my lips for You

This fire rising through my being
Burning I’m not used to seeing You

I’m alive, I’m alive

I can feel You all around me
Thickening the air I’m breathing
Holding on to what I’m feeling
Savoring this heart that’s healing

My hands float up above me
And You whisper You love me
And I begin to fade
Into our secret place

The music makes me sway
The angels singing say we are alone with You
I am alone and they are too with You

I’m alive, I’m alive

I can feel You all around me
Thickening the air I’m breathing
Holding on to what I’m feeling
Savoring this heart that’s healing

And so I cry
The light is white
And I see You

I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive

I can feel You all around me
Thickening the air I’m breathing
Holding on to what I’m feeling
Savoring this heart that’s healing

Take my hand
I give it to You
Now You owe me
All I am
You said You would never leave me

I believe You
I believe

I can feel You all around me
Thickening the air I’m breathing
Holding on to what I’m feeling
Savoring this heart that’s healed

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