Thursday, August 26, 2010

we are family - get up everybody & sing

Hello everyone! Hope you are doing well!

Right now is a time of transition for so many people. School is starting. Many of my friends are starting new semesters of school or new jobs in schools. Now is a big time of change and transition and new beginnings. Along with that comes excitement, sadness and uncertainty. But I praise God and our Lord Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)

Lots of transition is going on around here, too! We found out early last week that the Branson property was closing and their Bigs and Littles were moving here. New Bigs from both Branson and here arrived last Wednesday and have been involved in training since then. The Bigs who have been here since last August will be leaving this coming Sunday and the new Bigs will begin their year. There have also been several changes in our program as Bigs, and there will be many more people on property. We will almost have a full house with 13 Bigs and about 21 Littles! Crazy!

I have been involved in some training with the new Bigs, which has been good. I am so excited to get to know a new group of people and have been so blessed by them so far. It will be weird and sad to say good-bye to the rest of the old Bigs this weekend - women with whom I have lived for the past 8 months. They have taught me so much and their presence will be missed greatly. However, I am looking forward to the new community that the Lord has already created with us as a new group and how He will work these next 4 months.

Last night, we went over to the director's house for dinner. Afterwards, we all sat around and shared our testimonies with one another for almost 5 hours. It was incredible to sit in a room with 20 of my brothers and sisters and listen to how the Lord has brought us each into a relationship with Him in unique and personal ways. It was this beautiful picture of Christ, the many ways He works in our lives, through struggle, sin, pain, loss, anger, deception and gives us grace, forgiveness, love, hope, life, comfort and freedom! People were willing to be vulnerable and honest in ways that they had failed and struggled, doubted God or denied Him at times, all brought together to this place ready to see what His is going to do in us and through us. I felt so blessed to be there with them all, to feel united in a single purpose, each with different gifts and personalities that I know He will use for His  purposes. I know the next four months will be tough at times, we will come into conflict with one another, but I know there will be fun times, sweet fellowship and a beauty as we are broken together. I am so excited and grateful! I have already enjoyed the time I have been able to spend with them and look forward to what we will get to experience together in the months ahead! This has been such a strong desire of my heart and I can only praise the Lord for His faithfulness of the community here!

With all the transition comes a wide variety of emotions and fears. There is still a lot of details to be worked out and inconsistencies to be worked through. Through the merging of two different groups of people, I am interested to see what the interactions between Littles and Bigs as we all join at one location will look like. Pray that we would remain focused on Him as He provides all we need through this time of transition, that we would all be transformed to look more like Him in the process!

I miss you all very much and am so blessed by your willingness to follow me in this journey. May you be blessed wherever the Lord has you and know Him more intimately today! Much love always! :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You are a shelter for every misfit soul

Hello! I can't believe it is August. I have been here for about 7 1/2 months now. Crazy!

Right now we are in the middle of a BIG transition. Next week new Bigs come in to be trained for the upcoming year. The Bigs who are here now will be leaving at the end of this month and then we will move forward with a new class. This will change the dynamics of the house for sure, which always change anyways as girls come in and out of the Shelterwood program. This week we had 2 new girls come, one came last Friday and one comes early next week. As new girls have come in, the number of Bigs has gone down. We will soon have about 15 Littles for 7 girl Bigs. This makes things a bit more stressful in the house, but the Lord is working in the midst of that.

Through the challenges ahead, we will learn to come together more as Bigs and really support each other. I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do. Change is always tough, but the Lord is always faithful and the only constant in our ever-changing lives. It will be a bittersweet time the next few weeks - meeting new Bigs, saying good-bye to the old ones, walking through the transition with the girls, and readjusting to the new roles and dynamics in the house. Since 2 other Bigs & I will be staying, the new Bigs will look to us to lead and help them learn how everything works. I praise God who is faithful to provide all we need and guide us each step of the way because honestly I have no idea what that is going to look like. :) Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking about things, but I am also really excited. If I keep my eyes on Christ and remember that He is my strength, that it is about Him and not me, I can stand firm. Pray that I would keep Christ as my focus and humbly obey where He leads. Pray for the Bigs who are leaving as they transition out of Shelterwood and seek the Lord for what is next. Pray the Christ would make Himself known and move in the hearts of the Littles and Bigs. He is what we all need.

Last week, I met my brother in Memphis and was able to drive down with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew to Florida, where I surprised my parents, aunt & uncle and grandparents! We spent some sweet time together, went to the beach, were blessed to see old friends from Florida, and celebrate my grandparents 60th anniversary! I am so glad I was able to go and blessed to have such a great example of faithful marriage in my family. I enjoyed my time on break, but it was honestly hard, too. When you live in such an intense environment and bubble, its strange sometimes to be away. Right when you get used to being in the 'real world', you have to go back. I actually enjoyed coming back. There are moments when I absolutely love what I do, then moments where I want to leave. There is a moment for everything, just as there are seasons in life. It is just crazy when you feel so many different emotions in one day. Thank You Lord for never leaving me and being with me through all of the chaos! :)

Before I left for break, I was blessed to lead Bible Study for all the girls in our house. I taught about how God is our Lover, the way He pursues us and loves us so deeply. I loved it! What is greater to talk about than that? The girls asked some great questions which was really exciting! Then I shared some of my life story and testimony. I was able to be open and honest about some things I have struggled with and how the Lord faithfully pursued me even when I was seeking other 'lovers' and places to find my identity, security and comfort. Through all that I have walked through, God as a jealous lover, has drawn me to His love and grace and shown me that only He can provide me with the things I so desperately desire. I felt blessed to share my life with them and pray that the Lord will use it to draw their hearts closer to Him as well. It was also really encouraging for me to personally to reflect on what Christ has done in my life and the depth of His love.

This past weekend I wrestled a lot thinking about sin and the gospel. I felt like lately I had failed to love & obey the Lord the way He desires, choosing to do things that don't glorify Him. As I wrestled with feelings of confusion, guilt, frustration and fear, I came to see how I often try to find my security in my faith, my ability to obey instead of Christ and Christ alone. My faith sometimes fails, but Christ remains faithful. I am not righteous, but Christ righteousness has been accredited to me through His sacrifice on the cross. The salvation of my faith is not based on the strength of my faith - but the object of my faith - Christ. It was rough to process and remember the depravity of my own heart, but I thank the Lord for humbling me & drawing me back to the depths of His grace, love & forgiveness. He never gives up on us no matter how many times we seem to wander. What love, compassion, grace. He is so worthy of all our worship, affection, attention, our very lives. There are times when I fail to acknowledge that and sometimes wrestle to believe it, but through all of the struggle, He is Lord. He is Savior. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all my inmost being. Christ is King.

I pray that you are coming to know Christ more. Thank you for following me through this year of my life. My prayer is for Christ to be known and glorified, that He may become greater and I become less. Be blessed! Much love and grace to you all! Until next time...