Friday, August 26, 2011

Not to Harm You

My precious ones are in the middle of sorority rush. Well, actually the end as bid day is today. It has been a little bit of a rollercoaster of a week, with unexplained cuts, confusion, and all that other joyous rush stuff (spoken sarcastically).

My rush experience was pretty darn awful after the first three days, yet it is also a time in which I can look back and SO clearly see the Lord's hand directing me where he wanted me. So I know that this experience for my dear girls is a time of refinement. I knew going in that feelings would be hurt, but trusted the Lord to place them exactly where he wanted them. Because of that knowledge, I have showered them with verses to hopefully remind them that their value lies not in which sorority they are in (or not in), or what happens with their friends, or dorm, or classes, or anything else. Their value is rooted solely in the fact that God sent his Son to live a perfect life, die an excrutiating death, conquer death, and raise us in the newness of life. "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Ephesians 1:4

At the same time, I know he may also allow hurt and shattered dreams, if it's what will best lead them to be more like Christ. It's the hurt I wish I could shield them from, but know it's necessary.

One of the verses that has come to mind as I've prayed for them is the ever-famous Jeremiah 29:11. As I meditated on it, though, I started to wrestle with the "not to harm you" line. As I really thought about it, I was confused as hurt and suffering for Christ is promised. And it's a necessary part of refinement and growth in Christ. So what does it mean?

It kept popping into my head yesterday over and over...almost to the point of annoyance! And then I realized, my definition of harm is not the same as the Lord's. To me, I want to feel comfortable. I want to have what I want. I also desire this for the others in my life who I love. But to God, THAT is harmful. Keeping me where I am, sitting in the depravity of sin does not give me a hope or a future (the last words of the verse). My flesh naturally desires temporal comfort whereas God is in the business of lasting joy and eternal security. And for that, the fleshly desires must be stripped away. My hands must be ripped from the earthly things and moved over to heavenly ones.

So it's true. The Lord knows the plans he has for us. Plans to prosper us and not to harm us by keeping us where we are. But plans to give us a lasting hope and future through stripping away us and molding us to be more like Christ. It'll hurt for a little while, but it will create freedom on earth as those worldly bits are stripped away and eternal joy in heaven.

Thankful he doesn't harm me by keeping me where I am.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Proverbs

For whatever reason, I've never been a big Proverbs reader. I suppose it's because of the way it's structured and it feels disjointed. I tend to gravitate to the story-like passages in Scripture, places the incite images and events in my mind. I think this is partially due to how I'm wired and my love of a story.

In any case, I know quite a few people who follow the Proverbs-a-Day practice. Since there are 31, they read one every day. Sad ole 31 only gets read on months with 31 days, and a few are lopped off in February, but nonetheless, they study most of them 12 times a year. I know many people who do this with their families, applying a portion of the day's proverb to each day as a family. I've thought about it before, but just never felt inclined to follow this. Again, it's the seeming list of dos and don'ts as opposed to the richness of story.

Well, in the past few weeks I've realized how frequently I rely on my own set of wisdom. Be it how I view things or even how I may interpret said story. Not that this is necessarily bad when viewed through the lens of God's word, but I could stand some wisdom. So, I decided to give this practice a try. So as to not overwhelm my mind with lots of God's word at a time (I tend to take a long time to chew through it, letting it mull and soak in my mind and heart), I decided I'd break-up the day's chapter. Read a few verses to chew on in the morning, and then check-out at various points throughout the day. We'll see how this works...I'm only on day one. :)

Today's Proverb has some mighty good nuggets in it. I thought I'd share a few from the first half:

1-2: When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Can I get an OW! Considering I'm on the path of healthy living, this one was especially, um, wow. :)

10-11: Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you. Oh how I love reading about God's heart for the orphaned and the poor. He loves them so very much and has certainly built a heart for them in me.

17-18: Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. I too often am envious of temporal things others receive, yet this solidifies my hope and reminds me I work for a treasure in heaven, not one on earth.

Funnily, I was watching the Duggars at the gym while ellipticalling it this morning since I didn't get my butt up in time for bodypump, and they were visiting the Biltmore house. One of the kids asked about why they needed a gigantic house and dad Duggar took the moment to share about storing up treasures in heaven as opposed to earthly treasures. While I think the family is a little odd, I do appreciate their vocalization of their faith and standing firm for Truth. Though I think it's also biblical to have fewer than 19 children... :)

Oh and in the show, they subtitled "y'all" incorrectly. And you can bet your bottom dollar I mentally corrected them. Yes, I have a problem. And TLC maybe needs some new editors...

Excited to see how the Proverbs shape my daily thinking. Already I'm questioning my previous avoidance of this 31 chaptered book!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Refinement

We all have to do things we don't want to do. Things as simple as cleaning the house when we'd rather watch TV or something harder...whatever that may look like.

And then there are the things we know God is calling us to. Things we know will likely hurt, but that are required for righteousness. Things that we'd rather keep hidden away in a box on the inside, ignoring their contents, yet knowing that will weigh us down and keep us from freedom. These things scare me the most. I guess it's because surprising hard things just appear and don't give you time to contemplate, analyze, and consider. Where as deliberately choosing to walk into something you know will be hard produces questions and tempts you to wonder if God really will show up. Or if it's really what he's calling us to.

In these moments, my greatest comfort comes in knowing this is what Jesus did. He endured excrutiating pain to release grace, joy, love, etc. He did not need refining or punishment as he is perfect, yet he took it for us.

The goal of my life is to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ. To accomplish that goal, ugliness must be stripped away. Refinement is necessary. While I wish it didn't, this produces pain as part of me wants to cling to the ugliness as it's what I know.

Trusting is so difficult. Trusting that greater glory comes through suffering with Christ, is especially difficult, even when I've seen it happen in my life before. In those moments, I become like the Israelites and would rather stay in the comfort of slavery instead of walk through the desert to pursue freedom. Trusting each day that the Lord will bring manna, exactly the amount I need for each day.

I do want to become more and more like Christ. And I want my life to bring him glory, and to be used to impact his Kingdom and his people. For that, I will walk into the tumultuous times. I will take that first step into the desert, for I know in my head that God will use it to refine me for his good. And I choose to trust in my heart that he will use that refinement to draw me closer to himself. And I'll prayerfully ask that he'll use my story, my experiences, to bring others freedom through Christ.

I fell in love with the truth of this song while in Brazil. It has continued to stir my heart for Christ and I've listened to it about five times just this morning. :) (side note: sorry for the cheesy background; this version is better but it won't let me embed it)



Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Joy

One of my favorite things about having gone to Haiti is the ability to follow-up with the ministry happening there. I'm so grateful that Mission of Hope has a blog, Twitter, and Facebook, and that they update with prayer requests, needs, and talk about what is going on at Mission of Hope. I'm grateful to have tangible prayers, celebrations, and a touchpoint to a place that touched my heart so deeply. Due to the nature of our Brazil trip, that would be near impossible. I still think of and pray for Brazil often, as I know the Lord knows what is occuring there.

It's also great as my church is launching more and more trips to Haiti, so hopefully I'll hear first-hand updates from folks who are blessed to experience all that Mission of Hope is doing and the wonderfulness that is Haiti.

In the meantime, I was so excited about two recent updates from Mission of Hope! I mean, beyond excited. When we got home, I perused their site again and saw so many faces that I knew from our time there; especially of the sweet orphans living on their campus (the orphanage is called Vision of Hope). These kids have really hard stories as most of them would likely not be alive had it not been for MOH. Their lives are still so different from how I grew up. They do not leave MOH very frequently as it's not always safe for kids. They have a "mommy" but no father. And they have a string of people coming into and out of their lives through different teams that visit Haiti. I can't imagine, and yet they are being trained in Truth and educated to be the leaders of Haiti.

We learned when we were visiting MOH that they have various behavior monitoring and one of the rewards this summer, while they're not in school, is a trip to the beach. MOH posted this picture on a recent blog update, and I was beyond excited and filled with joy to see their elation and sheer excitement!

AND I know the sweet little boy at the front! The one with his number 1 finger up and tongue sticking out. His name is Widler (pronounced Widlay) and he helped with arts and crafts through our week. He is a quiet, but unbelievably sweet little seven year old boy. So fun to see him.

MOH also posted that their newest primary school is complete!! We helped paint this building in Bercy during one of our work projects. The village is right on the water and none of the kids have access to school unless they go to another village (which is very unlikely and expensive). It was sweet as one of our team members asked a kid where they went to school and they pointed to this building.

So excited to know that more kids will be educated. More future leaders of Haiti are being discipled in Truth.

Changes continue to grow in this small country. Continue to pray for the Haitians. For their hearts to turn toward Christ and for the Lord to bring glory to his name through their lives.

Praise God!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wherein Sarah is Neurotic

We all have a few neurotic tendencies in life. From having to do things a certain way, or being hyper organized, or eating foods in a specific number, or a host of other things.

I have lots of neurotic tendencies myself. But the one that is probably my worst is actually a secret to most people. And it's quite embarrassing.

I am a huge stickler for grammar and mentally correct people's grammar when they're speaking or if I'm reading something they wrote.

What? That's insane. Especially considering I make up words all the time and most certainly do not have perfect grammar. And yet, I do. The most bothersome faux pas for me are:

Misuse of "your" and "you're"
This one occurs so much and every time I see it, Ross' voice (yes Ross from Friends) comes into my mind when he's correcting Rachel:
Y-O-U-'-R-E spells you are. Y-O-U-R spells your!
Um, does this make me like Ross?!?!

Mispelling "y'all"
The apostrophe always takes the place of the letters that are dropped when creating a contraction. Y'all is a contraction for you all; therefore, the apostrophe goes where the o and u were. Erg, it frustrates me!

Incorrect use of adverbs...or really the lack thereof
This one is 100% due to my mom. Growing up if I did not use an adverb when I should have, she wouldn't let me finish my sentence until I corrected it. It was so annoying!! And yet I credit much of my grammar neuroses to her. And my decent grammar. Anyway, here's a lesson:
Incorrect: I am real hungry.
Correct: I am really hungry.

I mean, it'd bother you, too, if you grew up with your mom saying "leee!" constantly when you spoke incorrectly. :) Thanks, Mom.

So there you have it. I fully admit I'm a wee bit psycho. And feel free to mentally (or verbally!) correct my incorrect grammar. I probably won't mind since I'm used to my mom doing it. :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Getting Closer...

I'm 0.8 lbs away from my 10 lbs loss by my birthday!! I think I can do it... I'm also 18-23 lbs away from my ultimate goal! The reason for the range is I haven't fully decided which goal weight I'm going for. I figured I'd see how I feel when I get to the first and decide from there.

The remaining weight to lose is still a little daunting as it took several months to get that off initially, but I think it may be attainable by the end of the year.

We'll see. Pretty excited!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why Haiti







Note: these pictures were taken by one of our unbelievably talented students who served with us in Haiti. I especially love the sweet girl giving thumbs up. :)

Since returning home and before I left, I have received accolades for going to Haiti and been asked on multiple occasions if I feel fulfilled from doing something good. While I understand these responses/questions, they also make me a little uncomfortable. The reason is simply that I do not deserve accolades as I went merely out of obedience. And I am not fulfilled from going as my fulfillment comes from someone else, someone greater. I simply went to Haiti because I am loved by a magnificent God and want others to know they are loved, too.

While I most certainly make mistakes, act selfishly, and sin too frequently, my sole purpose and goal in life is to glorify Christ. This purpose manifests itself in various ways, be it sitting quietly before the Lord or enjoying dinner with friends or discipling my girls or choosing to dress a certain way or avoiding/doing certain things or work with diligence or playing with orphans in Haiti. These choices aren’t punishments or attempts toward prudishness for the sake of boasting, they are choices made because God loves me and has something greater than earthly treasures or experiences in store for me because of Jesus.

God’s word says “but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. This seemingly simple phrase molds and shapes my being as it proves I have a perfect, loving God. For I know the depths of my depravity and I know how useless I am apart from his love. This love compels me to act. It compels me to serve. It compels me to love others, all the way down to the least of these. I love because he first loved me. And I pray that he will give me the strength, boldness, and ability to love as he loves, so others may come to know the saving grace of Christ.

God’s word also says, “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.” Deuteronomy 15:7-8. Over the past two years, my understanding of how God loves the poor has shifted significantly. My eyes have been opened to the prevalence with which he speaks of this in his word, and his commandments to us, the rich. But even here, my heart for the poor is still based solely in the truth of Romans 5:8, that the poor are sinners just as the rich are. And because Christ loves them, I love them. And I prayerfully long for their eyes, as well as fellow eyes of the rich, to be opened to salvation as mine have.

At times throughout the trip, my American self wanted to see big changes happen or I wanted the Haitians’ lives to shift to look American. Quite silly since I was only there a week and silly since we most certainly do not have it all and are unbelievably broken people bent on the love of self and material items. Yet the Lord gently reminded me of his timing and something he said about the Israelites and the promises he made to them in Hebrews 11:39-40: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

No, I didn’t see a huge change directly from our work. And, by the help of God’s word and an amazing book on poverty alleviation that I’m working through, When Helping Hurts, I strive to not measure “success” through my American lens. I know that the Lord is faithful and he will use the collection of all of his people who serve to continue to impact his Kingdom, both in Haiti and the rest of the world, for his glory. And this truth encourages me here at home, too, when I long for quick action: to walk a little more slowly, increase in patience, and trust the Lord’s perfect timing. For he will never fail or mess up.

So you see, my only reason for going to Haiti was to bring glory to the Father. I believe our team did. I believe that we honored him as we served each other, served the other teams at MOH, and served the Haitians. And I believe we will continue to bring him glory as we share what we saw and learned back at home, and walk with hearts more in love with him.

Haiti has many, many problems that riddle the country and its people. My heart grieves for the mountainous amount of change that is needed, yet it first and foremost cries out for the salvation of the Haitians for only then will true, lasting change be possible. I’ve been broken-hearted for the news of the impending storm, but the Lord is faithful as I was reminded from reading Jean-Julien’s comment in this article. Pray for Haiti. Pray for salvation and restoration. Pray for change to be built from the inside out. I hope I can someday return to the beautiful country filled with beautiful people. And I pray the Lord will continue to provide opportunities to meet more of his people in America and throughout the world, and use me to show his love.

It is an honor to be a part of Kingdom work. That God would choose to use me, a sinful, fearful, selfish, foolish person to shine his Light is beyond imaginable.

“He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

Monday, August 1, 2011

Merci Seigneur

I am home from Haiti, and am officially in love with the country, but especially the beautiful dark faces of it's people. I miss them terribly already.
















I really can't believe how quickly it went and yet how strange my normal life feels after a week in a third world country. I have a lot to process, and know it will take me time to sift through everything swimming in my heart and mind. And I pray that it won't stop there; I pray that this trip and the things the Lord has shown and will show me will be folded into the fabric of who he is creating me to be. I still think of Brazil often, and pray Haiti stays as well. In the meantime, I thought I'd go ahead and get my processing started. I'm allowing my stream of conciousness to flow out of me, so this may seem disjointed. But I'm going with it.




The title of this blog means "thank you God." It was a phrase heard often on the Mission of Hope campus and among Haitians throughout the week. And it is certainly the theme of the week. (Side note: I encourage you to look on Mission of Hope's site to learn more about what they do; they certainly explain better than I can. And maybe watch some of the videos in Orphan Care and Education...we met the featured kids and many of the others in the video! So fun)



I spent most of my time with Haitian kids, which was an enormous blessing and yet so challenging. Never before have I seen the level of poverty and hunger as I saw in Haiti. Yet never before have I seen joy amidst those types of circumstances. Mission of Hope is solely focused on bringing life transformation in Haiti through the power of Jesus Christ. Read their vision here. Not the same as hearing it live as we did, but I hope it still gives you a picture of their purpose and goal.


Our students were rockstars this week. They didn't complain or avoid kids even if they were naked (quite common) or dirty or sick, and they served with their whole hearts, in spite of what may have been asked of them or how menial the task. They challenged and encouraged me with their faithfulness to serving the Lord! It is a blessing to be a part of this ministry.


For me, I was never tempted to complain about the conditions. Regardless of how hot, smelly, weird, or hard. Don't get me wrong, I sadly complain in America too frequently, but when you're surrounded by such poverty, a little sweat seems very meaningless. And for some reason it seems easier to face the challenges as I knew they were opportunities to learn about God's people and his character. This is something I'm working on carrying over into my normal life here at home as I believe this mentality should not be exclusive to international service! I think it's much harder to serve without complaining at home, though, so this will be a daily act of dying to myself.


Another thing I'm working on is fully rooting my identity in Christ. For most of my life, I have felt unvaluable and easily forgotten. I'm not really sure where this stems from, except that perhaps it's just folded into me. Anyway, one of my dear friends was also a leader on this trip and she has a contagiously fun personality. I was tempted on many occasions to believe that, because students were drawn to her (who wouldn't be, she's fun!), it meant I was irrelevant and unimportant. There were other circumstances that further excentuated this, such as my group was staying in a place apart from the rest of the team which made bonding more challenging, and feeling separated from other leaders.


One day while serving in a village (in my next post I'll explain more about what we did each day :)), I was surveying the ramshackle living conditions of it's inhabitants. Many of it's children went without shoes and clothes, the "streets" were muddy, there was a stench from the outhouses and the skin-and-bones livestock, and many adults had a slightly pained look on their faces as they worked. As I looked around, I thought about how the poor are often blamed for their situation and how many people think they are unvaluable. Yet they did not choose to be born Haitian, poor, and hungry no more than I chose to be born a middle class American. God placed them there as he placed me here. And God does not mess up.


I am no better than the poorest of the poor in this world. And I am no worse. We are all broken in spirit through sin. We are all God's children who he gave his Son to restore that broken relationship, if we would only accept the gift of grace and follow after him. I thought, these Haitians are valuable because God says they are. And again, he doesn't mess up. And I love them because he first loved them.


A few days later as I battled my own feelings of being invaluable, the Lord sweetly and gently laid a question on my heart: how could I so easily see the value and importance of these Haitians and yet refuse to see or accept it in myself?


This is a question I will likely wrestle with for a while, and thought at church yesterday I may seek-out a specific female-focused study on identity to really dig into this truth intentionally. I want to believe I am valuable in Christ. Not to be prideful, but to grow closer to him and be more free to love and serve others in Christ.


Merci Seigneur for the truths you are teaching me now and the ones to come. Merci for allowing me to meet your people, to serve and love them. I pray I will be able to see them again on this earth. Merci Seigneur.


Next up, well, maybe what we did each day. Unless the wind blows me in another direction. :) Thank you for your prayers and support. I pray my updates and learnings draw you closer to Christ.