Beautiful Snapshots

I was asked to share a story from my time at a camp in Ukraine, but I struggle with story writing.  So instead, let me share some of the beautiful things I witnessed.

I saw a young and sweet boy, whose mother left him, share his darts with a girl and teach her how to throw them just right.

I saw a group of girls help clean the dishes after a meal with smiles and laughter.

I saw forty-two children live together, laugh, play, and make new friends.

I heard the laughter of many amused kids as I did my best to talk and play with them in my broken Russian and Ukrainian.

I saw the many sweet notes that they sent each other every day through the camp mail box.

I heard the sorrow and grief of a young boy as he shared his thoughts about the war between Russia and Ukraine through a poem he wrote.

I saw a boy catch and release a lost bird that had flown into the building during lesson time.

I heard the overwhelming sound of the children thanking the kitchen women after each meal.

I heard a joyful noise as all of us raised our voices to God in praise through song.

I held a girl asleep in my lap as we traveled home over bumpy roads in a hot bus full of kids.

I opened my hands for an acorn that a child gave me as he left the bus.

Camp has so many more memories that I will never be able to put into words.  I love the children and the staff and I will always remember this week!

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Morning Praise

As I was about to fall asleep last night (or rather, this morning) at 4am, I began to notice the sounds of the birds awakening outside my window.  I don’t know about you, but birdsongs make me happy.  It immediately made me think about all the verses in Scripture that talk about creation praising God and giving Him glory.  The birds are certainly whistling His praises right now–on and off–as a new day begins.

I’ve never had any desire whatsoever to wake up early and go to bed early.  I typically prefer to stay up until 12 or 1 and get up at 8 or 9.  But after hearing these bird whistles this morning I think I could definitely want to change my sleep patterns a little (well, ok, a lot).  Wouldn’t it be amazing to get up with the birds and praise God before everyone else is even awake?  Maybe it wouldn’t be at 4am, I’ll admit that’s a tad early unless I plan on going to bed at 8.  I have been thinking recently of the necessity of getting more sleep and moving my sleep schedule back a couple of hours, so this gives me a tiny reason to give it a go this summer.

While I’m on the topic of birds, I wish I knew what birds whistle which birdcalls.  My grandmother and my sister are good with naming birds, flowers, trees, etc… maybe they’ll teach me some of their wisdom this summer. 🙂

Side story: This morning it poured rain and I didn’t have time to take the tunnels to class.  Why not?  Because I slept until 10 minutes before class.  Anyways, I had no idea it was raining and so when I opened the door of my dorm building I was quite surprised–but also very happy!  For some inexplainable reason, rain makes me exuberant.  I can’t even explain it, it just does.  🙂  So, that was my wonderful Friday morning in the rain, wet, and thoroughly drenched, but also very cheerful.

Plus: it’s spring here now and all the flowers are blooming!  It’s the most gorgeous and glorious thing.  🙂  People complain about the smell or the pollen, but just look at the trees!  The trees we have on campus, … let me see… the 17 or so in the plaza plus the 2 or 3 by the student center and the couple inbetween that and the library are just so full of life and color!  Green, white, and pink!  I’ll try to remember to take some pictures to share with you all.

Grace, Love, and Joy

As sleep seems to be eluding me once again, I have decided to finally make myself write again.  So many ideas of topics and posts have swirled through my head in the last couple of weeks, but I didn’t write any of them down.  So as my state continues to be mostly closed due to the ridiculously cold weather (-14 F (-25 C)) and very heavy snow, I’m finally ready to write at least a couple of my thoughts down and share them with you.

Transitioning to college has been an interesting things.  At first I was on a crazy high of new excitements and adventures, then it lowered to a more realistic picture of my new reality which had its ups and downs.  And now that I’ve been home for Christmas break, I’ve gone into a more reflective mood.  I was told by wise people in my life to enjoy my time at home (in highschool) because once I moved out I would never have a time like this again.  It’s so true.  I love college, but it’s become my new home.

Being back in my room reminds me of why I loved it so much.  On sunny days I was surrounded by a cheerful natural yellow light as I lay on my bed reading.  My bookshelves covered half of one wall and I could find any book I owned instantly although they weren’t ordered in a fashion that would make sense to most people.  My little brother slept on the other side of the room and during the day he would play legos on his train table.  The fish tank made a cheerful noise in the background which helped block out some of the crazy sounds that naturally arise from being part of a large family.

Now the room has been reverted to the boys’ room.  Both of my brothers sleep side by side and almost all of my 400+ books are packed away in boxes in the attic.

After sleeping on the floor a couple of nights and then on the sofa, my littlest brother (14 years younger than me) graciously offered to let me sleep in his bed (my old bed) and he would sleep on his old bed on the floor next to his brothers big bed.  So that is where I’ve finally landed until I return ‘home’ in a couple of days.

Every night I’ve been home for the past week or so my little brother has come to sleep with me in the middle of the night.  One time he woke up screaming, the poor guy.  You can’t really refuse when your little brother is upset and is asking you to comfort him.  But inevitably a couple of hours after falling asleep with him curled against me, I’d find myself on the very edge of the bed with him moving against me almost pushing me off.  He moves a lot in his sleep and likes to use up a lot of bed space.  A twin sized mattress (or even smaller, the sofa!!) can be challenging when one of the two people moves a lot in his sleep.  :p

Last night I had finally decided that I would simply carry my brother back to his bed if he came over again because I needed to sleep and not stay awake worrying about him falling out of bed.  But then I heard him say, “I can’t fall asleep” (around 1 am) and he climbed out of his big brothers bed into mine.  It was so sweet.  Of course, later, the same thing happened that always happened.  But before that I had time to think.

I was trying to figure out what exactly to write in my next blog post.  Somehow I jumped to thinking about a comment one of my closest friends made to me recently in a really good 3+ hour conversation.  I don’t remember the specific comments before it, but we were talking about my reaction to forgetting things.

I hate to forget anything, and I told her (when asked) that I get upset with myself when I can’t remember or I forget something.  “Why?” she asked.  “Do people typically have perfect memory?  Is it a common trait to be perfect in that area?”  After about a half second of reflection I replied, “No.”  She then asked me why I expected such a high perfection of myself when no one else expected it.  I said I didn’t know.  I simply did.

My next thought (last night) went to how I view myself and God.  We are called to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).  We are not called to walk perfectly and then walk around in shame when we fail.  God wants to walk with us through life, not just in the ‘perfect’ parts (as if there are any of those anyway).  He calls us to a relationship with Him.  Even when that means sharing with Him that you don’t even want to give up parts of your life, He’ll take that.  He’ll walk with you and gently guide and discipline you.  He’s not sitting up in heaven with a ruler smacking His fist demanding to know why you failed yet again.

Instead, like a Father, He is right beside you to pick you up, comfort you, and hold your hand as you persevere towards godliness and holiness.  He gives you grace even when you can’t give it to yourself.  One reason I think so many of us struggle with accepting and giving grace and love is because we don’t truly understand how much grace and love God has given us.  If we did, our lives would be radically different.

Little by little God has been revealing Himself to me over the past couple of months.  His grace is so beyond anything I could ever imagine or deserve!  And yet He keeps giving it!  And the joy that comes from truly knowing God (instead of knowing about Him) is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  One reason I haven’t written is because I don’t even know quite how to put into words all the things God has been revealing to me about Himself and about me.  It’s a challenge to explain my experiences to you, but I’ll try as I start my second semester.

Although I’m learning about grace and love my outward actions have not changed much.  It has to affect a heart change before I can expect my attitudes to have a lasting change.  So, if you wouldn’t mind praying for me I wold be very grateful.  I will be praying for you that God would open your eyes to the relationship (or a deeper relationship) you can have with Him.  It’s the only thing that will truly give your life meaning and it’s what you were made for–to know and worship God!  🙂

Prayer requests:
~For God’s grace and love to penetrate deeply into my heart–so much that I would be able to extend grace and love to myself and others.

~For everyone here at Moody to be growing in their relationship with Christ Jesus–that we would be overflowing with Christ’s love, joy, and grace that it would naturally flow into the lives of those around us–believers and unbelievers.

~For a realization day to day, hour to hour, that I’m in constant communication with God.  Wow!  How awesome is that??!  That I would remember and worship Him all day every day.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18~

Rejoice Always!

This week has been very hard for me.  Yesterday morning our internet was turned off as well as our phone line.  We were planning on switching our phones to run through the internet using a “Magic Jack“.  Apparently the phone and internet company got confused.  Instead of simply turning off our phone line they turned off our internet as well.  And they won’t turn them on again until Friday evening…

If you are reading this before Friday then I am writing you from our local library.

I use the internet multiple times each day.  I check and write e-mail, blog, listen to the radio, listen to songs on Youtube and Spotify, do language studies and reviews on livemocha, facebook, communicate with friends, etc.

The second hard thing is that my best friend (and her family — my 2nd family) may be looking for a new church.  That means I may no longer see them every week on Sunday. 😦  Just writing this down makes me get all emotional and sad again.  I know that we don’t chose a church simply for its members, but possibly losing my friend(s) is very hard.  (You choose a church based on if it is a Bible based church, if it gives the salvation message without dumbing down sin and hell, if the people are friendly, etc.)

Because of these disappointments I’ve been moody, angry, and frustrated.  Today I realized something.  My joy and happiness should not depend upon my circumstances or environment.

“10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

“111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.” (Psalm 119:111)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,..”
(James 1:2)

“16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

We are called to be joyful always, in every circumstance.  Why?  Because Jesus has conquered death for us and we have salvation through Him.  We can have joy even in the tough or mundane, because we know He has rescued us, and once our life journey on earth has ended a new and eternal journey will begin in heaven.

I want to challenge you to take whatever situations you are facing and meet them with joy.

“10 …, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)