there is a season :: eternally minded

 

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jordan’s pond :: acadia national park, maine

        // so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal || [ 2 cor. 4.18 ]

Hello to Whomever Happens to Stumble Across This Post!
Currently I’m sitting on my bed, waiting for my toenail polish to dry, while surrounded by all the earthly goods I plan to stuff back into my tiny dorm room this coming Sunday. If you think just the late nights studying and the exams that make up sixty percent of your grade are the only things that constitute dire stress in college, you can add moving in and moving out to that list as well.

On the other hand, moving back to college this weekend represents the start of my junior year. This is the third time I’ve gone through this process—you’d think I’d have it nailed…to a tee…down pat…whatever by now.

Just like any other person about to begin something new in their life, I’ve spent some time in reflection. Reflection on the last academic year; Reflection on this summer; Reflection on this upcoming semester…you get the idea. In all this thought meandering, the idea of life’s seasons occurred to me. There is in place in the world a general pattern of cycles—times of abundant blessing and then spells of frustrating trials. You can’t pinpoint when these seasons begin and you certainly can’t predict their duration, but you can respond and cultivate growth during whatever instances you find yourself in the midst of.

My sophomore year and this past summer was a season of blessing, I’d say. I really began to truly love studying nursing and I grew closer to several people throughout the year. I made Dean’s Honors List by the end of second semester and landed a job at a major regional hospital on one of their busiest floors. For the first part of summer, I had the privilege of a self-scheduled private healthcare job where I made some very dear friends. The middle and end of my summer was a whirlwind of starting at the hospital and gaining invaluable nursing experience to take with me back to school and clinicals.

I don’t write about these happenings to boast or brag, but to make a point. These were blessings from my Heavenly Father who deeply loves me and asks me to use these opportunities to pour out His love to a broken and misguided world. I’m ashamed to look back and admit that I spent a lot of time complaining and acting selfishly instead.

Under the pretense of building up my GPA, I let my priority to be in the Word fade; in the process of obtaining a position at the hospital, I let worry and stress overwhelm me as things seemed to go slower than I’d hoped; then, after I began my new job, I started voicing complaints about the long hours and letting my grumpy demeanor, after a shift, affect the way I interacted with those I love.

This is the way a selfish and weak sinner responds to blessing. But the Lord knows that. And He brings it to attention to those He loves because He wants to refine them and show them the beauty of humility and gratefulness.

And then come the waves of trial when nothing seems to be going well and no one seems to understand. Yet, many times, I find that while my physical life and its events are stagnant, my spiritual life renews.

How ironic…shouldn’t I be in a natural constant state of praise during a season of blessing? I tend to think it would be easy to love and spend time with someone who gives to you generously and brings unthinkable lovely surprises into your life. But, oddly enough, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s the hurt and pain of worldly disappointments—those things that are seen—that drive you back to the One Who remains the same.

The Lord delights in blessing His children richly, but He also covets their hearts to be full of praise and worship. At the same time, it doesn’t please God to watch His followers struggle and hurt; but He will use those times to point their eyes back to what is eternal.

So here begins a new season in my life—a semester rumored to be more grueling than the others. But I am reminded to focus on the pursuit of kindness and goodness; to recognize my blessings and use them to serve others with joy; to maintain a mind of thankfulness and uplifting praise; and to reset my eyes on the eternal, unseen things that make up the heart of God.

[ au revoir, hannah ]

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wandering soul :: daily prayers

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columbus | georgia

// incline my heart;

open my eyes;

unite my thoughts;

satisfy my soul;

sanctify my spirit.

It’s Sunday afternoon—a lazy, sunny Sunday—the kind of Sunday where my laundry can wait in the washer a few more hours…

This morning, in church, the orchestra played “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and it was beautiful. But, it got me thinking. Would I rather have Jesus than anything? Maybe you’re like me sometimes. Maybe you find yourself holding onto something tightly and, consequently, unconsciously idolize it.

So, what’s the cure? How do I learn to let worries and possessions go and only crave Jesus? Personally, I think it begins with prayer.

At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, one of my professors told the class he wrote the following in the front of every Bible he receives: “Incline my heart; open my eyes; unite my thoughts; satisfy my soul.” Later I added, “Sanctify my spirit.”

Each part of this prayer is based on a verse or passage of Scripture. I didn’t write down the verses the professor had paired with the stanzas, but I researched ones of my own.

Here they are for you:

~Incline my Heart:

“let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, o lord, my strength and my redeemer” || psalm 19.14

~Open my Eyes:

“open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” || psalm 119.18

~Unite my Thoughts:

“do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of god, what is good and acceptable and perfect” || romans 12.2

~Satisfy my Soul:

“delight yourself in the lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” || psalm 37.4

~Sanctify my Spirit:

“now may the god of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole         spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our lord jesus christ” || i thessalonians 5.23

It’s hard to set aside a designated time to truly commune with God. I know from experience, and it doesn’t get easier once you get to college or once the summertime comes around. It just gets more difficult and more tedious the longer you put off training and cultivating your body, spirit, and mind to focus and to want to pray.

Usually, I manage to shoot little prayers at God throughout the day like, “Thanks for the meal” or “Pray for so and so and please keep them safe.” Rarely do I actually quiet my surroundings, create a prayer list or journal, and earnestly seek the Father with praises and supplications like He commands.

I think the Devil delights when my only “prayers” for a given day are the ones I bounce up to God out of habit —because is “Dear Jesus, thank you for this food, Amen” really going grow my relationship with my Lord and cause me to humble my heart and open my eyes to other’s needs? I highly doubt it.

The prayer at the beginning of this post has helped me with a way to start each day by setting my priorities in order and challenging me to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. In a way, it serves as my pre-game pep talk—a way to intentionally condition myself to dedicate the day to the Lord’s work. (Or else I become a flustered, stressed-out mess, trying to get all of my assignments completed and all of my engagements met.)

My soul wanders and is restless each new morning, but meditating on this prayer for a few moments helps tie me to the only One Who can set my soul free.

I hope you find these thoughts encouraging or, at least, of some benefit as you start up a new week.

[ au revoir, hannah ]

bread and circuses :: more than just celebration

 

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parachuter | dayton dragon’s baseball game

   // no one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions…neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented…our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately || [ elie wiesel, nobel peace prize 1986 acceptance speech ]

Hello, Readers :: Happy (almost) 4th of July! Tomorrow’s celebrations mark the 240th birthday of our United States of America. (Right, 240th, NOT 2016th.)

I remember my parents holding a party for my sister and I when we became U.S. citizens after our adoption. We each received a shadow box with a cast iron copy of the Key to the Bastille (like the one that hangs in George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon). Beside my replica of the Key is a short explanation of its meaning; perhaps best summed up by the Marquis de Lafayette’s words: “Give me leave, my dear General [Washington], to present you…with the main key to the fortress of despotism. It is a tribute which I owe as a son to my adoptive father, as an aide de camp to my General; as a missionary of liberty to its patriarch.” Included in the rest of the text is the admonition to “cherish the blessings of liberty and remember the sacrifices that have made it possible.”

My current job has allowed me to, almost daily, keep up with the world news. If anything, the current stories and reports have convinced me to remember that freedom comes at an enormous cost. It requires deep, thoughtful contemplation and planning; foresight for the future; an understanding of both the small and big picture; and an ultimate respect for the value of life. Like the late Wiesel suggested, we cannot turn a blind eye to injustice or bias—we cannot just contently eat bread and merrily go to circuses, as a Roman satire once wittily said. It’s not too hard to continue to pursue the liberation of those in captivity; it’s not good enough just to skim the headlines and post a Facebook profile picture of yourself decked out in a country’s colors, it’s a crime to remain silent about injustice.

Celebrate the success of our country and get excited about patriotism! (Fireworks, here I come!) But do not forget to continue to seek to educate yourself on what made this nation great and who has worn the uniform and the One who gives and takes away blessing.

[ au revoir, hannah ]

when oceans rise :: facing tragedy

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bridge | florida, 2016
     

// your grace abounds in deepest waters || [ oceans/where feet may fail, hillsong ]

Everyone always says the same thing: “It happened so fast.” Out of nowhere, in a perfectly unsuspecting moment, something that changes your entire life takes place in a matter of seconds or minutes.

 

A drunk girl is senselessly raped.

A singer in her prime is killed for no apparent reason.

A group of partygoers are fiercely attacked and massacred.

 

These are the facts of the recent tragedies that have made our nation recoil in horror, in shame, in grief.

Each day these same types of crimes occur. Maybe they don’t break the headlines or maybe they don’t happen to someone well known, but rape and murder and hate crimes and kidnaps and theft occur every minute of every day without fail.

Many of these perpetrators claim they acted “in the name of God” or for His approval or to gain entrance into heaven.

In turn, the victims often direct their outrage and confusion towards God.

The truth is: none of the general knowledge floating around in the world is enough to reveal who the God of Scripture really is—His nature & identity.

 

In the rape case, a woman was humiliated because…her rapist didn’t recognize her as made in the image of a Divine Creator.

In the murder case, a young singer succumbed to fatal injuries because…her killer didn’t value the sacredness and fragility of life.

In the massacre case, many lost their lives because… their gunman harbored deep-seated and misguided hate.

 

And who is God in all of this?

Did He turn His eyes away from the senseless assault? Did He shrug off the loss of another life? Murders happen so often… Did He tell the gunman to kill as many people as possible in order to please Him and receive a coveted spot in heaven?

Some people think so. Some people believe this. And I don’t blame them.

Culture’s idea of God is fluid and fickle. It comes from individual experience and from the media and from extremist groups’ slogans. There might as well not even be a God if He can do and say half as many things people attribute Him to.

But there is a God. A God who is never changing, who is ever watchful, who has died for life, and who speaks words of love.

Be angry at the deity culture has stitched together. That is not God. That is the thing we, as society, have created and now are left to fear.

 

The true God says:

 

“Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him for he is your lord” to the rape victim. She is not ruined and broken, but powerful and beautiful. She has a voice and an influence.

[ psalm 45:11 ]

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? … Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows” to the fans who mourn the loss of a sweet songbird. Her death has not defamed life, but made it clear that life is precious and to be lived as if each day were your last.

[ matthew 10:29-31 ]

 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” to those who have lost loved ones or are traumatized or are injured from the mass shooting. There was nothing pleasing in this act of rampant violence. There were no rewards won for the killer. Nothing. Instead, the act of hate has been smothered in love as the world has joined together to mourn and celebrate the value of each life now tragically lost.

[ psalm 147:3 ]

I cannot claim to understand the anguish of the losses experienced. But I can understand their impact. I can see the results and the scars marked across people. And I am heartbroken. But I am even more determined to declare the truth about the God I know—the one of the Scriptures who breathes life, who calms storms, who loves unconditionally, and who has promised to conquer evil.

For: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? It is swallowed up in victory!”

[ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ]

 

[ au revoir, hannah ]

 

 

 

 

in its time :: treasuring moments 

// don’t lose another day of your life 

I remember hearing the above piece of advice in high school. It was spoken by a woman whose daughter had a very slim chance of living. The words have imprinted on my mind, and they randomly make their way into my daily thought flow from time to time. 

I grew up in an Air Force family. I remember running to greet my dad each evening, eager to try on his BDU jacket and hat. My dad retired when I was still in elementary school, so I only experienced two major US moves. But the 22 years he served are not lost to me as I now better appreciate, even if dimly, his dedication and sacrifices. 

Like so many in this country, I am continually moved and in awe of those who choose to commit their lives to the military pillars of integrity, service before self, and excellence (I may or may not be borrowing these listed qualities from the Air Force core values…) 

The men and women who have served, are serving, or will serve realize each day we have to live and breathe in freedom is a great and good gift–one worthy of cherishing and protecting. Ironically, because they know this, they often lose their own lives–sometimes, for those who don’t seem to think about or care about the luxury of an average American day. 

Anyone who struggles, like the woman whose baby girl fights for her life, can learn to come to the point where they genuinely treasure every minute and stretch out each moment in order to glean all the blessings they can from it. 

I can easily think of times when I’ve allowed myself to waste days by lying in bed doing nothing until 1 pm, vegging out on Netflix for six hours straight, or any other mindless activity that swallows up the minutes of my day. 

Many live in jeopardy of their life or in fear for their loved ones’ lives every hour. These people know moments are fleeting; they know relationships are the only things that last; they know no one knows when their last day will be; they know not to waste a single, precious day of their life.  

-It’s ok to give up a few extra hours of sleep to make a little extra time in the day to laugh with your family. 

-You can find great blessing in overcoming your comfort zones and volunteering to visit the elderly or to set up an event for veterans. 

-Let stories of brave soldiers and leaders inspire you and challenge you to do the best you can with whatever comes your way. 

-Do anything but let your days slip by, unnoticed and unappreciated.

                                           [ au revoir, hannah ] 

sorrow and love :: poignant worship

      // my idea of god is not a divine idea. it has to be shattered time after time. he shatters it himself || [ c.s. lewis, a grief observed ]

In my very, very short experience of life thus far, I’ve continually found the emotion of grief to be one of the hardest feelings understood and, in some ways, to feel. The other evening during my devotion, I read Job Chapter One. I love the account of Job. I admire his dedication and his strength to restrain himself from cursing God during his misfortune. This time, as I read chapter once again, I noticed a few things that haven’t been apparent in times before.

I want to give you an outline of what I noticed and then share the application from what I gleaned:

[ the observations ]

First, as shown in verse one, Job was doing right according to the Lord and he was in a long season of abundant blessing. If anyone needs an example of how to fulfill the role of steward, they only need look at Job. This man prayed and offered up sacrifices for the sins of his children! (Parenting goals!)

Second, a huge question arises for me in verse eight: In the conversation between God and Satan, why does God bring up the subject of Job to Satan? He seems to prompt the Devil’s test by (1). bringing up Job’s faithfulness and (2). readily agreeing to let Satan harm Job. What’s the motive? It seems rather like a cruel joke.

Third, an almost unreal occurrence of events unfolds. Four messengers approach Job, one after the other, bearing devastating news. Within the context of one chapter, nearly all of Job’s tangible possessions are destroyed without warning or explanation. Job barely has time to process the information of what one person has relayed to him before another courier arrives. With such an unheard of, unbelievable tragedy, it makes sense to me that Job should immediately ask: “What is God doing?”

[ the interpretations ]

Job’s first response captivates me. He does not ask the question I imagined. He does something I believe few have the strength to do: he worshiped. In unimaginable, plummeting sorrow, Job chose to praise the Lord. For him, that was his only option.

Previously, from what the reader can gather, Job had really only known the blessings of God. From this, he experienced God’s goodness. With his trial just beginning, Job’s view of his God shattered. Yet, he still knew God is good and is worthy to be worshiped.

To have the childlike faith of Job and to have his mindset should be the goal of anyone who claims to follow Christ. Our view of God should not fall into a four-cornered box, but should be continually shaped by His actions. The actions of the Lord always align with His written truths and promises. We only think they don’t because we don’t have God’s view of Himself—thus, why He must shatter our view.

[ au revoir, hannah ]

cast all your cares :: taking a trust fall

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the grand canyon | albuquerque, new mexico :: rachel c.

 

// cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you || [ 1 peter 5:7 ]

-my sister took this photo of the grand canyon just last month. to me, it looks like the mountain is almost inverted.

even though i happened to miss out on this vacation due to school, i can imagine standing from my sister’s view and exhilarating in the elevation, the openness, the rawness, the beauty, and the adrenaline. places like these make me insanely afraid of heights but, at the same time, intensely calm–for a few minutes, it makes everyday life dissolve and any type of stress dissipate. –

Worry is one of the most crippling aspects of life. It’s physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually debilitating. Worry robs you of the joy found in today—of the joy found in the moment.

Constantly thinking, “What if” or constantly replaying and analyzing an incident over and over in your mind is, more often than not, a sign of a restless spirit that doesn’t believe.

Rather, Sweet Soul, break away from timidity. Put all of your fears, hopes, and dreams in the hands of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Don’t allow life to merge into an unrecognizable blur where the goal becomes just the end. Slow down. Take things one at a time. Do things with care. Do things well. Do things wholeheartedly. The King of Kings has an unimaginable, incredible plan for your priceless life. So take a trust fall, and know that you’ll land in the arms of a Great and Good God.

[ au revoir, hannah ]