NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Bird on the Wire

Have you ever seen a bird on a telephone wire? I’m sure you have, it’s so common that I often don’t notice it. But today I did. It’s windy today and as I watched, the bird swayed with the wind, buffeted back and forth, sometimes I was surprised he still hung on. I found myself thinking, “Just let go, just fly. It’s what you were made to do.”

But still the bird clung to the wire. And suddenly I saw myself as that bird. I cling to what’s comfortable, holding on to my little piece of wire. Then when the winds come, and life gets hard, when I feel like God is giving me more than I can handle, do I let go and trust Him? Or do I hold more stubbornly to what I want, what I think I need, what’s comfortable? Because when I do let go, I find I can fly. I have a faith that can move mountains, a hope that soars, a joy that can laugh at adversity. But I never experience that thrill if I don’t first let go of what I think will make me happy and trust that God really does have what’s best.

This past week my pastor said we don’t see how great faith is, until we’re in the storm. And as I look back on my life, I can see it’s true. When life is rolling along, everything fairly manageable, my faith doesn’t seem as important. Sometimes I forget it’s actually needed. But when those storms come, when the relative gets cancer, or the friend’s marriage is falling apart, or you lose your job, that’s when faith shows it’s strength. There’s a certain peace, or confidence God gives His children in the midst of suffering that you don’t experience until you’re in those moments. And even though it’s still hard, it’s also really good. The closest to God I’ve felt, has happened when I’m going through a hardship.

So that’s what God has been teaching me today; that He designed me to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him and that I’ll be happiest when I let go of all the other stuff, and choose to love and trust Him. Even if it takes a storm for me to do it, it’s worth it. because knowing Him is worth everything.

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Maturity

I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to be mature. There are many different expectations that people have for a ‘mature’ person. In our American culture, there seems to be an unwritten expectation that to be mature, or considered a real adult, you must be able to afford your own place to live, and support yourself financially. For many people, this just isn’t the case, either from poor job availability, or the expenses of an apartment or house, sometimes you just can’t make it on your own.

Now maybe living by yourself isn’t the real test when it comes to maturity, maybe it’s being smart, knowing the answers to lots of problems, or being confident in yourself, but either way I think our culture has a real obsession with independence. When you can do what you want, when you want, that means you’re grown up. It means you can make your own decisions and take care of yourself. Isn’t that what being an adult is all about?

I don’t want to say all of this is wrong, I think working and contributing to society is important. But something my pastor said last week has been stuck in my head. “Maturity is measured in dependence on Christ, not independence.” As humans we want control, we want our way, we’re selfish and self-centered and obsessed with getting what we want. But when we are in Christ, we put to death this old way of thinking. Instead we recognize that it isn’t about us and we have never been in control and never will be. God is the One who holds it all together and His plan is the one that will come to pass. And the more mature we become in Christ, the more we are okay with that. We are happy to let God have control and to rely on His help and guidance in all things. The more we depend on Him and not ourselves, the more mature we become.

I’ve seen this at work in my own life. When I try to be independent, and make my own plan for the day happen, every little hindrance gets me so frustrated and short-tempered and I can end up acting like a little kid who didn’t get their way. But when I give up my desire for control to God, and trust Him with how the day will go, I find that all the little unexpected bumps don’t matter. He already knew that traffic jam would happen, or that mess I need to clean up would occur. And He has a purpose for me in it. Then I can sit patiently, knowing He will get me where He wants me, when He wants me to be there. And some of those interruptions, are actually opportunities to do His work, show His love, be kind and display His glory to those around me.

So anyway, I hope my ramblings have encouraged you today and reminded you that you don’t have to have everything together or always know what to do or take care of yourself. Let go, and let God be in control and trust that He will work things out in the best way.

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Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this. Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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Waiting

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This morning I was in a Doctor’s Office Waiting Room and it reminded me of what I’ve been reading in the book of Job. You see Job was in the tough spot of waiting on God for answers. There was a little diagram in my Bible that mentioned several other people in the Bible who had to wait for something. It seems like one of God’s favorite tools to help us grow and mature is making us wait for something. I usually think of myself as a pretty patient person, but to me waiting is usually nothing more than sitting in a doctor’s office for 30 minutes or sitting in traffic for an hour to get home from work or school.

There have been occasions where I had to wait longer, maybe months, or maybe years for something and I think that’s when it gets really hard to be patient or content. I’m sure several people in the Bible felt the same way about having to wait whether it was for a child, a promise from God, or all kinds of other things. Some of them never even got to see what they were hoping for, because it wasn’t fulfilled until future generations came along, but still they waited and trusted God to keep His promises.

In this day and age waiting can be seen as a negative thing. We want everything at the touch of a button. Even Amazon has started a new delivery service that gets you your product shipped to you within hours. But waiting isn’t all bad; in fact it has some benefits that we often overlook. When I think about it, having to wait for something often increases the value of the thing I am waiting for. For example, say a movie comes out that I’ve known about and wanted to see for years. I’d be really excited to go see it because I’ve had to wait for it for so long. But say I just hear about a movie the week it comes out. I may want to see it, but I wouldn’t be as excited. Another example comes from when I was a kid. Waiting for Christmas to arrive was really hard, but when I finally got to open all those presents under the tree on Christmas morning, it made for a very special and memorable occasion.

Another benefit of waiting comes more specifically when we are waiting on God. When we get what we want from God, or what He has promised us right away, there is some good that comes from it. We usually praise God and it feels great. But when we don’t get the answer, or the thing we’re waiting for, it forces us to trust God even when we don’t get what we want, or don’t see His goodness. It helps us to practice trusting Him, and not just what He gives us. Faith can be defined as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. God wants us to have faith in Him even if we do not see. He doesn’t want us to just say He is God and we trust Him, he wants us to live it. And He gives us plenty of chances to practice living our faith when we are stuck waiting. And although it isn’t fun, it is effective. Our faith grows and is strengthened by the obstacle of waiting.

So maybe this week you’re stuck waiting for something, try to remember that waiting can be a good thing and ask God to strengthen your faith while you are waiting.

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Lessons from Haiti: Reinforced Lessons and Growing Confidence

So I’m back from my most recent trip and it’s time to finish up my lessons from Haiti blog posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed these as much as I have. I only have a few days left to blog about, so I hope you enjoy them.

Day 6: Reinforced Lessons and Growing Confidence

So this was Wednesday. The week was already half over. This day really just reinforced several things I’d already been learning about prayer, unity, relationship, and Christ’s Church. In the end, these reinforced lessons built my confidence in God.

rocksThis was another work day, and although I thought I was done with the manual labor part of the trip and could just stick to painting, God had other plans. After breakfast the whole team was called together to help haul rocks up the hill. Now these weren’t little pebbles or hand sized stones, these were big, heavy, rocks. We could only fit two, or maybe three in a large bucket to pass down the line. After several buckets, your arms got tired, and your back might get stiff if you happened to be someone on the stairs, or a steeper part of the hill. But it wasn’t tiring work, because we were working as a team. We helped each other and sent messages of encouragement down the line, along with the rocks. Even my little painting helper and her cousins wanted to be part of the work, so they jumped in the line and tried to help carry rocks too. Like I said, the lessons I had learned already were being reinforced. God has placed us in a body, and with everyone working together, a lot can be achieved.

20130807-145519-DSC_6311I was also reminded of the importance of relationship later in the day. After lunch we got to go to the village church for worship, and I decided to bring my little notepad along. I ended up drawing little sketches of animals for all the kids at the church. It was so much fun to see their smiling faces. I was literally surrounded by children who either wanted a drawing, or just wanted to watch the lines connect and become an animal. This was my last interaction with the village kids and it was very precious to me. I know I couldn’t give them much, but what I could give, God used to bring joy. In essence, I relearned that relationships matter a lot, even more than food, or money, or finishing a project.

guitarDuring the worship time at the church we were able to learn a song in Creole and sing it all together. It was so good to actually know what I was singing and what it meant. We even copied down the words and taught the song to our home congregation in Texas when we got home. That song, at least for me, symbolized the unity of Christ’s church and how we can all worship God, no matter what language we speak.

muralI also got to see God answer many more prayers this day. Some of them may seem like little things, but they brought so much encouragement to me and our group, that they were significant. We again prayed for the radio transmitter when it stopped working, and God made it start working again. And when my mom and I were trying to stencil in letters for the radio logo, there was a storm. We had waited all day for it to get dark, so we could actually see the projector’s image, and now it was raining. Our group prayed and then offered to hold a tarp over the projector so we could still do the work that night. God stopped the rain, and brought it down to an occasional drizzle and our team faithfully held the projector in place and covered it with a tarp. God provided the right weather, and when we finished we sat back down, under the pavilion. As we began to share more touching testimonies in the group and continue to grow closer to each other, the rain came again. God had provided.

As I read through my journal entry from that day, I noticed one of my prayers to God was expressing a deeper trust in God. Before this trip I’d been worrying a lot about where my life was headed and what job I was supposed to be pursuing. I had a lot of questions, but on this day, I had a lot of trust. I could see how God had provided over and over again on the trip and I realized that I didn’t have to worry on the trip, or at home. Whether it was equipment not working, or bad weather, God could handle it. And He can also handle my problems at home just as easily.

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