Wednesday, July 15, 2015

May I suffer with you?

"There is a purpose to suffering and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine." - Timothy Keller

Suffering is real and so prominent in all of our lives. From the very moment we are born, we are destined to experience pain throughout our life. Pain is inevitable because we are living in a fallen world. And when we experience pain, we often suffer. But Christ assures us that if we will let Him, He will make our suffering beautiful.

Last week at bible study, we were discussing the topic of suffering and my mind has been there ever since. Most of us like to push our pain away. We shove it under the rug and we don't like to think about it because it hurts. So it stays there and it hides, but it doesn't really go away. This week, I started to place my struggles into two groups - pain vs. suffering. Heartbreaks, deaths, lost friendships, health issues, etc, I labeled as pain. Only one struggle in my life I labeled as suffering. All of my struggles hurt me and caused me heartache, but this one suffering is the kind that fills your nightmares, that destroys relationships, that catches you off guard and leaves you shaking from sadness, hurt and fear. And I realized that I have kept it from the only One who can make it beautiful. 

In suffering, one of the hardest things to do is open your eyes. This week, God opened my eyes. Pain is not beautiful. Pain is pain. Pain hurts, and it is not hurt that brings joy and beauty - it is Christ. 

3 big lessons I have learned:

1. God experiences our pain. He cares. He feels our hurt and He opens His arms and says "let me hold you." And let me tell you, no embrace is better than God's embrace. 

2. In our suffering, we are placed with the biggest opportunity to draw nearer to Him. We cannot face one single trial without the help of our Savior. He gets us through. He heals us. And He teaches us. 

3. People love you and it's so good to let fellow brothers and sisters in Christ come along side you in your struggles. It isn't a burden, it is a blessing.  

Everyone suffers - and it is destroying people.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. Look around and almost everyone you see is suffering through something. Whose faces do I pass by so quickly that are desperately needing God in their suffering?

I am resolved to be continually praying for those whose suffering I don't even know. We have the opportunity to give our suffering to Christ. We have the opportunity to allow Him to be glorified through our pain. I am inviting you all to join me in allowing Christ to make suffering beautiful and I am asking...

May I suffer with you? 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Who's the teacher now?

Have you ever felt like you aren't old enough, wise enough, strong enough in your faith, etc, to show the face of Jesus? As if you're not good enough or you're not doing something right?

A few months ago, I was sitting down to lunch with the children's ministry director at our church, discussing whether or not I was going to take over the children's choir at New Hope. I was worried at first. I had never directed a choir before, and this included musicals too. I was starting my first semester of college, I was coaching a soccer team, I was working, I was playing soccer myself...I felt like I was really packing my schedule and this made me nervous. After a lot of prayer, I decided I was going to take on this as well and don't get me wrong, I was excited, but I didn't know what to expect.

Often when I'm directing and teaching, I get flustered. There are 30 kids running around the room, they're all singing different pitches, the boys want to bang on things and the girls want to do ballet...it's crazy. This Sunday, I walked into the room and immediately stuck my foot in my mouth when I started talking about Joseph and asking all sorts of questions. After a few minutes, I looked down at the lesson and realized I was less prepared than I had even thought. The lesson was on Jacob, not Joseph. I quickly pretended that was on purpose and switched over to Jacob, reading the lesson word for word and wishing I could restart. Good Andi. (silently smacking myself)
As the morning went on, I seemed to get more and more caught up in none other than me. We were doing solo auditions and as I looked around the room, I was shocked by something. Watching these kids, I realized that I was not teaching them, they were teaching me. Hailey was teaching me courage, as she volunteered to be the first one to audition. Nataleigh taught me selflessness, as she took on the task of printing off new audition papers for me when I ran out, even though she was auditioning herself. James taught me perseverance, as he struggled through his audition, and still stood up there and sang until the last note with a smile on his face. Summer taught me patience, as the time dragged on and she was the last one, having to stay 10 minutes after class to sing for me and not complaining once. Grace taught me love, as she helped each and every younger child rehearse before it was there turn to go. Christian taught me kindness, as he came and thanked me profusely for teaching and let me know what a wonderful time he had. That put a huge smile on my face. Joshua taught me enthusiasm, as he clapped and cheered for everybody as he waited his turn to sing. Kate taught me encouragement, as she helped her sister build up the confidence to audition.
They were showing me the face of Christ in the little things they were doing and I was in awe of each and every one of them. It's more clear than ever that no one is too young to display God's love. I am seeing it every week in 1st-6th graders and it amazes me. It has been such a blessing to work with these amazing kids and I am so excited to see how much more they will teach me throughout the year. Keep on keeping on. You never know who is watching.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sinners, Sojourners, And A Whole Lot Of Grace

What does the word fake mean?

Earlier today I was talking to someone when they brought up the topic of fake people.  When I hear the word fake, my brain immediately sends a message to my feet that says, "Run!" and I have to plant my feet to the ground so as not to look like a crazy person. I just hate that word. I hate hearing the gossip. I hate the fact that someone is being labeled 'fake' without even knowing it. I hate it. 

As Christians, we are a part of the body of Christ. We have a bond with people that we hardly know simply because we both share in the joy of knowing Jesus.  
We are called to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in their hardships, to fight with them the battles of this world, and to encourage one another in our faith. This world is a battlefield on which there is a daily fight for our hearts. On our own, it is a battle we cannot win. We need Christ. And just because He is so good, He gives us fellow believers to stand with us in this fight. 

"...so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."  1 Corinthians 12:25-26

I hear friends of mine, mostly believers, call others fake almost daily. Someone is called fake because they wear lots of makeup, or because they have expensive clothes, or just because they posted a selfie with a bible verse. But the very worst one that I hear is that someone is fake because they pretend to be better than they are. I would hope that we are all trying to be better than we are. This isn't pretending. This is effort on our part to rise up from our sinful nature and change who we have been! We are sinners, living in a very fallen world, and because of this, we struggle to be who we are called to be in Christ. We wake up every day starting fresh and then the next thing we know, we are flat on our faces again, crawling back to the cross in search of forgiveness. And when we ask for it, we are wiped clean. 
God, the perfect judge, faultless, holy and seated in glory, is gracious to forgive, so please, someone tell me why it seems to be everyones job to point out flaws in everyone else? What makes it okay to call someone who is trying so hard to be like Jesus fake? 
Allow me to suggest that people do indeed know that they are screwed up, and that by trying to be better, by sometimes even seemingly putting on a different face, it is not for your benefit but for the benefit of their own personal relationship with the Lord. If they were to walk around all the time being the non perfect human that they are, flaunting their sins, and allowing that to resonate within their lives, then their hearts would be hard and it would be something much more serious to talk about.  But the truth is, everyone is struggling. Everyone is falling. Everyone is hurting and seeking and hoping for someone to come alongside them and say, "You are my brother/sister, let me walk with you." The path that we journey on is narrow. The road is rough and along the way, there are those who will try to knock us off. Alone, we are helpless. With God, we are conquerers. And with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are an army for Christ -- a force that is not to be reckoned with. 

Stand with those God has put in your life as the body of Christ, and give grace to those who need it. We all do. You included.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To all you other country kids

Today I walked into class and as I sat down, the girl that I sit next to said, "That camo hat makes you look intimidating."
I'll come back to that.
My writing professor is the kind of lady that I wish I didn't know. The first essay we were told to write was supposed to be about a defining moment. Something that we do or something that happened in our life that makes us who we are. Right off we were told we couldn't write about our faith or sports. Coming to know Jesus is the biggest defining moment in my life and my faith in Him makes me who I am, but that was tossed out the window. Sports. I have been playing sports since I was 4 years old. I have played basketball, volleyball, tennis, softball, but, of course, have stuck with soccer for 14 years now. Sports mean a lot to me. But that was shut down as well. Okay, that's fine. I live on a farm. That's unique. Moving out to the country was something I could definitely consider a defining moment. It has changed me in many ways. This is what I decided my topic would be. I wrote about the moment when my dream of living on a farm came true and I then transferred to what it is like. I talked about taking care of animals, and what I have learned about hard work. I took it to the writing center and the lady I worked with told me it was a terrific and inspiring essay and I was pleased and feeling good about it.
Well, that feeling was a mistake. Today in class, my professor told me that my essay was one that she had no interest it. She said that she does not care about farms and therefore, it is unattractive to her. She found my comments about learning to work hard rude because, as she admitted, she is overweight, and manual labor turns her off. She pointed out that most farms are mega farms and therefore, "don't need physical work to be done", because everything is controlled by machine's. Excuse me? I think some of those mega farmers would beg to differ.
On a side note, she dissed my mother. (Rage.)
In essence, because my article did not relate to her, it was unappealing in her eyes. As I walked out of class, I was boiling. I got in my car and starting driving home through Lansing. At the first stoplight, I pull up next to a little car that was blaring perverted music, windows all the way down, and a guy shouting/singing along with it. I kid you not, I had my music fairly loud and I couldn't hear it beneath his. He turned to look at me and started throwing winks and kisses and I nearly lost in. I was driving on a road with four lanes of cars next to me, it smelled like smoke and McDonald's, there were billboards of half naked models, and there was not a tree in sight. I just thought to myself, get me out of here.
As I got closer to home, I started seeing trees everywhere, their leaves changing to beautiful oranges and red and yellows. Instead of rows of cars next to me, there were rows of corn. The air was fresh and crisp and all I wanted to do was stick my head out the window and smell everything around me. I pulled up behind a truck and I could faintly hear the country music coming from it. I drove past D&G and there were tractors outside -
- a site I would take any day to disgusting billboards. I stopped at the gas station and there was an older man in a truck next to my pump who tipped his hat at me. Walking in, a young guy held the door for me and said, "Good afternoon."
I pulled into my driveway heated and saw my dad walking out of the barn with a bucket. He was whistling to himself. I saw my little brother on the deck with his airsoft gun. I heard the cows and smelled manure. My dog ran up to me and immediately got my pants dirty. There were chickens roaming the yard and, walking in the door, I saw that there was sweat tea on the counter. This time I thought to myself, "This is my little piece of heaven. I love this place."
I love the country. I love the animals and the fresh air and the constant work. I love Saturday afternoon cider making with my family. I love watching my brothers learn to shoot guns. I love the sound of trucks rolling coal. I love country music and cows mooing. I love the almost southern-like way of the people in my small town. I love the rows and rows of corn and apple trees and sunflowers and fields that I can get lost in. I love wearing hats and boots and jeans that were ripped from many hours of labor, not because I bought them that way. I love driving down the road at 10 mph because I'm behind a tractor. I love playing with the new piglets and ending up covered in mud. I love standing out in the middle of my yard at night and seeing billions of stars. I love that there's always a pitcher of sweat tea in our fridge. I love that I can go outside and pick grapes and raspberries and apples and peaches for a snack and when it's time for dinner, we're eating our own meat and potatoes and vegetables. I love raising animals and then selling them and yes, butchering chickens is one of my hobbies.
I seriously love the country.
Back to the hat. Why does wearing a hat and boots and a belt buckle make someone look intimidating? I would have to assume it's because country kids are tough. They work hard -- they're strong. They can spend hours a day bailing hay, chopping and hauling wood, wrestling pigs, and so on. Country kids should be intimidating. They're awesome.
Maybe you love the city. You may love loud, crazy, music and rows of cars and guys that throw kisses to flirt and billboards and the smell of fast food and no trees or fields in sight. Maybe you hate the smell of manure or think guys in hats and boots are weird and you think sweet tea is gross and stars aren't something you even miss. That's okay. That's what you love.
I still love the country. After today, I think maybe I love it more than ever.
So to all you other country kids,
Merica.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Girls.

GIRLS have got to be the funniest and most ridiculous creation. We live in a society where hundreds of times a day there’s a girl saying “I hate girls.” Reality check honey, you are one.
            Trust me, I get it. Girls are dramatic, needy, they hate each other for the dumbest reasons, they’re fake, they always think they’re right. Let’s be honest, the list goes on and on.
            Can you honestly say you haven’t hugged someone that you really disliked before? Or had someone say “I miss you,” and you get all “aw, I miss you too, girl, lets hangout!” When you really haven’t thought of them for half a second? We all do it.
            And then your bestfriend tells you that her friend knows a girl that dated her boyfriend and broke his heart. “Do not like her.”  Well hey I mean, if your bestfriend said it, you gotta listen. This chick must suck, right?
WRONG.
We’re all human. Even more than that, we’re all girls. Just that fact alone
should bond us, so why does it so brutally tear us apart? Where’s the love?
        Maybe our problem is not that we dislike each other so much, but that we’re too afraid to admit that we’re the same way. We’ve done the same things. We feel the same way. We’re so similar that perhaps we see our faults in someone else and it disgusts us so we seize the opportunity to hate. But when someone judges us, or lies to our face, we say “I hate girls.” We get hurt. We think, “how can she be so fake?
          Don’t you realize that was you last week, dearie? We don’t like to admit it, but if we dig deep enough, I think every one of us could say that that fake girl is me. She’s all of us. We’ve all been that way. And how simple it is to hate; but if we all loved each other, if girls alone put aside their differences and their SIMILARITIES, and loved each other, this world would be a much better place.



Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm still alive.

I haven't posted in a really long time, but here are a 
few pictures from our recent trip to get the Christmas tree :)






Tuesday, July 17, 2012

summer, summer summer. :)

basically our summer fun. :)




 










Also, HPA auditions, fair and up north are all coming up in just a few weeks..cannot wait!