“Looking back to move forward”

 

This morning with my church family we talked about the closing of this year and the beginning of next year! We wrote down some things that we were grateful for, what we mourned over, how we saw God moving, and what we’d like to leave behind in 2017. After writing these things down, we celebrated communion, being humbled before Christ, remembering His sacrifice for our sins and the redemption of life that He gives through His death. We then placed our notes on 2017 in a suitcase (which was then closed) as a symbol of closing the door on the past year. Not taking for granted the ways those things changed us, but as a closing of a passage and entering a new chapter.

Looking back at this time last year until now, SO much has changed. This time last year, I thought I knew where I was “headed” or what would be happening in the new year. But little did I know how much things would change….how much I would learn about my identity in Christ…how I would be awakened to the persecuted church…how I would mourn for things and people being stripped away…how I would be blessed with new opportunities….how God would confirm answers to prayer…It’s been quite an amazing year.

“But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity];
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.'”

Isaiah 43:1-2

Honestly, even though the year began with some very deep valleys, as I look over the whole year, the blessings and surprises that God brought far outweigh whatever depths I thought were going to define 2017. It wasn’t even possible for me to dream of the ways in which God surprised me this past year and I am so thankful for what & how He brought me out from those valleys.

“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?
I will even put a road in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert….”

Isaiah 43:19

So as I look towards 2018, I hope to have more confidence and courage to follow where God leads, to live out my faith and share about Christ in a way that draws others to Him, to learn more about the people around me and about Christ and to trust Him in this crazy journey because who knows what kind of adventures He may be taking me on this year. I may not know what is up ahead, but with all my heart I intend to seek after Christ and ask Him to open my eyes to see how He sees and to love like He does.

Coming & Going

Here were the questions we looked at this morning & some of my reflections on the past year and the upcoming year!

2017

  • When did you feel close to God this year?
  • When in this year did you feel like God was absent?
  • What were some moments of joy and some moments of sorrow?
  • What disappointed you or frustrated you this year?
  • What surprised you this year?
  • Is there anything in this year you want to leave behind and not take with you into next year?

Feeling close to God in doubt and pain. Forgiveness between myself and ministry partners. Reconnecting with kids I love. Making new ministry friends in Egypt. Sorrow for leaving family. Sorrow for “ideas” changing. Surprised by a settled peace in where Christ has taken me. Many new relationships & community. Positive visible answers to prayer. Vikings kicking butt. These are a few of my favorite things.

 

2018

  • What do you think God is inviting you into in this next year?
  • What areas of growth might you pursue in your life next year?
  • What experiments might you try in 2018?
  • Are there questions or topics you’d like to explore in the new year?
  • What are you apprehensive about as you look towards next year?
  • What are you excited about?

New ministry beginnings. Greater depth of relationships with others & with God. “How does God love the orphan?” Growth in and experiments in rhythms of reading, evangelism, study & journaling. Courage to follow God where He directs. Pursuit.

 

God’s moving! ….and so am I!

Sometimes in life, God doesn’t always answer your prayers…..but sometimes He does! For the last twenty years, God has been lining things up that cause my heart to break for orphans, particularly in Romania…wanting to love on them, share with them the experience of being in a family, teach them about their worth in Christ and see them have experiences that orphans don’t normally get to have. Well my big news is that this next year, I am planning to move to Romania and become a house-Mom for six orphaned kids! There is so much joy in my heart as I type. I’m excited and nervous too. There will be much more information to come, but right now, I wanted to ask you to pray for the kids I will be loving on and pray for me as I prepare to go. 🙂

In preparing to leave on this new adventure, there are so many feelings rising to the top inside of my heart….excitement, anticipation, wonder, thankfulness, anxiousness, curiosity, sorrow, joy, and many more. It’s tough to be so excited about the promise of what could be, and yet hold the pain of leaving what is. I hope that each of my friends and family understand how much they are loved and will be missed, how much I value each of them and how much I hope to hear from them and share in this journey with them. I hope that I will leave you with good memories of our relationship, and that we can continue those relationships even if there are thousands of miles in between.
But….more than all the things “I” hope for this time, it is what GOD wants for this time that I’m most curious about. He has been doing so much in my heart, showing me that He is enough, that He is powerful and that He can use me right here, right now, in North Minneapolis each and every day…..He can also use me in a place that I’m not familiar with, that is new, that is far away and some place that only HE is my anchor.
This transition won’t be easy, and however long I’m in Romania I’m sure will bring many joys and hard times as well, but as I go with God into what He is doing in these kids’ lives already, I’m excited to see what will be the fruit.

I’m going to keep blogging, as many of you have been following throughout the past few years, and want to keep you updated on what is happening on the other side of the globe. I’m also going to need support…..prayer, encouragement, financial, letters, etc. It would be great to have you along with me in the ride. It’s going to be a great journey, that is for sure. 🙂

Dressed in Striped Pajamas

Tonight I was sick….slightly, but feeling not quite myself just the same.  I knew I wanted to blog tonight, since much has been floating around my mind, but it wasn’t until just this moment that I really knew what I wanted to say.


This month I’m going on a journey of prayer journaling….and before I began writing tonight, I wanted to “relax” and watch a movie. Well I chose the movie “Boy in Striped Pajama’s”.  If you’ve seen it, you know that it leaves you feeling very sad, sad for the world, for the boy, for the times when we just don’t know any better…. and it makes me want to pray.


“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8) If you know anything about the holocaust, you know that there were many, many people who cried out to God, seeking His help, protection, wisdom & mercy. God wants us to do this, to pour out our hearts to him when we are scared, ashamed, unsure & hurting.  He will protect us, though sometimes He protects our hearts & souls over our earthly bodies.

We know this is true, that God desires to hold us in his Hands, and that He will answer us and come to us because of what Christ testified by his mouth…”‘Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.  So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”’

And yet, sometimes we have to walk through horrendous situations.  The people of the holocaust were thrust into something they had little to no control over, they were tortured, beaten, starved, mocked and killed for just daring to live as people that Christ created them to be.  Many of them lost hope, feeling abandoned….but still there were some, like Corrie Ten Boom who saw her situation in the prison camps, as a time that she could tell others about God & his mercy. She understood what is written about in 2 Corinthians 2:14 where it says “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  She, being lead as a captive into a place shrouded by death, held to her faith and overcame the smell of flesh with the fragrance of everlasting life.  ….. A faith like that deserves pause. ….. A faith like that, is one to make you wonder about the God who calls a witness like her out…He is a mighty God, a faithful God, an everlasting God.

Finally, as we seek him, praise him, confess our fears and hopes to him, we will see…maybe not today, but one day we will see…what His glorious plans for our lives will be.  It is then and on our journey to that end, that we can joyfully sing with David through Psalms 30:11-12, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.” Amen.

Walking into the Dark

This weekend, I received a new book in the mail.  If you’re like me, you’ll know that a delivery like this is like Christmas!  I love getting packages in the mail, even when they’re expected.  You might remember me writing about another book called “The Adventure” by Jerry Sittser….well, this book is also by him, but it is titled “A Grace Disguised–How the Soul Grows Through Loss“.   Because I’ve enjoyed reading “The Adventure” three times through, I figured this new book would also be a good read. Well so far….I’m hooked.  Here are some of my thoughts from the weekend….

Something that he says early on, is that the darkness of grief is inescapable & is something we must face alone.  We know as Christians that we do not have to do this completely alone, but the journey inside is personal and one that cannot be walked by any another human.  One struggle for many (as well as myself) is that we tend to walk away from the darkness and chase the fading light of our hope.  The joy we see disappearing beyond the horizon.  To that struggle, this quote struck me–“…the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.”

Wow.  I think most of us “know” that we are supposed to face pain head on, to walk towards it despite the hurt that continues & sometimes grows worse over time….but too often I fill it with other things, or turn away, or put off until I’m “more ready” to face it, all the while staying in the dark, holding onto the last glimmer of light that has so recently seemed to vanish. Staying here though, holds the light at bay, and refuses to see that only through the darkness can you see light again.  

Sittser says, “The decision to face the darkness, even if it led to overwhelming pain, showed me that the experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It is not what happens to us that matters as much as what happens in us.” This really spoke to me….once again I am reminded that we ALL have trials, we ALL have situations that are overwhelming…that doesn’t make us unique, it doesn’t separate us from everyone else because it’s something we all go through.  But the choices we make in response to these difficult situations, are what define us & make us who we are….they define who we will become.  “We do not always have the freedom to choose the roles we must play in life, but we can choose how we are going to play the roles we have been given.”

Isaiah 41: 9-10, 18 says, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…..I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” This gives me hope…knowing that when I was in darkness, hidden in the furthest corners of the earth, Christ came to find me. He brought me out of that depth & into the light. If Christ has done this once, we can hold fast that He WILL do it again.  
I’ll leave off today with this last quote from Sittser, “In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there also character is made. The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making.”

Let’s journey together through the darkness, alone & yet together, to run towards the light that we yet are waiting to see.  May we trust that God is with us to protect us & hold us though our hearts ache with pain & our limbs shutter with fear. He will give us wings as eagles and feet like deer, able to stand on rocky ground.

Deserving?

In a conversation this week, talking about the horrible happenings weaved throughout this persons life, the question was posed “what did I do to deserve this life?”  The thought was chilling, and unsettling. I don’t know that we really deserve any of it….any of the good or any of the bad.  For what really could we do to deserve anything good in this life, and what could we do that would warrant such hard events? I know that if we really get spiritual here, there are probably very legitimate answers for these questions…..sin in the world causes us bad things in our life…or doing good for others often will allow us to reap plentiful benefits.
But in the simplicity of this question, ….I remembered a story in my past.  I once had a wonderful band teacher. He always chose great music & taught us well.  One particular choice of song, had a particularly difficult timpani piece.  This he chose to give to me. The other parts he let the other percussionists choose for themselves, but for the timpani, he chose me to play.  Just looking at the piece someone would understand this was not going to be easy.  It had multiple tone changes, varying degrees of intensity within short measures, odd rhythms, parts where I was the only player amidst the entire band, & so on.  I questioned his choice, pleading that I was not able to do this piece and that he should choose someone more capable.  He insisted, and would hear none of my protest.

So I practiced, and I practiced, and I practiced, I screwed up & I practiced some more. Finally I was OK with the piece….just OK. And when it came to the concert, I stood & played…I was not perfect, but I was alright. I did better than I thought I would, that’s for sure.  Later, I asked my instructor once more….why did you choose to give me such a difficult piece? Surely someone else could have done it better. To this he replied, “I knew you would have to work at it, but I wanted to see you try…” (this next part is what really got me) “…I chose it for you not because you were the best, but because I wanted you to see what you were capable of.”

In many ways, I see this situation as something similar if I now asked God why I deserved this life & the situations that fall into my way….He allows them to come not because I’ve done something to deserve them necessarily, but because he wants me to understand what I’m capable of overcoming when I trust Him.