Wednesday, November 12, 2014

His Promises Fulfilled [& celebrating twenty-four years]

Twenty-four years have brought me here, to this chilly, damp morning deep into the fall where the leaves swirl around and the scent of a distant fire floods the air around me. These years have disappeared and brought me to this odd collision of feeling quite young and ever-aged all in one breath. I certainly don't know a whole lot about life this early in, but I do know the One who gives it. And that has changed everything.

After spending nearly the first two decades of life trying ever-desperately to end it all, there was darkness that didn't cease like the night that carries on. My tongue plotted destruction and I loved evil more then good. And somewhere in the middle of that all-consuming season of hopelessness, He gave me a promise. And each year I continue to walk closer to Him, I become all the more indebted to and humbled by that promise. This year, I have seen it more boldly fulfilled then ever before--and that is something to rejoice in! 

When I think back over this year, I see a faithful God who has loved me from before the foundation of the world, a God who ever-graciously chose to knit me in my mamma's womb and breathe out every single second of these twenty-four years before one of them came to be. The promise starts right there, you know? 

Six years ago, God gave me this passage and told me that if I would abide as a branch which is completely dependent upon the vine, that He would prune away for a season of three years (as is necessary for most fruit-bearing trees). God assured me this process would be painful and hard at times, even to the point where I would see very little fruit and then none for a time. But after three years, He promised me there would be abundant fruit for His namesake, lasting fruit. He etched this promise upon my heart in this season, so that as those years fleshed out, even amidst the pain, headache, doubt and fear--I knew that I knew that I knew He who promised was indeed faithful! I claimed this truth, this promise, even when I knew I may never get to see it. 

At the time it made no sense, but after living life and seeing a few years of that fruit He promised long-ago actually happening in my life, I know He was teaching me the faith Paul took note of in Abraham's life when he says, "as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not existNo unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."

Even when God had quite literally brought me from death to life, He didn't stop there. He ever graciously promised me something that was yet to be--fruit in my life, He gave me something to cling to as He led me. He put me in situations where I could choose--to believe or not. To trust or not. And so many times, I choose wrong. I lived enslaved to fear and pride and sin, even in knowing this promise. And yet, He allowed all of it, that one day I would be fully convinced God could do what He'd promised. It may have taken me twenty-some-odd years to really know it, but ya'll, HE IS ABLE! There are days even in this season of life I doubt and forget--we all do right? So we anchor down and claim what He has already done. What a gift! 

Paul goes on to talk about how this faith wasn't even about Abraham--it was about YOU AND ME, those to come! This faith will be counted also to US who believe in Him who raised Christ from the dead, who delivered us from our trespasses and was raised for our justification! (Rom. 4:22-25) That is good news! I am so thankful for God's grace in my life these past six years and the faith He continues to grow as it yields to His perfect plan. 

It doesn't stop with us, right? John talks about how we must choose to abide in His love, as He has loved us. That we must love one another as Christ has loved us. I'm learning lately that is only possible if I really do abide in His love. This year has been a full one--full of challenges, doubt, loneliness, confusion, grace, dreams, joy, redemption, and great, great love. 

This year I finally got that degree and these days I nanny for four precious kiddos that challenge me to love more outside myself then I ever could have imagined possible. International students continue to bring so much joy into my life as we walk together, learn the gospel, and celebrate life often. My church body has become more like family through this season and I have fallen in love with the church this year. My heart delights in doing life--the good, bad, ugly, hard, scary, joyous--with them. We are searching for a new head pastor to Shepard our body and they asked me to be apart of that team. My group of friends have very much become the best and life with them spurs me onward. God gives so much more grace.

My adopted family welcomed a miracle baby this year and my love & gratitude towards them could not be any fuller. Three years in, and they continue to give so much for me and guide me along the way. My brother and sis-in-love had brought new life into this world as well--and what a gift he is! My dad is bound up in his chains of alcohol yet again, and yet Christ has never more perfectly fulfilled His role as Abba Father in my life up to this point. God called me the mission field this year and that has meant laying down nursing school and all of the plans I had in mind for the time being. I have had to trust Jesus all the more--to believe that He who promised is faithful, even in this great call He has given that also calls me away from a lot of my own plans that used to make so much sense. 

And yes, there is this man. His pursuit of me has been such a tangible picture of how deeply Christ loves me and cares for me. It is still a bit surreal. Our story has been a crazy whirlwind that I never could have dreamt up! So often we find ourselves sitting and looking at each other without anything to say but--Jesus is ever faithful, (even in all of our shortcomings and failures) and all we can do is continue to trust Him to lead us. Joshua makes me desire Christ more and I see so much redemption in these days we share. As His grace allows, we cannot wait to see where He leads! He is the greatest gift from a gracious Father. 

Six years later, I have clung more tightly in certain seasons and glimpsed from afar in others, but that promise has come to fruition in ways I never could have dreamt. His promise to me way back then is a sweet picture of this twenty-fourth year for me--even as Abraham never saw the promise fulfilled, His faith was counted to him as righteousness! All the more, how encouraging it is that we in fact get to see Him fulfill some promises to us, especially that of Christ--what grace! 

If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:15-16)

I'm so thankful He didn't allow me to go back. That even in the endless number of times I have and continue to choose my flesh, my desires, my way over Christ's, that as we abide in Him, His spirit leads me to the better country, the heavenly one. 

Going into this next year of life, God has given me a new promise. He hasn't spoken so boldly since I heard him proclaim this one six years ago. It comes out of Psalm 52. The first seven verses summarize the mess of my life apart from Christ. Then these last two, they are a promise for all of us who beleive and my personal prayer for the years to come. 

But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.

I trust and praise and thank because He has done it. He is doing it. May we wait with full assurance that He who promised is faithful, all the way until we see that better country, that heavenly one! For it is good, in the presence of the godly. 

As the leaves are blown an tossed by the wind outside in that chilly air, I see this fledgling of a green olive tree firmly planted in the green pot on the windowsill. I got it about a month ago when God spoke of this tree. A pillar of sorts, a reminder of His faithfulness up until this point as well as a reminder of the future and hope to which He has given and called us, ever graciously! It stands firm, unmoved by the wind. May this be us as well, I pray, unshakable and immovable, as we abide in the one true Vine. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

In Which We Grieve & See Glory: The Humble Legacy of Miss Patsy

They married when they were babies, fifty-two years back into the days when a marriage licensee often preceded a high school diploma. Miss Patsy delivered her first baby girl before she even reached the adult age of eighteen. A year later, another little girl followed. Raising babies in the remoteness of her husband's ranching years must have been quite a challenging season. One which she approached with abundant patience and joy. All who knew her best, continue to speak of her gentleness and grace.

Such grace she wore, that when her husband received his call to foreign lands, it required she [as his wife] have had two years of college. She had none to speak of, so upon finding this out, he realized the deadline for enrollment in the local college was that exact day. Without having even yet mentioned to her of his call to go or her need for an education, he marched straight to that school to enroll her. When he came home that evening was when he clued her in--that he was called to go overseas as a missionary which also required she start college--today! I can picture this scene in their living room playing out. I see a smirk take over her face as though such a proposition was exactly what she expected him to come home with that day. No surprises, no fear, no hesitation--just great joy in this new way she could continue to serve alongside her beloved and see Christ magnified amidst each new flip of those textbook pages.

Upon Patsy's graduation two years later, this family of four moved to West Africa where they began their missionary journey. The region where they began serving was actually deficient of men with the ability to teach in the church. So Patsy often filled in and shared the Truth of His word with the local body until a suitable man could be trained. She taught sewing for a season but she came alive in the moments she got to story-tell her way through the gospels around the villages. He had created in her such a desire to share and out of her obedience to this call, hundreds are rejoicing with her upon her arrival in heaven this week, knowing their journey to such a paradise was sparked by Christ in Miss Patsy. What a challenging call that should stir in our hearts as we continue to walk as sojourns here, looking to the author and perfecter to use us. 

 The years on that soil also bear the weight of the greatest pain a momma's heart could possibly endure on this earth. The loss of Ray and Patsy's daughter Laura at the premature age of fifteen became the sort of trial James claims will teach steadfastness. This beautiful girl was buried on African soil, and surely a part of Miss Patsy was too. The younger of her daughters continues to raise a family and serve as a missionary on the southern end of this same soil. What a legacy, a testimony of faithfulness.

A journey that would lead to thousands of men and women coming to Christ, hundreds of churches planted which continue to thrive today, and thirty five years spent on two regions of African soil was probably not what Miss Patsy visualized the day God called her to Himself. In fact, such a legacy was probably not something she often thought about. As it was, there was continual needs to be met as wife, mom, friend, speaker of the gospel, daughter and missionary. She just lived life day by day, saturated by He who is more then able, abounding in love. And this just happens to be the lot He called her to in her role of fulfilling this grand story of redemption.

It may seem your role or mine could never "measure up" like Miss Patsy's. These early years of knowing Him have often left me defeated by all the have nots and never coulds and should bes but am nots that hail from comparison. Perhaps this is what I most wish to learn from Miss Patsy--simple faithfulness to what has been given and required, amidst great joy and great sorrow. Her trust never shifted. Just faithfulness to the Christ that lived in her, so that others might know of Him as well.

And isn't that where we all wrestle at some point?

Us twenty somethings, forty somethings, single, in the thick of raising babies or just recently graduated from college asking what? It's like we thrive off of comparison and fulfillment of the latest Christian thing. I don't see that in scripture. Instead, I see this: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Romans 3:21-26]

I have never left a funeral so encouraged as I did on Saturday. What a testimony to a simple life of faithfulness lived out by a woman who so desperately recognized the need for the gospel in the ends of the earth--and so faithfully offered it up. She offered up herself too. Her life, her family, her comfort and her heart.

We walked out of that church where I have spent hundreds of Sundays worshipping amidst my family and it was like a glimpse into the whole story, the bigger picture. A month ago I stood beside this pillar of faith as we sang praises to God best we could. And now, her body is empty and her whole self fully bowed at His feet forever and ever and ever singing 'Holy, Holy, Holy...' all of her fully restored to Him and whole.

And here am I, still standing bearing a weight of neediness and brokenness amidst a temple that desires everything of this place way too much in light of His glory and yet HE LOVES ME. He loves us, ya'll.

I mess up a lot and yet does my faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Nor have I spent thirty-five years on the ends of the earth or buried a child. I haven't sacrificed my family or too much of my own comfort. But His love remains all the same and nothing can ever separate me from such a love. In fact, whether in suffering or rejoicing, hope does not put us to shame because His love has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, for all who are in Christ.

We don't have a thing to earn ya'll, no check marks ever sufficient to bear the weight of that cross. But that cross better compel us to speak of the only one who saves and by whose love and grace we have been given life--wherever He has us, because the wage of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life [Romans 6:23] and two-thousand years later there are still over two billon people who have not even heard of Jesus Christ. We must not be silent or grow complacent.

God wants the world to know Christ, believe in Christ, but also obey Christ. We must "look carefully then how we walk." [Ephesians 5:15] We must "teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." [Matthew 28:19-20] Not that we may earn some righteousness of our own, but that each person created in His image before the foundation of the world may worship Him with the glory that belongs to Him in the first place. I desire desperately to see unreached peoples know Him. But He is so worthy of all of our praises, glory and honor--I desire to see His name magnified among all--simply because of His greatness.

For several years, Miss Patsy has been steadily overcome by dementia as it's effects on her whole person have left her with many needs. Her beloved husband has cared for her day after day in ways that would make you weep with gratitude and awe that such love can still bind. Even amdist the loss of her ability to speak words, the two have continued to share the gospel side by side with the men and women around their assisted living facility these past few years back on Arkansas dirt. Their story has been the quiet, steadfast, persevering type and they wouldn't have it any other way.

These past two years have brought Mr. Ray and Miss Patsy near to my heart as I have been so blessed to get to spend time around them and do life alongside them in various capacities. It was a humbling introduction when I received a graduation card from them noted to their "granddaughter," a claiming of sorts that filled me with honor and gratitude. To look to them as adopted and spiritual grandparents has been and continues to be the greatest of gifts to me, a special legacy I am so humbled to partake in as long as His grace allows! 

These final weeks had left Miss Patsy fighting violently to leave a body that was only a foretaste, a glimpse of something far greater in the first place. Make no mistake, Miss Patsy understood that. She longed for a better country, a heavenly one. And celebrating her life makes me long for all of that too.

May our lives today reflect that better country, the heavenly one. [Hebrews 11]

Oh Lord, hasten the day we get to worship you in glory, fully and forevermore restored. But in the meantime, may you strengthen us to fight to walk in your presence and serve at your feet, cherishing the gospel with boldness as we simply proclaim to each corner and people you place us among. And at the end of it all, if the celebration of our reunion with you were to mirror even a glimpse of Miss Patsy's one day, well that would be a victory of which you receive all glory and honor and praise.

And may we pray with great humility, "Here I am Lord, send me. That to the ends of the earth, all may know, 'Your God reigns!'" 

Monday, July 28, 2014

On Celebrating FIVE Years of Mercy

Five years always felt like an eternity away to me. In fact, I remember dreaming up one, five, and ten years plans back inside the walls of that big white house. I tried to find them, but couldn't. It doesn't really matter anyhow, because I am certain these five years have looked so different from the plan.

And I am so thankful. In tears thankful, actually.

I never planned to be a girl in need of mercy [or Mercy Ministries, for that matter]. But the truth is, I've always needed it.

Once you were not a people, but now you're God's people.
Once you had not received mercy, but now you have. [1 Peter 2:10]

Had my life been guided by the course of my own plan, I would be a wondering soul still in need of mercy.

In fact, that about sums up my life prior to walking through those doors of Mercy Ministries. Although, I don't really know that I knew just how lost I was or how needy. God used those six months to reveal Himself to me in a way I never thought was possible for "a girl like me." Surely I had out-sinned the cross. I would never be like the pastor's wife or the faithful grandma in the back pew every week. Forget about being a Proverbs 31 gal, I could barely keep myself presentable for an hour--more or less dream of doing any of that. I never really believed He could change my life like He had people around me. It wasn't even about whether He would of not--it was that He couldn't. I was the impossible statistic with the mile-long list of all the reasons I'd never function as a normal person.

It was that mindset which fed the sin cycle that had me on a perpetually spinning sphere through those dark years. And it was moving so fast, the immanent pain of falling just kept me gripping on tighter. And spinning faster. The more I hung on that I might preserve my own life, the more death I knew. Until the spinning nearly stopped and death knocked ever so closely. After that, I knew I wasn't just a perpetually spinning person. There had to be something (or someone) spinning me and now slowing me, so to speak. I knew a lot about God. But I didn't know the redeemer of my soul.

That's about when I came through those doors of Mercy Ministries. And for the first month or so, I fought hard to jump back on that spinning wheel. It was what I'd known for over a decade, after all.

I could identify more with the girl wondering and in need of mercy then the mercy being offered to me itself. 

Lucky for us, His word calls us "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."[1 Peter 2:9]

This fifth year of life after Mercy has taught me His plans are worth putting all of my trust in. Even when that means abandoning mine. Sometimes, that doesn't make much sense to us. Other times it's easier.

Either way, He chose me?! In my ugly, sinful, prideful mess of a self--He called me beloved, chosen, royal, holy. Then He decided to give His son in place of me that I might know Him intimately as Christ's blood washed out my sin that once separated me from Him. I deserved death and He gave me life. It's a choice of course, as when a gift is offered we're not forced to take it. But by much grace, I received it and He caused it. Of course, why stop there? Then He said nothing I could ever do would separate me from His love.

And that summed up the work Christ solidified in my heart through my time at Mercy---nothing would ever separate me from His love. I could never be too screwed up to out-sin the blood of Christ shed on that cross. I didn't have to starve or inflict pain upon myself to atone for my poor decisions because His work was enough to cover past and even future sin.

Had it been up to me, I would have left that place without ever knowing such truth.

I'm so glad that wasn't God's plan. And I'm so humbled by the men and women He surrounded me with that fought and interceded on my behalf all those years.

This fifth year of life after Mercy has led me from India back to Arkansas where I've spent the past year finishing my bachelors in social sciences [and finally got that degree!], nannying for some precious boys [to be joined by a baby sister this fall], hanging out with international friends in our awesome Cline house, and experiencing the sweet blessing of an awesome body of Christ at University Baptist Church. The sweetest of parts of this past year were none that I ever dreamed up. My plans would have led somewhere far different--and yet again I remember why it's so sweet to trust in Jesus!

Next year I'm headed back to my hometown [and home to Mercy!] of St. Louis where I am accepted into the accelerated BSN program at Goldfarb School of Nursing. At least that's where God has led thus far, but I'm learning to grip it all a little more loosely these days! And when it comes to dreaming dreams, I very much desire to be a wife and momma one day. And until then [or perhaps all at once] I still believe God's leading me overseas long-term, just whenever He gives the go-ahead.

But I'm realizing too, the here and now is really quite sweet.

Before we know it, we will be with Him in glory and I want these hours and days He is giving to make me more of a sojourner on this soil and a proclaimer of  the glory to come. With a whole lotta grace, I hope to see more men and women in need of mercy find it in knowing Him for the first time. Any role He allows me to play in that is the greatest gift I know. 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Chirst, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 5:10-11]

If you feel like reminiscing with me, what a journey...
On The Day I Arrived at Mercy

On Celebrating ONE Year of Mercy

On Celebrating TWO Years of Mercy

On Celebrating THREE Years of Mercy

On Celebrating FOUR Years of Mercy

Monday, July 14, 2014

For the Fatherless Generation: On Receiving a Gift [From My Dad]

My dad is drinking again. Next month would have landed him two years sober. More noteably for me, that two year mark was the line in the sand which declared his distance from the bottle significant enough for me to once again pursue relationship with him. Go figure, so near to that time he gets snatched away by it all yet again. 

Yet Jesus is ever sweeter. 

My dad may never be able to be a huge part of my life. And the pain surrounding that neglect and abuse may never fully cease as long as my feet walk this soil. But one day, glory will seep into even the deepest crevasses and every tear will cease forevermore. That doesn't lift the weight, but it sure does offer hope in an otherwise sucky situation to which so many of this fatherless generation can empathize.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. [Hebrews 6:19]

He anchors me with that hope. And this week, His grace extended beyond an eternal promise. He gave me a few earthly anchors too.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, my dad brought four of us into this world. 

And those three who came before me, well they gave me Jesus.

Fast forward a number of years and here we are--in these beautiful black hills of South Dakota tucked away in a couple of cabins in the side of a lush hill where the air is crisp and the mountains declare His glory in a way words never could. For the most part, we desire Jesus and love each other in light of that. In spite of the unspoken and piercing hurts we each relive as we recall childhood memories and adult disapointments, just look at us here right now.

Pure glory of Christ alone.

I want to freeze time and stuff these moments into a jar, only to be popped open in the dark and desolate seasons of life where those daunting daddy-daughter moments are raw.

What gift do you see today, sister? You may search, but He is the giver of all things glorious.

As I sit and watch my oldest brother flopping around with my nephew on the tube in the wake of the boat, the crowd belly laughing at their shenanigans, I just want to soak in it. I used to be so angry with my dad for robbing me of such moments. But today, I just saw a God who redeems with every goofy trick they tried. The anger has faded and my eyes see differently now.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. [1 Peter 4:12-13]

My brother isn't perfect, but he is a dad to my niece and nephew. He is there and active and loves them unashamedly. I know they would never doubt it either. Our dad has fallen short but the Lord never has. Watching my big brother points me straight towards the face of our redeemer, the one who is enough in our lacking. I've seen both of my brothers and sister flesh out lives that testify to that.


One brother couldn't be here this week as he is home with my nephews and sis-in-law, one being an itty bitty baby nephew not quite ready for a family trek across the county. But I got to soak up a few snuggles and moments before coming here, which also left me in awe of a faithful Jesus. The older of my nephews was attached to his daddy like glue the whole time. He adores him. We bribed him to take a picture with his Aunt Courtney and he was smiling super big--only because after the picture was over, he knew he got to go to the park with dad. Do ya'll see this redemption? My heart overflows with gratitude. These brothers, just trudging through the thick of it and raising their boys to love Jesus and others. It matters more then anything else, I think.


Last night beneath the beating rays of sun, quietly out on the porch my brother-in-law began to divulge the details surrounding my dad's decent into the bottle over the past several months. He shared a lot that made my emotions swing. But one specific story has stuck with me, and probably always will.  My brothers had sensed dad was drinking for some time. After several unsuccessful conversations, my bro-in-law decided to show up at dad's place unannounced. He had my nephew with him.

They went in to say hi and my bro-in-law found the fresh bottle of VO tucked away nicely in the trash within minutes. He confronted dad about the direction he was headed. He talked about the straight & narrow road verses the wide one--two roads to choose from but each with devastatingly contrasting destinations. He just told dad the choice was his--but it was indeed a choice, and one he had to man up and make for himself.

Through this conversation, my nephew is there and listening to his dad and grandfather go back and forth. My brother-in-law says he never wants to hide the truth behind panes of pretty color when the rust and moth are destroying from within, so to speak. He wants his son to know the weight of the choices we make and the blessings and curses which pour from each. And he didn't say it, but he wants my nephew to choose life, to know Christ and make him known--to live a different life then the generations prior, including that of his grandfather.

He doesn't have to say it though--he just lives and teaches his son to live like that too.

I love this. Not that every one of those conversations should include little ears, but what a blessing my nephew gets to know the truth (even the hard truth) and by God's grace live freer then his grandpa.

Alcohol has never once looked good on my dad. And while I need not be enslaved by fear of any extreme, I never wanted to see my life mimic after his. I pray by God's grace, these conversations give my nephew the same vision. I pray they spur him towards Jesus and righteousness, not by his strength but the spirit.

Out of my dad's wake has come four kiddos and seven grandchildren. No matter what decisions he makes, these are lives that will multiply and go forth, and by God's grace, they will be all for His glory.

If we fail to testify to that sort of redemption, we so easily victimize ourselves and forget who this is really about.

JESUS is worthy. I'm going to fight my flesh differently and fall more quickly to certain desires and that will probably always have a lot to do with my dad. But Jesus is worthy. He came before me and suffered greatly in the flesh, so I can arm myself with a similar way of thinking in the midst of trials, so as to live in this flesh a slave no longer to my own passions but for the will of God.

We need only to entrust our souls to a faithful creator. [1 Peter 3]

I'm nothing awesome and I know my siblings would say likewise. But Jesus is. And in our weaknesses He is ever faithful. My dad gave me these brothers and sister and in-laws who have filled in in ways which our dad never could. What a gift.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To HIM be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 5:10-11]

It's coming friends. He is coming. So let us all anchor down into the hope by which He's called us His. It's far too easy to forget, so let's speak often of a God who redeems that others might know the sweetness of Him too. By God's grace, even my dad.

So lift your eyes from the hurt and heartache sister. Fixate them on the One who redeems. Look for it--there may be no wake of generations to come apart from you--but that's okay, start there. He REDEEMS, yes even you!

Hear the Savior say, thy faith indeed is small, child of mercy watch and pray, find in my thine all in all!

Blessed by these brothers who stand in the gap and pave the way. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

On Rainbows and Redemption

I remember like it was yesterday. It was the dead of winter and my first time to fly on a plane [that I could recall anyhow]. My best friend had spent a semester across the country at that point, and seeing her face to face couldn't come quick enough! I never thought much about seeing mountains, but as the plane began its decent and we came down below the clouds, my eyes locked into them like glue. I have always been a beach girl--but I had never seen any beauty like this before.

While the flight itself brought much excitement, seeing those vast, snow-capped ranges was unlike any of my wildest imaginations. Captivating, majestic. It was bold evidence of a creator. And by His grace, He spoke to me in the moments to follow.

I'd been in a psalm above the clouds, begging Him to use this time away from he mundane to renew for me vision for the future. That was [and still is] the hardest battle, right? What awesome thing will you let me do for your kingdom after I endure this boring, mundane season of school and work? Then you see these mountains and you remember just how great He is, right there in the day to day. I'd come out of a hard season and so desperately desired Jesus. I ended up in Isaiah in those final moments and this passage He engraved ever deeply upon my heart, a promise between He and I of what is to come. A covenant of sorts, THE hope and future He called me to.

I remember the slow-mo tears of gratitude, de-boarding the plane, hugging my best friend and driving through those mountains which continue to leave me in awe. I remember the bliss I could not contain as I tried to articulate how He'd just spoken to me--how I hoped so desperately this was the real deal, that I'd really heard from Him and fruit would bear. She smiled at me and nodded her head, I'm pretty sure. Before she dyed my hair black and encouraged some straight-across bangs to get me to that ex-murder look, of course.

So flash-forward FIVE years and just last week I find myself winding up and down those very same mountains through which He first spoke to me. I'm shedding tears in the quiet of the rear-seat as His faithfulness stands far firmer then these feeble knees of mine.

Those feet have touched states and nations. They've trekked through aboriginal lands in the dead of Australia and walked with a sister from death to life there. I can only pray by His grace, she knows Him now. Those feet stomped over colorful papers and streamers as a parade of idol worshippers marched across the street ahead in the middle of rural India. Those beautiful feet then returned to those tiny unreached villages with good news of salvation and ran with goats that provided income, sustained this sweaty body as it stood before a classroom of children each day, and walked from one house to another in the dark of night, sharing of the One who is and was and is to come. Our prayers were so bold and full of faith there. There was much rejoicing as these feet stood in the church and rested among the youth--enabling the teaching of several Psalms. Back home, these feet run after three littles and host lots of events, all that more might know Him. These feet get to rest as the Word is studied every week with the nations right in my little town. These feet humble me.

Back then, in those days when milk satisfied, I remember contemplating His reign. Was He really greater then all my screw ups and sin which still bound me? Would He ever make me feel clean? What could He possibly ever use my mess of a self for? How could someone like me bring Him glory?

Does He really reign?

I got to visit two sweet sisters in Virginia this past week, which led me into those mountains. We had such a sweet time at the beach and that car ride through those majestic mountains at the end of the trip brought much confirmation of how faithfully He really does reign. In a weekend with these sisters, one who traveled to India alongside me and came out still loving me. And the other who has stood the test of time--seven years of friendship now, years that have led us down paths we could have never foreseen but here we are in these mountains--proclaiming and weeping over a faithful Jesus.

All of this circulating through my mind and then all of a sudden--a rainbow. TWO rainbows appear. They lingered well over half an hour too. As I recounted God's covenant with Noah sealed with the bow in the sky, I couldn't help but melt over this covenant I believe God spoke over me five years prior, and here He is so faithfully reminding me---and with a rainbow over these mountains. Duh. Why not?

The lands & nations beneath these beautiful feet have taught me more of His reign then I could ever articulate back to them. Jesus makes these feet beautiful. 

Our God reigns, ya'll! He really does. These mountains shout it and these feet get to proclaim it.

He redeems. He reigns greater. He makes the dead come to life. I've seen it. I've lived it. I believe my God reigns.

By His grace, I am blessed to lean on these beautiful feet to continue to follow His reign in my life, whatever lands or peoples or mountains He has set before me. Here I am, send me!

[next up: nursing school--a mountain of epic heights, over which He still reigns greater]. Bring it on.

& a few favorites because these sisters are the life-giving kind

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On This "Paleo" Journey [& the first twelve weeks]

Typically, I tend to shy away from this kind of posting, probably in light of my past. BUT-- after seeing the changes in my health, energy levels, sleeping, and mood over the past three months, I felt compelled to share!

Lately it seems you fail at life if you eat gluten or your workouts fall short of the infamous Crossfit methodology. For us all or nothing personalities, there is no dabbling. It's all in or all failure. Up until this point I have actually been quite careful to focus on health and lifestyle rather then bearing up under a title that holds so much weight. Literally.

But this journey has been teaching me that God really does desire to be apart of every aspect of our lives. Including our physical health and well-being.

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." [1 Corinthians 6]

I had the verse about us being His temple washed down my throat and wrung dry over the years I spent battling an eating disorder. It never meant a thing to me. In fact, even reading it now causes something ugly to flare up in me, because I think back to those dark, hard days where my whole world revolved around this broken temple.  I remember wondering how God could possibly think I could glorify Him with this lousey shack He'd given me. I begged for a mansion, adorned in tanner skin and smoother curves and less flop.

But instead He gave me the holy spirit on the inside. And somewhere in the process of that the glory of Him dwelling inside the temple became more significant then the temple itself. And that's still happening, that process, probably straight up until heaven, for me anyways.

As He became more and I became less, I also began to surrender parts of myself to His authority. (as if He didn't authorize all in the first place anyway, right?!) One of those huge areas I feel I am and will continue to have to choose to consistently surrender to Him is food. After spending over a decade enslaved to it, those cracks run deep along the foundation of this temple. The binding up is a process. And I've learned to be okay with that.

But this past winter I found myself wrestling with this temple yet again. I was tired and sick all the time. I was so busy that eating fit in where there was time--with whatever was convenient or sounded tasty at the time.  Not to mention, nannying three little guys is whole new taste of hard when it comes to the heaps of sweet and salty laying around. Christmas goodness lingered well through the chocolate of Valentines and the next thing I knew I was hating the temple. Dread filled at the thought of social events. The lies were consuming me yet again. Something had to change. But it was so much more then a number on the scale or a few new panes on the roof. It was very much spirit led from the start. And I think it must be that way to not taper off.

It has always been about control. Me or Jesus? His glory or mine?

So I decided it only made sense that giving up the control of food in my life meant I had to give it right over to Him. But in this case, not just hypothetically speaking. More so, quite literally.

Most of us have heard about eating as the bible depicts. There are actual plans, perhaps most notably The Maker's Diet or this raw revolution. While there is much wisdom to be grasped from these, I never felt led to follow a set out plan, but still applying many of the concepts. This time has been more focused on trusting the Lord in my food choices and allowing Him to help me discern. But also really seeking wisdom and doing lots of research about what I've actually been feeding my body all these years! For me, I don't think I knew how sick I really was until I glimpsed how healthy I could really be. Now, I really can't imagine going back.

So, how does this flesh out? Let's get practical.

While I have maintained a bit of a modified paleo eating routine, I beleive there is wisdom is simplicity and going back to the basics. God created certain foods to feed our bodies. We wanted to make them taste better, so we add and add and add until an apple holds no satisfaction in light of a bag of cheez-its in the afternoon.

For me, this has all been about getting back to the roots. If it is grown out of the ground it is good. If nothing is added to it, it's better.

At the beginning of March veggies and fruits quickly became my best friends. My consumption for the first few months was mostly built on these two food groups. I also ate chicken, ground turkey and salmon once a day/every other day. I chose to avoid most pork, beef and fish that feast on the bottom of the water, but that is mostly because I don't really like any of the above. And some things I'm learning in scripture continue to affirm this decision in my heart. But, most Paleo followers feast on meat!

I've learned a lot about grains and how much our way of processing them depletes them of the nutrients God created them with. So, I chose to eliminate all of them for a season, and might revaluate at some point, but for now I feel so much better making my own gluten-less recipes!

After a couple months I added in nuts, nut flours, seeds, dark chocolate, limited rice and corn based products, eggs, beans, gf oats, coconut oil, coconut flour, honey, maple syrup, and sweet potatoes.

Eliminating gluten and dairy has probably brought forth the majority of the transformation in my health, but I have also been challenged beyond that to specifically focus on simple ingredients and as raw and fresh as possible. Pinterest has really been the greatest gift to me through this--there are paleo-friendly recipes for EVERYTHING!! Really. I have rarely felt deprived of anything. They even have ice cream!

I try to only introduce one new food or brand of GF product or recipe at a time and spaced several days apart so that I can really tell how my body responds. Through this process there has been one occasion where I had to eat a meal with some gluten and dairy in a social setting among international friends--I never could have imagined the consequences of that! Just several bites in, my head started feeling fuzzy and I couldn't think as clearly. It was insane how quickly I felt the effects. After an hour my stomach was super upset. I felt the effects for three days, actually. Who knew? I've been much more careful since and so far God has really provided ways out of those tricky food situations where you don't want to offend the cook but also don't want to suffer the consequences!

So here I am, bearing this "paleo" title for the first time, though there is much grace needed! There are certain things I'm more relaxed about and others not as much---it's all about how my body reacts to various food choices.

I've also been running 2-5 miles at least five days a week. Soon I intend to get some toning exercises added in there too.

This has been a crazy journey, challenging me to trust Jesus more. And my life has been drastically different since that physical, emotional, spiritual surrender of my will, my fear, my pride and my temple to Him. God can bring such transformation many different ways--for me it was quite practically through changes in food habits and I am so grateful for His patience with me!

The heart refinement and surrender has by far starved me more then my stomach ever groaned physically. But there has certainly been a physical transformation as well, which has also been covered in much prayer and grace as the enemy lingers near, just trying to trip me up some days. BUT Jesus is greater and His spirit in me has enabled even me, a girl who was so bound by food and appearance for over a decade to freely follow Him, even when it comes to a lifestyle change that could trigger old habits and mindsets. May this never be about the number on the scale, so as to rob Him of the glory found in His redemption story. He is faithful to redeem, that I know.

                                                           Eight Weeks Difference

Mostly, I just desire to know Him and make Him known, and to glorify Him in my response to how He directs me. I am seeing those passions of my former ignorance being tossed off and becoming less binding. His Spirit is so very alive! So as He who called me is holy, may I also be holy!! [by grace abounding!]

That can look different for us all, of course. There is nothing more holy about this Paleo lifestyle then an alternative, but for me this is all about His glory and His reign over my ever-wandering heart. May He be praised for what He is doing in and through this messed up temple--may it continue that He may be known even more greatly--to me and to you! 

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
(1 Peter 1:20-21 ESV)

Friday, May 16, 2014

On Learning The Three-Hundred [& His Glory in the Garden]

Ya'll, gardening is a dangerous endeavor.

As if the tilling of the soil and the arrangement of the plants and the actual back-breaking work of planting the darn thing, with multiple trips to Walmart covered in who knows what to get yet another bag of potting soil--as if all of that isn't enough, every hour I spend out there leads to some sort of spiritual revelation or conviction.

But let's be real, mostly the latter. And it's painnnnnfulll. 

Even more so then my fingers after spending every Saturday crouched over yanking on those pesky little weeds that seem to reproduce right under my eyes. That sea of green.

From my understanding, you have to uproot the weed completely to prevent it from coming back. And when we're talking thousands of weeds in such a wide space--well that just seems not possible. So I more often find myself swiping off the green shoots poking up that drive my eyes mad. For hours, I clear them out until theres a wide circle around each plant that boasts only brown soil and is fully purged of those life-sucking blades of green. Wow, that looks so much better. I think to myself. I can breathe a sigh of relief.

Until next week.

That's the problem with us though--we're looking at the surface and our sweet Savior is looking underground, at our hearts. Our solutions yield instant gratification and so often God's way requires (at times even painful) patience and trust.

If I cut into that soil and looked below the surface, I would surely find an entangling of roots. Deep, deep weeds rooting themselves into my plants. I would see the way they suck life right out of my slow-growing tomatoes. Like thieves in the night. The way the nutrient, moist and sun-filled patch feeds them to live. And I would see the consequences of avoiding the deeper issue---those pesky roots of the weeds.

So what if we cut into the depths of my heart and gazed beneath the surface? I guarantee there would be a thick entangling of life-sucking sin rooted down in there. And when I chose to feed it, it grows. When I feast on the truth I know and soak in His grace the spirit living in me gains weight while the roots of sin shrivel. It's really as simple as that.

But it can certainly be hard work. Christ makes us new of course, and yet allows us to remain sojourners on this earth and the wait can seem much like a war at times, a war waging beneath the surface of our hearts.

It's like when Paul talks about wanting to do the one thing he knows he doesn't want to do but he still wants to. Even typing that makes no sense, and yet--welcome to the battle!

I've been rooted in Gideon's story these past few weeks. Today I'm at the point in the story where God tells Gideon to send home any of his soldiers who are "afraid and trembling" so as not to cause the rest enslavement to such fear. Much to Gideon's surprise, 22,000 of his soldiers heard that and just peaced out. Surely he decided in that moment his battle had just been lost, before it had even begun.

I might look at my thousands of weeds against ONE messy me:  hopeless victory. 

Unhindered fear would have become a more powerful weapon against Israel than the thousands of swords pointed in their direction. Look at how God is seeing things here--removing Gideon's eyes from the shoots sticking out in front of him (his large, enemy army) to see the even greater destruction that can come from the hearts of those standing right beside him.

It gets even better, of course. As if loosing all those men wasn't enough, He then tells him to separate certain men from his army based on how he observes them drinking water out of the stream. I can only imagine Gideon in this moment--God, are you joking me?!

This leaves Gideon with three-hunderd men. After starting off the day with 32,000 Gideon probably felt pretty alone and defeated.

But God knew better then Gideon, and He knows better then we do too. Even I would have told Gideon to go get some more men. But God is STILL looking at the heart over the circumstances. He knew Gideon's strength came from men that were not distracted by their flesh. Even if that was outwardly expressed in how they drank their water. These three-hundred knew they needed to drink, but not at the expense of their alertness and readiness for war.

Our thirst needs to be quenched--and it always is--but at what expense?

This past year I have seen my army of 32,000 fading away too. It has been a long, exhausting, and lonely season of roots being yanked hard. Uncertainty of the future, sin creeping back up, deep roots exposed, and a whole lot of waiting to see the victory.

But just as Gideon will eventually see the grace of God in removing the distracted soldiers that his army might bring more victory for the sake of God's glory, so also have I witnessed His spirit gaining strength inside of me, triumphing over the grave. 

Whether in an army or a garden or our hearts, the removal of the wayward roots is painful and scary. It can make us to feel isolated and confused about the future and even the very nature of our Father. You may not be particularly pleased with the three-hundred you've been left with. For a long season, I wasn't either.

But His power is perfected in our weakness. Only so we can boast all the more gladly of our inabilities.

I'm learning that the three-hundred is our secret-weapon. It's a battleground to show God's strength and glory. It's not the 32,000 we thought we needed, but its the three-hundred that God will use to bring the victory into our lives and the glory that is His alone. 

It's His love that surpasses the depths of the deepest, thickest root of sin which pierces it at its core. It's the same love that took away over 30,000 men from Gideon's army. And it's with that very same love that He desires the depths of our hearts--through all of which come the victory and His glory. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

In Which I Fall in Love [with the church]

Community is a word we throw around quite a bit down here in this bible bubble.

I've heard it used a million ways, I've been sharpened by it, and at times, deeply wounded too. After all, it does involve broken, sinful, flawed people trying to do real life together. It's bound to be messy--and glorious. I think God meant it to be such. For our good but mostly His glory.

From body to body, one life season to another, community has changed.

But as I go into my third year with this body of believers in this little corner of the natural state, I know more then this pretty picture. Ya'll, I get to experience the real deal. And even as these words pour out, the tears follow because God's grace abounds so richly in these brothers and sisters, adopted dads and mommas, grandmas and grandpas with whom He has surrounded me with.

It sounds perfect but it is far from. Just last night I found myself asking God why He has me here, committed to this body when I just keep seeing these flaws. I watch dear friends drift out and eventually  find community elsewhere. And I become frustrated with the routine. There are few in my life season and that can feel lonely too.

And then there are moments where I remember why. Why commitment to community, to a specific body, is so precious and valuable.

First off, it's biblical. God commands it. Check out these brief words from Piper. 

Secondly, we were created to do life together, in relationship yet serving as different parts of the body. Like last night when I was sitting across the table from this precious fifty-seven year old woman who is one of the most faithful I have known. We had my laptop open, hovering in close as we scoured Pinterest, discussing green ties, rustic table decor, and Japanese cakes while sipping hot tea and rejoicing that in just a few short months she is to marry for the first time.  I get to stand beside her.

I saw it two years ago when I was dealing with some tough stuff and a family from church told me to come live with them so we can walk through it together. They taught me how to shoot a gun, love the country, share a room with sisters, and more then I ever wanted to know about snakes. Somewhere in the process they taught me to trust too. Jesus' love had never been more real to me as it was through their sacrificial love for me. They made me want Him more. This adopted mamma gave birth to her tenth baby a few months ago so our latest heart to heart happened sitting in the car, in a parking lot over sonic while nursing this new little one. This is just community, right?

When we gather to corporate worship on Sunday, our voices humming the same tune, despite all of our flesh and failure, I sense it. The desperateness with which we praise Him. The lifting of the weightyness of the week as those words knit us tighter. Someday it will be every tribe and tongue and I cannot imagine. This glimpse is just grace.

When I didn't have a job two years ago, a part of my community gave me one. When they had to let me go after a tough year for the company, someone else in this community taught me to counsel clients and serve as they came through the doors or our church's ministry to those in need while I waited on God's provision of a new job. They knew idol time to be a great burden. They protected me, when I didn't even know I needed it. And everyday, they encouraged me in the word and held me in prayer.

Last week I took the little guy I nanny to play with the kiddos of a mamma in my community. We talked real life while they tossed balls and built leggos. That's what this really means, I think.

Community far exceeds the doors of a building or a set apart day of the week.

This community sent my sweet friend and me to India last year. They prayed us over there and back. Much of the funding came from them too. Then they held us while we wrestled upon our return. When God called me to missions several months ago, they laid hands and prayed. Then we met one on one, me and a pastor, as he encouraged me in this calling and they committed to teach me and someday, be a part of my going.

I don't think there has been one international event this year that my "young professionals group" of friends hasn't served at when I present the need. We are the most random group and Jesus unites us. There are challenges and differences, but they teach me so much.

There are generations in this community. A grandpa who spent years in Africa for the sake of the gospel, and still praises Christ in spite of burrying a child overseas and contracting polio as a teen. He cares for his ailing wife with this love so true it could pierce at a glance. He lets me call him a grandfather, he comes over for dinner sometimes. He always tells me about how we're just waiting for the best one [refering to whoever it might be that the Lord has for me to marry], he tells me this man is gearing up, getting ready. Oh, and sometimes he plays the guitar.

There's a ninety-three year old that we all call grandma. She has traveled more countries then I could dream and tells stories like no other. A couple weeks back we gathered at the hospital waiting for her to come out of a surgery when the future was quite unclear. We prayed a lot and reminisced. She lives cancer free. A couple nights ago I changed the dressing on her incision, as her daughter wanted me to "practice being a nurse." I don't think grandma was such a fan of being my guinea pig.

Once a month I watch these kiddos durng big church. They are busy and halarious. I realize they get to grow up in this community. What a covering, what a blessing. It's the generations to come. It's the ones who have been around for quite awhile. It's the ones in the middle. The ones studying at university, the ones from the other side of the world pondering those big questions.

I see pillars, this legacy God has given. I am so underservng. And yet He is so deeply magnified in our weaknesses, as a body simply meeting to know Him and make Him known. He fixates our wondering hearts on Him in asking us to do life together as we wait. It's like a refining fire, a constant reminder. And I always come out with a greater understanding of my dependency upon Him.

I see it again and again. My need for these brothers and sisters continues to humble me. And His glory displayed in me being apart of them too. And I never thought I would love the church like that.

Praise God!! Only He could use such an imperfect and fallible people to make us want Him most.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When the Wait is Hard, Ya'll

The wait is hard, y'all.

We know the right way despite the draw of our flesh towards sin. It got me thinking about the way I look at my own sin.

I can deposit my paycheck laying in bed Friday night. Immediately, some of the money is at my disposal. Instant gratification defines our culture. That's why we watch sex on the internet instead of waiting. It's how we justify the removal of a baby and call it unwanted tissue. It's why every single year, women are bought and sold at the super bowl. It's why I drive through Chickfila after a long day instead of heading home to cook dinner. Our culture wants everything now. Instant gratification. 

I believe it seeps into our waiting, it sinks in deep and carves out crevasses. It hardens us to the promptings of the spirit and weighs us down. Cracks form and pieces shatter and we are so blinded by the here and now, that the future seems bleak at best. Hope drifts. Joy fades. And suddenly the sure foundation wobbles around a bit. And so also, do I.

It always drives us to despair. To shame. To fig leaves. When we let it.

But like many things, sin is a choice right? What we believe to be true is too.

I've been frustrated and saddened by the way my sin creeps back in, even after all these years of knowing what sets me free. I've followed the twelve steps, logged thousands of hours in counseling sessions, worked my rehab programs, and committed endless scripture to memory on the topic. And yet it hasn't disappeared. The thoughts and desires creep in like the thief in the night. Often.

Sometimes they lure and entice me into action. Convince me of a different worth then that which is found in Christ. We war, continually. And it can be confusing and consuming.

I think we all desire to be free. We want to feel it, to live it, to know it. We don't desire to be entangled to those former ways of ignorance. My former ignorance-- an eating disorder, among a colorful palate of other sin for sure. But you fill in the blank. It's all the same.

So why are we so often finding ourselves back there?

"I'm realizing that having a normal relationship with food is not the end goal here--holiness is. And my holiness is ultimately not contingent on the reversal of my dysfunctional thought processes about food or myself." 

God decides which thorns stay and which thorns go, for His glory. This might be a battle I fight the rest of my life on earth. There will be change, of course, as I dethrone food and replace it with God's holiness. I know I'm not so enslaved as I once was. I don't find much gratification in hanging my head over the toilet like before. I am attentive to the separation brought by my sin. And yet there are moments when the lies still latch on and try to persuade me otherwise. This is the slow process of sanctification, and really it must become an inevitable change of knowing Christ. Though it might or might not include complete release from my eating disorder in this life on earth. And I forget, even this is for His glory to be more greatly manifest in my weaknesses.

And yet I am neither driven to despair nor found behind a fig leaf ONLY because of the fact that life on earth isn't in fact the end. There's more. And that is where my hope is found. This body is always going to let me down. To lie to me. To lust after everything but Christ.

Thus, I have to choose where I will SET my hope during this waiting.  

Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Christ, Peter urges us. Don't be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but be holy like Jesus. (1 Pet. 1) It's hard for me to imagine that the fullness of grace won't be totally revealed until Heaven. I am so dependent on it now. And He gives more and more. And yet, it's like we ain't seen nothin' yet!

We have to long for THAT day. By thinking rightly about reality.

I think I'm learning that means glory over gratification. And even grace over grief. 

And it's hard. But I don't see hope anywhere in this world apart from Christ. I've looked. Everywhere. And had never been nearer to death then in that searching.

The search ended and life began when Jesus revealed Himself to me, in His death for me.

His glory is not magnified in my sin or shame. His glory is manifest in His redemption of my life. And as such a recipient, my radiance is reflective of Him not me. And praise Jesus for that!

So now I let Him pluck the thorns as He may (or may not), because the end goal is no longer about me. It's just about His glory, His holiness, His power which will be most greatly magnified in what is to come. Eternal, forever, never-going-back, free, joyous redemption.

May we wait with hope as our eyes are fixed on such things.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On the Day I Committed These Feet to Go Anywhere

By the fourth day, my brain seemed to have reached its capacity. I was sure I couldn't possibly pack away one more page of notes to take home and soak in. The room was packed full and my hair was in a ponytail. I went for a run during the lunch break that day, just begging the Lord for several miles to allow this flood to sink in. I asked Him to just show me what in the world all of this means for me?

Going into this missions conference, I knew very well what would likely happen. God would stir up my love for the nations and it would boil over with me boarding an airplane and heading off to the next place where people need to hear, tomorrow preferably. And surely, I wouldn't come back. I knew it would lead to my withdrawal from nursing school and an early termination of my lease. The night before the conference, I cried at the thought of giving up my little dog.

For about three years now, I believe God has been moving my heart towards the nations.

Opening up the conference, Piper asked "Is it God's worth or man's rescue driving you here? God's glory or man's soul?" He explained that the catechism should use the word IN instead of AND. That the chief end of missions should be the supremacy of God IN the joy of all peoples," as he re-phrased it. "And becomes in because you dare not choose between the two," he concluded.

And it opened up an area of my heart that I didn't know existed.

It's always been about the souls for me. It's been about faces and names and hell forever. Or not. A simple choice between life and death, one that I knew about. One that I needed to tell about, in hopes that a life might be spared eternally. And it's legitimate, of course. And yet, it has been much more dependent upon me then the Lord. Me needing to go, me needing to speak the language, me needing to give up a whole lot, me needing to win over the souls to avoid everlasting death for that smiling face which I had come to love.

But that's not really accurate. It's so much bigger. And it's nothing of me.

As one South African pastor shared, "The big problem here isn't translation of bibles. The problem is the wrath of God against us." Or as Kevin DeYoung said, "People who haven't heard the gospel ever, aren't condemned because God is bad...they're only condemned because they're sinners and the wrath of God wrests on them."

I don't often enough praise Jesus for standing between me and the wrath of an almighty God (that I deserve). And I offer freedom from sin in the gospel conversations I get to have, but often neglect discussion of his wrath upon that individual apart from the intervening of Christ.

I had never experienced a particular draw to the 6,000 unreached people groups in this world prior to this conference. But as God continues, even now, to guide me, I can honestly say I would go anywhere for Him.

"...I make my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, but as it is already written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand...'" (Rom. 15:18-25)

Is it me wanting to save the world or God's glory? 

The speakers continued to bring up areas of Calvinism that might detour us away from missions. Some might think "well, if God has already chosen who will be saved and who will not, what's the point of going to share the gospel?"

But then I ask, why would you go UNLESS some HAD been chosen by God? 

Kevin DeYoung put it best in saying, "Election gives you confidence in the sufficiency of God to do the work. Definite atonement is in fact better news for bigger glory!"

Man's rescue or God's worth?

And then the Lord began to tie some strands together for me. These people, these men and women are out there. Right now. Set apart before they were born! And if I trusted Him to save ME, then how could I not trust Him to lead me? Even if it means resting in the great commission...

"And the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matt 24:14)

David Platt concluded the conference on the last night. He commented that there are two billion people whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell. They've never heard of Jesus, Savior. He walked through Acts 13 talking about Paul's missionary journeys. He reminded us of the importance of a home body of supporters, the value of the goers, and the promises of God that alone sustain the stayers. He showed a map of the reached areas on each of Paul's journeys. And then one of modern day. The impact of this one man, hundreds of years later is unreal.

I thought right away, Lord just make me like Paul.

But then I remembered what Paul says to the church at Corinth for example, "When I came to you brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you expect Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

And it was sitting in this dark room with thousands of my peers, as Romans one to eight was being read off, and God was speaking to me, that I knew undoubtedly for the first time that His glory was driving me to commit my life to making the gospel known, wherever.

So at the end of the hour, as he had promised in the opening, Platt asked anyone in the room who knew God had begun this work in their hearts to be a stayer overseas to stand up. There was no hesitation for me. I stood with a few hundred others and was prayed over, encouraged, and challenged to go back to my church family and share what God was doing.

This past Sunday I got to stand up before my church family. They prayed and we worshipped. I praise Jesus for these people. The way they come around me and intercede on my behalf. The excitement they have shared in getting to send me. It is such a gift.

I pray that one day I can share with some college student contemplating God's calling of them to the mission field, of all the glory he has received as He's allowed me to spend years knowing nothing but Him wherever He might send me.

"So even to old age and gray hairs, O God do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come!" (Ps. 71:18)

God used these four days at CrossCon to solidify that working which only His holy spirit could muster, and I am so thankful. And don't worry, I'm not leaving tomorrow. And Winston isn't up for grabs just yet either.
After the final night, exhausted and thankful

I never, ever would have imagined I would get the privilege of saying yes. I never planned it out. I never even dreamed it. He is just doing it. And all I can do is trust His leading and promise Him I'll follow Him anywhere for the sake of such glory which belongs to Him anyway.

I've loved Jesus for seven years now. But I don't think it is until now that I have really counted death gain. (Phil. 1:21) And it is setting me free from fear of anything. He is what I want. It's ALL grace.

Though most of my Arkansas family has gotten to share in this excitement, I wanted to share with the rest of my friends and family as well!

So practically, what does this look like? For me, right now--it looks like a whole lotta studying and a whole lotta long hours in the hospital learning how to be a nurse. The Lord used five different people in four days to confirm the desire He gave me to pursue my nursing degree. I am praying that if the Lord would lead me to a closed country, the nursing degree will be my ticket in. I am also trusting that He could allow me to use it to sustain myself financially overseas in the future. And lastly, that such studying and acquired skills would be a blessing to any people group He leads me to. And of course, precious time to share the gospel while stitching up wounds!  

Please join me in praying three things:
1.)  That He would provide an awesome, bible-teaching, missions-minded church in St. Louis where I can plug in, be equipped, and eventually sent!
2.)  That as some of this "high" fades and day-to-day life kicks in, I would continue to find great joy in His presence.
3.) That as my time in Arkansas comes to a close, I would get spirit-led opportunities to continue sharing in Jesus and relationships with my international friends--and that I would be able to leave well.

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed  And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Rom. 10:14-15)