Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Journey: Part 2 - Returning of the VIneyards

"I will return her vineyards to her..."-Hosea 2:15
Finally, after we have learned to lean on our Lover, and are delivered from the desert season, a time of restoration replaces the dry season. While spiritual deserts may last weeks, months and even years, once the Lord sees fit, He will deliver us from them and "return [our] vineyards to [us]." Mm, the vineyard. Can you picture it? What a place of growth, of luscious greens and fruitfulness; a time of prosperity and a richness of blessings. Vineyards are mentioned many times in teh bible: "Let us get up early and go to the vineyards to see if the grapevines have budded, if the blosoms have opened, and if the pomegranates have bloomed. There i will give you my love." -Song of Songs 7:12. And truly, the vineyard is even sweeter once we've experienced the dryness and suffocating heat of the desert. How much greater does the life after a vineyard appear after a great trial? I think it's necessary to experience pain and periods of hopelessness so we can embrace the beauty of blessings and fruitful times that much more. Here, in the vineyard, the Lord is with us too; though we may be more able to see His hand here than in the desert, as blessings are abundant in this part of the journey. One of my life verses, another from Hosea, pinpoints the beautiful transition from the barren desert into a time of hope and waiting for the vineyard, and the hope we have that the Lord will restore us: "In just a short time he will restore us so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of the dawn of the coming of rains in early spring." -Hosea 6:2-3 [NLT] May we hold on to this hope and press on to know Him as we wait until we are called to enter into the vineyards.
"In that day - Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water int continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it." -Isaiah 27:2-3

What does the vineyard God has returned to you look like? Has it been full of the sweet blossoms of marriage and a life joined with your best friend? (or the beginning of that season?! ;P) Has it been a remarkable recovery after an injury, an illness or a broken heart? Has the restoration of the vineyard given you new eyes and a new heart, allowing you to see and truly rejoice in the beauty and blessings that surround you? Has it been returned to you in the form of a new friend, a divine appointment, a God-given and directed calling? No matter what the vineyard is, rejoice.

"You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy; that i might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!" -Psalm 30:11-12

Vineyard: A place of restoration, fruitfulness, an abundance of blessings and prosperity.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Journey: Part 1 - The Wilderness

After dwelling on Hosea 2:14-16 for probably the bajillionth time, my eyes were opened to something new: the important connection and perfect order taking place within the journey. A painful journey, but truly one that is prescribed by God - drenched in purpose, refinement, and ultimately the Lord's drawing us closer to Him. How this new outlook on Hosea has shaken my heart. This journey is not about someone or something else - it is about God and knowing Him more. I am hoping to blog about four distinct seasons within this section of Hosea, highlighting parts of the God-ordained journey that takes place within the scripture and in our lives. No matter what "part" or place you find yourself in, know there may be times when you reach a new place, that next fork in the road. In this journey of life, we experience several of the same seasons many times. But truly, each fork in the road, each step and season is God-ordained and He is with us there.
The first part of Hosea 2 - one i feel I've come to know all too well in the past year - is the wilderness. The desert, the dry place: "But i will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there" - Hosea 2:14. Ah, the desert. Though people may experience different extremities and versions of the desert, it's always a trying place. But in this verse, one of God's infinite truths is revealed: He is with us in the desert. In fact, He leads us there. When we are called to a wild abandonment of our own dreams, of life as we know it, when He beckons us to lay something at His altar and follow Him, it seems as though a desert season is sure to follow. For here, in this desert, is where He reveals our dire need for Him. The new calling starts to replace our old life. Here, is where He speaks tenderly to us and reveals more of His character. Here, in the desert, we are refined: These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - though your faith is far more precious than gold. 1 Peter 1:7. Our faith is tried and perfected. If we are to journey with the Lord, and truly live our life for His glory alone, desert times are necessary. For here is where we are stripped of our own lives and led to lean on the Lord, so that when we come up from the desert we rely on Him alone: Who is this sweeping in from the desert, leaning on her lover? - Song of Songs 8:5.
How i loathe this desert time. How i have grown sick of what seems like impenetrable sorrow. But, as much as i despise the condition of my heart and the trying of my faith, I have seen God's hand in this desert time. It is truly God-ordained. He is teaching me painful lessons but ultimately leading me to know Him MORE. Have you seen God in your desert times? I promise you, He is there. He is working. He is preparing you for the next part of the journey, for something bigger than yourself. Ask Him to deliver you, but while you wait, trust Him and His timing. He is restoring to you the joy of His salvation. Embrace Him in the desert. In the brilliant words of John Piper, as he refers to times of darkness (similar to or indistinguishable from the desert time): "Never forget that your security rests on Christ's faithfulness first. Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That's true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God's sight, but his" [Piper, When Darkness Will Not Lift, 38]. We may feel like our faith is insignificant at times, like our faith is too tried and wavering to be real. But hold on, Christ is coming. Trust that in a season of trial, in this desert time, in the period of waiting and walking through the desert.

"The prophet Micah experienced prolonged and painful waiting. "I sit in the darkness...unitl [The Lord] pleads my cause and...will bring me out to the light" (Micah 7:8-9). We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or he delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving towards his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don't mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ" [Piper, 36].

Find hope in this desert. God is moving and leading and speaking. He has plans for You, for us, even in this dry place.

Desert: A place of trials, refining, purifying of faith and learning to rely solely on Him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

As of Recent

"For i know the plans that i have for you," says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." -Jeremiah 29:11-13

Words straight from You, Lord. You know, we don't. You know what's best for us, even when we think we know better. You know the reason behind the seasons we're in, even those of sorrow and depression. We can not do this on our own. So, I will look for You. I will pray, and trust that You hear. I will find You as i seek You and look to You.

I got to take Jodi and Grant's - two of my dearest friends (Jodi is one of my best friends and roommates) ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS this past Sunday! This is only round one, i'm guessing there will be more! Mmm, what a joy it is to get to capture the joy and new life Jodi and Grant are about to embark on. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bind me to the Altar

I feel like it's time to read my favorite book again (Hinds' Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard). As i was going through the book, revisiting chapters that i had underlined or starred, i came across parts that really shook me. The chapter i'm having most trouble with, is when the main character asks the Lord to remove something that had been so rooted in her heart. Something she had tried and tried to rip out on her own, but to no avail. Her desire was so much stronger than her own strength. I truly recommend this book. Oh gosh, how i see myself STILL on this journey to the high places. But before I can truly find my way there, the Lord has so many more places to bring me - through the desert, the shores of loneliness, the forrest, and many other seasons meant to refine and strengthen me. I'm not going to write anymore, but instead share with you an excerpt from this book, the prayer i am so scared to pray. Lord, my confidence is wavering. I have obeyed You, I have walked with You, and still You have allowed this pain, a darkness to surround me. I trust You can break it. May this be the prayer of my heart, and the hearts of those holding on to something out of fear, resilience, or as one last foothold of freewill:

"I am a very great coward. I am afraid that the pain may cause me to try to resist you. Will you bind me to the altar in some way so that i cannot move? I would not like to be found struggling while the will of my Lord is done." ....
Still there was silence, a silence as of the grave, for indeed she was in the grave of her own hopes and still without the promised hinds' feet, still outside the High Places with even the promise to be laid down on the altar. This was the place to which the long, heartbreaking journey had led her. Yet just once more before she laid it down on the altar, Much-Afraid repeated the glorious promise which had been the cause of her starting for the High Places. "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet and he will make me to talk up on mine High Places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments" (Hab 3:19).
The priest put forth a hand of steel, right into her heart. There was a sound of rending and tearing, and the human love, with all it's myriad rootlets and fibers, came forth.
He held it for a moment and then said, "Yes, it was ripe for removal, the time had come. There is not a rootlet torn or missing."
When he had said this he cast it down on the altar and spread his hands above it. There came a flash of fire which seemed to rend the altar; after that, nothing but ashes remained, either of the love itself, which had been so deeply planted in her heart, or of the suffering and sorrow which had been her companions on that long, strange journey. A sense of utter, overwhelming rest and peace engulfed Much-Afraid." [Hurnard, 199-201].

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trees Firmly Rooted

Hawaii: December 2009
My prayer for all who read this, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is that we truly become like trees. Firmly rooted, planted, and intertwined with the truth and unquenchable source of the Lord. May we bear fruit, regardless of the season of life, by remaining in Him. May our branches, our limbs, reach towards Him and point to Him always. That everything we are comes from Him - God is our source:

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit" -Jeremiah 17:7-8

"But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do."
-Psalm 1:2-3
Trees at Antler's Park: Summer 2009

"When i think of all this, i fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources, he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. "
-Ephesians 3:14-17

"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness"
-Colossians 2:7

"Like the finest apple tree in the orchard is my lover among other young men.
I sit in His delightful shade and taste His delicious fruit."
-Song of Songs 2:3
Centennial Lakes: Summer 2008

This may seem like a random, unrelated song to end with, but this has been the anthem on my heart over the past week. It's amazing. Check it out. If you know of any other verses about trees, definitely feel free to write them as comments! Be blessed, friends.

"This is the sound of the redeemed,
rising up to praise the King,
Our hope is in You.

Singing Glorious, Glorious One
You have saved us.
Honor and power and praise to the Savior.
You are the answer, You are the answer.

We the redeemed,
Hear us singing,
You are Holy.
You are Holy."

"With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home." -Exodus 15:13

Friday, February 19, 2010


I sense His relentless pursuing. If i take even the tiniest step towards Him, do i feel this heart of stone begin to crack and crumble under the weight of His glorious presence. He surrounds me with blessings, He's pouring out His love. So why, why hasn't the joy of thy salvation been restored to me? Why do i remain in this deplorable state?

I'm not quite sure what to write about, but i feel as though right now, even amongst this, beholding my Beloved is exactly what i need. Today, I was especially anxious and cranky. I felt the walls I had so furiously constructed begin to tremble. I was on the point of breaking. As i drove back to Lakeville, dreading falling apart, i came across 95.3, a worship station. At the very moment i landed on the channel, Psalm 112 was being read: "He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear..." This has been a verse i have turned to quite a bit in the past few months. I remember how deeply it shook my friend Kim and I at a church service this summer - the Lord calling us to be steadfast and fixed on Him. As if that wasn't enough of the Lord's pursuing, they played a song immediately after: No Not One by Christy Nockels. I had never heard this song before, but the beautiful cry of the violin and the simple, yet powerful words broke me down. Oh, Lord, my God, how You care so deeply. How You love, How you speak and move us, if only we open our eyes and acknowledge Your inner workings, Your miracles, Your hand.

I went for a run today, too. Finally, the pain in my right foot has lessened, and is almost completely gone! Thank the Lord. I felt a little discouraged, as the icy sidewalks were treacherous and made is super hard to run! I walked over half the way, and realized how much more training i have in order to meet my goal! What a lesson in discipline. As i ran, i think i stepped in about a bajillion puddles - my feet were soaked at the end. What a release. I laughed out loud a couple times, slipping and sliding, occasionally breaking through areas with thin ice - i love that sound of shattering ice! So great.

I went to the Rock Church and am now at home, ready to go to bed and head up to St Bens tomorrow. Lord, how i so desperately need You - Your sovereignty and justice to reign in my life. I ask for healing - I am tired of being crippled by my own pain, when there are so many carrying far heavier burdens, dealing with numbing pain and not knowing You and Your true, unfailing, glorious Love.

"No better word, then from Your lips.
No perfect life, than what You lived.
No greater gift, no not one.

And no one has ever known,
this kind of love You've shown.

There has never been a greater love,
than Your son,
no, not one.
And there will never be a name above,
No, not one.

And with His life, You have forgiven us,
Hope has come, Hope has come
And there will never be a greater love,
No, not one"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

View from the Airplane Window

Yesterday, i copied photos onto my external hard drive. I realized how important this was the hard way - from computer gliches that permanently erased precious moments in time...grrr. But that's beside the point. As i copied photos onto Carl (the name of my external hard drive...don't ask me why, i don't remember) I looked through folders and folders full of old photographs - travels, birthdays, holidays, days spent photographing in solitude, reliving the bittersweet memories of old friends, and more. Some photos i rediscovered for the first time in years, and i was overwhelmed by how they put this journey called life into perspective. While these moments unfold and are revealed to us as we live on, they've already been planned out: You saw me before i was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. - Psalm 139:16 The Lord has counted all our days and unveils the experiences, moments, and events in our life in His perfect and good timing. While i've been inspired once again by a few of these photos from my past, I've been itching to write about one of my most favorite things: The view from airplane windows.

Seriously - aren't the views astounding?! It definitely puts into perspective how tiny we really are. As the skyscrapers and trees that once loomed above us become tiny and insignificant that far off the ground, don't you feel small? As the ocean spans as far as the eye can see, or the clouds, literally hanging in midair, float under you, how can your eyes not remain glued to the window, trying to take in as much of the vastness and glory that surrounds you? Our God is quite the artist.
(Top and Bottom) Tennessee - 2008
(First Photo: Australia - 2008)
Every time the airplane takes off and i watch my tiny, familiar world disappear, swallowed by the vastness, a feeling of great reassurance and awe overtakes me. My God is HUGE. My God is mighty - He created and constructed everything on this earth - planned every last detail, every star in the sky, every sunrise and sunset, every life, every heartbeat, the entire galaxy and galaxies beyond what we have even discovered. WOW! Instead of feelings of insignificance, as my tiny teeny weeny, incomparable life stands in relation to my God, I am overwhelmed thinking about God's love being greater than all of His creations. He is the center of the universe, and yet, because of his astounding love, He pursues us, cries out for us, and wants us to know Him. Our extraordinary God makes a home in our puny hearts, if we allow Him in. I am insignificant. And while my loss, my pain, my heartbreaks may seem too big to handle sometimes, they are nothing compared to my awesome God! They are never too big for Him to handle.
Boston - 2008
Sometimes all we need is a little perspective and a reminder of how big our Creator is. His greatness brings me comfort, His desire to know me personally brings me great joy.
Jamaica 2010
Florida 2009

It's the way You lead me, the way we walk by Your waters still
It's the way You hold me, the way You felt all that i feel.
Its the way that You touch me, the way You know when it's needed most.
It's the way You form Your words, on my heart while i rest in You.

Carry me away.

God of creation, take my breath away.
God of the heavens, in this very space.

And You enter suddenly, I am lost again
Inside the majesty, I am lost again.
When You come suddenly, I am lost again.
Inside the mystery, i am lost again.
-David Crowder Band

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Confessions of an Overthinker

I have a confession. Okay, ready? I tend to overthink things. A lot. It's no secret and i'm not alone. But i've always found it to be more of a curse than a gift. You know? I read into things that are supposed to be taken at face value. I think of eight bajillion potential meanings to something simple or spend too much time dwelling on something. Often, after an argument, i'll bring up the argument hours later, after a resolution has been met or the argument has been settled - i keep thinking about it over and over with new perspectives and finally realizing my faults. So, while overthinking often gets the best of me, i realized today i am grateful for it. In some cases. Driving back to my apartment after a weekend of working at home, I realized my desire to pull apart songs and study lyrics, and my passion for reading and writing derive from overanalyzing, thinking and rethinking and going over the song/book/line/what have you over and over and over until i get the most meaning i can out of it.

So, because i overthink things, and didn't want to overthink today, i decided to distract myself by working this weekend - three shifts over the course of a day and a half. At Applebees, my thoughts, concerns and overthinking have to be cast aside in order to think about the customers. I am constantly on the go. Today, a day that had been looming above my head became just an average day - a double shift at work, twinged with a bit of heartache, but surrounded by love, encouragement, an eventful weekend and the Lord's promises. Friday, i got to go wedding dress shopping with Jodi, grab dinner with my momma, and check out a dearly-missed friend and his band. Saturday, i got to eat one of my favorite breakfasts - CREPES - with my parents, do some homework, and see Emily Scinto, a very talented actress perform in Snow White! I got to go with Eva, another girl from Hosanna, and some other friends :). After the play, i headed to work and spent the rest of the night doing homework. And today, Sunday, i pulled a double at work, did homework in between, ate a lot a lot of conversation hearts and sugary stuff, and had a midnight feast with my roomies! God is good. He has me right where He wants me. Truly, can't i rest in that? He has blessed me beyond measures, even with this season.
Miss Emily Scinto - Snow White :)
E-e-eeva and I :)
AMAZING JOB, EM! ...and Kyle creepin.

To end this random post/weekend update, I would like to share some of the sources i've recently found joy in overthinking:

1) My Utmost for His Highest: Oswald Chambers (Feb 11, 2010). So, get this. After a rough, rough last Saturday and a downward spiral, the Lord spoke to me through this devotion. Oh my goodness, is He astounding. Chambers' focal verse is Isaiah 26:3: You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You". Over the holidays, this verse had brought me so much peace and reassurance, and the Lord revealed it to me once again! You'll have to read the devotion for yourselves in order for the next part to make sense. Trust me it's good. And worth it - click here. Over the past week, i had starved my mind and spend little time dwelling in the Lord. I began to lean on my own understanding, as busyness consumed me and i pushed that dire time with God to the side. Second thing - the inclusion of 2 Corinthians 10:5, a verse about bringing all of our thoughts captive before the Lord; letting Him know our thoughts and laying them down before Him. My mentor pointed out this verse months back, and continually refers to the importance of this, especially for overthinkers ;). Third thing, a specific line: "[If you bring your thoughts before the Lord], You will begin to see that your thoughts are from God as well, and your mind will no longer be at the mercy of your impulsive thinking, but will always be used in service to God" [Chambers]. I. AM. AN. IMPULSIVE. THINKER. Like overthinking things, my impulsivity gets me in trouble. Again, another slip up and reason for Saturday's brokenness. By bringing my thoughts before the Lord, by meeting with Him and asking Him to take my thoughts captive, being impulsive will no longer be an issue.
After reading this, my mouth literally dropped. It was so dead on with where i was at and what i needed to hear - GO GOD! Oswald Chambers is the man! I underlined and highlighted and scribbled notes all over this day's devotion, then copied it and brought it around all week!

2) Shane and Shane, Everything is Different. I listen to this song over and over and over again. The lyrics mostly comes from Isaiah 61 - a verse that has brought so much peace and reassurance lately. I've overthought this song and spent a lot of time reading over the verses in Isaiah, but different lines stick out to me at different times. Check it out for yourself. This is the best version i could find on youtube, but the regular recording is even better. The whole entire CD (Everything is Different) is worth purchasing. Check it out. Be an overthinker. Read the lyrics of the song. Dig into the scripture. Dare you to write/comment what sticks out to you, if anything. It'd be greatly appreciated :).

Isaiah 61: 3, 10-11
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord planted for his own glory...
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
or a bride with her jewels.
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice
to the nations around thew world.
Everyone will praise Him!
His rigteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere!

You turn ashes into beauty,
You are for me not against me now,
You found me somehow.
You turn mourning into dancing,
You turn weeping into a joyful noise!
Oh, rejoice.
I was dead in my sin, You came in.

You made a way when there was no way.
You covered heaviness with garments of praise
You wrote a song and You're singing it over me.
I feel a dead heart beating now
This revelation makes me want to shout:
That Jesus has been sent
and everything is different.

What matter of love?
That you would call us sons and daughters,
we cry Abba Father, Hallelujah!
I will never be the same!
-Shane and Shane

Friday, February 12, 2010


What a joyful, beautiful season my roomie and one of my dearest friends, JODI is entering into! Last night (Thursday, February 11) Grant, Jodi's lovely fiance, PROPOSED! Finally - the moment she had been waiting for and dreaming of actually happened! :) When she called, Rachel and i were doing homework and watching tv - Jod had NO IDEA that it was happening last night (props to Grant for surprising someone so intuitive ;P). She left the apartment to see a movie with her boyfriend and came back with a fiance! Oh my goodness, how radiant is her joy. In less than four and a half months, she will be Mrs. Jodi BOSTROM!
I can not begin to describe how amazing this couple is and sources of encouragement they both have been in my own life! As individuals, Jodi and Grant are each firmly rooted in the Lord, which makes their relationship strong and unshakable. They both have a heart for the Lord, His kingdom, and the church. Grant just graduated from Northwestern this past semester and will be starting seminary sometime in the near future. I can not wait to see how the Lord will use Grant and his ministry to glorify Him and lead others along the path to knowing Him and more of His heart! He already is such a faithful servant - Grant has such a passion for people and sharing with them the joy of Christ. Just a couple days ago, Grant blessed me with a "5 course meal"/packet of encouraging and uplifting promises, songs, and words of the Lord!
And don't even get me started on Jodi! I met this amazing woman freshman year in a bible study. We decided to live together (with a couple of my other closest friends - Sarah and Chana) sophomore year. While we had some brawls and silly arguments (which were over STUPID things, in retrospect, haha), it has been neat to see how close we have grown. Though we've had tough times, i could not ask for a better friend. Now in our junior/senior year, we remain roomies and dear friends. God answers prayers, and God has humbled both of our hearts and taught us so so much since last year! She is such a beautifully determined, organized (cough cough OCD cough cough), silly and kind woman so in love with our Lord and her "honey" ;).
This morning, I was talking to my mentor about how God's hand is so apparent in my living situation this year. Near tears, I was so in awe and so grateful - He has richly blessed me with Jodi, Rachel, and Grant & Jodi's beautiful and steadfast relationship. I could not ask for better friends.
I can not wait to see Jodi and Grant truly become one - a triple-braided cord, on June 26, 2010! It's coming up so fast. Truly, truly is God bringing me and teaching me how precious it is to share in the joy of others! Jodi and Grant's JOY is overflowing! As Jodi tried on wedding dresses today (and has pretty much found THE ONE) the light in her eyes, the joy in her smile, and that "bridal radiance" people so often speak of ;) was so apparent! The next four months will be full of celebration, planning, and excitement for her and Grant (and Rachel and I as we tag along ;P) - BRING IT ON!!!
Jodi Kristina, you will (and do) make a beautiful bride! My prayer for you, during this time, is that you continue to seek the Lord with all Your heart. As you and Grant become one, may your relationship remain so steadfast on Him. May your marriage represent the bridegroom of Christ and His church - that unfailing and unconditional love and covenant. May your relationship richly bless those around you. During the tough times, may you turn to the Lord and find peace, trusting in His sovereignty and goodness. Serve the Lord with all you are, all you and Grant are. May your lives and this marriage point to Him! Glorify Him!! I love you dearly and can not wait to see the mysterious and glorious ways in which the Lord will work throughout yours and Grant's new life. :)
Where you go I will go, and where you stay i will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. - Ruth 1:16

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Daniel Fast: Day 4

Fasting takes obedience, that's for sure. Already, at the end of day 1, the aromas of greasy, deep-fried goodness flooded my nose as i passed the restaurants on Washington Ave, on the way to class. Even the awkward and ordinary scent of different cuisines mixed with laundry detergent in my apartment hallway made my stomach turn and my mouth water. WOW! Even something as simple as a fast proves how much we take for granted. Putting food into my body simply for the sake of being able to function rather than for pleasure, or out of boredom or another emotion is a whole new concept to me! And healthy food, mind you: The runny tastelessness of almond butter replacing that good old jar of Jiffy Peanut butter...not being able to drench my vegetables in a pool of butter and salt...eating banana chips (a new favorite snack of mine) in place of greasy potato chips...not being able to have an Icee or candy at the movie theater...watching Sarah eat a healthy serving of Hamburger helper and a pop and a cupcake IN FRONT OF ME ;)...and always being hungry hungry hungry.

Besides fasting food, I am also fasting Facebook. Oh my goodness, how many countless hours do i spend on this addicting site! Time that could be spent doing all this homework. Or even better - time that could be spent in prayer, meditation, and dwelling with the Lord and in His word. When we go through a period of fasting - be it food, the internet, tv, what have you, the absence of that thing allows us to turn to the Lord more, to rely on Him. In retrospect, we are able to acknowledge times when we put that thing, the filling of our stomachs or the time online, before God. Fasting anything but fruits, veggies, and the 'appropriate' snacks, also a cleanses and detoxes the body from all the crap we consume:
Don't you realize that you body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? Yo do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. -1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I'm waiting for my roomies' responses and written updates about their fast, so stayed tune :)

To end, a song that may not relate to this blog post or to this fast, but one that speaks to my heart. It has been one of my favorite songs since i heard it. And i LOVE Shane's explanation. Check out this video and the song itself: Embracing Accusations by Shane and Shane.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Apathy, Fears and the Daniel Fast

This weekend was rough. The image of Jacob wrestling with God (Gen 32) is an image full of hope, in my eyes. God seeks out Jacob and wrestles Him. God is so pleased when we take our struggles, our fears, our confusions and our limited human perspectives and wrestle him with it. To me, this is not an act of challenging His sovereignty, but allowing Him to bring understanding or acceptance. Wrestling with God allows us to succumb to His will and to bring all that we are struggling with before Him. We acknowledge His greatness and affirm that He and He alone is all powerful. In wrestling with God, we get tired out, so His strength and His will can reign.

But this weekend, I felt all of my strength and trust in Him waver. The sinful human nature and thinking i knew what was best for me, literally choosing to be disobedient, weakened me. I challenged God. I decided i was done with this glorious wrestling match - sick of being weak and laying things down at His feet.

I just started running almost a month ago. It has become such a source of rejuvenation and triumph! It escape. And now, the top of my right foot sends shooting pains up my foot, making it impossible to run. Even for someone as stubborn as me, who thinks i can suck it up and keep running on it until it stops hurting. So, i caught myself blaming Him, asking, "God, you're taking this away from me too?!" and wondering why I have to take days off from running. I have no motivation to do the piles of homework surrounding me. And they keep piling up. I've let some of my dearest friends down. I'm tired of dealing with this broken heart. So, i snapped. Literally, haha. I am not myself. I've chosen numbness, anger and standing on my own. Not only did i cross a boundary God specifically set up to protect my heart, but I blamed Him when i crossed it. Boy, did i reap what i sowed. Literally, haha. :/

So now, i'm here. Looking up from this dark hole I've dug myself, staring at the blinding light of truth and hope and Him. All around me, in this darkness, are my fears, my stubbornness, my escapes. My apathy. All i have to get done. Any distorted thoughts that i can stand without Him. That i can function without Him. Love lost. My past mistakes. Saturday.

But that light still shines, even when we choose to close our eyes or dig a deeper hole. The light and hope the Lord offers is a constant, unwavering radiance that shatters the darkness. "The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it" -John 1:5
It's up to me to open my eyes. To stop digging this hole. It's up to me to fight against my own filth and human nature and reach for the light reaching down to me. Oh, Lord. May Psalm 51 be my prayer and penetrate my heart. Break this heart of stone. May i lean on You and You alone:

Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me -
now let me rejoice.
Don't keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from thy presence,
and do not take thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and sustain me with a wiling spirit.
-Psalm 51:8-12

It's funny how a time of... rebelling/challenging, just happens to be the week my roomies and I planned on doing a Daniel fast - fruits, vegetables, and water ONLY for seven days (See Daniel 1). And no Facebook (another of my's stinkin crack for social people). Not only is this fast a way to cleanse and detoxify the body, it's a fast that acknowledges the connection between mind, body, and spirit and giving the Lord it all. We started today. During this Daniel fast, i hope to glorify God and be reminded that He is all i need. Truly, this fast couldn't have come at a better time. Though i am reluctant, i will praise Him and give up the comfort of food. When my stomach growls (as it is right now), I will say a prayer and acknowledge His glorious blessings and love. May this week truly be a time of restoration - a purging of the old and an embracing in of His will. During this week, I've asked Rachel and Jodi to write a little about where they're at and the struggles/revelations/joys/awkward bodily functions they experience as they fast, too. Stay tuned for fast updates :)
Rach and Jod - my lovely roomies and fellow fasters.

One of my all-time favorite songs: She Cries by East West. Gets me everytime. Just let the lyrics sink in. Picture the Lord whispering these words to you, allow your heart to soak it up.
"It doesn't matter where you've been before, on a night like this.
It doesn't matter where you've been before, i'll love you like this.
And she cries.
Can't you see? I won't leave.
But you have to open your eyes.
Here i stand, take my hand.
Let go of the fear that you hold"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Focused on the Fleeting

How painfully humbling it is when the Lord points out how our concerns for our own well-being or the tending of our own wounds have caused us to look inward rather than fixing our eyes on Him. Though the journey inward and the examination of our own hearts is completely necessary, we must allow the Lord to venture there with us, for our emotions and desires can cast a cloudiness of confusion and interfere with the Lord's will. When our circumstances - busyness, stress, despair, confusion, guilt, even times of joy - cause us to remain fixed on us and our introspection, it's easy to lose sight of the God that is infinitely greater than us.

So often does the yearning to see His hand and blessings in our own lives inhibit us from seeing His brilliant works in the lives of others. As we subject our own lives to constant scrutiny and look only at what we have or don't have, our focus is averted from His goodness and His plans taking shape in the world around us.

My prayer is that the evaluation of our own lives cause us not to become immersed in self concern, but rather allow us to turn to Him immediately. Truly, it is not about us. Our lives and their concerns are nothing more than a vapor, a transitory and insignificant existence:
"Your life is like the morning fog - it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to we will live and do this or that."" -James 4:14-15 Our significance is only to live for Him, glorify Him and point to Him with our everything. While our lives are momentary, He will reign forever.

"My life passes by as swiftly as the evening shadows.
I am withering away like grass.
But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
Your fame will endure to every generation...
You are always the same;
you will live forever"
-Psalm 102:11-12,27

So let us live this fleeting life in awe and reverence for Him, not allowing our struggles and inward concerns to interfere with our gaze, only fixed on Him.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Awkward In Between

The chorus of Imogen Heap’s song Wait It Out has been a song I keep playing over and over again. Her creative lyrics, so poetically composed, get me every time! And the chorus of this song brings up an excellent point:

“Everybody says that time heals everything, only the end

But what of the wretched hollow?

The endless in between?

Are we just going to wait it out?”

That classic response and words of encouragement offered during the “time in between” often have to do with trusting that time heals everything, knowing what lies ahead will be even more amazing, and the idea of finding clarity and peace at the ‘end’.

While all of this encouragement may be good and true, what are you supposed to do during the time “in between”? The painful time of grieving the loss of a loved one, tending to a broken heart, the time in between jobs, big events, the time between knowing where your life is headed and waiting for the next step to be revealed? Even the joyous ‘in between’ in the season of engagement and waiting for your wedding day ;)

When we are so focused on the end, the healing, the closure, the knowing, the new season, the time in between can seem dreadful and pointless. We so badly want to see what’s around the corner or for our struggles to be resolved. We want to see the purpose to our strife or broken heart, see God’s promises being fulfilled, witness the fruits that are produced because of our obedience, see the darkness and uncertainty of what lies ahead drenched in light and clarity. It is only human nature to be concerned about the finish line and not the race or journey. Though we have faith, it is the times when our faith is affirmed and we see God’s hand that makes our relationship with Him so much…easier.

But when our faith is tried, it is more true. Think about how much we are refined and grow in the time in between! The Lord definitely has a purpose for our journey in it’s entirety, even the awkward in between. He has mapped it out:

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith...” –Hebrews 12:1-2

Instead of cursing this “wretched hollow” or wondering if the Lord has abandoned us in a time of need, in the in between we loathe, can’t we rejoice knowing the Lord has a purpose during this time? Let us take refuge knowing He is taking this time to “perfect our faith” and bring restoration. “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” –Deut 31:6 Our God has gone before us, He knows every struggle we will encounter, everything we will experience in the time in between. And He holds our hearts, if we allow Him to.

Francesca Battistelli’s song Time In Between is one of my favorites. How this song explains the beauty of the time in between:

It’s the time in between, that I fall down to my knees,

waiting on what You’ll bring.

And the things that I can’t see,

I know my song’s incomplete

Still I’ll sing in the time in between”

Find peace in this time in between, whatever it may be or look like. Let us take the time to find God and see His hand amongst the time we may loathe. With our eyes focused on the Lord and all that He is, let us press on towards Him and towards the finish, knowing there is a purpose and so so SO much beauty in the time in between!