Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Blessing

You'll have to click on the picture to see your New Year's blessing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Word

For most of the year I have been reading Compassion International's blog. I enjoy reading the stories of what day-to-day life is like for sponsored children around the world. In addition to Compassion stories, the members of the web team occasionally post stories from their own lives. Incidentally, last week one of the guys wrote about the concept of having a one word theme for an entire year. It's a variation of my verse a year New Year's tradition, and I think it might be a nice way to spice up life a little. Since I read Chris' post last week, I've been thinking and praying about my own word for 2009. Surrender, humility, and self-control made it through the semi-final round. I assume God will make it clear which word is for me at some point in the near future, but one thing is certain. While all hold the potential for some hard lessons, each offers the opportunity for exponential growth. I hope I'm ready for the challenge.

Read this document written by Dan Britton, the proliferator of the one word concept, to get more info.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Time to Renew

At 8 am this morning I am loading a bus headed to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 3DYC. I am going with the youth group to this  three district youth conference. I first attended 3DYC as a sophomore in high school. It is an amazing experience, and I am excited to go back after not being able to attend last year. There will be thousands of teens, 5 sessions with a great speaker, and a phenomenal worship band, as well as sports and talent competitions. I'm looking forward to getting away from regular life and investing into the lives of young people. Our theme for this year is "Renew."

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's tradition

It's around this time of year that I think of Gina. I haven't seen her in years and we rarely e-mail anymore, but she left a lasting mark on my life. I was blessed to have Gina as my mentor during my freshman and sophomore years of college. I wish we could have continued our mentoring relationship past my sophomore year, but the two years I had with her were enough to make a lasting impact on my life. There are so many lessons Gina taught me, but there are two that really stand out. First she taught me that God's timing is a) different than our own and b) perfect. The second stand out lesson was more of a habit.

One day close to Christmas vacation, Gina explained one of her New Year's traditions. Each December she prayerfully chose a verse or passage of Scripture to be her theme for the upcoming year. Then she would pray that verse each and every day for the year, asking God to teach, mold, and challenge her through that verse. (This was in addition to regular Bible study and devotions.) I had never heard of anyone focusing on praying and living out one verse for an entire year, but I thought I was up to the challenge.

That first year, 2001, I chose Hebrews 12:1-3 as my verses.  

"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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." 
That year was a hard year, but these verses were a true blessing. There were days I hourly recited the part about throwing off all that hinders and the sin that entangles. I needed the reminder to fix my eyes on Jesus.

The second year Ephesians 4:1-3 guided my growing relationship with Christ.
"As a prisoner for the Lord then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
I remember 2002 being a difficult, but eventually rewarding year. The daily reminder to live a life worthy of the calling I have received was a challenge I embraced (most days anyway).

In 2003 I spent my days repeating 1 Peter 1:13-16.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
As you can imagine this was a year of learning obedience and holiness. The words "Be holy because I am holy" resonated within my being, causing me to evaluate much of my life. These are hard lessons, but good lessons. I'm contemplating revisiting this theme or something very similar again for this year.

The following year (2004) I felt I had been given a set of verses from Colossians 3:15-17.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
I had heard an excellent sermon on these verses in the fall. They stayed on my mind for several months, so spending a year unpacking all they meant seemed like a natural thing to do. It was a year of learning to check my attitude and source of motivation. It was definitely a year of reprogramming my heart to be thankful.

At this point I decided the Old Testament had been neglected. I found a passage in Jeremiah that immediately pulled at my heart. My verses for 2005 were Jeremiah 17:7 and 8.
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
Immediately I wanted to be one of those trees planted by the water that does not fear or worry during the worst seasons of life. When hard times came that year, I reminded myself that my confidence was in God, so I didn't have a reason to worry or fear. I imagined myself stretching out my roots to the stream and having green leaves. And I still desire to be a tree that does not fail to bear fruit.

After that I went back to 1 Peter (because I love both of the books written by that man), so in 2006 it was 1 Peter 4:7-10.
"The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
Loving others deeply was something I had always wanted to do, but was afraid to do. It was during this year that I learned that I'm not responsible for how people respond to my love. I don't desire to scare them off or make them think I want something in return or give men the wrong impression, but I can't let those things become excuses for not showing love to people.

The past two years I have not been as diligent about meditating on my verses consistently, but I did choose verses to guide the year--or so I thought.
I am currently drawing a big huge blank for 2007. I will have to check my journal when I get back to my house. How embarrassing that I can't remember my verse from last year! ***Checked the journals and found NOTHING. Maybe I didn't pick verses for that year. Weird.***

And this year I have tried to live by Philippians 2:3-5.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
After being disgusted by the amount of selfishness in my life, I chose these verses as a daily reminder that my attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. I wish I could say that I have mastered the skills from this lesson, but that would be lying. I feel that I am beginning to consider others on a more regular basis, but there is still a lot of room to grow in that department.

I'll share my plan for 2009 in a few days. In the meantime I encourage you to consider choosing a theme verse for 2009. Anybody willing to try this year long exercise? If you are, leave a message in the comments. I'd love to know what verses you choose to be your theme for this coming year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reflections on Christmas

Christmas is so magical. There's no other way to describe it--every aspect of the Christmas story is magical. Take the shepherds for example. There they're out in the field. It's night time, so they were probably sitting around a fire reminiscing about life back at home. They may have even been sleeping at the time. Out of nowhere their ordinary day is interrupted by the supernatural. An angel appears (with a bright light and harp music, if the movies can be trusted) and eventually a whole army of angels is singing "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." I imagine the sound level was similar to blasting the end of the Hallelujah Chorus on your car stereo at full volume. 

Another pretty amazing part of the story is Mary being pregnant in the first place. I think being visited by the angel of the Lord would be pretty darn amazing, but don't you think there was probably another encounter when she actually became pregnant? I imagine she was praying one day soon after the angel left, or even the same day the angel visited, and had a divine encounter with the Holy Spirit. I see her kneeling on the floor praying more intensely than she ever has before. Then the Holy Spirit sweeps in and swirls around her, lifting her off of the floor. She's then standing and and extending her arms, ready for whatever God has for her. (I think I may be borrowing a little from this video... around the 19 second mark).

Then there is the location in which Jesus was born. God could have arrange for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem a thousand different ways, but he chose to orchestrate the whole thing through a census. I'm sure there were people who were really irritated by the census. There were probably even people who thought it was pointless. But God used it to bring about the coming of the Messiah.

In all these details of the first Christmas, God chose to do things in a way that only he could receive glory. Had Joseph and Mary been from Bethlehem, it would have seemed that they were trying to fulfill the prophecies that had been recorded by their own designs. If Mary had been intimate with Joseph prior to Jesus' arrival, God could have been taken out of the equation. Leaving us to say that Jesus was a mere man. If the shepherds just felt prompted to go into town that night, they could have taken credit for knowing where the Christ child was. Or people could claim that they stumbled upon the Christ child, as if that happens by accident. God was behind every detail of the birth of Christ. Every decision that was made, every happening that occurred was under the direction of our Almighty God. And that, my friends, is what makes Christmas so magical.

May you experience the magic of Christmas this year as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Counting My Blessings: Seeing Former Students

I chose to live in the school district where I teach. Many of my coworkers thought I was crazy, but I haven't regretted my decision. One reason I enjoy living in the community where I teach is because I get the opportunity to see my former students. This weekend while I was at the Food Drive, I was able to catch up with a handful of former students. It was great to hear how life is going now that they have gone to the high school. I love talking to kids who have moved on from the middle school. I spend nine and half months pouring into their lives. And then nothing. It's nice to get an update every once in a while.

However, the best part of catching up this weekend wasn't talking to former students.  It was seeing two kids who were never actually my students. Both boys sought me out to give me updates on their lives. They know me through their friends and interactions in the hallways. It's a testimony to God's amazingness that kids who don't even have me as a teacher recognize me as someone who truly cares. 

My heart could just burst thinking about the awesome ways in which God works.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Being Exactly Where God Wants Me

This weeked I was reminded that I doing the job God has for me. My first source of encouragement came from one of the girls in the youth group. We both happened to be volunteers at the Holiday Food Drive my school district organizes. As we were chatting, we came upon the subject of me being a middle school teacher. I explained that I felt much the same way when I was hired, but that I really enjoy it now. She told me she thought middle school teachers have the best opportunity to make an impact on students because they are at such an impressionable stage. I felt validated in my efforts to impact the hearts, minds, and characters of middle school students.

The second source of encouragement came through my good friend the internet. I was reading the newest round of secrets on Post Secret, when I came across this one. It gives me hope that my students will recognize that I love them and that they are worth every ounce of effort I pour into them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


A few months ago, Seth asked me to talk to the student ministries volunteers about having a burden for teens. Basically I reminded the volunteers that being effective in youth (or any) ministry requires two qualifications: being called by God to serve in that capacity and fostering a burden or passion for those people. Regardless of whether you call it a burden or a passion, it's going to lead you to action. In the case of student ministry such a burden would logically move you to find a way to connect with students.

I loved being able to share with the other volunteers about having a burden for youth because I was able to share from my heart. God has used the burden for young people he's placed on my heart to move me into action. I have found ways to connect with both the teens at church and the students who fill the seats in my classroom. I feel pretty confident that I am indeed fostering a burden for the teenagers in my life.

But recently I've been overwhelmed by this growing burden. I have quite a number of troubled young people in my life right now. They are dealing with issues like depression, incarcerated parents, divorce, harassment, self-injury, low self-esteem, unhealthy relationships, and abuse. I'm glad God has put these kids in my life because I want to be someone who adds hope to their lives. I desperately want to share the Good News with them, but that's not been easy these last few weeks. There have been days where the burden to make a difference in the life of a young person has been suffocating. I have felt crippled by the enormity of the burden to make a difference in the lives of these young people.

Jesus promised a burden that was light, but I feel like this burden is getting heavier and heavier. I get attached so easily to young people--especially the ones who need a little extra TLC. I recognize their needs, and I strive to walk alongside them as they navigate this journey. I desire to be a source of hope and a proponent for change. I attempt to provide the encouragement they aren't getting from the other adults in their lives. But lately I feel like I come up short, like I don't have enough to give. Like maybe there's just too much for me to handle.

Maybe the burden feels heavy because I'm trying to carry it instead of letting Jesus take it.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 
Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Counting My Blessings: Small Group

It may be a thing of the past, but I loved being in my small group. I loved praying with others and reading the Scriptures together. I loved listening and debating and attempting to answer questions that have no real answer. It was such a blessing to meet weekly with people who cared about me, kept me accountable, and challenged me to grow.

I miss that.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Link Love

I am Second Have you discovered your life purpose?  
This one is especially moving, but there's also this guy you might already know.
Will it make a difference? Signing your name can't hurt.
My new love. I just want to pinch his cute little cheeks. Shhhh. Don't tell Dax.
Addiction in the making. Seriously, you'll be impressed.
Beauty of Math. I am a reading teacher, but this is still cool.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Link Love

Something New from Something Old: A project I want to complete soon
Word Fun: So very cool.
Perfect Pair: Endless Entertainment & Helping Others 
Jesse Tree: Looking for a good advent season devotional/tradition? Look no further!
Heroes: Vote for the hero of the year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Counting My Blessings: Friends

Today was a good day for connecting with friends. Kristin met me for coffee. Luci and I caught up on life over the phone. After that I talked to Cat for 40 minutes. (She comes back to work in two weeks; I cannot wait to see her everyday again!) I love my friends. They are good for the heart and soul.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This weekend I went on a retreat with the high school students from church. Seth and Adam did a fantastic job planning a weekend getaway for these teens. We had a GREAT time.

Highlights from the retreat:

  • Dave Cramer's messages titled "My Dad, My Brother, and Me"
  • The Dodgeball Caped Crusader
  • conversations with students who are growing in their relationships with Christ
  • great music from a very talented band who led the musical portion of worship
  • variety show acts
  • lots of fun games

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Opportunity to Care for Orphans

    About a year ago I stumbled upon the blog of a family who had adopted a sibling set from Ethiopia. It is an amazing story that only God could have authored. This same family was called by God to adopt a second sibling set from Ethiopia. Fast forward to this month. All they need to do is pick up their children. To do this they need to raise about $14,000. To help bring in the money needed to unite their family, they are raffling a 8GB iPodNano. For every $10 you donate to their adoption fund, they'll enter your name into the drawing. Interested in participating? Find all the details here. If you aren't interested in the iPod, please consider donating a monetary gift to their adoption fund.

    "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  
     James 1:27

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Employment

    Last night my friend Christy asked me to pray for her family because her husband has been laid off. He's the newest addition to the long list of people who now find themselves in the ranks of the unemployed. My heart goes out to my friends as they attempt to patiently trust God in this scary time. Getting Christy's text last night renewed my gratitude for my job. Because barring an act of God, being laid off is not really a possibility. I can't tell you how thankful I am for that. I almost feel guilty that I have a job and it's one I really like.

    Sovereign God, you hold all things in your power. I pray tonight that you would comfort and calm Christy and Kenney. I pray that you would fill them with all joy and peace as they trust in you, so that they will overflow with hope by your Holy Spirit. May their eyes be fixed on you even in this discouraging circumstance. And may they find their sense of security soley in you.

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Time

    It's hard to explain my gratitude to the Good Lord tonight. Right now I'm most thankful for time. Time to rest. Time to rake leaves. Time to love on broken young people. Time to soak in the joys of today.
    Lord, we both know I don't have words to adequately express my gratitude tonight. Thank you for understanding my heart and hearing my prayer. And thank you for making me content with this time in my life.

    Sunday, November 9, 2008

    Ordinary People Making A Difference

    Thursday, November 6, 2008


    The first time I can recall being truly lonely was when I spent a semester in Chicago. It was the first time I had gone to a place where I knew absolutely no one. I made friends while I was there (one I'm still close to), but I certainly missed my family and friends in a way I had never experienced before. I longed to be with people who "got me." People who understood my thoughts and feelings without an explanation. People who were intimately invested in my life. I wish I could say those lonely days in Chicago were an anomaly in my life, but since that time loneliness has been an irregular but frequent companion.

    This loneliness that seems to plague me doesn't stem from not having people to hangout with or the lack of people expressing their care toward my well being. I have some of the most amazing friends I could ever hope to have.They are invested in my life, and they "get me." Some of them have been around for a long time, so long that they often understand me better than I understand myself. The problem is not that I'm disconnected from people.

    The loneliness I experience most manifests itself in feelings of disconnectedness and isolation--at times even when I'm in close proximity to my friends. So far I haven't been able to pick out a predictable pattern. There are times when I'm home alone for days at a time and don't feel an ounce of loneliness. Conversely, there are times when at small group where I've felt completely alienated. Certainly I've been able to identify intensifiers over time, but I can't consider them triggers because they don't consistently cause the feelings of loneliness to settle in.

    It's frustrating that I frequently feel so disconnected from people. I have so many great people in my life that I don't feel justified in having such a lonely heart. I felt like I was sinning by feeling lonely. But then God granted me the insight to see that he created emotions, and feeling lonely is no more a sin than feeling excited, angry, or confused. It's how I deal with my emotions that can become a sin. If I deal with anger by lashing out at others, then I sin by hurting others not by feeling angry. And if my response to loneliness is to wallow in self-pity or overeat or mismanage my financial resources (aka shop 'til I feel better), it's then that I sin.

    So the next time loneliness comes knocking on my door, I'll remind myself that it's not wrong to feel lonely. Then I'll seek to distract my lonely heart by counting my many blessings and finding solace in my favorite promises from scripture.

    "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
    Romans 15:13
    "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;...Do not be afraid, for I am with you..." 
    Isaiah 43:2-3. 5

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Fall

    Today I'm thankful for brisk fall weather and sunshine. Today was perfect for taking Dax on a walk. I'm blessed to be able to enjoy God's beautiful creation while exercising.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008


    I have some thoughts about loneliness that I've wanted to share for some time, but I can't seem to get my ideas organized. Maybe I'll work on writing later this week. For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite verses.

    "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, 
    so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Romans 13:15

    Counting My Blessings: J & M

    Yesterday two young adults popped into my room while I was working on my computer before leaving school for the day. First J came in. He was a very fun student to teach because he tried hard and always participated in class. He also has a very sweet, caring personality. He was more than willing to update me on his life and what's happening at the high school. He's taking honors classes, and has volunteered to talk to the 7th graders about postponing sexual involvement several times throughout the year. Before he left he reminded me that he really appreciated having me a teacher.

    About 5 minutes later M came bounding in my room with her enthusiastic and bubbly personality. She was a favorite on our team because she always made us smile. She shared a little bit about her life and mentioned on her way out that she really liked my class as an 8th grader.

    How can my heart not overflow in moments like these?

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Shelter

    I'm tempted to complain about all the rain we've received in the past 36 hours, but I won't. I have a house that provides a safe and dry place for me to sleep, eat, and dwell. Everything I know has not been destroyed by wind and rain. My family is not missing, or even stranded on a rooftop. My earthly posessions are where I left them yesterday. Thank you, Jesus, for keeping me safe from the devestating storms. Give wisdom to the authorities who will decide how to distrubute funds to hurricane victims.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Music

    Yesterday I was given Chris Tomlin's new CD. Since it feels like wasting money when I buy them for myself, I am very  happy someone else gave it to me. Thanks Jesus for special blessings on tough days.

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Sara

    Tonight I got to hang out with my roommate and her fiance. It was nice to share life together. Jesus, thank you for friends to share life with.

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Amy L.

    Every single time Amy sees me, she gives me a hug. And it's not the "I gave everyone else a hug so I'll hug you too" deal. She finds me to give me hugs. I don't know what I ever did to find myself in this girl's favor, but I thank God for her. On more than one occassion she has been the bright spot in my day. Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunity to be loved by Amy. May you bless her richly for the way she so willingly shares your love with others.

    Saturday, September 6, 2008


    Tonight I saw one of my favorite students from last year. The kid has a severe case of ADHD--emphasis on the H--and was bouncing around the bleachers. I attempted to gain his attention when he came near me, but he was moving too fast to hear. A little while later his former girlfriend (another freshman) came to me and said that he was drunk. I sought him out, and unfortunately confirmed that she was correct.

    It breaks my heart that at 14 he came to a school event intoxicated. He has so much potential, and I really want to see him succeed. Neither of his parents graduated from high school, but he wants something better for himself. He talked last year about his future and what he planned to do after graduating. He even talked about the hard work necessary to make graduation a reality. My heart breaks that he's making choices already that lead him away from his goals.

    As I left the game, my heart cried out to the Lord. I pled with God to get a hold of his heart. I asked him to send someone to intervene in this kid's life. I prayed for wisdom for his father. I beseeched God to break the ties with the "friends" he was with before coming to the game. I implored the Lord to open his eyes to his mistakes and keep him from becoming bitter in the face of the consequences to his poor choices.

    It doesn't seem like God is working in this young man's life. It doesn't seem like God is in control when one of my kids is throwing his life away. But as I stood in my backyard looking up at the stars, God reminded me that He is bigger than peer pressure, disease, and even child exploitation.

    As I stood looking at the stars, I remembered that God knows each star's name. How much more does he know his children? The Holy Spirit reminded me that what I saw tonight was a very small slice of the physical world. I have no idea what else is going on in this boy's life, and I certainly can't see what's happening in the spiritual realm.

    Tonight when things look bleak and I want to question God's ability to do his job, I choose to trust that he is in control and can do immeasurably more than I can ever ask or imagine in the life of this young boy.

    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
    Isaiah 55:8, 9

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 
    Proverbs 3:5

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Class of 2012

    Tonight I saw some of my former students at the football game. Many of them came up to me to say hi or chat. I love the huge smiles that cover their faces when they see me. It makes me feel so good to know they are happy to see me. I also really appreciate their hugs and the stories they tell. I'm thankful the impact I had on them has not been lost. Thanks, Jesus, for giving me a ministry among teenagers.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    Counting My Blessings: Alexandra Jean G.

    Cathy gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl this morning. Alexandra Jean G. graced the world at 2:27 am at a whopping 8 lbs 8 oz. three full days before her due date. I visited the Gillen family at the hospital tonight and got to chat with Cathy, coo over X's chubby cheeked dimple, and laugh at Jim's telling of the delivery. Tonight I praise God for new life and the blessing Alexandra brings to her parents.

    Sunday, August 31, 2008

    Be Still My Soul

    For almost four years I have been involved in a small group that meets on Sunday nights. These dear friends have walked with me through some very difficult times and celebrated with me in the joyous moments of life. They have challenged me to grow deeper in my faith and supported me in the times I couldn't do life alone.

    Around the same time I joined small group, I started volunteering with the youth group. I have a desire to see all people take their next step toward Jesus, but teenagers hold a special place in my heart. I have loved getting to know the teens and watching them grow and mature over the last four years. Last summer the youth pastors at my church made the decision to change the format of the high school youth ministry. Instead of meeting together on Wednesday night, they started meeting on Sunday nights. Even though it was a fantastic change for the youth, I was devastated because small group and youth group were now on the same night. I toyed with the idea of finding a different small group or plugging into a different youth ministry (like Young Life), but I didn't like either idea. Eventually Seth and Adam made my decision for me. They told me about an opportunity to meet with a small group of teens on Wednesday nights. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to leave "my kids" at St. Mark. And by facilitating a small group on Wednesday nights, I was still able to be a part of my own small group on Sundays.

    As great as it was to still be involved with the teens on Wednesday nights, I didn't get to see very many of them. Because of that I didn't feel very connected to the youth this past year. It's hard to maintain a ministry when I don't feel connected, so this summer I made a very difficult decision. I decided that I would leave my wonderful, faithful small group in order to serve the youth on Sunday nights. It was a really hard decision to make because my small group has become my core group of friends, and there are many of them that I only see at small group. When I made the decision to dedicate Sunday nights to the student ministry, I knew I would have to trust God to lead me to another small group. Some days it's easier to do that than others.

    This morning I was really struggling with trusting God to provide another small group. I spoke with the guy in charge of small groups, and things don't look promising from my perspective right now. As the service started I was racking my brain and looking at the congregation trying to figure out who could possibly be in my new small group. I almost started crying because the situation seems so bleak: I don't know of anyone who is roughly my age and is not in a small group already. Then the Lord broke through my fear and calmed the storm inside me through the hymn we were singing:

    Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
    Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
    leave to your God to order and provide;
    in every change God faithful will remain.
    Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
    through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

    Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
    to guide the future, as in ages past.
    Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
    all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
    Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
    the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.

    Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
    when we shall be forever with the Lord,
    when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
    sorrow for forgot, love's purest joys restored.
    Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
    all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

    Saturday, August 30, 2008

    Echoes resound in my heart

    Donald Miller's closing prayer on day one of the Democratic National Convention. Read more here.

    Father God,

    This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.
    We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.
    We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.
    Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.
    Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.
    Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.
    Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

    Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.
    Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.
    We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

    Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world?
    A lot of people don’t like us, but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.
    Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world?
    Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

    Lastly, father, unify us.
    Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.
    And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments — but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

    God we know that you are good.
    Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

    I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.
    Let Him be our example.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008


    For as long as I can remember I have imagined myself (and the husband I am still waiting for) adopting children. In high school I planned to adopt because I was convinced I was infertile--I even marked verses in the Bible about barren women. (Seriously weird, I know. A doctor never told me I wouldn't be able to have children. I don't have any medical conditions. My reproductive system has always been very regular. One day I apparently just decided that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant.) In college my aspirations to adopt expanded into adopting four children, each from a different continent. I spent hours imagining the beautiful family portraits that would grace the walls of my home, the quick retorts I would whip at people who made rude comments about my family, and the fun to be had learning about the different cultures represented by my children. Toward the end of college the realization that marriage was not in my foreseeable future put the desire to adopt on a back burner. However, in the past few months the desire to become the forever family for orphaned children has been stirred. My heart aches to pour love on children who have been left to face to world alone. My mind calculates budgets, rearranges furniture, evaluates lifestyle changes, and entertains "what ifs" by the dozens. My crafty little fingers even find adoption webpages. I hear radio commercials for adoption and foster care agencies and my very being screams, "Pick me! Pick me, Lord! I'll love them. I'll care for them. I want them."

    All of that to say adoption has been on my heart lately, and I can't help but believe God has put it there for a reason. May I be as willing to go where God leads as Kirk and Heidi Weimer.

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    Continue in Him

    "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming."
    1 John 2:28

    What does it mean to "continue in him"? Does it mean to continue loving deeply, to continue pursuing him, to pray as he prayed? Does it mean more Bible study, more involvement in ministry, more prayer? Does it mean doing more than I am now? Does it mean doing anything?

    Maybe to "continue in him" means to surrender my life daily, hourly even, into the hands of the one who gives life. Maybe continuing in him means allowing my mind to be transformed into the mind of Christ and giving up my ways for God's. Maybe it means asking the Holy Spirit to guide me through each moment of the day.

    Maybe the key to continuing in him is identifying the parts of my life that bring me shame and cause me to be less than confident in his presence and then repenting.

    Sunday, May 25, 2008

    Hope: the belief that a positive outcome lies ahead

    About a month ago at small group, my good friend Jake posed the question “How do you give someone hope?” That same week, one of my students shared with me the heartbreaking reality of her life. Her parents were freshmen in high school when they found out they were pregnant with her. Both of them dropped out of school. They had three children before they were 20. My student’s father has been in and out of jail for as long as she can remember. She suspects her mother is using drugs. It broke my heart to hear her talk so casually about the fighting, threats, and manipulation that she has to deal with on a daily basis at home. That day she came to me overwhelmed, hurting, and without hope.

    I wanted desperately to give her hope, but I couldn't. Who am I say Have hope. Good things are coming? Her parents may never get their acts together, and life as an adult may not be pleasant for her either. I don’t know what her future holds. I can’t promise her that life will get better. I can’t promise anyone that life on earth will be what they want it to be.

    And therein lies the problem. Having hope in earthly things will always lead to disappointment. We live in a fallen world where people make poor decisions and the future is unknown. Life will never be perfect here. However, there is something to look forward to. God sent his son Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins, so that we could be with him. One day he will return, and those who have believed in him will live eternally in heaven. That’s the better life worth hoping for!

    I may not be able to give hope to my hurting student, but I can point her to One worth hoping in. The One who gives us the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2) and a life worth living here on earth (John 10:10).

    "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him."
    Psalm 62:5

    "...we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, and are eager to do what is good."
    Titus 1:13-14

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Day 2

    April 4, Easter Sunday:

    Slept in until 7am and put ourselves together for the day. After breakfast Willem, our host, and the two boys, Stephen (13) and David (9), drove us up the mountain to Gramothe, the site of the church, a school, and the medical clinic. It was an awesome ride up. We took 4 wheelers and Stephen (AKA Speed Demon) was my driver. The path up the mountain is rocky and uneven at the best points, apparently impassable at others, and we raced up it like it was Mother Nature's newest roller coaster. It was wild and an amazing amount of fun. Oh, and I was very glad I'd added leggings under my dress... Especially on the way down when we broke all the posted warnings and added a third passenger to our vehicle driven by someone under 16... Did I mention it was awesome?

    Gramothe school.
    Up at Gramothe Stephen gave us a tour of the campus. Britney pointed out how much it has changed since she visited 10 years ago. It's a pretty nice facility considering, but still a lot to be done there. We got a peek at the clinic we will be helping at this week. Pretty well stocked right now. As Beth said, a lot of medical and cleaning supplies have come into the country right now and there is enough hand sanitizer to bathe in. Not that this is bad, but right now it's a storage issue and will it still be here in 6 months? Anyway, back to events of the day...

    Soon it was time for the Easter service to start. Of course it was all in Creole so we didn't understand any of it. I think I'm up to about 8 different languages I don't speak that I've attended services in, so nothing new for me. The music seemed to go on and on since all the songs were just strung together. I recognized one and a few others sounded familiar. I'm still not entirely sure what went on in the service, but we had Willem explain one part later because he was dancing during his sermon and that could not just be overlooked. At one point Willem brought me and Britney up to the stage to introduce us. He mentioned Britney has visited 10 years ago, but for me he just asked if I was married and then told the crowd that interested parties should speak to him. (Incidentally, I really think this is becoming a thing. All the married men in my life are trying to marry me off.) He claims he had 2 interested parties come up after the service, but I'm not convinced.

    Britney talks with David while we wait for Willem to finish his meeting.
    After the service Willem had a meeting so we hung out with the boys. It was definitely hot out in the sun. When the breeze came up it was nice, but otherwise it was brutal seeing as shade is hard to come by. Haiti has a huge problem with deforestation, which has affected many other things including shortening the rainy season and creating potential for drought. Anyway, after about an hour and a half we finally headed back down the mountain to lunch.

    Sunday is traditionally a sabbath in Haiti so we just chilled for the afternoon. I tried to read a little and ended up taking a little nap instead, but was woken up by the arrival of more members of the team. It was kinda nice having the house to ourselves, but tomorrow more of the team arrives and the house will be packed to the gills. So the chill evening chatting and playing card games was nice. Tomorrow we head up to the clinic to get it all set up for the medical staff arriving tomorrow afternoon.

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Day 3

    April 5, Monday:

    More organized than when we came in.
    Started a little late this morning seeing as Willem was spending the day making trips back and forth from the airport bringing in the rest of the team and there wasn't too much we could do yet. Britney, Hannah (a team member from Mexico), and I spent the morning over at another guest house sorting out supplies for the clinic, the children's home, and other destinations. Many of the hotels and guest houses fell in the earthquake and the ones that didn't are jam packed with aid workers and others coming into the country for various programs. This led to various houses and other buildings being pressed into service as guest houses and bed and breakfasts for visiting workers. This house is one that MTM has been able to get access to and Beth said both houses have been packed since the earthquake. The house itself was very nice and would be considered quite fancy even in the US. Of course, down the street people are living in shacks, but that's Haiti. Our task there was to come into a stack of meds, equipment, and supplies from various sources (including a big load from Morocco which had info only in French and Arabic), figure out what they were, and arrange them into suitcases and bags to be transported to various locations. After sorting the meds we took the various toiletry products and made up "health bags" to be passed out at the clinic. We used up all the supplies, but I'm sure we will run out of them sooner rather than later.

    More supplies waiting to be loaded.
    When we got back to our house Beth went off with the newly arrived medical director, Marcia, to look over the equipment and meds and come up with a game plan for tomorrow. We spent the afternoon getting to know the new team members and feeling a little useless. After dinner the last group of people arrived and then we had orientation and discussed jobs and assignments for the next day. Britney will be working with children -- she has the fun task of covering them with cream to treat them for scabies. Yay! I will be working in the pharmacy, but breaking away as needed for whatever support the nurses and doctors need.

    I'm looking forward to finally getting up to the clinic and getting to work. Should be an exhausting, but rewarding day. I'm pretty sure I'll know a lot more about medication and medicine in general by the end of the day...

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Day 4

    April 6, Tuesday:

    You can fall off, but don't let the suitcases.
    Today started bright and early. I was up and moving even before my 6:30 am alarm went off. After breakfast we all quickly got our stuff together and prepared to head up to Gramothe. First we had to haul a bunch of suitcases and boxes full of supplies out to the trucks and then we piled on top of them. If going up the mountain on an ATV was wild, on the back of an open truck was even more so. The places to hold on were few and far between and I got hit in the head with branches more than a couple times. I'm really impressed by the drivers.

    When we arrived at the clinic there was a long line already waiting for us. Some of them might have been waiting over night even. It took us a little while to assess the state of the clinic, organize the bulk of the new supplies, and set up the work stations. The pharmacy and supply cabinet were chaos. The medical directer said it was once well organized, but the current state was anything but. Nancy, the pharmacist, and I were threatening to spend the night at the clinic rearranging the stores. At that point there wasn't too much we could do.

    Supply closet. Good luck finding anything.
    Soon the clinic was open and prescriptions were pouring in. Starting off I knew little about the drugs and nothing about the shorthand coming in on the prescription pads. I know way more now. Nancy was very patient with me and answered my many questions about what the various drugs were used for. This might seem mere curiosity, which did play a factor initially, but it was also highly relevant as we frequently needed to make substitutions for prescribed drugs we didn't have or to use up other ones that are older and need to be handed out first. Pretty quickly I learned the most commonly prescribed drugs and what they were to treat (high blood pressure, antibiotics, pain killers, etc). After only one day I can quickly count out the necessary strength and amount of medication with a pharmacist's knife, fill a pill bag, and translate the doctors instructions into Creole (qd prn=1 chak pa jou, pou doule= 1 a day, for pain). At the beginning of the day I had to ask Nancy about every item, but by the end I filled most of them only pausing to check with her on substitutions or quantity.

    When it came time for the lunch break everyone else headed up to the school cafeteria, but Nancy and I still had prescriptions and patients waiting. We finished most of them before finally being chased up the hill to our lunch. After quickly consuming our sack lunches it was back down. By then Nancy felt a little more comfortable with where to find things and we took the few minutes before new scripts came in to reorganize our work space and make it more efficient. I definitely think the second part of the day went more smoothly as a result.

    All in all it passed really quickly. I feel like I didn't get much hands on time with the people since we were pretty much frantically running around a small closet and handing things to the translator to pass out the window. That said, I really enjoyed the day. Once I figured out the basics and got to know my co-workers I felt pretty comfortable in my role. By the end of the week I might be heading to pharmacy school... Marcia said it was a pretty big turn out for the first day, so I'm interested to see what it will be like tomorrow. The patient count was around 200 people and there were more waiting when we closed down for the day.

    Nancy trying to figure out what these meds are.

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Day 5

    April 7, Wednesday:

    This is the MIDDLE of the line greeting us as we pulled up.
    This morning was quite similar to yesterday morning minus the suitcase hauling. When we made it up the mountain to Gramothe there was a huge line waiting again. Britney said she could see the line from down at the guest house. It's intimidating pulling up to a line like that and knowing some will be sent home to return later and others can't be helped at all. We got to work a lot faster since we were starting off a lot more organized.

    As far as the pharmacy went, it was more of the same today. Being more organized meant more down time which was in turn utilized for reorganization. Hopefully by the end of the week the pharmacy will be easier to navigate. I spent a bunch of time rummaging around the supply closet digging out hidden meds and things that needed to be used up first. I think there's enough antibiotic ointment to cover all of Haiti, but there are other things we don't have at all.

    Getting out of the pharmacy a little today meant a little more exposure to the patients, but I'm still feeling a lack of hands on time. On one pop out of the pill box I noticed Haylee searching for formula for a teeny little baby I'd seen come by the pharmacy window. Apparently the baby hadn't eaten for sometime since the mother has some kind of mental problems and won't breastfeed. Haylee was trying to get him to eat, but he wouldn't suckle for more than a few moments. I pointed out that he probably isn't even sure how since he's obviously not eating much at home. Eventually he worked up some steam and she got the bottle down him, but it's hard to know what will happen from there.

    Couple who came at the last minute. The kids were sent home with scabies meds.
    We were ahead of the game for most of the day until the last half hour when all the complicated prescriptions came in at once. We were getting a little stressed by that point. It's quite a bit of pressure too because by the time the patients got to us they'd been waiting out in the sun all day and you just want to get the drugs together as fast as you can and send them home. Just as we were finishing the last prescription and heading out the door at around 4:30pm a couple with a baby and a little girl came up. The girls both had scabies so we dug out some cream and sent them home with it with instructions on how to apply it. Willem said the couple said that they might make it home by midnight if they walked very fast. It's heart breaking to think that as many as 200 other people were turned away in the morning. That said, we did help 191 patients in the clinic and over 80 in the eye clinic. Back at the house Willem said there's even more need right now because there used to be doctors all over Haiti, but now many have left Haiti because of the earthquake. It's difficult to even know where to start.

    Haylee holding the IV.
    On arriving home we went to check on Betsie, one of the nurses, who had gone home sick in the middle of the day. Apparently she had been vomiting all afternoon after arriving back at the house. This is definitely a good time to be surrounded by medical professionals. After some consultation, Marcia and Nancy headed back to the clinic on an ATV to get supplies so they could start her on an IV. When they got back everyone took a turn at trying to get it going, but after about 4 sticks they decided that she was too dehydrated for even that. After some medication she was finally able to get down some fluids and we let her rest and went down to dinner.

    The evening hasn't been too exciting. Pretty much just hanging out and swapping photos. I feel a little aimless today. I don't even want to think about the fact that I'll be leaving soon. My heart and mind are still up at the clinic. Rolling around in my mind are thoughts of all the things the supply closet does and doesn't need. Mostly I feel inadequate. I can't understand how anyone, especially a medical professional, wouldn't want to be here now doing this.

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Day 6

    April 8th, Thursday:

    Apparently there was an aftershock last night measuring in at 6.1. Unfortunately I missed it. I'm really pretty bummed. I've never felt an earthquake before.

    Scabies treatment.
    Same game this morning: stumble out of bed, dress, eat, and pile in the trucks. About the same length line to greet us. Today I decided to get out of the pharmacy so I could have more human contact. I ended up serving as scribe for Marcia. Basically my job consisted of taking notes on symptoms and recording the diagnosis and treatment. The whole process is rather tag team since we're working through a translator and trying to push through the patients as efficiently as possible. You quickly notice the same basic complaints over and over: reflux and hearburn, worms, scabies, fungus, etc. Since Marcia is the medical director she frequently got called away to consult with others or to deal with various other issues. While Marcia was running around we (a nurse, myself, and our translator, Robert) would get down the symptoms and prepare the treatment for the obvious complaints (vitamins, tums, skin cream, etc). Marcia would make the final diagnosis or, for the simple patients, sign off on our assessment. Robert is pretty experienced which made things go pretty smoothly.

    She smiled a lot, except for when I tried to take a photo.
    Since Marcia was focusing on children we saw a lot of babies throughout the day. Some were as healthy as you could expect in their enviroment and others were pathetically underweight or covered with scabies. One healthy looking baby came in with a cold and Marcia noticed a firm spot on her arm. The mother got a little worried when we were looking at it but Marcia asked a few questions and discovered she had recently been vaccinated. While the translater explaned that this is a normal reaction I pulled out my arm and showed her the spot from my last Hep shot. The mother felt my arm and then smiled, clearly reassured.

    The next station had a two month old baby brought in to be given up for adoption. The mother is 16 and is living with her grandfather who insisted that the baby be given away. I heard it all secondhand, but apparently the girl got told off by everyone within earshot when it was discovered that she had the baby's bonnet ties wrapped tightly around her neck. In the end they counseled her on breast feeding and sent her home for the time being until the baby is a little older. Hopefully the grandfather will change his mind. If not they will probably be back.

    Back at home we found Betsie doing a lot better. She'll be back to work in the clinic tomorrow.

    Final tally for the day was 192 patients in the clinic and 85 in the eye clinic. Tomorrow is the last day for the clinic and my last full day in Haiti. I'm pretty sure the end of the day will be heartbreaking, but it helps to know that the next clinic won't be too far away.

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Day 7

    April 9, Friday

    This morning started off a little earlier as the vendors were supposed to arrive at 6:30am so that we could buy our souvenirs before breakfast. They ended up being significantly late so we all hurried around trying to get a good deal. The whole process was complicated by the fact that we only had large bills and the three vendors didn't have change. It was interesting to saw the least. Finally we rushed into the house and shoved some food down our faces (at least I did) as we ran out the door to hop onto the truck.

    I spent the day scribing for Marcia again. Yesterday the flavor of the day was babies, while today we saw a lot more adults. Most of the morning was rather frustrating. It seemed to be one thing after another and Marcia was continually being called away. Progress seemed slow, especially with the added pressure of it being the last day of the clinic. However, after lunch we were finally able to pick up momentum and by the end of the day things were more fluid.

    This 6 month old baby weighed 9.4 pounds.
    We had a baby today that was 6 months old and only 9.4 pounds. He had a horrible case of scabies and the mother said he didn't eat well. You could definitely tell; he was amazingly tiny. We had a few very old women who were rather cute and we also had several people complaining of aches and pains as a result of the earthquake.

    The final count for the day was 204 in the clinic and 90 in the eye clinic. Overall we saw 718 in the clinic and 350 in the eye clinic. That seems like a lot of people, and at the same time not nearly enough.

    Towards the end of the day it started looking very definitively like rain. Once we'd finished the last patient, we ran around like crazy trying to finish up the cleaning so we could make it home before the rain. We did, but just barely.

    It was with great melancholy that I packed up my things in preparation for our flight tomorrow. When I left for Haiti I didn't know exactly what it would be like or what I would be doing. I think I can safely say it exceeded my imagination in every way. What exactly it means for the future is as of yet unclear. I know I would love to return to Haiti and do more of the same if not something even more in line with my experience and skills.

    Beth's Post: Haiti Trip Days -1, 0 & 1

    April 1, Thursday:

    Got up early to go to the medical center for my last Hepatitis shot before the trip. From there I headed off to work for a full 8 hour shift. It was a crappy day at work for many, many reasons, which did not make the time move any faster. A couple people told me to "put things in perspective". I found this highly unhelpful as true perspective said that I could be elsewhere doing more significant things... Finally got home and pulled an all-nighter finishing up the packing and cleaning my house.

    April 2, Friday:

    Headed to the airport just before 4am having already been awake for over 20 hours. Had to wait through a massive line for full service help at the check in, all the while not even knowing if it would help. Finally got to the front of the line and they did indeed connect the two legs of my journey, but the lady still tried to charge me a baggage fee until I pointed out that the flight was international. She wasn't overly helpful. Security was frustrating. They took away the "expert traveler" line in favor of one long queue. I had to wait forever behind a huge group of people who couldn't find their butt with both hands until I finally made it up to the front and passed through in 30 seconds. I had significantly less carry-on than usual which certainly expedited things. Got to the gate with only a little time before boarding so didn't get breakfast as I'd planned. Tried to sleep on the plane, but only dozed slightly as the guy next to me insisted on holding his newspaper all the way open the whole flight and repeatedly knocked into me as a result. Was very, very glad to arrive at O'Hare.

    Hopped the El to downtown Chicago. The line had some delays which made it take longer than I'd hoped. Should have done some planning for lunch. Ended up just wandering around a while until found a place I could tolerate. Stopped in at a nearby Walgreens for some last minute stuff. Headed back to the airport and waited there for Britney to arrive. Boarded the flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Much better seatmates this time and an aisle seat. Didn't even try to sleep, but read instead. Had a conversation with my neighbor that wasn't tedious, which was a surprise.

    Arrived around 11pm. Had to pick up my suitcase, but Britney didn't, which was weird. The airport had a bunch of "old time" faux store fronts so we picked a likely one that was a little sheltered and set up camp. It was a little like being a homeless person stuck in a Victorian theme park. The situation was not conducive to sleep and, on top of that, throughout the "night" there was a succession of noisy cleaning machines, a screaming child, and a lady screaming at her boyfriend over her cell phone.

    April 3, Saturday

    Set the alarm for 5am, but gave up on sleep around 4:40am. Tried to freshen up in the nearby (thankfully, spacious) bathroom and made myself as presentable as possible. Rechecked my suitcase and passed pretty quickly through security. Flight was less crowded than the others and went smoothly. Arrived in Haiti and passed through immigration. The baggage clam was pretty chaotic. My bag was one of the last to arrive which was a little worrying. Was met by our hostess, Beth, and then headed off to the guest house. By this point I had been traveling over 24 hours and awake about 48 except for some light dozing.

    A taptap in front of a building with earthquake damage.
    As we were driving I tried to look around a bit and ended up making myself car sick. In general it reminded me a lot of what I remember from the Dominican Republic. Did see some nasty earthquake damage right next door to buildings which are apparently perfectly sound. Passed by some tent cities as well, although not much to be seen there from the street. Wound through the crazy traffic and finally arrived at the guest house. Met Beth's kids and chatted with her. After lunch Britney and I took a little nap. Woke up in time for dinner and then a movie with Beth, a couple of her friends, and eventually the kids. Had a dessert made from sweet potatoes (very good) and then back to the guest house for the night.

    View from guest house balcony.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008


    A coworker lost her husband earlier this year. One of my students ran away last week. Another student filed a CPS report against his own father. A young girl was torn in half when her mother left her at the neighbor’s when her boyfriend didn’t want kids in his house. A friend recently wrote about living with a loved one who has cancer. He gave a glimpse of what life is like with this debilitating disease and the side effects of treatment. He told of the relentless pain and the unanswered prayers for healing. Then at small group, someone told me of a six year old boy who had gone missing earlier in the day just a few hundred feet from where we were meeting. When I returned home I looked the story up online. I was hoping they had found him. They found they boy’s hat and boot in the river. The rescue efforts were called off when it got dark. His body was found in the river Monday morning. I can’t imagine the depth of pain his family is experiencing.

    As I drove home from small group and fervently prayed for the family of this missing little boy, one thought kept playing through my mind.

    He’s faithful.

    This reminder gave me incredible comfort. I have seen first hand the Lord’s faithfulness. When I was brokenhearted and so low I thought I’d never have hope again, when my mom was “diagnosed” with cancer, when my aunt was in a coma for weeks and we didn’t know if she would live, God was faithful. He didn’t erase my pain or make everything right in my life, but he was faithful to me.

    God doesn’t spare us all suffering or protect us from all sorrow because, unfortunately, he never said he would. In fact, Jesus says just the opposite. He warns us to expect hard times. (Read Matthew 5) The assurance the Lord does give is that when we experience hurt, when our hearts are breaking, he’ll be with us. He declares he’ll never leave us. And in that he’s faithful.

    So when I’m plagued by grief and sorrow, when despair and rejection claim my hope, when I’m physically ill because of the horrors in this life, I’ll cling not to the disillusionment that God will take away my pain, but to the promise that God is with me.

    “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
    Deuteronomy 31:6

    “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
    Isaiah 43:2, 3

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Guarding My Heart

    As a young Christian, I was told to guard my heart. No one told me what that meant or how to go about it; I was just expected to do it. I naively assumed that guarding my heart equated to protecting myself from the opposite sex. The obvious way to protect myself from the pain a boy could cause was to avoid them altogether. And I succeeded for many years at doing just that.

    Then I met a boy who said nice things and made me feel special. All attempts to guard my heart went right out the window. I foolishly placed my tender heart in the hands of this boy who did not cherish or help me guard it. He crushed my poor little heart. Tore it apart piece by piece. Shattered it. I was devastated.

    After I picked up the pieces of my heart and attempted to fit them back together, I found myself asking, “How do I guard my heart?” I didn’t find any answers to my question, so I went back to avoiding men.

    Recently I’ve decided that avoiding the opposite sex is no longer desirable. I’d like to become good friends with the single men in my life—one in particular. (I’m already pretty good at being friends with the married males in my life.) Guarding my heart has to be different than putting up walls between myself and someone who has the potential to hurt me. If I lived like that, I wouldn’t have any friends. And I certainly wouldn’t ever find myself in a more-than-friends relationship.

    So now that I’d like to forge a friendship with this particular male, I find myself questioning the mandate to guard my heart. Maybe the reason to guard my heart is not to simply protect myself from getting hurt. Perhaps guarding my heart means reigning in my occasionally wild emotions and curbing my overactive imagination. Undoubtedly I’m to guard my heart from being filled with desires for something other than God’s will.

    This week when my mind wanders to the very godly and good looking man he’s placed in my life, instead of wondering what life would look like if we were married, I’ll take the high road. I’ll ask the Lord to take my fleshly desires and replace them with the desires of his heart. And in doing so, I’ll protect my own heart from leading me down a path of sin and pain.

    “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
    Proverbs 4:23

    “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
    Psalm 37:4