Thursday, February 18, 2010

its a brand new day - the sun is shining

I just finished another dinner shift tonight - but this time was sooo much better! :) I didn't feel stressed or overwhelmed at all, but really enjoyed the time I had in the kitchen. I worked with girls this time, and they worked hard, and I got to talk with them and encourage them, too. Dinner was on time and everything worked out well. Hallelujah!

This past weekend we had room changes. The girls had to follow string that was strung all over the house to find their room. It looked crazy when it was all set-up. The day was long as we all moved everything - some girls were excited, and a few were upset, but its working out. Two new girls came this week - so we are now up to 14 Littles. One of them is in my room, and I have loved getting to know her this week. I did math homework with her yesterday for two hours and have enjoyed the time I've been able to spend with her. Now my room is full with 2 Bigs and 2 Littles. :)

Next week is Beyond Week here, where the girls are challenged to go beyond what we do normally. Some of the Bigs and Littles are going on a mission trip to El Paso, Texas. Oh how I miss Texas! The rest of us will stay back and do work projects in the community, and go up to a nearby camp for two days to help them there. It will be different only having half the girls here, but I am looking forward to serving alongside the Littles. Pray that God would do big things in the hearts of these girls and really draw them close to Him.

I have been sick this week, and spent most of yesterday resting. I am starting to feel better though. I am taking this weekend off to go to a women's conference in Memphis. I will get to spend time with my whole family there as well! I am excited. :) I have an 8 hour drive there tomorrow and Sunday coming back, so I am looking forward to that, too. I love driving!!! :)

I continue to feel more comfortable here. I feel more a part of the group here now. It was interesting coming into a group where 8 of the Bigs had already been here 4 months. It was hard being one of the "newbies," but I feel like we are not so new anymore. As new Littles come and time passes, we fit right in. And now that we are kitchen trained, most of our training is complete!

The Lord continues to work in my heart. I felt really broken earlier this week, but I am learning that the Lord is the only thing that can satisfy me. It has been a hard process of learning and being broken, but I am so grateful for it all. Sometimes I think I am crazy, but I am who the Lord made me to be and well...I probably am a little crazy. :)

All that to say, I know the Lord is faithful. Pray that He would continue to work here and that we could keep Him at the center of everything we do. I pray you are all blessed and coming to know Him more. Feel free to call me or write me. I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

perfect love drives out fear

Last night I hit the highest point of frustration in my time being here - my first observation shift in the kitchen! :) As Bigs, we are responsible for working in the kitchen. We are responsible for preparing breakfast everyday and cleaning up after, serving lunch and then cleaning, and then preparing dinner and cleaning the entire kitchen and dining hall. The kitchen is a large, industrial kitchen with a good size dining hall. I've been learning what all the responsibilities of the kitchen are over the past few weeks. The kitchen manager here works really hard and we have to meet government standards for everything. So the work in the kitchen is tedious and extensive. Last week I did breakfast all week with another Big, but it wasn't too bad - I actually really enjoyed it. Monday and Friday we have hot breakfast, and are in the kitchen by 6:30 am making food. We made bacon and eggs one morning, and then muffins. The other morning we get to the kitchen at 7:15 am to serve cold breakfast, like cereal, yogurt, bagels, etc. We have to count everything we serve and measure it, There is a lot to remember so I won't explain it all - its a complicated process. And then there is dinner...

Dinner involves 2 Big and 3 Littles each night. Last night was my first time, and the kitchen manager was there to help observe and coach us in what to do. We have to make dinner, clean/sanitize every surface, scrub, rinse and mop the entire floor, clean the bathrooms - everything needs to be spotless. At the same time, there are Littles who can help, but we have to watch them and make sure they do it right and just get to know them. I like hanging out with the Littles and don't mind cooking or cleaning, but I didn't know where anything was, have no flow of how to get everything done, I worked with guy Littles who I don't know very well, and the guy Big who worked with me was on his training shift, too. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed. Dinner was 20 minutes late, the Littles weren't excited about working and I had to consequence one of them for using inappropriate was stressful. I wanted to break down and cry, but I didn't somehow. Afterwards, the kitchen manager coached us, encouraged us in what we did and showed us where we went wrong. I got to the kitchen at 4:30 and left at 8:40...with my plate of  dinner I didn't eat when we served cause I wasn't hungry from being stressed. I have another observation shift next week. Hopefully it will go better. I just need to be patient with myself as I learn it all and I think I will eventually enjoy it. I mean we can play music the whole time - and if I have good music - then whatever I am doing is usually good. :) I also remind myself of Colossians 3:23-24 - "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." I remember my mom putting that verse on our chore chart growing up - comes in great handy now. Thanks Mom! :)

We have rooms changes on Saturday. I am moving across the hall to a room with another Big and one Little. We have a new Little coming next Wednesday, and she could possibly be in our room, too. I think I would like that a lot, but we will see. Room changes could be a bit crazy and intense - I think some girls are going to be frustrated...but I know God has a purpose in it all - but I am worried about how some of the girls will respond. They know we are changing rooms, they just don't know who they are with yet. Change is hard, too, but I know the Lord works in it all.

As for my heart, I feel strengthened and renewed. However, I see areas of fear that hold me back. I have been learning how God desires me to be who He created me to be - to not hide parts of who I am because I am afraid of how people will respond. I have felt comfortable here, but I haven't fully been all that the Lord has made me to be. I have tried to contain my passion and depth, which I think needed to happen at first - the Lord has taught me a lot about myself and I think I needed that time to deepen my security in Him. I feel like I need to step up though and really allow Him to use me and all He has made me to be. I feel like I need to stop holding myself back and allow my heart to love deeply, to speak the truth and wisdom the Lord has given to me, and to freely be all I am in Christ. The Lord has created me to be deep, passionate, and loving. He has given me wisdom, discernment, and truth - which I need to speak.

I kinda feel like the Lord is calling me to be a leader. I am comfortable as a follower. I like to have someone to look up to who I try to be like and seek for what I am supposed to do and for feedback on how I am doing. I have been blessed by people the Lord has brought into my life to teach me and lead me towards Him, showing me more of who He is and how to be like Him. However, He has taken those away from me, and I am left with only Him to look at - which is how it should be.  He has been teaching me how to look only to Him now to follow and to know how to be like Him. There are people here who I have been learning from, who speak truth and wisdom and encourage me. People reflect God, but it is only a poor reflection and so I need to look directly at Christ. I have been reading the gospels more lately and examining more of who Christ is and how He leads His disciples and interacts with people. It's been incredible...

And I think He wants me to step up and lead. I mean I am in LeadTime. Now is the time to lead right? But that scares me...and leaves me with so many questions and doubts. I think one struggle is having confidence and courage to do so - but He has faithfully been growing me in confidence in Him. And then I am afraid of becoming prideful in that - like who do I think I am that I can lead? There are Bigs that have been here for 6 months - I have been here 1 1/2 months. How am I qualified? What do I know? There is a lot of responsibility in being a leader - what if I lead people the wrong way or wrong direction? I think of Moses in this, and Jeremiah. Moses didn't understand God when He spoke that to Him, and Jeremiah questioned God when He told him to speak. But God used them in mighty ways to lead His people. The people didn't always respond well to them - which is another fear I have. Giving consequences to the girls is not fun. So far when I try to redirect them in inappropriate conversations, or correct them on something - they usually get frustrated and upset. But I know I need to seek the Lord and follow Him and be obedient. I have been placed in authority over them, which I need to embrace, but I also want to love them and let them know I care. I have been learning that discipline is a form of love if its done right, and I pray that the Lord will teach more how to love like He does. If He calls me to lead, He will provide what I need. So I pray for clarity, discernment, wisdom and boldness. Sometimes I feel like I have no clue what I am doing...but I just need to trust and follow Christ. I have been reflecting a lot on God's love, and it has been healing and freeing.

Thanks for reading my blog. I have been so encouraged by prayers, letters, phone calls, messages and texts from y'all. The Lord is faithful, and I know He has great things in store. I pray that you may be blessed wherever you are and know more of the Lord's deep love for you. May Christ be glorified in all things! Hallelujah and amen. :)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear... 
1 John 4:18  

Sunday, February 7, 2010

the seed is settling and the roots begin to grow

I think I am starting to feel more comfortable here. This week has been really good for me. I had some great conversations with other Bigs, spent some sweet time with the Lord and feel like God has reconstructed my heart in a beautiful way. I talked about being broken a few weeks ago, and the Lord has been healing some of that brokenness to renew my strength, heart and mind. I feel ready to really begin investing deeper here in the relationships that have started to grow, and I think there will be great opportunities ahead to do that. 

A new girl Little came on Friday, and we are getting another one tomorrow. That will bring us to 12 Littles for 11 Bigs! We will be outnumbered by Littles for the first time since I've been here. The guy's house is another story - they have always been outnumbered by Littles - with 5 Bigs to 14 Littles. I just think it will be good to have more Littles here so we can all spread out some. We are doing room changes next Saturday, which I am looking forward to. I think I will finally get to be in a room with Littles! :) I have enjoyed getting to know some of the girls here, but actually sharing a room with them will help that happen even more.

On Monday for class, we spent some time in prayer and also went through stations of the cross. There were 12 different stations to reflect on various aspects of what Christ experienced on the cross. It was an awesome time to spend with the Lord and truly reflect on what He has done. Lately, I feel like I have been coming to know more of the humanity of Christ. Different aspects of the cross talked about the relationship Jesus had with His mother, the way He needed help to carry His cross, and the shame He experienced in being crucified naked. Reflecting on all those things, I realized in more depth how Jesus was human and experienced the emotions of human relationships, needing help from others, and feeling exposed and vulnerable. It has drawn me closer to Him and been amazing. I have always desired connection and intimacy in human relationships, and I still do. But understanding the humanity of Christ has allowed Him to satisfy that desire and longing in beautiful ways. It has been so healing for my heart and truly freeing.

Its hard to explain all that God has done in my heart since I have been here, but I would say He has reconstructed it in a lot of ways. I am not who I was. God has continued to help me see truth to combat lies I have wrestled with for a long time. I have been humbled in so many ways. I have come to realize that I am not a good person. As the Lord has revealed to me more and more of the depths of my depravity, I realize that there is nothing good in me. However, the righteousness of Christ has been accredited to me because of the cross. He is the only thing beautiful in me. And I am learning how to let Him shine and allow myself to get out the way. I am made in the image of God and have the blessing of reflecting His image, but this is for the glory of His Name, not mine.

Sometimes I find myself tempted to compare myself to other Bigs. We are all so different, with different strengths, weaknesses, and spiritual gifts. When a Little wants to talk about what they're going through, its hard to not wish they wanted to talk to me about it. But the Lord is graciously teaching me about the body of Christ, that it is all about Him and how He wants to work for His purposes. I am coming to desire more and more that others simply know Christ, regardless of the role He chooses for me to play in that. I need to seek the Lord for what my role is, and no matter what, give Him all the glory. I have the freedom to simply be me, and He has a plan for me and how He wants to accomplish His purposes. Right now I am learning how to listen and discern what He wants for me. There are 10 other Bigs, and soon to be 12 Littles. It is hard to know where to really invest in those relationships. There are a few Bigs I feel closer to than others, and the same goes for Littles, but I want to know what the Lord wants in each of those relationships. I know He will be faithful to guide me, and I am learning how to be patient and to simply trust Him. This is an area I know He will continue to grow me in, but I feel like I am coming to love Him more each day, by His sweet grace.

This weekend has been delightful. It was Parent's Weekend for us as Bigs, so some of our parents came out for the weekend to see what we do and hang out. On Friday night we all had a delicious dinner, then enjoyed a talent show where some Bigs, Littles, and staff performed. Saturday morning we had parent tributes. As Bigs, we gave our parents a tribute - a slide show, video, or talked about what our parents mean to us and expressed our appreciation and love for all they have done. I wrote out a letter to my parents, which I read to them, but I got a little caught up at the beginning and couldn't read what I wrote through the tears coming from my eyes. :) But it was a good time of tears, laughter and love. Afterwards, my parents and I went to the Hallmark visitor center in Kansas City! Sometimes I make fun of greeting cards (probably because I would rather write my own) but I absolutely loved it! I watched Hallmark commercials for like 45 minutes - my parents and I stood there laughing and crying. It was an emotional day. Haha. I decided that I might go work for Hallmark someday - I mean if you have ever received a card from me you know I like to write...a lot. We each got a free card when we left! I might take my room there one day for fun. I left feeling very inspired and touched. Sending a card to someone to let them know you care really does make a difference, even if people think its sappy.

Afterwards we went to lunch and saw a movie. Then we went to their hotel for a couple hours to chill before heading to dinner and coming back to property. We had some great time together talking and just enjoying each other. Today we had a great breakfast in the dining hall, had a chapel service on property then I went to lunch with my parents before they left to fly home. I loved the time I got to spend with them. I am so grateful for who they are and all they have given me. It was a blessing to reflect on my parents and to be with them. I loved having them here with me - a little taste of home. I am who I am today because of who the Lord is in each of them. I love them so much.

So now we have another week ahead. I am waiting in expectation for what the Lord has planned. I am ready to go deeper here and really dig into what He is doing. There is a lot of pain, hurt and brokenness here, but Christ's love overcomes all of that, and I desperately want to see Him work and be glorified. Thank you for taking the time to read the ramblings of my heart. I am so grateful for each of you. You are dearly loved! Be blessed and keep fighting the good fight wherever the Lord has you.