Friday, February 22, 2013

His broken body feeds my soul

So I haven't written on here in over a year...but I felt like writing an entry about something I have been thinking about lately.

I love the way you can read the Bible and the same stories you have heard so many times can teach you something new. I also love talking to friends about the Word of God and hearing about the things they are learning from it. This entry flows from both of these things and what I have been learning from the same story in the Bible.

Jesus feeds the five thousand, and then a couple chapters later he feeds the four thousand. All four gospels mention the feeding of the five thousand, and both Matthew and Mark also talk about Jesus feeding the four thousand. Jesus also talks about this with His disciples on the boat and they are really confused and don't quite understand. Being the math dork that I am, I have tried to figure out a pattern between the number of loaves & fishes and baskets of each that were left over and how many people were fed. All I have figured out is that Jesus has less bread & fish to feed the five thousand, but there were more baskets of broken pieces leftover. But more importantly, it shows that Jesus provides.

I have loved discovering the deeper meanings behind what Jesus is doing. Growing up, Jesus feeding so many people was this cool story of Jesus doing a miracle, so it revealed His power. There are lots of miracles to show that. However, there is something more Jesus is showing His disciples and the people He is feeding, and to me now.

My friend Rae read this story recently and saw something in it that encouraged her, and has encouraged me as well. As the crowd gathers, the disciples ask Jesus to send them away. However, He tells them to feed the people. They make a remark about how they don't have food for the people, or money to buy enough food to feed them all. So He asks them to find out what they do have. They come back with some loaves of bread and a few fish. Jesus takes it, blesses it and then breaks it and gives it to the disciples to give to the people. Jesus takes what the disciples have, what little it may be, and breaks it apart, then hands it back to them to give to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied. Jesus doesn't expect us to have everything to offer to people. He simply takes what we have and He is the one who provides. We simply get to be the ones to pass it out.

I loved hearing that. I do not have much to give other people, but what I do have, Jesus multiples for me to give them. Ultimately, what I have to offer is Jesus. He is the bread of life, and He will give me what they need if I simply go to Him for it. He will give me the words to speak, the grace to offer others, and the love to pour out even when I feel like I have nothing to offer. He is the one who provides.

A little bit after Jesus feeds the thousands of people, He comes back to explain how He is the bread. We see Him breaking bread again at Passover with His disciples before He goes to be crucified. He is the bread that is broken for us. His body is broken so that our hungry souls can be filled.

The line that sticks out to me in the story is how "they all ate and were satisfied." Everyone was satisfied and there are still leftovers...more than enough. Honestly, I have heard so many times that Jesus is more than enough and He truly satisfies. Sometimes I wrestle to believe that. We are all hungry, especially in our souls. Every day we search for something to deal with this hunger, yet it never seems like enough. When Jesus feeds the people, there are baskets full of leftovers.

I want to be satisfied in Jesus. John Piper says "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." At times I feel like I have truly experienced this satisfaction. I know that He alone can satisfy, but sometimes I still feel this deep hunger. In those times, I often look to other things to try to fill that hunger. Sometimes it is actually food that I look to for comfort. Chipotle sounds good to me on almost any day, but sometimes I just want some Chipotle and hope it will somehow do something for the yearning in my soul. It is pretty good and satisfies my physical hunger, but not much beyond that. Most often, I look to relationships and friendships to fill this longing in my soul, yet it never truly satisfies and I am often left disappointed. Don't get me wrong - I have lots of incredible friends who I am so grateful for, who love me, encourage me and support me in so many ways. The problem comes when I look to them to be for me what only Jesus can be. I have a lot to say about the heartache and frustration that brings, not to mention how I have hurt the people I care about and damaged relationships by turning them into idols. Jesus is the one I desperately need, the only one who can truly satisfy the desires of my heart and soul.

I love Psalm 107:9: "For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things." My favorite verse also talks about this in Ecclesiates 3:11: "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." God has placed eternity in our hearts - a desire for Him and Him alone, one that only He can truly satisfy.

And what I find completely amazing, is how Jesus continues to pursue me, even with my wandering heart. Every time I choose to chase my own desires and find life, security, comfort, or my identity in things other than Him, He reveals my sin and idolatry, but also pours His mercy and grace upon me, inviting me back to Him arms. His love never fails and His mercies never cease. This relentless love and grace beckons me to come and rest. To eat, drink and be satisfied. I pray that God would continue to change my heart, to refine it so that is desires Him and Him alone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

feels like it's been forever since you've been gone

Well, I haven't blogged in almost a year! So that is quite a bit to catch up I will try to keep it short, but knowing me, thats unlikely. :)

From January to August of this year I served as the Discipleship Intern at Shelterwood. I loved it! I was able to continue relationships I built with Littles during my time as a Big and get to invest more in the Bigs I worked with. I was able to take Bigs out to coffee, ice cream, to the park, dinner, etc once a month individually and ask them how they were doing, if they felt supported, what God was teaching them and so much more. It was incredible to be able to hear each of their hearts and I learned a lot. I was humbled to get to know them and for ways they were honest and vulnerable with me. I would call several of them "friends" and am grateful for ways they loved and encouraged me. I also saw struggles within the ministry and heard both sides of situations where people were in conflict. It was definitely a growing experience and showed me how we are all humans. I think the idea of leadership was a theme that came up for me, as I wrestled with what a leader is, how I was called to be a leader, etc. I think the metaphor for leader I came to love the most is a shepherd - and the importance of the shepherd knowing their sheep. I am grateful for the way I was able to get to know the Bigs, and hopefully learn how to love each one more as time went on. The role definitely had its challenges but I also enjoyed being able to encourage and support the Bigs. And I still got to be involved in whatever activities I wanted to with the house, but had much more free time. Overall, it was incredible! There is a lot more I could say, lots of things that happened, but it would take forever to talk about.

Over the summer, I began to come to the end of the time I had committed for. I had originally said I was leaving in August. My parents were ready for me to come home and told me I was emotionally exhausted in ways I didn't even realize. I wasn't so sure I wanted to leave. Some of the Bigs I had grown very close to had decided to stay at Shelterwood, and I wasn't ready to say good-bye. I took a day to pray and journal through what God wanted for me, and it seemed like I needed to go home and rest. I would move back to Austin at the end of August and take some time to see what God had planned for me next.

I enjoyed my last few months at Shelterwood. I got to spend a lot of time with Bigs and Littles, and God allowed new relationships with Littles to develop as well. I have still kept up with a couple of Littles that are there through letters. I was blessed to speak at two graduations for Littles and for a Big as well. At the end of August, I packed up my stuff and moved home. It was really hard to say good-bye to the life I had known for over a year and a half. I cried a lot...I still miss Shelterwood a lot, and the people I know who are there. I visited once, and hope to visit again soon.

Coming home I didn't know what was next. I had decided to join the Women's Development Program (WDP) at Austin Stone, the church I was a part of before I moved to Missouri. I also knew I had a passion for counseling, but wasn't sure what to do with it. I registered for an online Biblical counseling class, and just tried to take some time to adjust to life outside of Shelterwood. It was like reverse-culture shock! It was also hard to not be surrounded by people who know you so well. Shelterwood is definitely a place I love very much and I am so grateful for my time and experience there. I am especially grateful for the relationships God orchestrated with so many people, some I know will continue for many, many years.

Lately, I have been humbled by God's faithfulness to provide for me in Austin. I love my group with WDP. For WDP, we met Sunday mornings for class, Tuesday mornings for Theology, and Wednesday nights with just my group. There are 7 other women in my group and I have loved getting to know them over the past 3 months. I am excited to see what God had planned for the rest of the year! I am so thankful for this source of community, especially after leaving the tight-knit group I had at Shelterwood. It is definitely different, but I am learning a lot and grateful for each of the women in my group, and the leaders of the program.

After a few conversations with people God placed in my life, I began volunteering with the counseling ministry at Austin Stone. The church opened a counseling center this summer and are thinking about ways to grow the ministry. I started out planning a dinner event to honor people who serve in the ministry, and I was asked to consider interning with the counseling ministry. Crazy! And the vision behind counseling at Austin Stone connects with my heart for counseling and what I would want to do with it! I have wrestled with whether or not I want to pursue a professional degree in counseling. I see counseling as a daily thing that happens in every day life through relationships. We all counsel people every day. The question is - how are we counseling? Are we speaking the truth of the gospel or worldly wisdom? Austin Stone counseling ministry seeks to train up as many people as possible in the body of Christ in how to effectively apply the gospel to every aspect of life through the relationships we have around us. They believe counseling should happen in the context of community. There is still a need for professional counseling, but ideally we as believers should be counseling each other as we speak the truth of the gospel daily into one anothers' lives. Amen! I am so excited to be more involved with the ministry and humbled to work alongside the staff, as well as being able to interact with the counselors. I have already been so encouraged by them. God is so good!

I will be interning part-time and then I have been applying for part-time jobs. I have applied to a couple residential treatment centers for children and teenagers, as well as a few coffee shops. We will see what happens. God knows the plans He has for me, and that's good, so I don't need to worry!

Anyways, that is where I am at right now. There are more details obviously, but time and time again God reveals His faithfulness to me. I have been through seasons of doubt for sure, times when I had no idea what God was doing, felt like I had been forgotten or abandoned, but God promises to never leave or forsake us. He has been present and active even in those times, and it is exciting to see now how He was orchestrating things when I didn't understand. I pray that my faith will grow, and that I will trust Him more even when I don't see how He is working. He is worthy and His love never fails. This is the hope I cling to, and He will be faithful. May you all come to know Him more! Have a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

as one season ends, another begins

Sorry I haven't updated in a month. A lot has been going on. I went home the week before  Thanksgiving. I was back at Shelterwood for a week before flying back home for a weekend to celebrate my Grandma's 80th birthday. I enjoyed being home with my family and seeing some of my closest friends. I also went to a UT graduation. I can't believe I graduated from college a year ago. I can't believe I turned 23 yesterday, and tomorrow I am graduating from Doulos as a Big! :) This year has been life-changing to say the least. And I am in denial that it is coming to an end...too many emotions to feel if I admit it! :)

Lately, I have felt overwhelmed - in a good way. The community that has developed around me here is such a blessing. There are 3 other girl Bigs with whom I have stayed up to late hours in the night having incredible conversations with. These conversations have been filled with laughter, tears, silence, and words spoken to bring life, healing, encouragement and challenges. It has been such a beautiful time together and they have become very dear to my heart. I feel so loved and encouraged by them. When we hang out together, I am very aware of the presence of Christ and enjoy how I get to experience who He is through each of them.

I have continued to grow closer to my two Littles that I spend most of my time with. Last night I got to take them with me to my birthday dinner with the other Bigs that were off and other house staff. I sat right between them and felt so blessed they could be with me. I can't tell you how much I enjoy them and how precious they have become to me. They are my sisters, not just here at Shelterwood, but in life. I start thinking about the relationship I have with each of them and how the Lord is allowing me to see Him working in their lives so intimately, and its hard to believe that the Lord would allow me to know them this way. They know me well, too. You can ask them questions about my heart and they will tell you what makes it hurt and what makes it happy. It is unbelievably crazy to me that I get to see them everyday and to be so close to them. They are beautiful and I love them so deeply.

As I said earlier, tomorrow afternoon I will be graduating! This is a time to reflect on the past 11+ months where the Lord broke me into a million pieces then put me back together. I have never been so broken before, but I have never felt so free. I have experienced so much healing this year. It is incredible! I don't even know where to begin to process all that happened and I know the Lord will use this year to continue to teach me things the rest of my life.

So as this year comes to an end, I am sure many of you are wondering - what's next? I am hoping to send out a letter over Christmas break to all of you who have supported me this past year. I am so grateful for the countless prayers, words of encouragement, phone calls, facebook posts and time listening to my stories, before, during and now after. I could not have walked this year without each of you and I am so grateful.

As the Lord has strengthened relationships I have here with other Bigs and Littles, I decided a couple months ago that I was not ready to leave Shelterwood at the end of the year. So, I have decided to stay here for another 8 months in a different role. Starting in January, I will be the new Doulos Discipleship intern. Instead of mainly focusing on Littles, my main ministry focus will be on the Bigs. I will be involved in their classtime, teaching a class at some point, recruiting new Bigs to come, living in the house with one of the house directors, and getting to invest in and encouraged the Bigs as they pour out to the Littles. I am so excited!!!! I basically feel like I will just get to by myself. :) I will still be on coverage in the house sometimes and can spend time with Littles when I am off. I will have a more regular schedule of only 40ish hours a week, which I am looking forward to. I will be raising support to cover extra expenses but I am looking forward to what God has planned. Joe is the Doulos Discipleship director, and I am looking forward to working with him and seeking what Christ wants to do in this ministry. My heart is for Bigs to truly experience all that Christ is and the power of the gospel and through that to reach the hearts of the Littles. I love the vision of this ministry for discipleship - to see lives changed by Christ as He restores broken families and brings hope by the power of the cross and His amazing love grace. He is so faithful and I find no greater joy than being a part of what He is doing in people's lives to bring freedom, joy, hope and peace - true life.

So that is what is next for me. I a driving home in a week for the Christmas season. I hope to get a chance to actually sit down with many of you and share stories and catch up in person. I truly am so grateful for you all and thank God for the many people He has brought into my life to reflect who He is. I love you all and miss you very much. I hope that you are blessed and drawn closer to Christ as we reflect on His humility as He entered out world and lived among us so that we might truly know Him. To Him be all the glory, honor and praise forever and ever! Amen. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

beauty in the brokenness

Hello! The days are counting down to the end of my time here as a Big. It is absolutely crazy! I think at this point I have more days that I am off then I am actually on before I go home for Christmas! That is crazy. I have a week off for Thanksgiving and I took 3 vacation days and my regular two days off a week! Crazy! I am not ready to say good-bye to so many people here...Lord, prepare my heart for whatever you have planned for me. This has been my life for almost 11 months! Its weird to think of leaving...and it freaks me out. So I try not to think too much about it! :)

I am going to miss some people over Thanksgiving break! I will be gone 8 days, but that seems like so long. Days here are so filled - its like you're gone a week if you are off for a day. Seriously. I don't even know how to explain it. I am driving home on Wednesday to Austin to see friends and family. I will celebrate Thanksgiving, however I will actually be here on Thanksgiving Day. I am actually kind of excited about that because a lot of the other Bigs will be here, too, and in ways, they have become like family. I mean, we do all live in the same house! :)

I spoke in chapel last Thursday. I played the song "Healing Begins" by Tenth Avenue North (my fave!) and talked about stepping out into the light, finding healing from our shame possible only because of the gospel of Christ. I read the story about the woman who was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. The crowd was about to stone her, but as Jesus pointed out that they were all guilty of sin, one by one they walk away until only Jesus is left, and He does not condemn her. Its such a beautiful story because it reflects the rich grace and compassion of our Lord. Only before His grace and mercy can we deal with all our junk openly and honestly. However, as we do, we find healing, freedom and life. Its amazing! I was really encouraged by people's feedback, and especially touched by a handful of guy Littles who told me they really liked what I shared. I just pray that the Lord uses it as He wants to to draw people closer to Him.

So there is one relationship with a Little here in particular that the Lord has been growing each day and overwhelming me with by what He is doing. I get to learn something new about her everyday and am amazed and blessed to get to watch Christ literally transforming her heart. Last week I went on a walk with her. The weather here has been beautiful - cool, crisp autumn air, amazing sunsets and beautiful fall colors. (The reds are my absolute favorite! I wish fall in Austin was like this...) We walked and talked a little bit, but we were quiet at times, too. Its nice to be able to just walk with someone and not have to say anything and it not be awkward. On our last lap around the loop around property, I picked up a leaf and explained to her a metaphor I came up with because I love metaphors. :) I explained how the leaf was dead and it had fallen off the tree. It was dried up, and it seemed hopeless. However, there is the hidden hope of spring. We have different seasons in life - fall leads to winter, which is often a depressing time of the year, everything dead & dormant. But under all that lies the hope of spring, of new life. In life, sometimes things have to die before they can truly be alive. We go through times where we feel like we are dying, but there is the hope of new life, of healing, beauty, peace, and grace possible in Christ. Amen.

I gave her the leaf to keep. I found a note from her on my bed later in the week, where she made a new metaphor. The leaf was torn in pieces and in her note she talked about how she felt like she was falling to pieces. It broke my heart to read, but I also loved her honesty and metaphor that she said was more relevant to her. So I gave her another metaphor! :) I tore the leaf into even smaller pieces then glued them on a note card in the shape of a heart and wrote out Hosea 6:1-3:

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

This is what God does. He tears us apart then puts us back together in a more beautiful way. It can be painful beyond belief, but He is good and He has the power to heal, redeem and restore. This is my prayer for her, to truly come to know Christ and to experience the power of His love, grace, forgiveness and healing from her shame and hurt and find true peace in God. She gets closer each day and leaves me encouraging notes that make me really excited. The Lord is so faithful and overwhelmingly good to me. As He has brought healing, hope and freedom to my life, I get to show others the way to Christ to find the same hope. He alone is worthy and I am humbled to be able to do this with my life.

I pray that you are coming to know Christ more. Whether you are in the process of being torn apart or being put back together, or anywhere in between, I pray you know that you are being held close to His heart. The Maker of the Universe is making something beautiful out of you for all the world to know Him more. How incredible is that? Only Christ can take what is broken, bruised, tattered and turn it into something beautiful. Only a holy God can takes the things in our lives that have brought so much shame and hurt and use them for His redemptive purpose and glory. This is the Lord who I want to give my whole life to. To Him I owe my life, my everything. May you know Him more today. I love you & miss you all. Thank you so much for following me on this journey, for your prayers, love & support. I can not walk this alone and I am so grateful for each of you. Hope to see you soon! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Love is here, Love is now

Hey y'all! Sorry I haven't updated in a it seems impossible to explain all that has happened in the past month. I don't even remember the past week sometimes...

A couple weekends ago we had Parent's Weekend. All of the Littles parents came in for a weekend retreat where they had family counseling, parent groups, time to hang out together and we as Bigs got to hang out with some parents and watch Littles with their families. I loved the night all the families showed up and was in awe watching the Littles hugging their parents and playing with their siblings. It was beautiful. I enjoyed the weekend, but parts of it were tough, too. The brokenness the Littles struggle with extend to the parents and entire families, and it was interesting to see how different families relate. It causes me to pray BIGGER prayers for the family as a whole and I have a better understanding of why girls relate the way they do. Overall, it was a great weekend, and through some of the tough stuff God has done some incredible things!

One of my favorite times here is still Tuesday nights with Bible study. It is awesome to dig into the Word of God with the Littles and to see their incredible faith in God. It humbles me and encourages me more than I can say. There is also a couple girls here who I have been blessed to get really close to. One is a strong believer and her faith inspires me everyday. And we laugh so much together! haha. I love being here.

There is one Little here who I get to have incredible conversations with. Through my relationship with her, I have come to thank God for things I have struggled with in the past, things I used to feel so much shame for, because through them I can connect to her and share how the Lord has set me free and healed me from shame. I have been so humbled and in awe to see the Lord changing her heart in unbelievable and amazing ways to bring healing. I get so EXCITED - like excited to the point I literally jump up and down and run around the house with a huge smile on my face. The Lord is so faithful! I feel like I am getting to see Isaiah 61 play out in her life as He sets her free from captivity, turns her mourning to joy, bestows beauty for ashes and brings her new life, restoring what is broken. I cannot even imagine what God has in-store next, but I simply thank Him for bringing certain girls into my life and ways He works that I can't explain but leave me speechless - and dancing around! :)

I love the community I live with now. I know that has been a struggle throughout my year, but I really enjoy seeing each of our gifts and personalities come together to allow us to connect with the girls in different ways. I love the diversity and how we are different parts of the body of Christ, but all necessary for the work we are doing. I have really connected with some of the Bigs who started in August. I am not ready to leave them yet or the Littles I have connected with. It is hard to believe I graduate this program in 6 weeks! What? Thats crazy. And some of that will be Thanksgiving break. This year has gone by so fast.

I am not sure exactly what is next. I have several ideas, from taking a few months off, looking for a job in Austin, or a new possibility of potentially staying here in a different role, but still able to invest in the relationships the Lord is growing now. Nothing is set and I honestly have no idea, but I have great peace that the Lord will lead me exactly where He wants, and I am excited about that! I was overwhelmed yesterday thinking about how Christ has worked in my life this year, walked me through trials, struggles, joys, times of laughter and great tears. I am not the same. I am walking in so much more freedom and confidence and have so much joy! I have come to this place of great peace and trust in my Savior that I know no matter where He leads me, He will me with me to provide all I need. He is faithful to the end. I can cling to nothing but Him, but I have everything in Him. To Him alone be all glory honor and praise forever and ever! Amen.

I love you all and miss you! Thank you so much for your prayers and support. They mean so much to me and encourage me to continue to pour out and live as best I can for the sake of the gospel! May you know more of Christ today. Much love!