Thursday, January 28, 2010

i will follow you when the stars go blue

It is hard to explain everything that goes on here...a lot happens and everyone has their own perception of things. And then there is everything that goes on in my head and heart (which if you know me - its a lot). But I will give y'all an update of a little bit of what has been going on...

Last Sunday night, one of the girls here was found in the shower sitting on a chair cutting herself with a piece of broken mirror. One of the Littles found her and she began screaming, then some of the Bigs went in to help. The police, ambulance and fire department came and she went to the hospital. At the time, I was in the other bathroom on the opposite hall with two of the girls who are on foot restriction and had to be within 5 or 15 feet of a Big at all times. I didn't actually hear or see anything that happened. The Lord protected me from the initial shock of everything so I could try and be there for other people. It was hard to see everyone around me in so much pain, heartache, confusion, anger, sadness. I listened as people talked about how they couldn't get the sight or sound out of their head, how it brought up a lot of emotion and other things in their lives. Each person reacted differently, and it was hard to know how to be there for the other Bigs and Littles, especially since I feel like I am still getting to know them. There was a heavy feeling on the whole house for most of the week. I went to visit the girl in the psychiatric hospital last Monday night. It was one of my first times to really talk with her, but she was doing better. She came back to the house this past Sunday, which the other girls were a bit nervous about, but its has been okay so far. I know the Lord has a purpose in it all, and so I have peace. We are all broken and learning how to deal with everything - but learning how to do it together. Its a crazy, painful, awkward and beautiful thing. I know - that doesn't really make sense, but I know its good. :)

Friday night was House Night, so all the girls broke up into teams and we went to the airport where we were going to do a scavenger hunt for random things - like a joyful greeting, pink luggage, someone sleeping...etc. But by the time we go to the airport, there weren't many flights left, so we all went to Starbucks and hung out. On Saturday night, which is room night, my room went to the mall and played with puppies, then had dinner and watched a movie. I don't actually live in the room with the Littles yet, but the room I am with right now is right across the hall. There are three Littles, and one Big lives in the room, and another Big is in the room next door and works with the same room too.

Monday we went on a retreat as Bigs to a nearby camp called God's Mountain. We ate, hung out, helped do some construction and cleaning at the camp, spent some time in worship and studied the book of Habakkuk. I loved reading through Habakkuk - I was humbled by who the Lord is and how He responds to Habakkuk's complaints - and see ways that I question God like Habakkuk did. It was fun to get to just be with the Bigs for a day and to spend some time together worshipping and talking about the Lord. Today was Doulos Day - a day once a month where all the Bigs and staff do something fun together. This morning we went over to one of the director's house and had breakfast. Some of the staff dressed up like we were at a hick-diner - "Stinky Pete's" - and they were in character and it was lots of fun. Then we went bowling! I really enjoyed hanging out with everyone, laughing, and being with the Bigs and staff.

I think I am beginning to really miss home - and by home I mean the place where you are known. The first three weeks have been great, and the newness of it all has been exciting. Now as I am beginning to feel more settled, I realize that I am still 'new', and for the most part, unknown. I miss that comfortable feeling of being surrounded by family and friends who know me, know my heart, who I can just sit with or who understand what I am talking about or why I do what I do. I've realized how blessed I am to have family and friends in my life who really care about me, who the Lord has allowed me to know, love and be loved by. However, I know that I am supposed to be here, and that He has a plan for my life. I know He is already working in orchestrating new friendships here, and that takes time. The Lord has been faithful to provide patience as He moves in His own timing. The past 3 weeks, the Lord has been doing a lot in my heart - pulling out lies I have believed for a long time, walking me through struggles and things I have wrestled with for years, and teaching me more about myself and who He is. I have prayed so much, and He has drawn me closer to Him. I have grown in my affection for the Lord - I couldn't ask for anything more. In the process of people getting to know me and getting to know others, I haven't felt lonely like I have felt in the past even though I don't feel really close to anyone yet. The Lord knows me better than I know myself and so I feel at home with Him. Its been a beautiful time drawing closer to Christ, and I know it has been necessary before I can move forward here and enter into new relationships. I have come to know Him more as my friend, Counselor, Savior, encouragement, strength, joy, comfort, peace, security, refuge and a place where I can rest and just be me. I have journaled so much, which has been awesome, and I have a lot of journals so I am well prepared! :) And even in the past few days I see the Lord growing deeper relationships with people here. He is faithful. And His timing is perfect. :)

All that to say, life is crazy, but I love it. I am a beautiful mess, but Christ holds everything together. The Lord has already done so much during my time here, and I am excited for what He has planned next. I pray that you are coming to know Christ more in your own lives. True life is found in Him alone because knowing Him satisfies the soul. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

WARNING: an honest reflection of the heart

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." - Jeremiah 17:9-10

The past few days have been trying and tough - but that good kind of tough. The Lord has been breaking me down, which is not a fun, nor easy thing. I often resist what He is doing in my heart because it is painful and uncomfortable. He often reveals how ugly and disgusting my heart can be. I hate my own sin and sometimes struggle to admit my weakness, failure and inability to walk in submission to Christ, to truly love like He does. And the pain I feel is often the result of my own sin, which is frustrating. It is not easy to take an honest look at the depth of your depravity - that is without the grace of Christ and faith in the truth of what Christ accomplished on the cross.

I've been blessed with the time I have had to spend here and I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. It has been amazing to see the opportunities the Lord has set before me and the honest conversations I have been able to have with some of the Littles here, and with the other Bigs. However, it is also hard to see people hurt, struggle and wrestle with the pain, hurt, sin and confusion they are facing. I am left at a loss for words and thoughts sometimes when I come to the end and have no answer. I praise God for the faith He has given me to still trust in His unfailing love and faithfulness when things are hard. When I don't understand or can't see, I know He will save us and come through. I just struggle waiting for His timing and patience because I want everything to be okay now. But it's not...and to sit in the brokenness and pain and hurt and struggle is not easy, but I know He has a purpose in it. So I wait in expectation with hope knowing that He will be faithful make everything beautiful in its time.

Being surrounded by so much brokenness brings up so much in myself - things I thought has been healed and dealt with, God has decided to bring back to the surface, to bring me back to my knees and break me down again. Friday night everyone was in the Boy's House for House Night where a Christian rock band came to play a concert for us. One of the guy Bigs is friends with people in the band and it was fun to watch the girls have fun and dance and laugh. During this time though, I just sat and listened to the music and began thinking a lot, only to find tears rolling down my cheeks. One of the girl Bigs tried to pull me to the side to talk but I didn't want to move so she just sat down next to me for awhile and asked me what was going on. Once I was able to, I started talking about it. And since then I am coming to a greater understanding of what was going on in me.

Its a mix of things really...overwhelmed by finally being here and knowing I am supposed to be here. I absolutely love it. Another part of me was struggling with the depth of who I am - the way I think, feel, love and care deeply about people. I feel shame about that sometimes, but I am learning how to simply be who I am. However, sometimes the way I care about people is twisted into control or emotional dependency, and I think I am afraid of falling into that again. Its a hard thing to admit, and so often I want to deny it and hide my heart from the Lord and others, but I cannot hide from God. In coming to see the honest truth about my heart - that it is deceitful, the Lord is gently breaking me to see that I need to let go and surrender my heart completely to Him. Only He can heal the hurt, shame, brokenness and deceit. He can cure it, but I have to hand my heart over to Him.

That is kinda where I am at right now - hurting and broken. But His grace is sufficient in that and He will be faithful to continue to complete the work He began in me. Amen for His truth.

Please pray that the Lord would continue to bring freedom and truth here to everyone. It's not just the Littles who are struggling, we all are. But there is something beautiful in the brokenness - I see hope that God is working. After all, He is close to the brokenhearted. And I will leave you with a couple things I have been thinking about - some scripture and some song lyrics. :) Be blessed, and may you know Him more. Much love.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. - Hebrews 4:14-16

While we wait for a rescue with our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands to cover the fatal cut
Though the pain is an ocean tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters, higher mountains have come down
I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy - Jars of Clay "The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

great is Thy faithfulness

My time here has continued to be a blessed and sweet time. I was running by myself in the gym earlier this week, listening to music, praying and reflecting on all that is going on and I just started crying. It has been an overwhelming time leaving Austin and coming to this place where everything is new, but has been a dream and desire of mine to be here for the past couple of years. I feel so blessed and humbled to see the faithfulness of the Lord in bringing me here. And I love it!

I have been given so much support, encouragement and love by so many people - its crazy to stop and think about how many people are praying for me. And all I can do is thank God for who He is and the way He provides all we need. And He is moving and working in beautiful ways - one of which I would like to share with you all.

The first week I was here, one of the Littles kind of reached out to me and shared a lot about herself with me and asked me some questions about my own life. I have been helping her with her math homework over the past several nights - its a strange thing how much I enjoy helping the girls with their math homework - but its a great way to begin to connect with some of the girls and develop a relationship with them. On Tuesday night, I took her to the bathroom (with some of the girls you have to stay within 5 feet of them at all times) and she asked me to do a Bible study with her so she could be more consistent in her time in the Word. The crazy thing was that just before this I was running in the gym seeking God about what He wants me to do here and how He wants me to make Him known to the people around me. I love reading His Word and engaging with other people, so it was like an answer to prayer to have her ask. I was surprised and amazed that she took initiative to ask me! In my head I was just thinking, "What are you doing God?" It was humbling that she would ask me since I have only been here a week, but I was definitely excited!

The next afternoon after she got out of school, we got our Bibles and she invited a brand new little who came on Tuesday to join us. We went downstairs to a lounge area and began reading the first chapter of Ephesians. As we began to discuss the first few verses, it was amazing to listen to the 2 Littles talk about their faith and the questions they have about God, life, predestination and the battles we find ourselves fighting in our minds wiht things we don't understand - and all the emotions that come with that. I could relate to some of their struggles, and the questions they have I even have myself. I was so encouraged by each of them and seeing their honesty with the Lord in the midst of their doubts, fears, hurts, and so much more. One of the Littles left for an hour to meet with her counselor while the new Little and I just hung out and talked as she shared her story with me, which involves a lot of loss and hurt and struggling. The day she came, I instantly found this place in my heart for her that I can't really explain, but I really enjoyed listening to her. The other Little came back when counseling was over and I began to share some of my story with them. It was a beautiful time to see how we have struggled with some of the same things. The two Littles also have discovered they have a lot in common and have begun to establish a close connection. At the end of our time, I walked away encouraged, excited and humbled. I feel blessed and grateful that they were willing to share parts of their heart and life with me. I am excited to see what God is going to do in them, and in me, as we get to walk through this time together. I am humbled before God who is Sovereign and allows pain and hurt in our lives. It is also hard to understand His grace and unconditional love, to accept the truth of the gospel, that we are loved in spite of our failures. Amazing grace...its sweet, but a hard thing to grasp. To learn how to really believe and trust the truth that we know and allow those things to push out the lies we so often fall into.

During my time here so far, which seems much longer than it actually has been, I realize more and more how much I don't know, and I have so many questions. I want to know what it means to truly love like Christ. I want to see Christ glorified and to see Him bring true healing, freedom, peace and grace to the lives of those around me. I want the girls to believe for themselves that they are beautiful. I want to know Christ more. And I am coming to know Him more. Its been so sweet. I can't unbelievable how much peace I have experienced here and how much freedom I have felt to be myself. I've wiped out on the snow, spilled milk and cereal on myself, turned bright red in front of people, said ridiculous things, and yet I've just laughed and embraced more of who I am. There have been awkward moments, fun moments, intense moments, times where I have no idea what I am doing, and moments where I have cried. But I have also taken chances to just dive in and try things out or to just sit back and watch and learn and listen. I can only praise God for His grace and patience, and I am excited for what He has next. Right now, I simply praise Him for His faithfulness. His faithfulness that stretches to the sky! Amen. Much love to you all!

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.
Psalm 36:5

Sunday, January 10, 2010

be strong and take heart and WAIT for the Lord

I have been in Missouri about a week now! Things are going well. The first night I arrived (last Monday), the new Bigs went to have dinner at the LeadTime directors house and just hung out. We were all pretty quiet at first, but it was a good time. There are 2 other new girl Bigs, and 2 new guys Bigs. There were already 8 girl Bigs here when we arrived, so there are now 11 of us, and currently only 9 girl Littles. They boys house is quite different, with 5 guy Bigs and 9 guy littles. The ratios are quite different, and more guys Littles are coming in the next week or so. We may get more girl Littles soon, but I'm not sure. Right now I live in a room with the 2 other new girl Bigs, but eventually I may get to live with some Littles. We haven't really been responsible for Littles yet, but tomorrow we will have more responsibility.

The first few days we spent the morning hours going over policies and procedures for training - learning the rules and way things run around here. There is a lot to learn and responsibilities, and things to keep track of. Most of the time we just hung out with the Littles and other Bigs, watching and learning how everything works and interacting with everyone. We had kitchen training for a couple hours one afternoon, but we still have more to do. We are responsible for preparing and cooking meals during our time here, but we rotate responsibilities as Bigs so we don't always have to cook. Generally, we will have breakfast duty for a whole week once a month or so, and then a lunch and dinner each week. There is still a lot of scheduling stuff to be figured out so I don't know exactly how it will all work. We still have more kitchen training to do and have 4 meal shifts to work while being observed before we can be put on the actual schedule.

As new Bigs we enjoyed CPR and First Aid training. It was interactive and we laughed a lot and now are certified! I have already been through that kind of training a couple times before for Lifeguarding, but it was a good time with the new Bigs. I have enjoyed being around everyone here, and I have started to get to know people, but it takes time, so I am trying to be patient in this transition time.

Friday nights are House nights, where all of the girls do something fun together. This week we had a Miss Shelterwood pageant as the girl Littles dressed up and performed a talent, then dressed up in a costume they created, and answered questions asked by the House Directors. As the Bigs we were their "coaches" and they all got fun awards - such as Best Talent, Most Positive, Miss Congeniality, and then one girl was crowned Miss Shelterwood and gets a week off from doing her chores. After the pageant we watched Miss Congeniality together. Last night was Room Night, which happens every Saturday. Each room gets to do something fun. One room went to Taco Bell and rented a movie, while another room went shopping at the mall. Each room has one or two Bigs and two or three Littles. Bigs that don't have Littles in their room are assigned to rooms that do have Littles. As new Bigs we just picked a room to go with. I went with a group that combined 2 rooms. We went over to the same house we had dinner at on Monday and did crafts - like modpodge to decorate buckets or decorating wooden crosses. We also ate some pizza, had brownies and ice cream, and watched A Walk to Remember. It was really fun and the girls seemed to enjoy it, too.

As far as the weather goes, its been cold. School was cancelled here last Thursday because it snowed a lot the evening and night before. Temperatures have been freezing, probably into the negatives with some days having a high of 5 or even 2 degrees! Surprisingly though, it hasn't bothered me too much. I don't go outside much though, only when walking between building on property. I did however enjoy some snow-cream that the girls made! It was basically ice cream made out of milk, sugar, vanilla and snow! A first-time treat for me. :) Apparently its been really cold in Texas this weekend, too!

I feel like I have been here much longer than a week! One of the other Bigs says that time here seems 5 times longer than usual. I am not sure why that is. I feel like I just just watched a lot the past week and am waiting for things to actually happen. And I am sure they will...but so far its just been kinda slow I guess. This has been one of the best transition times for me. In the past when I have gone through changes, I often feel anxious, insecure or fearful, but I haven't really felt that way this time. I have felt a great sense of peace and patience and I am slowly getting to know people and become more comfortable with my new life here. Its been weird actually not feeling that way, but I praise the Lord for His peace that transcends understanding and faithfulness to work in my life. My current prayer is for discernment and direction in the relationships I have and am beginning to develop. There are 10 other girl Bigs and 9 girl Littles. Then there are other people on staff, the guys, and all my family and friends that aren't here with me. I've been asking the Lord to teach me how to love the people He has blessed me with and what His purpose is for me in each relationship I have. I know that ultimately life is about knowing Christ and making Him known. I just ask that He will show me more of what that means specifically each day. As for now, I feel like I am simply waiting - waiting to know more of Christ, to see what He is doing and to listen to how He wants me to be involved. I pray I will be obedient to that.

I don't know what all to share because there is so much information and things that go on. Feel free to ask any questions you have and I will do my best to answer them. Pray that we would be united as Bigs and staff here. Its been interesting coming into a group of Bigs that have been together for the past 4 months. They have more experience than us and have been helpful and encouraging, but change is always a crazy time, so I pray that Christ would draw us all closer to Him during this time and unite us so that we can encourage each other and support each other as we learn how to love each other and the Littles. Thanks for your prayers support and love. I can only praise God for the people He has surrounded me with in my life. I have praying a lot this past week - it helps me feel more connected to everyone who is not with me. Please keep me updated on how you are doing and how I can be praying for you. Feel free to send me letters, email, or call me! I always love hearing from people!!! :) Be blessed my dear family and friends. You are loved.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

the Lord is faithful to all His promises

I just arrived in Independence, Missouri with my parents! We left this morning from Austin and stopped for lunch to see my brother and sister-in-law in Ft. Worth before driving the rest of the way. I drove most of the time because I LOVE driving. It was pretty good except for the last three hours where it snowed like crazy and it was dark. I haven't driven in snow before, but everything was okay. Just a little stressful with three drivers in the car...

The car was packed tight with all my was funny trying to fit my parents and me in there too! We laughed a lot and I enjoyed being with them. I also enjoyed some great music the entire time. :)

The final days leading up to the move were crazy, but such a blessing. About a week before I left, I started to freak out a little bit and became nervous. I felt this sense of fear and began to question what I was doing. However, the last few days before I left were sweet times with friends and family where I was showered with prayer, encouragement and support. It was sad to have to leave people I care about, and I miss so many of you already, but I was overwhelmed by the love people have for me. The affirmation people gave me means so much, and I can only praise God for how He has blessed me with so many people who are excited for me and behind me as I begin this journey this next year. I wept several times as people expressed their love and belief in me and who Christ is in me. I cannot even begin to express how much it means to me. All I know is that the Lord is so faithful, and I am humbled as I begin this adventure I have dreamed about for years. Its unbelievable to me how the Lord has brought me to LeadTime and how it aligns so much with my heart. I get to live the dream! The love the Lord poured on me through my friends and family calmed my fears and filled me with excitement and anticipation for what the Lord has in store! His perfect love casts out fear and I praise Him for peace to guard my heart and mind in Christ.

I am going to church tomorrow with one of the Bigs and we will meet other people from Shelterwood there. Then I will move my stuff in and go shopping for warm weather clothes. The temperature right now is 10 degrees. On friday the high is 6 and the low is -8!!! I am not in Texas anymore!!!!

I officially will start LeadTime on Monday afternoon after I drop my parents off at the airport. I am looking forward to sharing with you all how everything goes soon! :)

Thank you so much for your prayers, words of encouragement, and love. I am so loved - its almost hard to take in sometimes. I wouldn't be here without each of you. I pray that the Lord would bless you all as you have blessed me and I simply praise Him for y'all! Much love and grace to each of you! Happy New Year!!!