June Thoughts :)

~ I’m continually amazed at God’s graciousness toward me and the way He so intimately cares for every detail of His children’s lives. After a huge semester of finishing seminary, church merger happenings, and delightful travels, I graduated in May.
~ I love watching the way God works in weaving each detail of our lives for His use. It is good to know that He doesn’t waste time and He is carefully guiding every situation as He sovereignly weaves His tapestry for our lives. It has been a hard few years as I’ve seen a deeper aspect of the happenings of working in ministry, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
~ Particularly this semester it has been exciting to see the way theology has become increasingly alive – facets “clicking together” in many ways. I look back and see how soul forming my years at seminary have been and what a gigantic practical help it has been for my job and in engaging society.
~ These past months have also been rewarding as I’ve found such joy in seeing some special fruit in the lives of some of “my girls” (the high schoolers with whom I work). They are such treasures and it has been a deep delight to be a part of their lives. Also, it was really exciting to write the curriculum for our spring Coral Ridge women’s Bible studies. I love writing and am now writing a curriculum for girls.
~ Currently I’m home in Kansas recovering for a week from a concussion. Later this summer I’ll be heading to Mayo Clinic to seek insight into some medical issues that arose last fall. That’s been a hard defining part of this year – something I have had to go to the Lord with again and again as I learn more deeply about trusting Him. I know He is writing His beautiful story for His glory and my greatest good. I know the Lord has His hand on this and I can find great joy in that.
~ Nicholas and I are increasingly thrilled about what the Lord has done for us and we’re really excited about this new season of growing in knowing God together. We draw out the best in each other and never run out of discussion. We just spent the weekend together at my parents’ house as we said goodbye to my grandmother who is not doing well. It was really a special time. Nicholas is in law school and continues to love politics and it has been fun to start seeking God together in this area. I’m looking forward to starting another degree in the fall and preparing for our wedding. :)

Thailand Thoughts…

Just returned from Thailand….
God’s amazing thumbprints everywhere… every single minute was grand!
While at a worship service in Chiang Mai I was challenged by the sermon… how often we pray puny sized prayers. I know that, even in my praying regarding Thailand, God answered much larger than my little prayers and hopes for the time there. Truly I’m in awe at God’s lovingkindness!
Highlights… meeting Christ followers various places and hearing stories of what He is doing there, the night market in Chiang Mai, seeing the tribal children at the home in Pua (near the Laos border), our crazy bus adventures around Thailand, bicycling around the ruins of Sukhothai (I felt as if I were walking through the pages of a history book), seeing those elephants out my bus window, touring the palace area in Bangkok, buying fabric from a Sikh family in Little India while in Bangkok, boating through a water market, etc. etc.
The only concerning moment of the trip was on the way home on the flight from Korea to Atlanta. I had decided to embrace each moment throughout the trip… eating the native food, etc. (which I held to except the one morning I felt a little sick and deviated off course and ordered cornflakes) so while on the flight I figured I’d choose the Korean entree… and thought I was eating tiny funny tasting noodles with my main course and seaweed soup… until after when I realize the little specks on each one were eyes… my first (and I do hope) last time eating mini fish (so thin and tiny… smaller than minnows).
Besides eating those mini fish, I did another first which I never thought I’d ever do. While in Sukhothai it was so, so, so hot that I actually turned down a cup of hot coffee (this had never happened in the history of my life… I had always insisted it could never be too hot to order coffee).
It was well worth the long journey. It took 58 hours to get from Fort Lauderdale to Pua where I met up with Annie and Sarah who are teaching there… what a crazy interesting adventure (and God took care of every detail… the one step I really couldn’t have figured out on my own – getting the correct bus from Chiang Mai to Pua – I was with a wonderful American who spoke fluent Thai)!
This was such a special experience and just made me want to see more of what God is doing around the world. However, before heading off on another world adventure, I want to spend some time enjoying/remembering to be grateful for things such as air conditioning, toilets, and Starbucks.
All in all, Thailand has officially made my list of happy places to go.

Happy Times…

It was truly special to be in Manhattan last weekend with my family. I had a particularly delightful time with my sister, Anya, as we worked on homework at a coffee shop while drinking coffee from our “black hole” coffee cups (the ones that come with bottomless refills)… So much fun to be together! I’m really grateful for such a fabulous sister! On Valentine’s Day we hosted a Valentine party for single ladies in my sister and parents’ church. I loved hearing them share specific ways they’d experienced God’s love for them this past year.
Last night at our women’s Bible study I slipped out early to host a Valentine party for some teenage girls. It was a marvelous evening as they sat in the beautiful garden area behind my office…sharing their hearts and speaking words of blessing to each other. It was one of those nights where it seemed God did an especially beautiful work. They are such precious girls… royal diadems in the Lord’s hands (Isaiah 62:3). He has awesome plans for them… I’m looking forward to how He leads and upholds them the coming years. What a great honor to be a part of their lives!
I’ve been encouraged lately in Isaiah… particularly Isaiah 61… what a glorious hope we have in God.
Soon I’ll be heading to Thailand. I’m really excited about what the Lord will do! :) Hooray!
I’m sitting at a library where I am taking a break from working on Greek and helping one of my high schoolers with her science project. So now back to the perfective aspect and cell research :).

Many months later…

I am very, very delinquent at posting things on this blog. Somehow by the end of the day I don’t feel I have any more words left. :) As is the case with many, my job entails continual communication. All day long it seems I talk or write. I love that… but by the time I finally get home I think I’m out of words. haha. :) Particularly after spending the Christmas season writing a Bible study curriculum (I figure it took over 100 hours of writing in just a few week period), computer screens waiting for more words to be typed in look particularly foreboding.
And, so, my blog has sat with no new updates since last May.
In a nutshell… since May…
The Lord has been exceedingly good to me these past months. 2007-2008 was a challenging year in many ways. It was a year of intense growth but, by last summer, I felt really drained. Instead of being restored, some things brought about even more discouragement. It was one of those seasons where deep down I knew who I was in Christ, but I was so worn down that, when situations caused me to doubt it, I had a hard time remembering my worth and identity in Him. I was really so tired spiritually. Looking back, I realize the need to be more diligent in surrounding myself with those who live in and speak God’s truth instead of critical individuals not full of the fruit of the Spirit. I see how important it is, particularly when we walk through those exhausting seasons, to really guard our souls, spending much much much time being with God, allowing Him to restore us through the healing balm of His Word and Spirit. I’m learning that, particularly in ministry, it is really vital to continually drench oneself in the Word (not just faithfully reading the Word each day, but really marinating in it). This fall I found renewed joy at a conference in NYC as I heard words of life spoken, touching deep areas of my heart. I remembered again how the Lord delights over His children with singing, how He is intimately acquainted with us, how He walks with us through each day, how He is our Song-giver. It is so good to know that even when the world and its treasures, and sometimes even those who call themselves Christians, say we are crazy, mock us, don’t understand us, or seek to devour and destroy us, we are not alone. The Lord is standing as our warrior and will uphold us in His victorious hand. We are His treasures, created for His joy, with a magnificently wonderful calling to extend His life and truth to our world. This fall the Lord continued this restoring work in my heart as He sung His peace into my soul in deeper ways than ever before, reminding me of His love for me, of the joy there is in not settling for the world’s treasures but being secure in aiming high in our walks with Him. When I faced a freaky medical issue in November/December the Lord used that time to particularly encourage me in who He is, the incredible depth of His love, and the truth of my identity as His daughter. This beginning of the year has been full of some potential changes. I am truly excited about what He has been doing. Even though I am looking at various uncertainties, I am reminded through what He taught me this past crazy year, of God’s sovereignty and goodness. I love being His daughter. I am in awe at how He calls me His treasure. It is incredible to know that our inheritance is sure. That we are already seated in the heavenlies. What a remarkable joy this is, and how life transforming it is as we think of the high calling He has written into our life – not because of our personal greatness or ability – but because of His gloriousness.
I’m still overseeing Women’s Ministries at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and absolutely love it! So much has happened these 6 months since taking over the job and I feel as if I’ve grown a great deal as a person and in ministry insight. It has been a true joy and our women have been gems. I’ve loved having an opportunity to mold how a ministry department runs. I feel as if some of my DC tendencies have opportunity to be used a bit again. I pray I would be a faithful vessel in this work and that, even though I know I have nothing in myself to give, God would be glorified as He so clearly does the work. I’m looking at finishing my second M.A. in May and am hoping to finally seriously pursue a PhD then. In October I redecorated several rooms in my apartment (hooray for Lowes… they were so helpful as I attempted various new things such as putting up molding and Venetian plaster). That revived my interest in interior design (I’d studied it for a year several years ago). I was asked to design someone else’s apartment recently and had a blast doing that. I’m thinking that, eventually, I’d like to take more classes in this. I’ve had opportunity to do some most delightful traveling and have treasured these opportunities immensely. :) It was great to spend time with my family over Christmas and I am excited about the opportunity to see them so soon again in February.
So that’s my little update. May you know great joy this beginning of 2009! :)
PS. This picture (taken in the Metropolitan Museum of Art) was taken last weekend on a very fun (and very cold) NYC trip with one of my dear high schoolers.

Identity Confusion: A stolen credit card & Living as an imaginary friend

What I just wrote for the August Coral Ridge Communicator:

While sitting in a coffee shop, contemplating what to write for this next Communicator Article, I realized my credit card was stolen. So began several minutes talking to the fraud department as we walked through the various transactions the stealer had made. It was remarkable how quickly the person whizzed around town ringing up bills on my card. The great thing is that the credit card company will pay for it all. But still it was disconcerting as I thought about how easy it is for someone to steal another person’s identity. In talking about this after with a family member he chuckled and said “I wonder what ‘you’ decided to buy on ‘your’ shopping spree.”
Recently I was told that a 2 year old to whom I used to teach ballet has decided that I am her imaginary friend. It seems that throughout each day “I” walk around doing all sorts of interesting things with her. I wonder what I do every day in this other life!

While at social events, it is interesting to hear people tell about themselves. One learns much about the “identity” of others. And, if you want to be seen as someone competently achieving the American dream, you quickly learn how to put forth your best “identity.” Yet is this really your identity? Ultimately who you and I are does not have anything to do with those things. My worth is not in my past or current jobs. It is not my ministry. It is not what others think of me. It is not in my grade point average. It is not what I look like. It is not in being an American. It is not my friendships. It is not in romantic relationships. It is not in my family. It is not in my reputation. It is not in my financial state. It is not in what I buy (thankfully so in the case of my credit card! J) It is something deeper. But what? Who am I really? My outward body? My personality?

A year of my life was spent in a wheelchair. Two more years on crutches. During that time people would look at me strangely. Passersby would look at the scars on my face and down my legs and comment to each other: “What happened to THAT girl?” Or, worse, they would just stare. Probably most painful were the friends who, although not meaning to be uncaring, didn’t know how to handle my physical change so just seemed to drop off the face of the earth, all of a sudden “too busy” to be my friends anymore. It was during that season that I learned the reality of how who I am is not in my physical body.
But I also began to understand that “who I am” is not in things such as who I think I am on the inside. Let me explain. The world seems to tell us that who we are is our personality and a certain inward stamina. Greeting cards and talk shows are full of scintillating motivational thoughts about finding “the strength within you.” But what happens when that is ripped away? If that’s where I place my identity, I am on sinking sand. When I was a girl I used to love to laugh. But for a few years after going through the accident where my sister was killed, life just became so serious for me that I lost the ability to say funny things. And, even when I was enjoying something, I would actually forgot to smile or laugh out loud since laughing outwardly was physically tiring. Once while at a Congressional party someone asked me to tell a joke. I just couldn’t remember how and it scared me. Later I went into the hallway and cried. Although by then I knew my identity wasn’t in my physical body, that day I learned that who I am goes much deeper than even my personality. Who am I really?

I am a princess of the Heavenly King. I am God’s treasured daughter, an heir of Christ. This is my identity. Knowing this impacts every thread of my being. It transforms how I view reality, what I live for, from where I draw my strength, and gives me joy and purpose as I walk throughout each day.

It is vital that we understand our true identity and set up camp on it, fortifying our soul with towers of God’s truths regarding who we are. Then, when the Enemy comes in like a flood (or subtly – such as with words of inadequacy when the covers of magazines in the check-out aisle tell us that we aren’t significant because we don’t have the right brand of eye liner), we can immediately combat it with God’s Word.

So, the morals of today’s story are two.
1) Be careful with your credit cards. Someone once told me to Xerox copy everything in my wallet so that I know exactly what is in there. That way I’ll have all my numbers ready to go if it is stolen. I also keep my credit card bank’s phone numbers in my cell phone (not any additional information – just a non-conspicuous listing of the number) which helped me today. Earlier today I received a call from an automated system asking for my social security number because they had reason to believe my card had been stolen. I was not sure whether it was authentic or just trying to get information from me so that they could further steal my identity. Instead of giving information I called my credit card company directly to ask them if they had just called me.

2) Be careful with your real identity. Don’t think that people or circumstances determine your worth. Your worth has already been determined. You are bought with Christ’s blood. You are already seated in the heaven places (Ephesians 5:2-7). Glory in this incredible gift of God! If you are struggling in this, search the Scriptures and post around your house verses that tell you who you are in Christ (there are dozens and dozens).

I’m grateful my identity isn’t wrapped up in what a stranger buys with my credit card or being an imaginary person at tea parties. My identity is in being God’s girl. He delights over me with singing. He fills my life with His sweet presence. That is who I am. This is what ultimately defines me. What great security and confidence this gives! What freedom there is in knowing that no one can tamper with that identity!