Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stella Maris Chapel

I spent the night into day at St Johns University/College of St. Benedict's in Collegeville, MN. My poor cousin Lindsey goes to school there and broke her wrist rollerblading Sunday. She had to get surgery Monday, so we spent the day and night together. What a brave soul and independent spirit Lindsey is - she insisted on doing (almost) everything on her own and didn't even act like she had surgery YESTERDAY. Wow, i'm impressed. :)
This morning, I got up, got my running clothes and shoes on and headed to St John's to run the trail to Stella Maris Chapel. This tiny chapel is nestled in the woods about 1.5 miles out from the main campus of St Johns. The trail is exquisite, especially this time of year! Leaves left over from fall cover the trail, and bits of green are beginning to peak through all dying and decaying leftovers of fall. The pine trees are HUGE and besides the occasional person or two you meet along the way, it's just you and nature. Wow, what a freeing feeling. I started running around 10 - just in time to see the sun peeking through the trees into the dark and cool forrest trail. Occasionally, you pass a stone bridge or wooden trail crossing the lake.
Part of the trail - August 2007
Another part of the trail - April 2008
Seriously, it's a stunning place. I think it means a lot since there are so many memories that go along with it. The first time i set eyes on the place was Summer of 2007. They had just started renovations, and the chapel was completely white with no windows - just holes where the windows were going to eventually be.
August 2007 - white Stella Maris
Truthfully, i think i liked it better this way - simplicity is beautiful. The countless times i've been there since, i marvel at the progress they made and now, the end result. The chapel has beautiful stained glass windows that allow the sun to seep in and send colorful beams across the tile floor. It's painted a brownish color with a huge blue door! AHH i love it!
September 2009 - Stella Maris :)

Sept 2009: Stained glass and the sun set

April 2008: Big stained glass window during renovations (the wet floor reflects it :P)

But, until today, i never fully took advantage of the chapel. Yes, i love taking pictures of and with people here, but i never actually just...dwelled in it. Today, I read that it was a place for pilgrimage and prayer. I sat in this random fold out chair and just..took in the whole place. Rested, after a painful run. And prayed. Gosh, so so freeing. I was able to smile at all the memories and praise GOD! This song came on my ipod (listen to it below, it's called You by Hillsong) and just broke me down. What a strategic place Stella Maris chapel was built - in the middle of nowhere, requiring any traveler to venture through the woods, up and down steep trails and tough terrain. Surely, a place for pilgrims. A true reward after a strenuous journey. Oh my goodness, how our relationship with the Lord is exactly like this! He calls us on journeys and ultimately, He is with us through it all and waiting at the end. He brings rest, He brings restoration. The Lord has been breaking me and breaking me, but this time, within the sacred walls of Stella Maris, it was different. I could praise Him and rejoice and dance and WORSHIP Him in the breakdown. He is so good. SO GOOD. He never fails, His love is deep and wide, He is a sinners' refuge and a safe place. He NEVER changes, never fails or falters. What a God we love. :)
September 2009: Canoe trip to SM :)
Thank you, Lord, for the journey. Thank you thank you for allowing us, even beckoning us to dwell in You. To rest in You. You are mighty. May You break us and break us until we are solely Yours. God, reign down. Reign in our hearts and over our lives. Our lives are nothing without You, God. Thank You for places like Stella Maris. Thank You for Your beauty, Your incredible creations. All i am is YOURS.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Happy, blessed Palm SUNDAY. Holy week has begun!

"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!" -Mark 11:10 (Psalm 118:26) What does Palm Sunday mean to you? What does it represent, what emotions does it evoke? I remember as a child, how much FUN it was when the church distributed palm branches for us to wave during the service. I felt a part of something HUGE. Though i don't think i knew the entire significance of this day, I did know that on this day in the bible, people waved their palm branches to usher in the Lord. To welcome Jesus, riding on a donkey.
Looking at the bigger picture, Jesus has fortold His death by this point. He carries this burden. He enters in to the city on a borrowed colt. The people shout for Him, greeting him and laying their cloaks and leafy branches before His path. They declare Him king! This humble arrival on a donkey fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, further pointing to Jesus as LORD! Thus marks the beginning of Jesus' great trial, His death and ultimately the reason we are saved - the resurrection! After a joyous and welcoming celebration as Palm Sunday, the people that yelled Hosanna! and laid their coats in Jesus' path eventually disown Him and put Him to death. What a turn around!

On this Palm Sunday, may our hearts and minds be humbled as we honor the Lord and all that He did in this, the Holy Week. May the vision of His arrival into Jerusalem, the humbling entry on a donkey, simply allow us to focus on Him and worship Him more! Hosanna, save us, God, we worship YOU. Jesus is Lord!

"Let now the weak say i have strength
by the Spirit of power that raised Christ from the dead.
And now the poor stand and confess,
that my portion is Him and i'm more than blessed.

Let now our hearts burn with a flame,
a fire consuming all for Your son's holy name.
And with the heavens we declare,
You are our king.

We love You, Lord, We worship You
You are our God, You alone are good.

Let now Your church shine as the bride,
that You saw in your heart as You offered up Your life.
Let now the lost be welcomed home,
by the saved and redeemed, those adopted as Your own"

Monday, March 22, 2010


I curse the season I'm in and absolutely can not wait for true joy to be restored. And yet, there is something...comforting about this season. The vital reliance the Lord has revealed as necessary to me and my desire to know Him more has been awakened. He has been teaching me to reach out to Him first and before anyone or anything else - to cry out to Him, hold my thoughts captive, lay my desires, my emotions, my here and now, my future at His feet. Thank you, Lord, for all You are and all You are teaching me. I pray that this reliance and wholly seeking after You remains, long after this season. In every season, Lord, You are still God. I still need You, my every breath depends on You no matter where You lead. Let any fear of losing this intimacy with You be vanquished. You are King and You hold my heart.

Thank You, Lord for breaking hidden bondages that have kept me from knowing Your truths. As I draw close to You, as I seek You, You have revealed some of the lies I've come to accept as truths: that I do not have a role in ministry, that I'm manipulative and nothing without control. I ask, Lord I plead that You continue to break them down. Bring to the surface any other lies i have come to know, and break their bondages. Replace them with Your truth.

This past week, I've been convicted of a couple things that I feel called to share. When we confess our struggles, our sins, our fears and any transgressions we've clung to, we allow the Lord to come to our rescue. When we cry out to Him, and even share our struggles with a friend or brother/sister in Christ, the Lord's light shines through the darkness of our struggles. Truly, freedom is the fruit of our confessions - that we no longer have to hide something eating away at us. "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when i keep silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." -Psalm 32:3 Keeping silent is one of Satan's biggest footholds in our lives, resulting in shame, remorse, and guilt.

I have been convicted of passing judgement. Yes, we all judge. Of course - that is the human in us. But when we claim to be free from judgement, as "good Christians are", I think we tend to ignore the times we actually do judge. Recently, i found myself judging others of a 'weaker' faith. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Oh my gosh, how the Lord has been chipping away this LIE. I am an unworthy, disgusting sinner. I sin in my judgement, i sin in my own struggles, i sin in my thoughts. I am NOTHING without the Lord's grace. Without His tender mercies, His forgiveness and His life, I am damned. Whoa, talk about perspective, huh? As disciples seeking Christ and living for His glory, convictions such as this are necessary. We must be aware of our own sins and shortcomings and see all sin as equal in the eyes of the Lord. We must realize our insignificance and our NOTHINGNESS without the Lord. At the same time, to balance this humbling thought, we must allow the joy of the Lord and His choosing to love us all the same, to save us and use us in ways so much bigger than our own to be our eternal mindset. Friends, may we realize our judgement. May our judgements not lead to guilt but to us asking the Lord to break our hearts and humble us. May He point out our own sins and failures, and follow with the life we have in HIM.

I have also been convicted of having too much STUFF. Clothes, more specifically. I am a bargain hunter, a smart shopper. But, when I forget what clothes i have, that is a problem. That is DISGUSTING. Seriously, stuff and clutter so gets in the way of the simple life the Lord calls us to leave. What happened to storing my treasures in heaven?! I'm definitely in need of a good Spring cleaning/purging and to reexamine my finances and where my money is going. May my life's goal be the furthering of Your kingdom alone, God.

This is sort of a heavy post. Coming back from spring break, I felt rejuvinated and my creative juices flowing - there were a number of things "i" wanted to talk about. But, they will have to wait. For these are the cries of my heart. I hope to post some pictures from my family's trip to Hawaii, some ENGAGEMENT pictures I had the honor of taking of a beautiful couple (Luke Olsen and Macai, his fiance), and reflecting on the Lord's blessings...soon. For now, may i leave you with some quotes from John Piper's When the Darkness Will Not Lift, a book that has given me new perspective on the Lord's hand and purpose in this season. May the Lord speak to You through it :)

"Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16). There is a release and healing that flows from confessing not only to God in the secret place of your heart, but also to a trusted friend, or the person you have offended. The tender words, "I'm sorry, will you forgive me?" are one of the surest paths to joy [Piper, 56]".

"The almost incredible hope of confessing and renouncing sin is that the Lord does not then rub it in our face but cancels it...Therefore, we should not fear to confess and let go of any cherished sin. The shame will not haunt us. Christ clothes us with his own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) [Piper, 55]".

"...Satan cannot do anything apart from God's sovereign permission (Job 1:12, 2:6), which is governed by God's infinite wisdom and covenant love...so even if Satan has a hand in your darkness, he is not free to do more than your loving Father permits, and God will turn it for your good (Luke 22:31-32) [Piper 57]".

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Travels and Job

Oh, Lord, how brilliant are Your creations. I marvel at Your hands' work and long to stand, in awe and sweet reverence, absorbing the sights and breathtaking designs of You. With every breath of the air You created, as I take in the wonders of You surrounding me, may Your will and Your presence consume me. May Your glorious presence be so thick, that it crushes any desire or part of my own life that does not align with You. Thank you for the blessing of travel.

Last week, I traveled to Puerto Rico with my amazing cousin, Lindsey - we soaked up the sun, the sights, and time spent with our aunt Meg and cousin, who currently live down there. What an exquisite escape. I'm posting some of my favorite pics from the trip in this entry.

On the flight home, I read some more of Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust. He mentioned a scripture from Job, which led me to further exploring the book. WOW. What trials and sufferings did the Lord allow Job to experience. At first, Job's trust in the Lord is unfaltering, and he says, "Naked i came from my mother's womb, and naked i shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21 -and- "Shall we accept the good from God, and not the trouble?" -Job 2:10 These statements reveal such astounding faith, unshakable even in Job's losses and poor health. But then Job begins to question God, begins to charge God with wrong. When the Lord answers Job, He doesn't really reveal why He allowed Satan to test Job. Instead, the Lord questions Job. For quite a few chapters. In this, God reminds Job of His power and His might. I'm hoping to meditate more on the following verses, the Lord's response. May the scripture below prompt you to examine your own hearts, how big the Lord is. He doesn't really owe us answers. Sometimes, we don't get to know why He allows suffering (note the word allowed, not caused. God doesn't cause suffering, for He is all good). Instead we must trust God's goodness, His faithfulness and know, as He did for Job, that He will provide. He will bless us more than we could ever imagine. Soak in the following scripture, friends. Really soak it up.

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,...
'Where were you when i laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements -
surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid the cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst from the womb,
when i made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
and said, 'This far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?

Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?...

Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which i have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war?
What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?'"
-Job 38: 1, 4-13, 18,22-24

Bottom line: God is in control. His plans are so deep and so unfathomable to the human mind, so pale by comparison. Thank goodness for the majesty of our Lord. Thank You for being the Creator, Lord. Thank You for order, thank You for knowing what's best for us, even when we don't.

Tomorrow morning, I'm headed someplace for SPRING BREAK! With the spontaneity of standby, it looks as though my family and i are headed to Honolulu, HI (though it changed from Palm Springs, Cali to Hawaii in a day, so it could change again). A family vacation - a few days spent in paradise, how exquisite! Thank You, God. :)
"I lay down my life, my plans, my right
For I'm captured by Your love.
And though i'll lose this world,
I will know You.

I love You, Lord
Your praises I will sing.
Let heaven shout,
for I have been redeemed."
-Bethel Live (feat. Kristene Mueller) Let Heaven Shout

Monday, March 8, 2010

Empty Me

"Holy fire, burn away
my desire for anything
that is not of You
and is of me
I want more of You
and less of me."

I have a challenge for you. Or maybe a request. Ready? Listen to this song. Empty me by Jeremy Camp. If you can find the acoustic version, that's all the better.
Ignore the video, just focus on the words. Find a quiet place, and dwell. Spend time with the Lord.
Allow this song to be the cry of your heart. May we lessen so the Lord can increase.
May we empty us of ourselves and let the Lord fill us. May this song ring through our entire beings
and be our prayer. Less of me. Less of me. Burn away my desires so that Yours may reign true.
Become our all consuming fire God. Consume us. But truly let the words sink in,
allow the words to become your prayer. A prayer that you pray with each breath. More of You,
God. More of You. Flood our hearts, empty us of ourselves.Burn away anything that is not of
YOU. ANYTHING. My heart is breaking under the weight of me.Take it and replace it with You.
Your desires, Your heart, Your thoughts, You.

"Empty me, empty me
Fill, won't you fill me
with You. With You
I want more, I want more of You, Jesus
Thank you, Jesus"

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it" -Luke 17:33

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Wondrous Sea

Hello, friends. I have returned from Puerto Rico, where i spent a few days at my aunt's condo with her, my cousin Giani, and my cousin Lindsey! We had quite a bit of fun and relaxation - tanning on the beach, playing in the waves, checking out old forts and local markets and dining out :) It was amazing! I'll be posting pics from the trip shortly. But one of the things i was most excited about for this trip was FINALLY being able to do a photoshoot that had been brewing in my mind for over a year. It was triggered by a poem I wrote a year ago, which was inspired by a quote by the ingenious C.S. Lewis. The poem and quote are as follows:

The Wondrous Sea
Clothed in white,
the wind tugging at her trailing dress,
beckoning her into the sea.

But she presses on,
desperately trying to clutch the bundles and suitcases
of burdens, of heartbreak, of fear.

Hair in her eyes, under the weight of it all,
the sea catches her eye; she releases all the baggage
and leaves it all behind, running toward the sea.

Small steps at first, into the water,
wading, plunging up to her chest,
the current inviting her further.

She stops suddenly, and questions the depths surrounding her.
As the current ebbs and flows, she fights to maintain a foothold,
and the bottom is swept from beneath her.

She is lost in the cascading waves,
she has lost control as the current encircles her,
the waves implore her and she surrenders.

Finally understanding that surrendering control
was exactly what she needed.
And the glorious sea engulfs this woman in white.
-Katy Gunderson, January 15, 2009

Inspired by C.S. Lewis' quote: "We have been like bathers who want to keep their feet - or one foot - or one toe - on the bottom, when to lose that foothold would be to surrender themselves to a glorious tumble in the surf. The consequences of parting with our last claim to intrinsic freedom, power, or worth, are real freedom, power and worth, really ours just because God gives them and because we know them to be (in another sense) not "ours"." -The Four Loves

Currently, I'm working on unpacking this poem and creating a short story out of it for my Fiction Writing class. It's weird, now a year later, unsure of who i was writing about or what i meant exactly - what sparked this poem other than Lewis' quote. But, after all that has happened in the past year, I've come to resemble this "woman in white" - clinging to bags and parcels of heartbreak, hurt, and control. Being able to finally take this photo shoot, with my amazing cousin's help was SO neat, especially with where i'm at. I'd LOVE feedback - let me know what you think :) Maybe someday I'll redo this shoot and use more suitcases and parcels, hopefully more antiqued and older ones.
My lovely cousin Lindsey is the model below:

And Lindsey took these:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Journey: Part 4 - The Union

After the Lord has led us into the tender trials of the desert, returned to us the prosperous vineyards, and transformed the circumstances around us - our Valleys of Trouble and gateways of hope, it is then time for the final part of the journey: a union with Him. "She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young..."When that day comes," says the Lord, "you will call me 'my husband' instead of 'my master.'" -Hosea 2:16 For isn't this what the Lord desires most? To be unified, made one with and married to us, His beloved bride? The Lord craves for us to know Him more. Not as a master, but as a husband. As a beloved bridegroom and a source of unconditional love.
As we experience journeys like that of Hosea 2, let us truly take heart knowing the journey is meant to bring us closer to our Lord. We may endure thousands of trying journeys in our lifetime - wander through countless deserts, experience an abundance of vineyards, and bear witness to many transformations in our lives and the lives of others. Each journey will be unique - they may have a different purpose than others, take a different amount of time, and some will be more painful. Though each journey will be different, they all lead to a similar destination: drawing closer to the Lord and knowing Him more. More about His character, more about His power and His sovereignty, more about His goodness. Sometimes, we may not be learning more, but may be learning something new about the Lord.
This sacred unification and coming to know the Lord more fully can only happen once we have experiences the various parts of the journey. The journey is meant to prepare us for this union. In the desert, we are stripped of ourselves. We learn to crave only Him. In the vineyards, we rejoice in His blessings and find He is the source insatiable joy. Through the transformations, we see God's glory and His marvelous power. Throughout the journey, we are learning. While there may have been an event - a drastic life change, a loss, a sickness, etc. - that first initiated the journey, the journey itself is far more important than our circumstances. I find myself struggling with this idea t times - it truly is not about my circumstance. It is not about what led me on my own painful journey, almost ten months ago. It is about the journey itself, God wanting me to know Him more. To experience Him more fully and more wholly. Boy, oh boy, how this journey has SUCKED. I'll say it. But i stand in awe and reverence at all the Lord has revealed and taught me. And this journey is far from over. I am still in the desert, it seems. I know, I KNOW (though at times it may not feel like it) that the Lord has plans for my journey. And for yours, too.
Ultimately, let us seek the Lord in each journey and trust Him wholeheartedly. How His plans are all good for us, His beloved. His bridegroom. The Lord desires that we know Him and seek Him, as a bride desires her groom.

"I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as Lord" -Hosea 2:19-20

The Union: A sacred union, joining, drawing closer to our Lord, our bridegroom, our Beloved. Coming to know Him more and know more about His character. Ultimately, the very intention for and end goal of our journeys.

This song is so beautiful. Straight from Hosea 2. (Note: Ignore the cheesy slideshow. It's the only youtube version i could really find. If you like the cheesy slideshow, watch it. ;P)
I'm headed to Puerto Rico bright and early tomorrow morning. What a blessed escape - heading out to stay with my aunt and spend time with my cousin, Lindsey, as she enjoys her spring break. What a lovely travel companion and best friend my cousin is. I'm hoping and praying to finally get a chance to do a photoshoot that's been brewing in my mind for over a year now. If it happens, i'll be posting it when i return! Along with the poem I wrote that inspired this idea. :) Have a blessed week and weekend. friends. I encourage you to share (and even post? If you're willing...and bold...;P) where you're at on our own journey! I would LOVE LOVE to hear about it and i know our journeys, no matter how painful, can encourage others in their own journeys!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Journey: Part 3 - The Transformation

The second part of Hosea 2:15: "I will...transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope." Only our God is truly capable of a transformation such as this - where good and hope overwhelm and extinguish our troubles. After He has led us to the desert and taught us to rely on Him, after He ha delivered us and returned the bountiful vineyards, the Lord transforms. The areas in life in which we are troubled, distraught and confused, the Lord transforms. I can't even wrap my mind around how awesome that is. In His timing, in the right place in this journey, the Lord will transform. He will revolutionize, dramatically alter, and reshape our Valleys of Trouble.
One of my favorite quotes from Hurnard's Hinds' Feet on High Places says: "Every circumstance in life, no matter how crooked or distorted and ugly it appears to be, if it is reacted to in love and forgiveness and obedience to your will, can be transformed" [Hurnard, 230]. The Lord has prepared us for this moment of transformation. While He transforms us throughout this journey, we are able to take part and share in the transformations around us. He teaches us and beckons us to react to twisted circumstances, to our valleys of trouble and sources of hurt through love, forgiveness, and the other fruits of the Spirit - to react in accordance to His will. Hurnard continues, "Therefore, I begin to think, my Lord, you purposely allow us to be brought into contact with the bad and the evil things that you want changed. Perhaps that is the very reason why we are here in this world, where sin and sorrow and suffering and evil abound, so that we may let you teach us to react to them, that out of them we can create lovely qualities to live forever. That is the only really satisfactory way of dealing with evil, not simply binding it so that it cannot work harm , but whenever possible overcoming it with good" [Hurnard, 230-31]. Seeing something transformed, seeing good conquer evil is what this very part of the journey refers to.
As I was driving to work this past weekend, this scripture and the journey of Hosea 2 raced through my mind. In that moment, God revealed even more to me - throughout the entirety of this passage, it is the Lord that speaks of His plans for Israel (or for us). God is narrating, revealing and constructing the journey. WHen you read the verses, I encourage you to really dwell on that - it is God who is in control of the journey. God reveals the next season, and God's journey for us is complete, entirely perfect. I wonder what Israel is thinking, feeling and going through in each season. As humans, in the very same place, we are never sure where God is leading until He reveals it. As much as we try to plan ahead and figure out the next move, Hosea 2 surely puts it into perspective. Our journey, our seasons are known fully by God, only revealed to us when He sees fit. may we find rest in that - the Lord is leading. Through deserts, through vineyards, through miraculous transformations.
Psalms of Transformation
"What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it will blessings" -Psalm 84:5-6

"Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise His holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may i never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my disease. He redeems me from death, and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's!" -Psalm 103:1-5

Transformation: Rebuilding, reconstructing, where good conquers evil, when our Valleys of Trouble become gateways of Hope.