Second Chances

Being back in Bloomington is a weird feeling for me. I left for this summer and God did a number on my heart, and I will probably never be the same because of it. But  just as when we change in any way, it’s hard to go back to a familiar place – it reminds us of who we used to be, the people we’ve disappointed and it’s so easy to fall back into our previous expectations. Bloomington has been that place for me; the city and the campus hold so many beautiful memories, but they also have an ability to remind me of the dark places I’ve gone away from God, and the times when I’ve been unable to trust and rely on Him alone.

The past week has brought me to my knees in awe of His glory, but I’ve also been moved to tears remembering the people I’ve hurt, and the mistakes I’ve made. God surely is teaching me right now, though. I’m learning so much more about myself simply by slowing down and not doing everything that I’m actually able to experience the beauty of living in a house with 90 girls. I’m learning that God honors my putting my relationship with Him above ministry obligations. He honors our sacrifices, He is faithful, He will provide. He has provided me with second chances (and third, fourth, and fifth chances). I don’t have to look back on last year with any regrets – I’m free from the sin and the shame of the sin. I get another year to be present in my sorority and put others ahead of myself. I get another year to trust God in leadership within Cru – a scary one because I easily make things about me and not about Him.

This is my third fall in Bloomington, and I have a good feeling about it. I have few expectations – I working on having none, but I’m a work in progress. This week, I’m praising God that I don’t have live in regret about what I did and didn’t do last year; I’m praising Him for second chances to love and serve Him, but this time as a completely different person.

Incredibly Beautiful and Powerful

Leaving Chicago has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, in my life. I’ve never experienced something as beautiful as the community on summer project, we were all working towards a common goal, and bearing each other’s burdens along the way. I’m continuing to process in my time before I head back to school, and the one thing I keep clinging to is that I leave Chicago a changed person. God grown me so much, and made Himself much more known to me than I thought possible. He has reminded me that He is as beautiful as the Psalms describe Him. He is incredible as the miracles Jesus performs. He is as powerful as the One who raised Jesus from the dead. His incredible beauty and power are at work on me each day growing me to the next level of maturity and intimacy with Him.

Because God has done so much work on my heart, I’ve been able to deal with uncertainty in a much healthier way than I did last summer. Unpacking and re-packing all my stuff has been fun and life-giving, not full of anxiety and tear-inducing. This is not a matter of anything I’ve done, it’s just remembering where my security is and what defines me. Yes, this coming year may be difficult, but God is faithful, He will come through again and again. I’m nervous about money this year because I didn’t work this summer, but as I journaled tonight, I thanked God for all the ways He showed up this summer and remembered that He’s the same God always. He will provide, all I have to do is step out in faith and wait for Him to save the day. This is evidence of God’s work in my life. He is faithful. And I have a summer project family to remind me of the work that’s been done in my life in the past 3 months when I forget how generous He is.

I have changed, but He has not. I simply get the pleasure of falling more and more in love with Him daily, with reflecting on His character and the blessings He poured out on me and my friends this summer. Please pray for my heart as I transition back to school, that I remember that He is my solid rock, He is the ultimate provider, He will always be enough.

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Glorious God

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My life’s purpose is to bring glory to God. Whatever I end up pursuing for my career, however I raise my kids, or the grades I get in school, they should all be done to the best of my ability in order to bring praise to God’s name, not to my own. Duh, you might say, but this has been a summer of learning what it looks like day by day to strive to bring glory to the Lord’s name. This is hard for me. I feel like this is hard for anyone; society has taught us to do well for ourselves, to build up money, to get published so people know our name. This summer, through exploring more of God’s flawless character, I am starting to understand (it’s just the tip of the iceberg) why God is worthy of our glory.

Since I didn’t have a job this summer, I was able to spend lots of time in God’s word, listening to sermons and journaling. I also went on campus three days a week. It was in these times that God taught me about Himself. Through being on campus, I’ve been able to have spiritual conversations with numerous students, and learn about what makes Jesus so special and so unique. I am going to detail three of the things that make biblical Christianity, as in the religion that follows Jesus based on the Bible, so cool.

  • God gives us grace, its not something we have to earn, it’s just something that we have to receive. I think so easily I forget that I can be assured of my salvation, no matter the sin I commit, He still loves me and I will be accepted in His Kingdom. Other religions do not have the gift of grace. I’ve talked girls of different faiths, and they do not have assurance of grace. They will never be sure of where they are spending eternity. Every day of their lives, they must constantly be thinking of their eternity and praying that God shows mercy on them and that they did enough good to outweigh their bad.
  • God allows His people to experience joy even amongst the trials. This summer has brought some heartbreak out of my past and forced me to deal with it. The beautiful thing is that God’s character does not change. Ever. Even though there are some days that I struggle to see His goodness, it’s there, and if I ask, He shows it to me. No matter what I’m feeling, He loves me and wants to show me just how much I mean to Him.
  • God wants me to be happy. I have said so many times — that can’t be what God wants because it’s what I want – the truth is, God wants me to enjoy serving Him. He isn’t going to send me into something that not good for me, not fulfilling or not going to force me to rely on Him. He wants me to delight in Him and He will give me more of Himself and allow me to experience His character in new ways, which ultimately brings me more joy. I can look to my future confident that as long as I’m following where the Lord is leading, I will be growing and I will be fulfilled, not because of me, but because of Him. I wanted a job this summer, He didn’t give me that, but my lack of job forced me to rely on and seek Him more. He didn’t want me to just go through the motions, He wanted surrender and authenticity. That’s how great He is.

My prayer is that I not forget the ways the Lord has showed up this summer and that you too may be able to experience God in a way that forces you to honor Him. Our God is a God worthy of all of our glory and praise; He is who He says He is.

The Land In Between

When the God led Moses and the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they were in the Sinai Desert for forty years. This was the land between slavery and promise – the land between. As the pastor at church yesterday preached, I felt both called out and given hope about this land between. I am in a season of questioning, sadness and sometimes frustration. I see where I want to get, its just taking patience to get there. As the pastor preached, I felt like my mind continued to be blown. He said the land between is fertile ground for 1) emotional meltdowns and complaining 2) God’s provision, mercy and generosity 3) discipline 4) transformational growth.

This past week, and a couple other times this summer, I’ve gotten so bogged down in my emotions and my current reality that I forgot some important truths and turned to complaining and being a complete brat. I’m just like Moses in the book of Numbers when he says that He’d rather die than face more of what he was dealing with. I’m not that big of drama queen, but I’ve felt like telling God, “okay, enough already, I’m done with this.” If I get caught on the deserty part of the land between, I leave no opportunities for God to show up, provide for me, grow me and transform me. The transition from slave to heir is not an easy one. For the Israelites, it took at least forty years. God must refine us so that we can be taken into the land of promise without it destroying us.

As I reflect on my last year, there’s been quite a few months spent in the land between, and lots of valuable lessons learned there. Last July I wasn’t aware of most of the bondage I was in. I was a slave to friends, to money, to ideas of a relationship, to academics and to expectations. Because God loves me and wants me to experience the fullness of what it means to be a daughter of His, He has brought me to the land between a number of times in the last 12 months. It is in this place that once I get past the desire to complain and give into my fleshly desires for comfort that I receive the opportunity to see God show up and provide for my every need. It is in this place that I become more disciplined and more trusting of His goodness. It is in this place where I can be transformed. Just as Romans 12:2 says, transformation is necessary for discernment of God’s will. The more I am transformed, the better I will be able to walk in God’s ways. The more I am transformed, the more I am able to obey God and love Him, and that is worth the patience, discipline and trust it takes to stay in the land between.

I’m a Feeler

I’m a feeler. A lot of my walk with the Lord is very feelings based, when I’m having a bad day, everyone usually knows it. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Take today for instance, I had to leave campus because I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I got halfway back to my apartment when the tears I’m a feeler. A lot of my walk with the Lord is very feelings based, when I’m having a bad day, everyone usually knows it. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Take today for instance, I had to leave campus because I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I got halfway back to my apartment when the tears came… and I couldn’t stop them. Sunday is the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and quite frankly I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a fantasyland – she’s so vivid in my memories. I think that’s what’s hard, I’ve blocked out a lot of the bad memories, seeing her on her deathbed, and my brain has only chosen to remember the good things – the summers spent at her house, the beach walks and the Sunday night phone conversations. You might say, why would I want the bad memories? Well, I feel like I have no closure. I sometimes believe that this fantasyland is going to end with her alive again, ready to talk to me about People Magazine’s Oscar Issue. Yes, the rational side of my brain knows this isn’t real life, but the alternative is that she’s gone forever, and dealing with that is worse than living in fantasyland. Today, it became painfully clear that God didn’t want me to live in fantasyland any longer. It was like my heart broke on a million different levels today. I’m not angry and I don’t feel like I need answers, but I’m just plain old sad. Real life sucks. My date night with Jesus tonight looked pretty much like my day today – lots of tears. God is good. My identity lies in Christ. Those things haven’t changed, I know I’m loved, but I’m just a sad little broken mess. Amongst the tears I learned a couple things. 1) God is sovereign over my feelings 2) My feelings are part of the sanctification process. Yes, we have control over our lives. God gave us the gift of free choice, but He also has the ability to control how we feel. When we feel like crap, it’s usually so that we know what it feels like to not feel like crap. Feeling like crap doesn’t mean that we don’t experience joy, it just means that we’re sad, that we don’t have permanent smiles on our faces. God doesn’t like to see me in pain, but it’s part of the growing process. Jesus cried. Jesus suffered. If we want to be more like Him, which is our goal as Christians, to follow Jesus, we too must cry and suffer. This does not mean that I can cry when I don’t get my way, but I can cry when I’m sad; I can allow my sadness to lead me closer to God. In being made more into the image of Christ (sanctification), I must experience pain and suffering. Because I’m a feeler, these feelings cut right to my core. God is in control. He is good. Just because I feel like crap, those things don’t change. So as I deal with the sadness, I’m choosing to remember that God is in control, that He’s good and that He loves me… He even thinks I’m beautiful when I cry. came… and I couldn’t stop them. Sunday is the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and quite frankly I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a fantasyland – she’s so vivid in my memories. I think that’s what’s hard, I’ve blocked out a lot of the bad memories, seeing her on her deathbed, and my brain has only chosen to remember the good things – the summers spent at her house, the beach walks and the Sunday night phone conversations. You might say, why would I want the bad memories? Well, I feel like I have no closure. I sometimes believe that this fantasyland is going to end with her alive again, ready to talk to me about People Magazine’s Oscar Issue. Yes, the rational side of my brain knows this isn’t real life, but the alternative is that she’s gone forever, and dealing with that is worse than living in fantasyland.

Today, it became painfully clear that God didn’t want me to live in fantasyland any longer. It was like my heart broke on a million different levels today. I’m not angry and I don’t feel like I need answers, but I’m just plain old sad. Real life sucks. My date night with Jesus tonight looked pretty much like my day today – lots of tears. God is good. My identity lies in Christ. Those things haven’t changed, I know I’m loved, but I’m just a sad little broken mess.  Amongst the tears I learned a couple things.

1) God is sovereign over my feelings

2) My feelings are part of the sanctification process.

Yes, we have control over our lives. God gave us the gift of free choice, but He also has the ability to control how we feel. When we feel like crap, it’s usually so that we know what it feels like to not feel like crap. Feeling like crap doesn’t mean that we don’t experience joy, it just means that we’re sad, that we don’t have permanent smiles on our faces. God doesn’t like to see me in pain, but it’s part of the growing process. Jesus cried. Jesus suffered. If we want to be more like Him, which is our goal as Christians, to follow Jesus, we too must cry and suffer. This does not mean that I can cry when I don’t get my way, but I can cry when I’m sad; I can allow my sadness to lead me closer to God. In being made more into the image of Christ (sanctification), I must experience pain and suffering. Because I’m a feeler, these feelings cut right to my core. God is in control. He is good. Just because I feel like crap, those things don’t change. So as I deal with the sadness, I’m choosing to remember that God is in control, that He’s good and that He loves me… He even thinks I’m beautiful when I cry.

Soccer

Growing up, my life revolved around soccer. Family vacations, sleepovers, meals and friendships were all planned around this sport. It consumed my life. I believed that if I worked hard enough and put in enough effort, the sky was the limit. Almost everything I did was done with the end result – to be the best soccer player I could be. My identity was so consumed by the act of training to shoot a ball into a net that when I got cut from soccer my junior year of high school, my life changed significantly. I had always been taught that if I worked hard enough, good things would come for me. In this, I began to believe that I deserved good things because I worked hard. What I didn’trealize as a sixteen year old whose world had drastically changed was that God was writing a beautiful story for me, and this was the beginning of some hard lessons that would be crucial in my journey to Christ.

FIMG_0830rom a very young age, athletes are taught that practice makes perfect and it is most important to work hard. Growing up, my parents instilled the same values in me. If I worked hard, that was all that mattered, but the hope is that if you work hard enough, good things will come. I’m one of those all or nothing girls – if I can’t do it well, I don’t like to try it, and if I can’t give it my whole heart, it’s not even worth trying it either. This carried into soccer. I wanted to give it my all. My identity was tied up in it, I was in a bad mood when I didn’t play well, I developed a temper that is not me at all; soccer was a huge idol in my life. That alone was a problem, but the belief that practice made perfect was probably even more disastrous for me. In all areas of my life, all I needed to succeed and ultimately be happy was to work hard.

I see now that God allowed me to fail in this arena, not because I didn’t work hard enough, but because there was a greater story out there for me. A story that allowed me to be completely imperfect because of who Jesus is. Yes, working hard is important, but it is even more important to realize that no matter how hard we try, we will fall short when we compare ourselves to Christ. Because I had already seen hard work fail to satisfy and reward me, I was softened to the idea of the Gospel and a Savior that demands our best, but doesn’t hold our faults against us. When I came to Christ my freshman year of college, it was so refreshing to work hard and grow at something that had something to offer me in return. I wish I could say that becoming a Christian meant that I no longer held my own shortcomings against myself, or strived for the good that comes from hard work, but I’m growing. Today as I watched the USA Women’s World Cup game, I thought about what role soccer has played in my life and the way God has used it. It’s neat to see that what I once idolized, God brought me out of and used for His glory. While I still struggle with striving, I have the privilege of serving a God who honors hard work, but ultimately loves me for me and not how many goals I can score. He has redeemed the girl whose life revolved around soccer and now made her life revolve Him, the Almighty God.

A Daughter, Not a Slave

I am a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. Such a sinner that sometimes I can be so lost in my sinfulness that I forget that God desires other things for me. Tonight, as I read through Galatians’ 5, where Paul describes the desires of the sinful nature, I underlined all the desires I have acted on or fell victim to in the past week. The following were underlined – impurity, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and envy. Wow. Talk about being convicted of sin. I so largely fall short of perfection. It would be so easy to let my thoughts stop here, feel guilty, hopeless and wonder how God is ever going to use me. Yes, I am a sinner, and I frequently chose my fleshly desires over the life Jesus died for me to have. I am not proud to admit this, but it is the reality of this world and a reality of my imperfection. Thankfully, the message of Galatians 5 is not our utter sinfulness; it’s the freedom we have from sin in Christ.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (Galatians 5:24 NLT)

The beautiful thing about having a Savior is that He died for my sin. With my sin, He took the passions and desires of my sinful nature with Him. The passions and desires were not just put to a graceful death, they, like Jesus, were brutally killed. I so often forget that my ties to my sin have been crucified. I no longer have to live in slavery to my sinful desires. I no longer have to live in slave to impurity, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissention, division or envy. Instead, I get to live in the freedom of the Spirit, bearing fruit as a result. The fruit of the Spirit is not of me, it’s not something I can manufacture by obeying the law or striving to be a good person – it comes from submitting to the Lord and walking in the Spirit. For me, it’s a constant decision. Some moments my flesh feels so strong that I cannot possibly overcome the sinful desire to be jealous or fight with someone else, but in these moments, I’m forgetting the power I have because I belong to Jesus. Because I am a daughter of God, I have the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and the same power that performed miracles; it lives in me! It is what fights my sinful desires. The question for me becomes, do I acknowledge this, or do I live believing the lies that I’m still a slave and not a beloved daughter with an inheritance that “can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4)? In this power and in this inheritance is freedom. Freedom in my brokenness.

A Day With Tears

Some days just aren’t good days. I love so many things about being a girl – I love that boys hold doors open for me, I love that feminine beauty is welcoming and I love that I have a heart that is easily broken – I’m very in tune with my emotions. However, some days I have trouble not being a slave to my emotions. Monday was one of those days. Last 4th of July was so rough. It was the defining moment of the summer that sucked. As I sat on my bed on Monday, I couldn’t get the image of my ailing grandmother in her hospital bed out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about the good-bye I said to her that weekend. I also couldn’t forget the comfort God brought me through all the pain. I spent most of last summer crying and mourning, and Monday morning reminded me of all that suffering. I realized there’s healing still to be done. There’s more hurt to welcome God into.

Monday was one of those days that my feelings seemed more powerful than God. I felt like I couldn’t hold back the tears. I cried while leaving my mom a voicemail, I cried on my way to the grocery store and I cried during worship at our Monday night meeting. I kept asking God to just make it a good day, to be bigger than my emotions and pull me out of the rut. However, it wasn’t until that afternoon, after lots of tears, while running on the treadmill and listening to worship music that I realized that some days God wants us to cry. Some days God wants me to mourn, and not just my losses, but also the depravity of the world. Michael W. Smith wrote a worship song called “You Are Holy”, and the song has had huge significance in my life. The girls’ part of the song is –

He is Lord of Lords

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He is King of Kings

He is mighty God

Lord of everything

He’s Emmanuel

He’s the great “I AM”

He’s my Prince of Peace

Who is the Lamb

He’s the living God

He’s my saving grace

He will reign forever

He is ancient of days

He’s the Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End

He’s my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and friend

These lyrics spoke to my heart on Monday. Some days I might not feel like the perky, bubbly version of myself. I might be sad and spend more time crying than smiling, but God’s character does not change. He is still the Almighty God who is in control. Ultimately, my Monday was a good day, not because I smiled a lot, but because I have a Heavenly Father who knows me intimately, and wants me to move forward, even if it requires some tears.

My Heart

I cannot tell you the number of times in the past year that I’ve said, “I have no heart for the nations.” I was the former ex-pat kid who grew up on airplanes, but had a hardened heart to God’s people outside of the United States. That is a large part of why I ended up on project in Chicago and not East Asia, or Germany. I was honest about my apathy, but I never asked God to change my heart. I think I was scared of what a change of heart looked like. However, God knew that He could do big work in this heart of mine less than 5 hours from my home. I didn’t need to get on an airplane, go through customs or leave the Midwest to develop a heart for the world.

My first day of University of Illinois Chicago’s campus, I received the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ in Spanish to a Mexican girl. Last week, I attended our newly created English Club and talked with a Korean and a Japanese girl for an hour and half. This week, I prayed that God would increase the number of students at English Club from 16 to 20. Today, 35 students showed up. God shattered my expectations, not only in increasing the number of students who came, but also in my capacity to serve these students. In my discussion group today, I talked to two girls from Saudi Arabia, one girl from Thailand, one boy from Korea and my new friend Ayana from Osaka, Japan – a city less than 30 minutes from where I spent 5 years of my childhood. Even after 2 weeks, English Club has become the highlight of my week.

I knew this summer would bring change in my life. I figured it would look like more humility, more comfort in sharing my faith, and the ability to love others better in Christian community. I never expected it would look like a heart broken for the nations. I’m good at talking, my spiritual gift is encouragement, but I never thought that the act of simply speaking could serve someone else. English Club is a huge blessing for me – I long to serve and love others. Through speaking to international students, they get to practice their conversational English and make new friends, I get to use my ability to speak to make new friends, and begin to understand what their lives look like. Please pray that I be able to glorify God with this blessing; that I continue to seek Him. My prayer is that through building relationships with these students that I may be able to share Christ’s love with them, that they may receive love that they’ve never experienced before. And my prayer for you is that you be able to let God into the places of your heart that you thought were too hardened for even Him to redeem. Maybe you’ll realize that God wants to break your heart for His people and give you the chance to love them in ways that of Him, and not yourself.

Obedience

I honestly don’t know when I became such a rebel. Growing up, I was always such a goody-goody, and followed every rule set for me. However, somewhere along the line, I started to question the rules, and decided to bend (and sometimes break) the ones I didn’t agree with. Even in my walk with the Lord, it’s been a journey of listening to where God’s calling me as a last resort, only after I try it my way 100 times. This past week on project, we’ve been studying Galatians 3 and 4. In these chapters, Paul discusses the law with the Galatians. It’s been this week that I’ve realized that I’ve been believing some hard-core lies about the law. Because I had grown to hate rules, I had a very negative view on the law. However, during bible study on Tuesday night, someone brought up that the law is a reflection of God’s character. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this, but at the core, I’ve realized a lie I’ve been believing. I believed that because legalism is bad, all rules are bad.

God gives His people rules for their protection. He desires to protect His children from their own sin. However, we are sinners; we are rebels. We break the rules and then wonder why we are unhappy, in danger, or unhealthy. Here’s what I’m starting to believe – God set the law, therefore the law is good. Obviously, we should not idolize the law or follow rules just for the sake of following them, but they are in place for a reason. My heart has been softened to God’s rules. They exist so I can experience the fullness of His character. I am not a slave to the law, my salvation is from my faith in Christ, not from obeying rules and performing, but by obeying the law I bring glory to God.

One example of this is in purity. In today’s society, and even in my own heart, there is the temptation to believe that purity is not worth striving for. It is pointless; it is impossible. However, Matthew 5:8 states, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Yes, purity is hard, and those who seek it strictly out of legalism will most likely not be successful, but by desiring to obey this command and relying on God to do so, He will reward you. For me, it would be really easy to rebel against this law (not just mentioned in this passage, but also in Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 5 and 1 Thessalonians 4), and fulfill my fleshly desires. However, if I want to see God, if I want to wholeheartedly experience Him, it important to obey the laws He has set for me. He does not love me any less when I fail to obey His laws, He knows I will fail in some way or another, but I want to see Him. The laws are for my good, so that I can experience His love more, not for His good; God does not use the law as a report card, my salvation is not tied to the law. There is freedom in Christ, there is no condemnation for those who mess up, the law is simply in place so I can experience God more fully.

My prayer is that by exploring God’s laws, you may be able to experience God more personally. I pray for my own heart, that I do not use the law as a measure of my own goodness, but that I remember that I am a broken little sinner who needs the law so that she can follow God better.