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“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.

“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!

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.”

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

last week or so, i woke up two days in a row at 6:43am (sans alarm). i remember learning once that when a clock grabs your attention and it’s the same numbers, then that’s often God speaking to you, pointing you to a specific verse. now, if i new the Bible better, perhaps “6:43” would have instantaneously brought a verse to mind from memory. but having only google, here’s the verse I trust God was revealing:

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45

i feel like (i hope!) that’s God revealing to me what he’s doing in my life, right now, as everything is in the midst of change: that it’s all good fruit.

then, yesterday on my lunch break, i read the next few verses of that chapter:

I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Luke 6:46-49

and that’s what this whole Grand Rapids move is all about: digging deep and laying foundations. because i know that i must do that if i want to stay firm and close to God as i get older and trials get harder and more real. and a month before, mallory’s sister had texted me psalm 91 about the same idea, dwelling in the house of the Lord and this next season of my life teaching me how to do that. i’m eager…

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

i think it’s funny (though the word i really mean is more like “befuddling” or “illogical”) that when i’m feeling down and dejected and like the world is against me, my inclination is to coop myself up inside and trudge around an empty room. but that God pulls me outside those four walls and uses the world at large to deflate that suffocating, downward-spiral of a balloon.

that’s how it was today for me. out of nowhere, i got this sudden and abrupt sense of hopelessness, like everything good that i’d been amped about and excited for was all empty and a ploy and i wasn’t going to see any of it. i started getting really anxious and pacing around. i didn’t know what to do. i tried reading a book but that didn’t help. i only got more anxious. so i did the only thing i could and started praying about it. with my breathing fast and my thoughts anxious, i told God how scared i was. it wasn’t until i was praying that i pinpointed that what i was feeling was actually hopelessness, which of course pulled the curtain down and showed who was really at work in that situation.

after i realized that and reminded myself of all of God’s promises to prosper me and give me the good things that my heart yearns for (drawing closer to him, fulfilling his will for my life/love/location/etc.) i knew what i needed to do. i jumped up and bolted out the door to go for a walk. and that’s when i really got my footing back again. with my ipod serenading me and my eyes open and searching for God and my pocket Bible in hand, God threw open the doors that restored my sense of hope and rest and peace in his goodness and the provisions he promises to bring my way.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD
Jeremiah 29:11-14

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

i know God loves to work in ways that baffle us and that don’t seem to make sense, but somehow–even though i can’t put my finger on it–it does make sense: that breaking out of the confines of the ordinary and stepping back into the world–where anything is possible and novelty is all around–will pull you closer to him. i remember when i was reading about fasting, one of the things they encouraged was that when you steeped yourself in prayer, make sure you go somewhere not at home to do it. home is cozy and comfortable, but sometimes that’s not what we need. sometimes we need strangeness to awaken us to the Truth and to open our eyes to what’s really going on here.

today was one such day.

and it worked; by stepping out, i found my way back home again.

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame….
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:3-5

“This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God.”
Philippians 1:9-11

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
John 14:27

Philippians 4:6-9

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

 

Jeremiah 29:7
“…Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

 

RE Grand rapids: I’m now back in the safe, sound, snug place of peace with God concerning this. For a week I was all antsy and anxious and worried about how it would pan out. But I spent time praying and following God to especially fitting verses. Then on Sunday at church, the entire sermon was on being fearless and following God (Jesus’ greatest command is “Follow me” while in the Bible it’s “Fear not.”) and that solidified my trust in God: That it’s not my place to worry or try to figure out what will happen because God can/will do that for me and in ways I never could have imagined. I trust that he will do that here with this decision, its provisions and timing.

Also one of the messages from church was how God uses—and wants to use—ordinary folks. We looked at the life of Gideon (judges 6) who didn’t think he was worth it to do God’s work, but God saw something in him (and, extrapolated, sees something in me) that we don’t see in ourselves and that He can and will use. We can’t hold ourselves back! I think that was another part of the situation that I was experiencing—I felt like I was too spiritually immature to take this big of leap of faith, that I’m fooling myself and trying to do something that’s bigger than my spiritual footing. Like I’m trying to force it. But the point of that is that it’s not about me at all; God loves using the ordinary and the weak to accomplish great things because then he gets all the glory, which is what it’s all about in the first place. So I just need to remember to do that—to give Him the glory rather than wish to take it for myself and all “my” hard work. It is only by his strength and insight and special positioning that all of this has come to be. I am grateful.

Hebrews 13:5-6
God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”


Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,

2 to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,

3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!

6 The senseless man does not know,
fools do not understand,

last night I went over to my parents and we spent a good portion of the night outside, scouting out different plants around the yard and clipping flowers and putting them into vases. I took a big bunch of lilacs home with me, which sat on my nightstand and woke me up every once and awhile when I’d catch a waft, which was soothing and seemed to remind me: breathe in, all is good.

and it’s true. all is good, because i feel like i’m breathing deeper these last few weeks.

i think there are two parts to this newfound feeling:

part one
the whole grand rapids thing, where i have so much peace that it makes me wonder if maybe it’s too good to be true? but aside from praying that if this isn’t what God wants that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure to tell me/stop it from happening, then i’m trusting in God’s nature as a peace-giver and as unchanging. even if this did seemingly come out of nowhere, i don’t want to sit on my hands if i feel it’s a good thing. and i do.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I’ve been going through bouts of feeling scared about whatever the future might hold, because it’s so far-off and so indeterminable. The fact that it would mean leaving many good things behind (church, friends, work, youth group, family) in exchange for…i’m not yet sure what. That makes me scared, so I keep praying that God will be with me and to “not hide your face from me,” that I will know his will and be strengthened to forge ahead with it. i woke up the other day and one verse from a Hedley song was rolling around in my head, “If you don’t believe me, watch and I will make it happen.” i really felt like that was God reassuring me, that he will make it happen. he won’t pull me this far and then drop the ball and walk away. another song lyric that spells the same thing to me: “you are safe, child, you are safe.

Isaiah 43:5-7
5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

plus i’m reminding myself that if this is what God wants, he’s not going to purposefully make it hard or arduous; He WANTS it to happen and so He will help me do that. He did that for me when it came to breaking up with Paul (I was prepared to do it, but Paul ended up coming over and finishing things); when I moved to Alabama I had 2 weeks to relocate and find a place to stay for 5 months and God provided that along with an awesome roommate; then with Cincinnati He totally set me up with a great church and great friends and a great job. So I have to keep reminding myself of those blessings past, and that because God’s unchanging, that He won’t stop doing that—he’ll continue to guide me and provide for me along that pathway.

Psalm 25:4-10
4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant

* * * * * * * * * * * *

part deux
which brings me to my second point which is the book i’ve been reading of late: Breathe. it’s pretty phenomenal and one that I barely convinced myself was worth buying; I only did so because it was half-price. it was well worth it.

the book is very grounding and encourages us to put our purpose and focus on God and to do so with our time and resources. it encourages us to simplify and say “yes” to the things that draw us to Him and to say “no” to those which don’t. while i know that my priorities aren’t nearly as tangled as a parent’s who has multiple other people to keep in mind with decision-making (the book is intended for mothers), i want to become aware of these struggles now. because if i can be aware and intentional and deliberate now, then it will become a practice/discipline which will serve me well as i move forward–and on into those next stages of life.

i like that the book gives you permission to say “no” to people, causes or activities that draw you away from God. this has been revolutionary to me and quite liberating. i’ve decided to let go of my TV-watching because i can see how it not only wastes time but also wastes words–when i spend time recapping tv shows with my friends and coworkers. it prevents me from digging deep into conversation. so i’ve started abandoning that need to “fill” my time with things like TV. now i just let my friends recap the shows for me, which cuts my investment time down to 5 minutes or less and frees up at least 15, a pretty good exchange if you ask me. (although I do foresee making room and allowing for “Heroes.” no matter how great a storyteller you may be, I don’t think anyone could recap that show with justice!)

one challenge they give in the book is about looking for opportunities to shave down your obligations, and then not fill them. Today I did that on my lunch break by breaking free from my desk and rushing to a nearby park to sit quietly and read more from the book. Being quiet isn’t an easy task or discipline for me, so this book is especially fitting. I need to invest in this ideal more and more, because I know I always complain about not being able to easily “hear God” but I think that’s because I’m not patient enough with the quiet to listen. I’m also hoping that our upcoming trip to IHOP in Kansas City will be enlightening and insightful for that, too!

i’m also hoping that in this decision to follow God to somewhere new, that hopefully that’ll draw me nearer and keep teaching me to connect with him and get to that point where i can hear and where i can really find my purpose and place.

on (my) tattoos and piercings
as you probably know, when it comes to big decisions, i’m not one for spontaneity. sure if it’s, “let’s go get ice-cream!” or “let’s go on a vacation!” then i’m all for it, because you can’t go wrong with either.

but something that there’s a chance that i might someday regret isn’t something i take lightly. hence why i’ve been so patient and spent so long kicking around the idea of a/my tattoo. but things changed last week when–in the midst of “where am i headed?” and “what’s going to happen, life-wise, next?!”–i got the out-of-the-blue urge to get one of those monroe piercings. i really, really wanted it even moreso than the tattoo. like, i was ready to get it on friday if i didn’t know myself better.

i don’t have anything against piercings; what i’ve always held as important in decision-making is intention behind the choice. so, i came to see that with this urge for a pretty little beauty-mark diamond was how quickly it came on and how forceful it was and how it consumed my thoughts, because it really did. everyday i was thinking about how i would look with one; i’d imagine it on other people and how it would change the way they look, etc. that preoccupation was a red flag to me–that there was something deeper going on.

if you’ve ever read the screwtape letters (OK, or the Bible for that matter), i believe in that stuff–that the reason why all our movies have a good guy and a bad guy, where there’s always some sort of struggle between the two is because that reflects the greater story that’s taking place in our world. that there’s a God and a Devil and that the bad guy in this story is doing everything he can to bring down Good. i remember when i read the Screwtape Letters, one thing that C.S. Lewis pointed out was how one of the devil’s greatest tools is using inaction and distraction to bring us down–while we may not be committing great sins like murder, if we’re still not doing good,  then what’s the difference? he’s won.

so i realized that this piercing preoccupation was just that: a distraction that was keeping me from focusing my thoughts on what God had in store, future-wise. i know it sounds silly because it was just a simple piercing, but in context it stood for so much more: as i pondered getting it, i was really doubting that God would accomplish what i knew he already told me he would. (because the last thing the piercing would say is “professional” and could really stand as a stumbling block as i consider that path.) i had to realize that if he encouraged me to pursue this path, then why wouldn’t he provide that? why would i jeopardize or disregard that?

it was a matter of regaining/reasserting my faith in the future. and since that realization, the overwhelming preoccupation has melted away and now i’m back to considering that old tattoo of mine. the one benefit i see in this is that at least it has a purpose other than pure vanity (which was all the piercing had to offer) and would be a gentle and daily reminder of the state (and source) of my life. here’s the general direction i’m thinking, although the elements would be better integrated, of course. but i’m digging the idea of calligraphy + ornamentation:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

one thing i’ve become aware of and decided to pray about/get more rigorous about is memorizing scripture. over the past couple years i’ve gotten more into God, i’ve always been content with just paraphrasing and throwing around, “well somewhere it says something about ‘perfect love casts out all fear'” or “i think paul said something about…” anyway i’ve come to realize that even though it’s good to have a good handle on what the bible says, it’s even better to know exactly what that is rather than stumbling over the concepts or twisting them or mishandling them. plus, it’s that whole idea of a sturdy foundation (see, there is where i could use from knowing the actual verse that talks about building your house on a rock rather than on sand. in due time…).

regardless, that’s my latest in the ever-evolving to-do list (or as a coworker calls it, the “today” list). as i embark on this (which reminds me of VBS or summer camp) i want to take it slow so that they really seep in and take root rather than take my usual route of DO EVERYTHING AT ONCE or AS MUCH AS YOU CAN–gulp it down, FAST! i have to remind myself… one. at. a. time.

the first is (and this is from memory!): James 5:16 “therefore pray for each other and confess to each other so that you may be healed. the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

cool huh? i know it’s basic but i am amped for it and what comes from it. i think my next one is the perfect love one. 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” but i’m not going to attempt cracking that one for a couple days still. one. at. a. time.

The thing I’ve struggled with the most, lately, has been the idea of trying to understand everything that’s happened these past couple of months. I’ve been wrestling with, “Well what was the point, then?!” and came up shorthanded every time, which only frustrated me more.

But last night I finished reading Cameron Conant’s second memoir “The Year I Got Everything I Wanted,” which had been a Christmas present. While I really enjoyed his first book, this second one was definitely the capstone of the two endeavors—rich writing (the book parallels Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes, which is a pretty cool literary approach) but also full of insights and lessons to be taken and bookmarked. One such one spoke volumes to me as he started a new chapter off with this verse from Ecclesiastes, which i underlined about a dozen times (filling up as much space as i could with the emphasis-marks) because it was so poignant and especially fitting:

Ecclesiastes 11:5: as you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, SO YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE WORK OF GOD, THE MAKER OF ALL THINGS.

The thing is, when it comes to things like creation and evolution and physics, I have no problem shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Well isn’t that evidence itself of God?” i just know that it’s God who’s behind all them and how in the world could we even begin to fathom Him and His ways?! So with those big-picture issues, i’m completely content to just accept them as-is and as bigger than my comprehension. In fact, that complexity is what i love about Him! but when that complexity creeps into my own life, i wrestle and thrash as i try to make sense of it all. why, oh why?!

And I have to just learn that not everything is for me to understand—perhaps, as is said the the Chronicles of Narnia which I’m still listening my way through–“it’s not part of my story,” and thus not for me to know. That I have to stop struggling to make sense of it and just accept it as is and ask God that if I’m to understand it that I will, and that if not, that he will use it in whatever way he needs to. Because I know it has a purpose—even if I can’t see it. I have to trust in that, and that it’s all about something bigger, anyway…

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out–plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. when you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. when you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” — jeremiah 29:10-14

“if people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” — proverbs 29:18

awhile ago, i was doing a lesson for the middle school girls at church revolving around the idea of struggles. as little encouragements, i made a sheet with different verses on it that relate to times when it feels like the world is against–heartening verses that bring us back to reality and inform us otherwise.

i took my verses and tucked them different places; beside my bed, on my dashboard, by my computer at home. and they really worked. but now, i feel like things are looking up, so i need the verses to reflect that–speak to me in the moment i am now. so i dug through some of my marked verses and compiled another sheet, which i’ve uploaded here as a PDF if anyone wants to see/do the same: newverses.pdf

i’ve been looking up verses about “growth” and “planting” for this (possibly?) impending tattoo, when i came across this verse, that seemed pretty well timed, considering everything of late:

Colossians 1:10
9-12 We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

here are the other verses i’ve come across that speak to this idea. i think it’d be cool to integrate some sort of verse into the whole leaf/heart/God image:

Philippians 1:9-11
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well.

2 Peter 3:18
But grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Hebrews 12:15 (New International Version)
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Colossians 1:6 (New International Version)
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

Ephesians 4:15 (New International Version)
15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:7 (New International Version)
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

Matthew 13:32 (New International Version)
Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”

Deuteronomy 32:2 (New International Version)
Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.

see? home by 10:30. refreshing.

this has been week no. 1 in my attempt to recalibrate. it has been good. although really it’s worked out less because of my attempts and more because everyone (meaning the lovelies and paul) have been busy. so i haven’t really had to try to take things slow and take time for myself. it’s nice to be eased into things.

yesterday, after having what was officially titled “my no good, very bad day” (don’t ask), i left work 15 minutes early and took the time to do something i haven’t done in over a month: run. in high school i was a really good runner. i played soccer and could almost always be the first player to finish all our laps around the practice complex. halfway through the season my junior year, though, i got really bad shin splints and couldn’t run without shooting pains. so i stopped running and was afraid to for years. this past summer i decided to try again. and, surprisingly, i wasn’t half bad. although i guess i’m not sure what i’m measuring it against, but i’m not disappointed in where i’ve picked up.

so it was, that i ran for an hour yesterday and was quite heartened by it. it did help clear the bumbling air that was gathering in my head.

today i went over to my parents’ house and visited my grandma who was actually much herself, which typically isn’t the case. that was such a good feeling. she was laughing and cracking jokes. she had a hard time hearing and many times misinterpreted what i was saying (i guess i have a hard time speaking up), but that made it more entertaining. she slipped a few times into her own little world, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been. that was a good feeling. we ordered pizza and i made tasty pumpkin cupcakes for sir paul and then i worked a new project of mine.

right now i have this crappy piece of cardboard that i made holes in with a hole punch and have strung my necklaces through. although i’ve received compliments on it, i think it’s pretty shoddy. so my new effort is to take a medium-sized branch and cut it down and then pop nails into it and spray paint it white. all i have left is the spray paint and mounting. cross your fingers. i can’t have my necklaces get tangled and this is the best idea i’ve come up with yet. (plus i just like nature-y stuff. i’m also working a poster to blow up for over my bed. more on that later.)

and i think the best part of my day was at work i decided to start working on my lesson plan for this sunday. if you don’t know, i teach sunday school for the teen girls at church. well every once and a while i like to do “Fireside Chats” with the girls–basically a chance for them to tap into what’s going on in their life and apply it to God and look at it through that lens, and get the support of the rest of the group. so, considering what’s been going on lately in my life, i decided to hone in this week on struggles. so i spent some time looking up verses and came across a bunch that just heartened me. it was pretty cool to go from, one moment being self-pitying and ‘woe is me’ to, the next, being content and satisfied despite the circumstances or ‘what if’s.

here’s an example, 2 cor. 4:16-18 (MSG): Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.

one of the things i did was type up all the verses so that the girls can cut the various ones up and keep them with them, in their purse or put them on their mirror or in their locker–just so that they have them nearby when they need them for reassurance. i do that at work; have a little “inspiration/reassurance wall.” it’s mostly made of encouragements i received when i went to haiti this winter. and i look to it often, so i know it’s worthwhile. so i’m amped for it–for both my sake and for the girls’. i haven’t felt like i’ve really given them the time and effort they deserve lately, so i’d like to work on that.

although i did get an email today about the OTR efforts and that they might be acquiring a n old church down there and attempting “betterment” efforts like helping the homeless neighbors find jobs or learn to read or to write. that’s totally the kind of thing i want to be involved in. so we’ll see. i’m excited about the opportunity, although i’m already wondering how i would be able to fit yet another commitment into my schedule. but i think it’s a good thing. so i guess i just have trust that the pieces will all fall into their place. i have faith that they will… one way or another, they alway do, right?

…heartened, even.

two weekends ago, i got free tickets from my coworker to go to kings island. it was the last weekend the amusement park would be open (labor day weekend), and so we needed to use them before the place closed up shop and all the kiddie fun melted with the season.

with friends Bee and Holly in tow, we took off for the roller-coasters and ice-cream and water rides and pizza-at-picnic-tables. we got sloshed around on the rides, rode seperately on some of them, and threw our hands up in the air on others. sometimes we got off claiming headaches and others we got off exhilerated that there were times when we just knew we were this close to flying off the track because we were going so fast.

and so it is with my life–always riding that rollercoaster. it feels bumpy sometimes and anxious and scary. but right now i’m climbing up that hill, the track is clicking as it’s reaching the apex, and here i am looking out over the park with a bird’s eye view. i’m heartened.

the reason for all this?

as i mentioned before, i feel like i’ve been really distracted as of late, like time has been slipping away from me. they are welcome, of course, but what i realized this morning was that the anxieties i’ve felt, the worries, the jitters–there’s a reason for them. and that’s because in my distraction, i’ve pulled away, diverted my eyes from, that which always brings peace. i’ve let my relationship with God take a bit of a back-burner. and of course it hasn’t been all that long–days only, really–but long enough for me to see the impact that it has. and i realize that when i’m close to God is when i feel like i can trust the world around me and the situations He’s placed me in so perfectly.

i was reminded the other day of this:

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. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.
Jeremiah 29: 11-14

there’s also a relient k song where they talk about “it’s my trademark move, to turn my back on you. to realize i should improve. and sometime soon after that, you’ll see me come crawling back.”

so here i am, realizing it’s time to crawl back and to find the peace that makes me realize how beautiful and exhilerating (rather than scary and anxious) the view is at the top of this “amazing” rollercoaster ride. yes, i’m heartened.

fair18.jpg

(it’s a picture from another girl’s blog that i read, and that seemed quite fitting)

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