Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Understanding Appreciation of Family

To start off, I would like to do a SPECIAL shout out to the absolute greatest parents in the entire world,  and a Happy 24th Anniversary yesterday. I hated so much that I could not be there to celebrate with you. As I have been gone for 3 weeks now, I can truly sit back and realize that if nothing else the Lord has opened my eyes to greater apprecaite my family. Thinking back to from when I was little, there would be absolutely no way in the world that I would be the person I am today without having such Godly parents who always demonstrated Gods love to me in ways that I have never seen before. These past couple of days my family has really been on my heart, and I wanted to take some time to reflect over the things I have realized since I have been gone.

I will openly admit to anyone I AM 100% a daddy's girl:) After growing up and seeing how blessed I am, I have realize my faith has almost to a sense been triggered with having such a Godly earthly father. The phrase about your earthly fathering affecting your view of our Heavenly Father is so true. Daddy, I cannot thank you enough being the perfect dad to 3 girls. I know that is hard and I cannot begin to understand how you always knew exacly what was right all the time. Your ways of dsicipline are incredible. You always had the perfect middle of showing me grace for my mistakes but also showing me that there would be consequences. Thank you for not only allowing me to get involved in whatever I wanted, but also encouraging me and supporting me through everything I have done. You never ever let me back down from a challenge, and I know I got that trait from you. Thank you for loving God and making Christ the center of our household at all times. Thank you most importantly for always making sure I knew how beautiful I was, and for never allowing me to doubt anything about myself. There is absolutely no way in the world that I could ever be where I am right now without you promising me time and time again that God will give me peace when I needed it, that God is using me even when I can't see it, that God is good ALL the time, and for never letting me seek anything but the cross. Daddy, even though I am so much like you it is scary and we tend to argue, thank you for loving me with unconditional love and never letting me think I am alone.

I am for sure a daddy's girl, but I will always love my mom just as much because she is a super hero to me. Mom, thank you for always being there when I failed and needed someone to cry to and for when I succeeded and needed someone to celebrate with. Thank you for always making me sit down and rest when I over-booked my life and began to sink into the craziness of this world. You have always showed me that it is okay to rest, it is okay to say no to some things, and it is okay to take time for myself. Sometimes, I truly believe that you can make anything better even if it is the worst situation. Thank you so much for instilling in me at a young age that my beauty comes from nothing and no one but my Heavenly Savior. Thank you for worshiping Christ openly and showing me what having a faith of my own looked like. You and dad never forced anything on me and that to me made the biggest difference. Thank you for setting good examples for me and for not only allowing me to see right now wrong, but also showing me and explaining to me why it was right from wrong. Thank you for loving my heart of missions, and clinging to the Lord enough to let me travel the world without you. You truly have shown me what true love from Christ is all about.

I used to always think being the oldest of 3 girls was the absolute worst end of the deal, but the older I have gotten I realize what a privilege it is to be the oldest. I have had the ability to demonstate with my actions and with my mistakes to set good examples for them. Allison and Meredith, sometimes I know I am harsh and it may seem at times that I do not love you but I really truly do. Allison, thank you for doing random things with me. Thank you for making clothes for me and teaching me how to bake. You have given me a desire to be crafty even though I am not at all!! You are so incredibly talented in a different way than me and I absolute LOVE it. Mere, you are an absolute mini me. I can see myself through everythig you do and it is crazy to watch you grow up and involve youself in the same type activities that I used to do. Thank you for having the absolute sweetest heart I have ever known in my life and for over using the phrase "I love you honey bunches." You two have completely changed my perspective on life and I can promise you I am going to miss so much our constantly loud house and spending time with you two when I leave for college.

Needless to say, being away from home before leaving for college has been a blessing in disguise for me. It is allowed me to realize the impact that my family has made on me and the great amount of love and respect I have for all of them. I have been able to see how my parents have a huge difference in my life and more importantly in my faith that I try to live out day by day. I cannot thank anyone the the Lord Almighty for each and every blessing that He has given me. And as my daddy has sent me to time after time while I have been gone "God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good!"

Friday, July 19, 2013

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!!

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. 

    Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control. That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 

    For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll. No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life. Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

     But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait. The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul! 

    And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend. 
    Even so, it is well with my soul.
    -Horatio G. Spafford 

    Time after time the lyrics of this hymn pop into my heart. I seem to recall this song and sing in times of either peace or pain of some sort. Everytime I can truly feel the Lord grabbing me into his arms and loving me with absolute unconditonal love. Last night during our devotion, this song was mentioned and we dsicussed it. I remember hearing the story of Horatio's life but the circumstances being reiterated brought a whole new meaning to the hymn for me. For those of you who have not heard this story, I can give you a summary of the story. Horatio Spafford was a lawyer in Chicago and he lost his 4 year old son to an outbreak of scarlet fever. Following this was the Chicago fire, which devastaed everyone including the Spaffords. They did not allow this to hold them back, while they continued to praise God for the good he had done in their life. A while later he decided to take his wife and daughters on a trip to Europe, and on the day of their depature he got a call from work and ended up staying back while the family went. On the way to Europe the ship sank and most of the passengers died, including his daughters. Somehow his wife survived and contacted him once she arrived to Europe to inform him of the news. While he was alone in this time of complete despair and loss Horatio found JOY in the Lord and writes this hymn.

    Remembering the story of Horatio's life and the devestation and loss he experienced, brings so much life to the words of that hymn as I sing it. He found pure peace and comfort in Christ in the midst of his absolute darkness and writes this song saying "My sin, not in part but the whole. Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!!" Those words give me chill bumps every time. It brings peace to know that in the midst of ANYTHING my God is worthy to be praised. In the midst of peace, our God is worthy to be praise. In the midst of laughing, our God is worthy to be praised. And in the midst of absolute suffering, our God is STILL worthy to be praised. This is one of the most incredible stories because it continually reminds me of how much I should praise the Lord because of how temporary our life and sufferings are. It is awesome to see the peace the Lord can bring in the midst of our darkest hour. 

    The one question it always leaves me with is, Have I surrendered enough to be able to praise God in my darkest or happiest hour saying "Even so, it is well with my soul?"


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dancing for our King

Yesterday was one of my favorite days here so far. I spent lots of time in the village in the morning while they taught us some African dances and songs. So after lunch we told them that we would come back with our phones so that we could play music on it for them and teach them some dances. Taylor (the other girl intern) and I danced with these girls for the longest time just jamming out to fun girl music. I was truly having the most fun I had had all trip being crazy and dancing like no one was watching. This is when I really could see the barriers in my heart fall down, and see God begin to move me in a way that I had not been moved before. I went back to the house that afternoon and began to mediate on Solomans words in Ecclesiastes 3 about a time for everything and he starts in verse 1 by saying "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavans: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, and time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to DANCE!!!" Verse four just hit home to me, every last word of it was convicting me. During my time here in Gulu I have done every single one of those things mentioned in verse four. I have wept, laughed, cried, and I have danced. I realized that it is okay that I have cried from being homesick and adjusting, it is okay that I have laughed when funny things have happened here, it is okay that I have mourned for at times I doubted the goodness of my God, and it is okay that I danced because God TELLS us to. So many times this trip I have allowed myself to be focused on other things when I should have been focsued on the cross and on the work God was doing here in Gulu. I got mad at myself for crying sometimes and for not allowing the walls in my heart to break down for my time here, but this verse has allowed me to understand that God promises us that we will suffer for him, and promises us that it won't be easy, so it is okay to hurt. In Philippians 1:29 Paul writes that we have been given the privilege to suffer for christ, the word privilege in this context is really bold to me. Better understanding this verse and this concept brings me pure joy when I suffer because I can tell myself, it should be a pivilege to suffer for Christ. 

God has definitely taken my heart and transformed it. He has allowed me to be still and know that he is God, allowed me to rest in his peace, and allowed me to learn how to patiently wait for the storm to pass. 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

EVERYTHING radiates the goodness of God

Sundays are usualy our relax day here in Gulu. Although, every day comes with a blank schedule that we can fill ourselves, Sundays usually are the day we rest and spend hours in communication with God. As a group we are reading Matt Chandler's book called "The Explicit Gospel," and if you haven't read it I would greatly recommend it for your free time. The other night we were discussing chapter 5 which was all about the creation. Today I really allowed myself time to sit and mediate on the things that we read and talked about thta night. In chapter 5 it really gets into the fact that EVERYTHING is radiating the glory and goodness of God. Although we do not always see it because we as humans are too busy giving other things the glory, the glory of God is being decalred in every little thing imaginable. I know so often that we hear 1 Corinthians 10:31 that says "So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God," and even I until now did not fully understand the meaning behind that verse. That verse is not saying that we cannot love food, and it's not saying that we need to hate food, but it is saying that instead of eating and being in awe of how good the food is we need to eat and be in awe of how good the Creator of the food is. It is even so selfish of us to take pride and to take the glory for creating a meal because God in essence created it. He created the earth out of NOTHING!!! We had a long discussion about how he created something out of nothing, and how in the world do we think that we can take the glory for the things that he created?? It's mind blowing to me.

The Lord has allowed the stars in the sky to be so beautiful, the water in the ocean to be so clear, and the sunset/ sunrise to come up so majestically so that it would better focus our attention to the Creator of those beautiful things. Sometimes, I get wrapped up in the gift and the thing I love and I forget that my heavenly father is the real giver. Matt Chandler says "God declared his creation good, we have a responsibility to steward creatiion well, not as servants to it but as servants to God." I love that exerpt because it is such a good reminder that creation isn't there for us to marvel at, but it is there for us to better understand our creator that we marvel at. Chandler also comments saying "The goodness of creation is designed not to decalre itself but to act as a signpost pointing heavenward." This to me is such a convicting statement, because how can I allow myself to be prideful for the things I think I create or think I should get the glory for when even the galaxy and stars (the most amazing part of the earth) is being humble to allow God to be declared. That just makes me go speechless.

The Lord has given us everything for us to marvel at and love so that we could grow our relationship with Him. Chandler says "any time we orient our heart of hearts around something, we are worshiping that thing. The aim of the Scripture is to direct our worship to the one true God of the universe..." God wants us to love and enjoy the pleasure of life that he has given us but he commands us not to worship them. We are called to worship the God who created those pleasures and not the pleasures themselves. This chapter of the book was very convicting to me and really is allowing me to begin to change the beat of my heart to allow God to be radiated through everything, and better recognize the one true Creator in everything that I find pleasure in.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The sacrifices are so worth it

The last couple of days have been absolutely incredible. Really allowing myself to sit for multiple hours at a time just being immersed in scripture and prayer can make a HUGE difference. Although the emotion of missing home will not go away, the Lord has allowed me to open my heart and to really live out Philippians 4:11-12. The thing is, is that if anyone were to come up to me at any given time and say "What's your favorite bible verse?" I would respond saying "Oh its Philippians 4:11-12 and it says 'I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have already learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether being in plenty or in want. '" Sitting down and flipping to that passage earlier this week really convicted me. I realized that I am not being content in the situation, and I am not waiting patiently for the Lord to reveal himself to me while being perfectly content in my current situation. This week I really prayed for the Lord to not reveal himself to me because he was already at work in my life and in my days, but I asked for the Lord to put the desire in my heart to be open enough and faithful enough to just sit in his arms surrounded by peace and see with my own eyes what he is doing. I didnt need the Lord to reveal himself, I need the desire in my heart to open up my own eyes and be ready to see exactly what he is already doing. I was so focused on the next thing that day or the next day that I realized I was being so two faced. When someone asks what my favorite verse is, I cannot say Philippians 4:11-12 and then CLEARLY not be living it out.

This week I have truly been able to see the Lord working in my heart and giving me the desire to be content in every situation I have been in while I am here. I am not someone who can just sit and be still and know that He is God and not be ready to move onto the next thing, but this week the Lord has surrounded me with his truth and allowed me to be able to realx and LOVE the place I am in currently. The Lord has allowed me to spend many hours this week just sitting in homes with people and loving on Gods children while reading the bible with them, showing them pictures of my family and friends, teaching them fun american songs and dances, and just being God to people who are just as broken as I am. Today it really truly hit me that I only have less than 2 weeks left in Gulu. It is heart breaking to know that in less than 2 weeks I will have to leave these people I have made close relationships with and spend my whole days with. I have been greatly encouraged by everyone I have met whether it be in the village or the incredible interns that I have grown to love and admire. It makes it so easy to be able to come in at night and just pour into each other with advice and to have fun after a long days work. I cannot thank everyone enough for your constant love and support. Getting on social media and always having messages and comments of love and prayer is just so uplifting. I definitely would not be here without all the love and support everyone has given!

Also, I hope you are able to zoom in and read the letter I have attached. It is from a 13 year of named Moureen I spend lots of time with and walk to school everyday. She is so precious and it is things like this that allow my heart to crumble and realize that I would give ANYTHING up because the rewards the Lord has already given me have brought absolute pure joy. This letter allowed me to step back and be thankful for the hardships and sacrifices this whole experience has given me because it has made it all SO worth it:)


Monday, July 8, 2013

Drawing near to God

I have now been gone for about a week and although it has been so great and I have experienced so much, I am hurting right now and am missing home very much. I have never been one to be homesick, but these past couple of days it has really gotten to me. I am spending so much time in the word and clinging to the Lord in these weeks. There is no way that I could get through it all without all the love and support from you all. There is absolutely no doubt that I am being pushed out of my comfort zone but as many people have told me, out of your comfort zone is where we really see the Lord. I could not be more thankful for this opportunity because this is where we are forced to cling to the Lord the most. The days here are very laid back, which is not my personality. I am very type A and I like to have a daily plan and things to fill my day, and here is the complete opposite. It will definitely take me a couple more days to get adjusted to the relaxed atmosphere and all the free time to fill with whatever I feel like I need to be doing.

Yesterday I woke slept late then fixed breakfast. I spent time in scripture and jounrnaling then headed out to the village for the afternoon. At the village I spent time with a family and helped the girls wash clothes, then I learned how to get water and carry the 50lbs jugs on my head!! Then, I helped picked greens out of the garden and walked around. While walking around, I met a very sweet lady who insisted I had some food with them. So as an afternoon snack I ate some smashed white ants. It was the most unique thing I had ever had, but again I am very thankful for every out of the box experience I have had thus far. Today, I woke up early and walked some girls to school at 7am. Then we came back to the house and rested and hung out until after lunch when we went to the village to see the girls during their lunch break. It stormed all afternoon and I spent lots of time at the girls house with their family during the afternoon. I came back to the house early with my heart heavy and my thoughts focused on other things.

These first couple of days have been very hard for me because it is way out of my comfort zone. I know the Lord is using me in mighty ways, but I just have to completely open myself up to see the things that he is trying to do. Thank you all for the encouraging messages and prayers. It means so much for ths support and love everyone has given me to be able to experience God on a level this deep.


Friday, July 5, 2013

"go with the flow"

When you think of Africa you always hear the term "go with the flow", or something similar. Well, today we learned that lesson. We spent the night near the airport last night and left for the 7 hour drive to Gulu at 9am this morning. We figured that with some stops and lunch we would be here by 4 or so, and we soon realized we thought wrong. At about 1:30 a major part of the car broke (I would explain but I'm the furthest thing from a mechanic) and we ended up sitting on the side of the road for 2 hours waiting for our driver to get to the nearest city to get a mechanic. Once they got back, they temporarily fixed it and we slowly made it to the next town. They told us it would take a couple hours and we were starving, so at about 3:30 we caught a ride to the place we were suppose to have lunch at. After sitting there for another 2 hours we realized it would be a long time until the car was ready. We then caught another ride futher up the road, rented a hotel room for 2 and a half hours and slept until the van came to get us at about 9:30pm. After the last 2 and a half hours of the trip to Gulu, we finally made it. I am currently sitting on my bed reflecting the beauty and greatness of our God.

The term "go with the flow" really brought on a whole new meaning today. Sitting basically all day, I had a chance to understand the sovereignty of God. When he wants us to sit and listen, he makes a way for us to sit and listen. We could have been miserable all day, but we found ourselves laughing, having fun, and growing relationships. Here in Africa, there are many times when our plans do not always turn out, which is why there is not reason for us to sit around planning what WE want. The Lord already has it all figured out, and that is something I cannot wait to continually be reminded of while I am here.

Long story short, today was eventful and long. I could not be more excited to lay sleep and wake up ready to experience God in all new ways. Thank you all for prayers of courage and safe travels!!