Sunday, December 30, 2012

Song: All Glory Be to Christ

Auld Lang Syne is one of my favorite melodies, and King's Kaleidoscope recently released a version with updated lyrics called All Glory Be to Christ. It is beautifully done. Enjoy!

Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive

To you who boast tomorrow's gain
Tell me what is your life
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we'll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

His will be done
His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him the Lord of love

Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we'll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new

Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall ere his people be
All glory be to Christ!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign we'll ever sing
All glory be to Christ!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

  "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."
(Luke 1:68-75 ESV) 

There is no better reason to celebrate Christmas. May you have a blessed day as you remember the birth of our precious Savior!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

We Have Seen a Great Light

Sorry it has been a quiet week. Life has taken over and there has been little time to blog. I thought I would share something I wrote a few years ago about Christmas, and what the Lord was doing in my heart. I have gone through a similar process this year, so it feels very appropriate.

Even taking into account that it's the Christmas season and all, I've been thinking about Christmas a lot lately. Somehow this year, the story that I've heard a thousand times has taken on new meaning as I've been reflecting. The story that I've glossed over time and time again has suddenly grasped all of my attention.

Will we ever understand the beauty of what happened more than two thousand years ago? Will we ever truly understand its power, and how absolutely unbelievable it is?

All too often, I think, we let the story we've heard all our lives lose its mystery...its wonder. We cease to stand in awe at what truly is the beginning of the most wonderful thing that has ever happened.

Will we ever understand the mystery of God became man?

Think about what our God chose to do--to take upon Himself. He left a place of splendor and wonder to be born among cattle. I know the disdain in which I would look upon living in a stable. I know how I would feel if I had to go from my life to a place where no one knew and recognized me for who I really was. But God, in Christ Jesus, gave it all. He left the most perfect and beautiful place that could ever exist to come down to a world broken and twisted by sin and filth. He left a place where He was given all the glory He truly deserved to come to a world where "He was despised and rejected by men."

And He did it for you. For me. That we might come to Him.

Will we ever understand the sacrifice He made?

He gave up everything. How many kings have given up everything for you? How many men have left their homes for your salvation? If your life is anything like mine, you can't name any earthly person who has done that.

But our God did.

Will we ever understand how filthy and despicable we are without His sacrifice?

We have broken God's law. We are fallen, rebels against a most gracious God. We foolishly choose our own path over and over again, ignoring the consequences.

Will we ever understand why God loves us in spite of ourselves?

Yet in our brokenness and dirt and pain, the God of the universe, rather than pouring out His wrath upon us as we deserve, chose to come in the form of a man. To live in our dirt. To feel our pain. To bear our punishment. And all so that broken rebels might have life in His name.

And it all started here, in a stable in Bethlehem, where the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in a tiny baby who would one day prove that our God is indeed a God who saves.

It is the most wondrous story ever told! We were living in the land of the shadow of death. We deserved nothing but wrath from God, and yet He chose to love us anyway, enough to send a substitute for us. 

It's captivating. Riveting. Enthralling.

This Christmas, let's choose to expectantly anticipate what is the beginning of the most beautiful story that ever has been and ever will be told. Let's be purposeful in seeking the One who gave Himself that we might have life to the full.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." - Is. 9:2

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Heard the Bells

I was reminded of this poem turned hymn from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow while I was reading more stories from the shooting in Connecticut. I don't understand; I don't try to. But like Russell Moore, I am reminded that Christmas was an act of war agains the evil one, and we know who wins. Praise God. 

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Weekend Links 12/15

Believing the Worst of Those Who Love Me the Most - Thought provoking article from Tim Challies. "In a moment I can throw out all those years of love and sacrifice and assume that she is now opposed to me, looking out for her interests instead of mine, interested in harming me rather than helping me. In a moment I throw away all these evidences of her love and behave as if she hates me."

Broken, Yet Intricately Woven - Emily Armstrong was just diagnosed with Epilepsy. Read about how she responded to this news with beautiful faith.

The Tension of 'God is Good' and 'It Shouldn't Be This Way' - From Barnabas Piper and incredibly appropriate considering the shootings in Connecticut. "The natural, gut reaction to news like this is visceral. It is a mix of 'Why?' and 'This shouldn't have happened!' But for many of us, myself included, theology often catches up to instinct and says 'Yeah, but God is sovereign' as if this is more true than out first reaction. This theological realization stands in direct opposition to the emotional response. Are we sit back and think that all is ok, then?"

Silent Night, Peaceful Day - My all-time favorite Christmas story (other than the real one of Jesus, of course) is found in a fictional book called The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy, set during WWI. Turns out that something very similar actually happened. Enjoy!

School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare - A comforting response from Russell Moore. "Let’s grieve for the innocent. Let’s demand justice for the guilty. And let’s rage against the Reptile behind it all. As we do so, let’s remember that Bethlehem was an act of war. Let’s remember that the One born there is a prince of peace who will crush the skull of the ancient murderer of Eden."

Friday, December 14, 2012

No Words

There aren't always words to describe the horrors that result from human depravity. Lives have been forever altered today. There are parents whose arms will never hold their babies again, and children who witnessed horrors that no child should ever have to see.

Sometimes the consequences of sin are seen all too clearly. 

Barnabas Piper blogged earlier this week about the tension between knowing that God is good and knowing that life wasn't meant to be this way. It is a post that now seems all too appropriate considering the circumstances of the morning. The conclusion that he comes to is this:
See, it’s not supposed to be this way. Over all this brokenness is a God, a good God, who is in charge of all things including life and death. And in his sovereignty things happen that shouldn't happen. There isn't any riddling this out in way that works for human minds...A tension exists, polar truths creating a present reality. God is good. It shouldn't be this way. God is sovereign. Bad things happen.
How do you respond knowing that the shooting absolutely should not have happened? Children should not be shot. Men should not kill. And yet both happened. And God is still good. God is still sovereign. How do you reconcile those truths?

I don't think you can, at least not here on this earth.

Ultimately, I think the only place to turn in a broken world is where Job went when he lost everything: the foot of the throne. The only place where true comfort is found is in seeing God. It is in crying, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name the name of the Lord," not because you understand, but because you know the God that you serve.

It is learning to say, "Amen," because you know the God who used the greatest evil committed at the cross of Christ to redeem His enemies for His good purposes.

It is a beautiful and horrifying tension, especially on days like today. It is a desperate place to be. But there is comfort here, where grief flows heavily and yet peace still reigns.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Death of Death

"Do you dread sin? He has nailed it to His cross. Do you fear death? He has been the death of death...Whatever foes there may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; There are serpents, but their fangs are extracted...God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us...They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is share the plunder." - Charles Spurgeon

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sovereignty in the Small Things

(This is my 100th post! So exciting.)

Tonight, I missed a missions committee meeting. I have been so blessed to serve on missions committee over the past year. It is an eclectic group of people who are of one mind, desiring to see the gospel of Christ proclaimed to all people. I never fail to leave feeling encouraged, convicted and reminded of what is most important. It really is one of my favorite nights each month. We meet on a Tuesday...most of the time. This month, though, we met on Monday. And unfortunately, I forgot.

It seems like a silly thing, but I was (am, actually) really disappointed. I have been looking forward to our meeting all week, and by time I realized what had happened, the meeting was almost over. There was a lot we were supposed to discuss, and a lot I was hoping to process through with people I trust on the subject of missions. But I missed it. And our next meeting isn't until January.

It's funny how I have a much harder time trusting the sovereignty and good purposes of God in the small moments of life than in the big things. I know the Lord's goodness, and in the big things, I have no choice but to trust Him to work all things for His glory and my good. If I don't trust Him, there would be no hope. But in the small things, it is tempting to ignore His sovereignty. God is using something as simple as a missed missions committee meeting for His purposes and my sanctification.

It's just a missions committee meeting. As much as I love them, it isn't the end of the world. And it was a revealing reminder of how quickly I turn to discontentment and frustration. God is good. And He is sovereign, over all things, even the small things. And that calls for praise and joy in all things.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Links 12/8

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing - Beautiful testimony. "So though I have experienced various trials, my hope is in Christ. I rejoice during these trials in my living hope, knowing that nothing — no great trial, no pain or sorrow, and noone — shall separate me from the love of God."

Why Don't We Call It a Royal Fetus? - Insightful. "What is the difference between this 'royal baby' and the unborn child in the womb of a mother in the waiting room of an abortion clinic? There’s no intrinsic difference in terms of their humanity. The only difference is that one is wanted and the other is not."

The Counter-Intuitive Calvin - Great article from Tim Keller that made me want to read Calvin's if I can only find a copy that I don't have to pay for...

The Dangers of Being Crazy Busy - First part in a series from Kevin DeYoung. I have seen the affects of this in my own life. "When we are crazy busy we put our souls at risk. The challenge is not merely to make a few bad habits go away. The challenge is not to let our spiritual lives slip away. The dangers are serious, and they are growing. And few of us are as safe as we seem."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five Things Friday

1. You know what one of my favorite moments is? When it's really cold outside and you climb inside your car that's toasty warm from the sun. One of life's small joys.

2. I am officially (Lord-willing, of course) returning to Thailand in May of 2013! I am so excited to see what the Lord is going to do.

3. Two weeks of vacation is not very much. This has definitely been the biggest shocker as I have transitioned into adult life. Not my favorite part of working full-time, let me tell you that!

4. The Hobbit (well part 1) comes out this Thursday night! That has been one of my favorite books for a long time, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the movies.

5. I have been reading through some of John Piper's short biographies of different missionaries and defenders of the faith, and I was reminded again this week of how thankful I am that the Lord preserved the testimonies of His saints to encourage us.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Redeeming the Time

Sorry for the quiet week. There have just been other activities that have taken precedent over blogging this week, and I'm quite alright with that arrangement.

After reading this article from Desiring God last week about making the most of my commute, I decided to work on memorizing some of 1 Peter 1 while I was driving to and from work each day. Memorization has always been an activity that has blessed me greatly, but I am terrible at setting aside focused time to actually do it. So I loaded an audio version of 1 Peter 1 onto my iPod and began Monday morning.

Well, it turns out that 40 minutes goes a long way toward memorization! I have really been missing out on valuable time each day. On top of that, it has been so encouraging to spend that much time reflecting on the Word of God. It made me wonder what other time I have been missing.

There are so many things I want to do - read more books, spend more time building relationships with people, pray more, run more, craft more...the list goes on. But now that I am working full time, for the first time in my life I don't feel like I have enough time to accomplish everything. And really, I probably don't. I only have a certain number of hours that aren't taken up with work and sleep. However, this week has made me realize that I probably have more time available than I think I do.

I have seen fruit this week from just redeeming the time spent in my commute. What would happen if I began to redeem the time in the morning while I get ready for my day? Or the time that I walk with co-workers on my lunch break? Or the time spent cooking dinner? It's not that those activities are bad - they aren't. Actually, most of them are necessary and beneficial. But my desire shouldn't be to just avoid sin as I live, but to make the best possible use of my time. Is my time spent cooking dinner only spent cooking dinner, or am I using that time to love my roommates by listening and talking with them while I cook dinner?

Don't get me wrong - I believe that God can be glorified in all of our living; our activities don't have to be "spiritual" in order to honor Him. But I also don't want to miss out on opportunities to make the most of the time that He has given to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend Links 12/2

28,497 Reasons to Be Thankful - Convicting reminder of the grace that truly is ours.

Enjoying Trophies of God's Grace - John Piper's letter to his congregation as he celebrate his last Advent season with them as senior pastor. "Memory has a way of simplifying things. It strips away a few million details that at the time seemed major, and it leaves only the big outlines. Of course, God was in those details. It was he and not I who wove them into the tapestry that I now look back on with wonder. I can’t see the threads any more. A few thousand of them are recorded in my journal, if I choose to look at them. But mainly I simply marvel at the tapestry God has woven."

Don't Undersell Your Commute - "They yearned for more of him. They saw him because they sought him — and they sought him in the simplest routines that make up life . . . when they had just a few minutes by themselves amid their daily responsibilities."

10 Common Mistakes in Difficult Relationships - Ouch. This one hit home.

Why You Should Consider a Social Media Fast - A really balanced, helpful view from Kevin DeYoung.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Great Purpose

There is comfort found in knowing this truth. 
"There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose." - Alan Redpath

Monday, November 26, 2012


November 15 was eleven days ago. And I realized this week that, sadly, this was the first time in 5 years that it had not been a day of great meaning for me.

Five years ago, on November 15, my family got a phone call. It was a Thursday afternoon at about one o'clock, and the debate practice tournament was that Saturday. I can still picture exactly where I was sitting (in the loft) and what I was doing (putting all of our printed evidence into my binder).

My mom was sitting by the computer, and answered the phone, like usual. It seemed like a normal conversation, until I heard her say, "Yes, I'm sitting down." That's when I began to wonder. And worry. I don't remember the rest of what was said, but I do remember exactly what my mom said when she hung up. "I have cancer." Those were devastating, life-changing, scary words.

I knew that those words should have made me cry, and made me scared. But they didn't. All the adrenaline that comes with preparing for a tournament stopped those words from impacting me the way they should have. That is, until Sunday morning, after the tournament adrenaline had worn off.

That's when the full weight of what was happening really struck me. I have such vivid memories about that Sunday, even down to what song we sang for choir, and how it seemed perfect for my situation:
In prisoner's chains, with bleeding stripes,
Paul and Silas prayed that night,
And in their pain, began to sing.
Their chains were loosed, and they were free. 
'I bless Your name. I bless Your name.
I give You honor, give You praise.
You are the Life, the Truth, the Way,
I bless Your name. I bless Your name.' 
Some midnight hour if you should find
You're in a prison in your mind
Reach out and praise,
Defy those chains
And they will fall in Jesus' name.
 I remember sobbing during worship that morning, and then sobbing some more alone in our bedroom that afternoon, questioning the Lord and His purposes. Didn't He know that I needed my mom? I dug into Scripture that day like I have at no other time. And then something changed. Hope came into view. I will never forget the power that Psalm 18 had that day:
"You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop ; with my God I can scale a wall...For who is God besides the LORD ? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect."
It's been five years, and other than that one day where hopelessness reigned, all I can remember is God's goodness.

His goodness when I could no longer stand.

His goodness when the storm raged.

His goodness when it was all I could do to face another day.

His goodness to provide exactly what I needed when I needed it.

The cancer is, by His grace, gone for now, and has been for four years. What remains is memories of who God is and the great things He has done. My mom's journey through cancer was a time when I knew the goodness of God in the most powerful of ways. It was not easy, but it is a time that I look back towards with great joy because I was so desperate to know the truth of Jesus. And He was so very sweet.

For that reason, I am sad that I did not remember November 15 this year. That day has always been one of the biggest reminders of His faithfulness and grace. It is a good thing to raise our ebenezer, to remember that it was He who has helped us thus far and it is He who will bring us safely home.

May we always remember His goodness to us! If He loved us, rebels against Him in every way, enough to give His own son to die in our place, how can we not trust Him through the pain? Trials will come in this broken world, but in the storm, let us seek His goodness, His grace and His strength.

We will find Him faithful.

And may His faithfulness bring us to our knees in worship.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Links 11/24

It's been awhile since I've shared links that I came across over the week, but it is a habit that I want to begin again. So without further ado, here are some of the articles and posts that have been a blessing to me recently.

John Owen's Final Words - "The long wished-for day is come at last, in which I shall see the glory in another manner than I have ever done, or was capable of doing in the world."

Faith, Work and Vocation as a Single Woman - I appreciated this article on working in a way that glorifies God in the midst of a desire for marriage and children.

The Devil's Destructive Lies - John Piper on the absolute vitality of prayer in every area of life.

Satan, Sauron and the Blindness of Evil - From Barnabas Piper; particularly appropriate considering the fact that the Hobbit will be released in a few weeks. "By setting out to gain victory over Jesus by killing Him, Satan condemned himself."

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Shannon - From R. C. Sproul Jr. on the death of his daughter Shannon. Don't miss out on this. "She always beheld His glory. The gap for Shannon between earth and heaven was just one small, unsteady step."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hawaii Pictures

Earlier this month I got to go to Kauai with my Aunt as a belated graduation gift. I thought I would share some of the photos that we took. 
The Na Pali coastline in early morning light. 

More views of the Na Pali coastline. 

Snorkeling! It wasn't as exciting as I had hoped - we only saw a few different kinds of fish. But it was a beautiful area and that made it worth it. 

I got to go zip-lining, which has been on my bucket list for ages. This is part of the ranch we zip-lined over. It's been the site of over 20 movies and it was easy to see why. 

The before shot. 

And after. All of that gear is incredibly attractive. 

Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. We got to do some hiking around the canyon, and it was stunning. 

Views from the Kau-Lau-Lau trail out to the waterfall. 

A fresh mountain apple picked off of a tree on the side of the trail. We also picked guavas and blackberries as we hiked. 

Hanakapi'ai Falls. The trail out to the falls wasn't very well marked, and once we thought we were there. It wasn't very exciting - three 5-foot waterfalls. Nice, but we weren't sure it was worth the 8-mile hike. And then we saw another trail marker, kept going and saw this glorious sight...300 feet high. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Thankful

Thankful today, for who He is and for what He has done.

For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. {John 1:16}

Indeed, I have truly known only grace.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Remember How It Ends

It's easy to forget that what we are experiencing right now is not indicative of what is to come on that day when our precious Lord will make all things, all things, new.

Though we do not know see Him, we love Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

By His work, in His grace and for His glory, we look forward to how it ends.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

He Redeems in Power

I have many fond memories of learning to crochet in our living room as my mom read aloud from one of our school books - it was an almost daily occurrence for many years. As much as I loved listening, there are only a few books that I still remember today. One of those is Peace Child by Don Richardson, one of the most powerful testimonies of how God's grace through the gospel transformed the hardest hearts and tore down the highest barriers in a small tribe in Papua New Guinea, by His power and for His glory.

It has now been 50 years since the Richardson family went to the Sawi tribe, and Pioneer just released a video that shows a reunion between Don and his three sons with the Sawi people. The redeeming work of our God is so evident. Those who used to be enemies have become friends. Those who used to kill have laid down their weapons. Our God does great work!

Take the time to watch this video - the testimony of what God has done cannot help but cause us to wonder at the greatness of our God.

Never the Same from Pioneers-USA on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Song: Not for a Moment

My friend Hannah, who blogs over at Unveiling Truth, shared this song on her Facebook page. Such a needed reminder of who God is through every season of life.

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1
You were reaching through the storm,
Walking on the water,
Even when I could not see.
In the middle of it all,
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me,
Not for a moment did You forsake me.

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

Verse 2
You were singing in the dark,
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear.
I was held in Your arms,
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

And every step, every breath, you are there.
Every tear, every cry, every prayer
In my hurt, at my worst,
When my world falls down,
Not for a moment will You forsake me.

Monday, November 12, 2012


I love to be moving. The adrenaline that a busy day brings is one of my favorite feelings. And now that I'm working full-time, I find it easier and easier to be constantly busy. I only really have extra time on my lunch break and evenings during the week, and those fill up very quickly. But lately I've been reaching Sunday afternoons (usually my one quiet stretch of alone time during the week) and realizing that I have forgotten how to not be busy.

I've forgotten the simple joy of reading in a hammock, of vacuuming the living room and washing dishes, of practicing piano and learning new songs, of simply sitting outside and enjoying a beautiful afternoon. I have lost the joy that I once knew in simply being quiet before the Lord.

But I've been realizing over this past week how necessary those times of quiet are for me. I am not introverted, at least not in the fullest sense of the word, but the times in life when I feel the most confident in my relationship with the Lord (both in who He is and what He has completed) and when I feel most refreshed are the times when I have space in my life to

Not just times in Scripture and prayer...those (usually) happen whether quiet is there or not, but time to reflect and process all that has been happening, which usually doesn't happen during one specific activity, but during a specific type of activity - one where my mind can wander. During those times, I am most aware of where my heart is with the Lord and can take the necessary steps to make everything right.

Intentionality is becoming more and more important in my life - I have to make time for what I truly care about, since time just doesn't happen as naturally as it used to. And just like so many other things that I love, time to be quiet is essential for my spiritual health, so if you'll excuse me...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Go Farther On

Oh my brother, are you weary
Of the roughness by the way?
Does your strength begin to fail you
and your vigor to decay? 

Farther on, still go farther!
Count the milestones one by one.
Jesus will forsake you never - 
It is better farther on.

I've never been a big hiker - my family doesn't tend to take "active" vacations. We do a lot of sightseeing, but hiking and camping have never made that list. So while I was Hawaii, I went on more hikes in one week than I have gone on in my entire life. One of the hikes was particularly difficult - 8 miles round trip, with lots of hills and rocks to climb; the trail also crossed the river about 6 times (I didn't step in once - I'm pretty proud of that, since I'm not known for my balance). The last 2 miles were brutal. By that time it was noon, most of the trail was in direct sunlight and it seemed like we were walking uphill for a lot longer than we had walked downhill on the way in. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, as beautiful as it was and as much as I was enjoying myself, it was hard.

I'm not particularly athletic. Actually, I'm not athletic at all. As a result, I haven't really pushed past my limits very often. Once we finally made it over the top of the hill and starting heading down toward our car, the song that I shared above came to mind. I felt weary, and the path was rough. My initial energy was most certainly gone. But there was no choice but to go farther on.

I'm quick to give up when something doesn't seem easy. I like to be comfortable and I don't like denying my desires. But the hike was such a vivid example of what perseverance looks like. It isn't easy; it isn't comfortable. It is painful, but it leads to beautiful things. And it turns out, even when it feels like there is no possible way to pick up my foot and take another step, I can do it anyway. 

It's easy to sell ourselves short. It's easy to give up when the going gets tough. But may we be a people whose lives are marked by perseverance, not because it is easy, but because we are hidden with Christ and that is worth all of the pain in the world. It isn't a blind perseverance, for we are not a people without a sure hope. Indeed, we have a living hope of an inheritance in Christ that can never be taken away (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus will never forsake us and it is better, so much better, farther on. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hawaii and Election Thoughts

I haven't had much extra time to blog these last few weeks - I had a really busy time preparing for my trip to Hawaii (a graduation gift from my Aunt) and then while I was gone I hardly even looked at a computer. I had a great time - we spent almost a week in Kauai, and it was so good to get away from everything for a little while. We ziplined, snorkeled, hiked, shopped, and more...One of the trails we hiked was lined with guava and blackberry bushes - I have never enjoyed freshly-picked fruit along the trail before and it was tasty! On Monday we did an 8 mile hike (longest I've ever done!) out to a stunning 300-foot waterfall. It was absolutely glorious. I don't have pictures yet, but I will be sure to post them when I do.

I'm so thankful that I was able to take this last week off from work and life - it was a blessing to be able to distance myself from everything that has been going on, process through it, and be reminded of what is really important. I'm tired from traveling, but I feel refreshed.

On a completely different note, while we were on the plane flying home last night, they announced the election results. I was disappointed, but regardless of who won the election, the most important things remain the same: our God reigns and He holds the fate of all nations in the palm of His hand. That is ultimately where our assurance rests, not in the hands of whoever runs our country. For that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Contend

I had the privilege of reviewing Aaron Armstrong's new book Contend, published by Cruciform Press. I was excited to do so since I have enjoyed reading Aaron's blog for quite a while, I just really enjoy books, particularly books that don't cost me anything. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed.

Using the book of Jude as his foundation, Contend addresses three main things: what is contending and why we ought to do it, what we should contend for, and how to contend well for the glory of God.

In American culture, we are really good at segregating - church stays at church and it doesn't affect the rest of our life. We like to just be able to go along with everything and not cause "problems". But Aaron argues that if we truly know who God is and what He has done and if we truly take our faith seriously, we will contend against anything or anyone who comprises the truth of Christianity, specifically the authority of Scripture, the nature of God, and the gospel. He says:
To face inward, affirming and clarifying among and between orthodox believers everything God has done for us—this is a necessary, ongoing activity of the church. But that must not and cannot be our exclusive preoccupation. We must also at times—as a necessary complementary activity—be intentional about facing outward, contending with those who deny who God is and what he has done, whether these voices come from within the church or without.
I was blessed by the clarity with which he explained and defending contending. He illustrates how willing we are to contend for what is important to us in every other area; our love for the Lord ought to bring out the same response:
This idea that we don’t need to defend—or at best rarely need to defend—something we love is ludicrous. If we are willing to offer defense for our families, our political preferences, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, how much more should we be willing to offer a defense of the gospel? If we truly love Jesus and if we truly care about the well being of the Church then we must contend. 
Overall, Contend was well worth reading. It is a clear and concise application of Jude that is both theological and practical. What Aaron Armstrong set out to do, he did well. I left with a better understanding of what I should contend for, why and how.

But, at least for me, the best thing about Contend is that it gave me a vision of the joy that is found in contending for truth. I am sometimes loathe to speak out because I am afraid of offending or turning people away from the gospel. And sometimes, I'd rather just keep quiet - it's simpler. But Contend reminded me of the glorious truth that I get to contend for these things, by the Lord's strength and His glory:
So it is and will be in our every act of contending; it is God who will give the increase—not our strength, persistence, persuasiveness, charm, or cultural relevance. Despite our foolish words and wavering hearts, God delights to use us as his instruments. Let us delight in this as well!
Contending is, as Aaron puts it, both a sacred duty and a great delight. Contend was well worth my time, and I believe yours, because it reminded me of that truth.

(I was given a free copy of Contend to give an honest review. There were no obligations other than I read the book and share my thoughts here.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

He Grips Our Soul

Another gem from Samuel Rutherford.
"And withal, consider how, in all these trials (and truly they have been many), your Lord hath been loosing you at the root from perishing things, and hunting after you to grip your soul. Madam, for the Son of God's sake, let Him not miss His grip, but stay and abide in the love of God." 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Face to Face

I have just finished reading through the book of Deuteronomy, and I was struck by the description of Moses at the end of chapter 34:
10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
 I love the description of the relationship Moses had with God: face to face. While the people of Israel had only a secondary knowledge of God through His messengers and His works, Moses knew God face to face. Additionally, God used Moses powerfully - none of the other prophets even came close to experiencing the same work of God displayed through their lives...until the Son.

Jesus is so clearly the true and better Moses! While Moses' knowledge of God is called face to face, it really wasn't, at least not in the fullest sense of the phrase. Moses talked with God, of course, but he did so through a burning bush or through prayer. Moses asked to see God, and he did - but only his back. Although what Moses experienced was a much greater revelation than the rest of the people, it was not a full glimpse of the glory of God. But Jesus is different. He truly did know God face to face, in the most intimate sense. He was and is God. What Moses was not allowed to know because of his sin, Jesus knows because He is the standard for holiness. What Moses was not allowed to see, Jesus has seen in its fullest glory.

What Jesus has done is also true and better! Yes, the greatness of God was displayed in what Moses did in Egypt and everywhere else. But Jesus displays God's greatness to the entire world. He displays the most perfect picture of justice and holiness and mercy and grace. The signs and wonders that He performed were greater because they did not just lead to the freedom of an enslaved race, but to the freedom of all mankind who will come to Him. This is the good news.

And because of Jesus, the true and better Moses, we can behold the glory of God. The veil between God and man was ripped in two because of the cross and we can be very bold. 2 Corinthians 3 reminds us that:
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end... 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 
Because of Jesus, we have a much clearer picture of the glory of God. But there is an even greater truth found in 1 Corinthians 13.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
One day, we, like Moses, like Jesus, will see the great and glorious Creator of the Universe face to face. What that looks like, I am not sure. I only know that it something that I long for and desire.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

He Completes the Work

That's how it goes - He completes it. Not me. His timing - not mine - is perfect. So frustrated today by how far I still have to go. So overwhelmed by the sin that I see. Just when I feel like I'm making progress I see so much more that still needs to be accomplished. But I'm reminded that He will complete the work. Someday I will be fully sanctified, fully glorified. But that is not right now.

He is gracious, though, abundantly so. I do not see all my sin right now nor do I need to. What I do see gives me plenty to practice my obedience on. He reveals what I need to know when I need to know it. His goal is not to condemn me but to transform me.

And because of the cross, there is hope! I do not have to be discouraged when I see my sin - it doesn't change my standing before the Lord. Rather, I ought to be encouraged that He is revealing it to me as sin and is gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) loosening my grip on all that my sinful heart holds dear.   Even my grief over my sin is evidence of his gracious work.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Never Grow Old

I've been listening to this song on repeat all morning. Beautiful hope.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On Loving Regardless

Earlier this week, I really was struggling with a friend of mine - she has been cranky lately and it doesn't seem to matter how much I tried to do to love her so that she felt loved, she still wasn't treating me like I felt that I deserved to be treated based on all that I had done.

When I went for my run one night, I was fuming. How could she treat me like this? Surely if I had been in the same situation I would have been more kind and considerate. But then I remembered. I am in that situation. The Lord has loved me graciously and abundantly in spite of all that I have done. And even though I know that I am the recipient of his love and I have experienced it in so many ways that I can see and point to, I still do not respond in the way that the Lord deserves.

So I was wrong. I'm not very good at loving people when it doesn't benefit me or I don't see a response. When I enjoy spending time with someone, loving them is easy. But I am called to love regardless. What that love looks like is different in different situations. But my response must not be to base my love on the love that I feel I am receiving. In Jesus, I am more loved than I can ever describe or imagine. And that is enough. And so by the grace of God, I am growing in my loving.
"Here is a spiritual principle: We cannot exercise love unless we are experiencing grace. You cannot truly love others unless you are convinced that God’s love for you is unconditional, based solely on the merit of Christ, not on your performance. John said, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our love, either to God or to others, can only be a response to His love for us." - Jerry Bridges

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If He Comes, It Is Well

I've been reading through a collection of Samuel Rutherford's letters lately and have been blessed by his wisdom and perspective. One letter in particular has encouraged me greatly, and I thought I would share some of my favorite parts.

"We may indeed think, Cannot God bring us to heaven with ease and prosperity? Who doubteth but He can? But His infinite wisdom thinketh and decreeth the contrary; and though we cannot see a reason for it, yet he hath a most just reason...Nay, whether God come to His children with a rod or a crown, if He come Himself with it, it is well. Welcome, welcome Jesus, what way soever Thou come, if we can get a sight of Thee." - Samuel Rutherford
Amen! If He comes, it ought to indeed be well with our souls.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Don't Nullify the Grace of God

Many mornings when my alarm goes off early enough to allow me enough time to spend time in the Word before work, I groan, turn it off and sleep for another half hour. But each time that happens, I go through my day feeling guilty that I slept rather than woke up. And honestly if I do take the time to read and pray later, I usually do it to somehow maintain the Lord's favor - clearly if I chose sleep over Scripture then He must not be happy with me. And I struggle with this in so many areas of my life - I obey the law because, even though I know that I am saved, God is more pleased with me when I do those things.

In the weekly Bible study, we've been discussing the book of Galatians. It's been interested to dissect and consider the depth of Paul's argument for the gospel and most nights I have left feeling significantly more conviction than I anticipated. Last week we finished chapter 2:
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
                                                                                                                                                   - Galatians 2:19-21

Did you catch that ending? "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." For so long I skipped over this verse - of course I'm not nullifying the grace of God - I fully believe that I am saved by the blood of Jesus alone. But then I realized that even though I do not nullify His grace in salvation, I often do in sanctification.

Because of Christ's completed, finished work on the cross, there is nothing I can do that will make God love me more and nothing I can do that will make Him love me less. And when I read my Bible so that God will be pleased with me, I nullify His grace. When I don't do something because it make God love me more, I nullify His grace. It's not that those things are bad! But I ought to read Scripture because I love the Word and, more than that, the God who gives the Word. I shouldn't do something that I believe is wrong - that is honoring to the Lord. But I should do it because of who I am in Jesus, because I am saved by His blood, and righteous before the Lord, not because it gives me special standing with God.

My friends, may we never nullify His grace in salvation. But may we also never nullify the grace of God in our living. We are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3). When God looks on our works, He sees not what we have done, but what Jesus has done. And there is nothing that we could ever add to that. Praise God!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five Things Friday

1. I am so glad that the weather is finally love for running has finally awakened itself again. I did my longest run in four months this week and it had lots of hills too!

2. The more you know people and places the easier it is to see the sin that is found there. The Lord has been gently reminding me that I know and see those things so that I can pray and so that I can be reminded of the importance of my obedience. He will do the changing in His timing.

3. It is now October 5th and I have still not had anything pumpkin. Rest assured, however, that my grocery shopping tomorrow will include pumpkin and I will baking this weekend - pumpkin spice bagels, pumpkin frozen yogurt, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread - who really knows what I will choose? But it will be good, whatever I end up making.

4. Lunch dates are a great thing. Breaking up the work day with friends is more of a blessing than I ever realized it would be.

5. I have been listening to this song over and over. Beautiful harmonies, beautiful truths.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Content to Sit at His Feet

(Sorry it's been a quiet week on the blog...I've been busy and haven't had a lot to say.)

When I read the story of Mary and Martha in Scripture, I've always sympathized with Martha. I love to move - I love to be busy, to be serving. I know what it feels like to think that you are the only one who is accomplishing what needs to be done while everyone else merely sits.

But I'd always thought that Martha's sin was found in the fact that her priorities were wrong. And certainly that was part of the issue. But this past week I've begun to wonder if maybe there wasn't something deeper going on, something that I have realized is a sin that is in my heart.

You see, I am not content to just sit at the feet of Jesus. I don't feel as if that is enough. I want people to see me moving and serving, going the extra mile. I want them to see  how much I love the Lord through the way that I live. And that isn't bad! It is good to display the abundant grace of God. But that is often not my motivation, to display the greatness and glory of what God has done. Rather, I want people to see me, to see how sanctified I am and how much I serve.

And that is why I am not content to sit and just be in His presence. Not solely because my priorities are wrong, but because it means I will be giving up an idol. When I sit at His feet, no one sees me. They see only Him. And my sinful, rebellious heart is not satisfied with that.

I have always struggled being alone. I begin to feel lonely so quickly. And though friends and people are a blessing from the Lord that is a good thing, when I feel dissatisfied being alone for even a few hours one night a week, that reveals sin. It reveals that Jesus is not enough for my heart. Sometimes, as silly as it is, I feel like if people who I like and respect are spending time together and I am not there, I am not as legitimate, loved or valued as everyone else. And that is often why I dread being alone - because no one sees me, because I find my worth in other people.

But then today as I was thinking through why I don't like spending time by myself, the Lord brought this story to mind, and reminded me of the sufficiency of Christ. To sit and learn from Him, I have to know who I am - a precious treasure of the Lord's, not because of who I am, but because of the all-surpassing greatness of the price that was paid for my life and salvation. It is a treasure in a jar of clay. I am hidden in the Lord Jesus - when the Father looks at me, He does not see what I have done, but what Christ has done. I will never be more or less loved by God. My identity is secure in Jesus Christ.

I want to be like Mary, able and desiring to sit at the feet of my Savior - she knew what the best thing was, and it did not matter who was looking or who was not. I don't know whether Mary and Martha felt these things...but what I do know is that the Lord gently reminded me today through their story that He is enough. I do not need to prove myself to other people or to Him through the way I serve or love; I do not need to always be with people in order to be assured that I am valued and loved. He is sufficient for those things - Christ is sufficient for me. He is the one who makes me worthy by His infinite worth. Praise Him.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Links 9/29

Can You Catch Sin Like a Cold? - I seriously think that Barnabas Piper is incapable of writing something that is not insightful and helpful.

Needy - "He endured the bitterness and we receive the sweetness. He is always a feast for the neediest of souls. This is why our joy is out of this world. This is radical grace. Have you feasted?"

Real Life - So blessed by this. "And then it hit me: I can’t wait until our life is “perfect” to live life! This IS my life, the days that God has given me. By waiting until it’s something that it’s not (and won’t ever be!) I’m wasting the opportunities that God is giving me now, today."

God Answers - Another great poem from John Piper.

Spiritual Awakening and the Sovereignty of God - And a great article from John Piper. "It has been my conviction, and my experience, for over 40 years that knowing more about God from his inspired, energy-filled word puts more kindling in place so that the Holy Spirit can ignite a greater and greater flame of passion for God in our hearts."

Why We Chose to Have Beautiful Babies - Beautiful and thought-provoking. "The fact was incontrovertible: Doctors did not think my life was worth living. So, in all honestly, I must confess that I first starting thinking hard about filling the planet with more me-mutants just to prove that I and my children were just as fearfully and wonderfully made as any of God’s image bearers (Psa. 139:13-16)."

I'm (Kinda Sorta Yeah Not Really) Gay - Great article. "For Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, the answer is really 'yes and no.' Yes on the surface level (being attracted to the same sex) and no in the truest sense (as a new creation in Christ). So if someone asked if I’m gay, the best answer is 'Kinda sorta yeah not really.' It’s a complicated answer. But so is the question."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kiss the Wave

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” – C. H. Spurgeon

Friday, September 21, 2012

Weekend Links 9/22

Hunger for God - From True Woman. "The greatest reason your hunger for God has waned is that you have filled yourself with less satisfying foods...Perhaps it may be time for you to change entire restaurants, or it may simply be time to make better choices. It’s not too late to start."

What I Am Learning About Younger Women - I was so so blessed by this. "Ultimately, teaching young women is not about prescribing a particular set of behaviours; it's about pointing a woman to Christ, and emphasizing that God is in control of every aspect of her life. "

Send Me Your Short-Term Missionaries - "Money cannot hug a fatherless child or enjoy fellowship with Christian brothers. Money cannot play soccer with drug dealers or wipe the tears from a hungry child. We Christians are called to serve the poor, sick, widows, and orphans. Money can buy food for the poor and build houses for the homeless, but just as Christ touched the leper (Matt 8:3), the poor also desire the touch of a loving and merciful hand."

My Life - A beautiful poem from John Piper.

Pick Up the Basin and the Towel - "We love titles: manager, co-ordinator, deacon, chairperson, vice-president; whatever. Sometimes, titles are necessary, but they don't make the service more legitimate. What makes it legitimate is the object of our worship, and the willingness to pick up the basin and the towel, no matter what the task."

Oh Behave! Conduct Worthy of the Gospel in Worship - "The principle of walking in line with the gospel (Galatians 2:14) in corporate worship looks like this: In grace consider others enough to refrain from distracting them, and extend grace to those who you find to be distracting. Here are a few suggestions for how to think well of and for others in corporate worship."

Five Things Friday

1. I realized this week that when I am alone, I talk to myself. A lot. But hey - at least I don't talk to myself when other people are around, right?

2. Sometimes when my alarm goes off at a disgustingly early hour and I don't want to get up, I make an angry face at my phone and it makes me feel better.

3. Roommates are a precious gift from God. So blessed by the dear girls I live with.

4. Budgeting is a not-fun part of being an adult. But at the same time, it's kind of exciting to be able to look at my progress!

5. Been reflecting on the precious promise in Jeremiah 32:40, "I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me."

Thursday, September 20, 2012


J. C. Ryle's descriptions of what sanctification is and is not have convicted me greatly many times. What I often consider progress is really no progress at all. Praise God that the victory is certain!

Sanctification Is Not:

1. Talk about religion. “People hear so much of Gospel truth that they contract an unholy familiarity with its words and phrases, and sometimes talk so fluently about its doctrines that you might think them true Christians. … [But] the tongue is not the only member that Christ bids us give to his service.”

2. Temporary religious feelings. “Reaction, after false religious excitement, is a most deadly disease of soul. When the devil is only temporarily cast out of a man in the heat of a revival, and by and by returns to his house, the last state becomes worse than the first.”

3. Outward formalism and external devoutness. “In many cases, this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness; and I am quite certain that it falls utterly short of sanctification of heart!”

4. Retirement from our place in life or renunciation of social duties. “It is not the man who hides himself in a cave, but the man who glorifies God as master or servant, parent or child, in the family and in the street, in business and in trade, who is the Scriptural type of a sanctified man.”

5. Occasional performance of right actions. “[Sanctification] is not like a pump, which only sends forth water when worked upon from without, but like a perpetual fountain, from which a stream is ever flowing spontaneously and naturally.”

Sanctification Is:
1. Habitual respect to God’s law and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. “The same Holy Spirit who convinces the believer of sin by the law, and leads him to Christ for justification, will always lead him to a spiritual use of the law, as a friendly guide, in the pursuit of sanctification.”

2. Habitual endeavour to do Christ’s will and to live by his practical precepts. “He who supposes [that Christ’s precepts as recorded in the Gospels] were spoken without the intention of promoting holiness, and that a Christian need not attend to them in his daily life, is really little better than a lunatic, and at any rate is a grossly ignorant person.”

3. Habitual desire to live up to the standard with St. Paul sets before the churches in his writings. “I defy anyone to read Paul’s writings carefully, without finding in them a large quantity of plain, practical directions about the Christian’s duty in every relation of life, and about our daily habits, temper and behavior to one another.”

4. Habitual attention to the active graces which our Lord so beautifully exemplified, and especially to the grace of charity (love). “A sanctified man will try to do good in the world, and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him. He will aim to be like his Master, full of kindness and love to everyone … by deeds and actions and self-denying work, according as he has opportunity.”

5. Habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity (those graces which are especially shown in submission to the will of God, and in bearing and forbearing towards one another). “Of one thing I feel very sure—it is nonsense to pretend to sanctification unless we follow after the meekness, gentleness, patience and forgiveness of which the Bible makes so much. People who are habitually giving way to peevish and cross tempers in daily life, and are constantly sharp with their tongues, and disagreeable to all around them—spiteful people, vindictive people, revengeful people, malicious people—of whom, alas, the world is only too full!—all such know little, as they should know, about sanctification.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Give Me Your Money!

So yesterday, my roommate and I were scheduled to teach Sunday school at church, and we taught the story of the Prodigal Son, talking about how because of Jesus, God always welcomes us back with joy no matter what we have done. After we finished telling the story, we talked about it, memorized a verse, and then decorated party hats to remind us of the love of the Father.

It was going great; everyone seemed like they understood...and then the parents came. A dear four-year-old boy walked up to his dad, pointed at him, and said, "Give me your money!"

His dad looked at him, confused. "What do you mean?"

This sweet boy answered, "Give me your money so I can run away and then I can have a birthday when I come back!"

Well. I suppose knowing the story counts for something, right?

Saturday, September 15, 2012


This is a post I have thought about writing for a long time. But I still, even 9 months after I returned from my first missions trip ever, have so many thoughts bouncing around in my head. So this may lack coherence and logical flow. I've decided that I don't care.

This past December - January, I had the privilege of joining some friends from school on a mission trip to Northern Thailand. We land in Chiang Mai, and then drive 9 hours to work with the Karen people in the Mah-Oh-Jo region. Refugees escaping genocide in Burma, the Karen have nothing compared to what you and I have. Until the Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP, the organization that we partner with) entered the region, they had barely enough to survive. Their babies died from lack of nutrition and dirty water. There was no education or medical care.

7 years ago, ITDP and a team of students from my school worked with villagers to build a water tank in one of the three villages in the region. Today, each village has a completed water tank. There is a thriving school that goes up to 6th grade. There is a medical clinic with a full-time nurse. There is running water. The infant mortality rate has been cut in half. A cash crop - coffee- has been introduced. The village of Mah-Oh-Jo, where there was only one Christian before, now has 24 families who call themselves Christians and there is a thriving church. There is also a full-time evangelist in the region. Life has changed. This video does a great job describing what ITDP does:

And that's when I get to enter the story. When we went in December, ITDP and SDCC had already been in the region for awhile. But there is still much work to be done. We stayed in the village of Da-Bu-Sa-La-Co, which, along with Hua-lo (the third village in the region), has no Christians.

Our team had four projects: a new water project for Da-Bu-Sa-La-Co (since their previous source had dried up), building a new school building (it grew too much!), a VBS for the schoolchildren, and some miscellaneous agricultural projects. I primarily worked on the water project, which included digging trenches, burying pipe, mixing concrete by hand (as well as carrying the buckets of water, rock and sand to do so), and building an actual tank. Although I would not say that I was good at the work, I did enjoy it.

My favorite part about it was the extent to which the villagers were involved. We would trench with them, and then when we would all take a break, they would pick berries and leaves for us to try, all the while laughing at our faces when we tasted the sour fruit. We would try to learn Karen, asking the, "Nee co dee-lay?" or "How do you say that?". Then they would laugh at our pronunciation and ask us, "Na me jaw-leg?" ("What is your name?") and then we would get a turn to laugh at their pronunciation.

I also was able to help with VBS. The kids were, without a doubt, one of my favorite parts about Thailand.

They were so shy at first, but it didn't take long for us to realize that it was just an act. Within just a day, then had no problem jumping all over us, running after us and grabbing our hands, and laughing hilariously when we tried to imitate them. They would share food with us, braid our hair, teach us their games, jump out from behind bushes to scare us, and generally just do anything they could to be with us. They were precious.

We also got to experience Karen church, witness 3 baptisms, and several different outreaches to the community. It was incredible to be reminded that the Lord is actively working everywhere in the world, not just here in the States.

It's interesting because going into Thailand, I had really high expectations for the trip. I know so many people who had been on the trip in the past. They always returned with stories of God's faithfulness, grace and power. I knew very few who didn't want to return. And since it was my first missions trip, I expected that it would be incredible.

And it was, in many ways. I loved Chiang Mai. I loved the villages. It very quickly felt like home to sleep on the floor, shower with a bucket, use a squatty potty, eat Karen food and wake up to roosters every morning. The people were beautiful; I wanted to be there. I knew that God was using it, in my life and in theirs. But at the same time, every time we would have team devotionals, so many others on the team would share how much God had been teaching them, and how it was going to change life at home.

I was shocked...I barely had time to think about anything. Life was a whirlwind - a beautiful whirlwind, yes, but not one that allowed time for reflection. I didn't process through anything while I was in the village. I spent many afternoons journaling and wrestling with God about what He was doing. I knew that this trip was worth it even if I left feeling like I hadn't grown or changed at all as a result. My goal was to faithfully obey the Lord and proclaim the gospel.

But at the same time, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. I was hoping that God would use this to cause me to grow in my knowledge of and love for Him and people. I just wasn't seeing that change. While I was there, I just decided that I would have to trust that He was good and using this for good, even when I couldn't see it.

And then we came home. And very quickly I realized that God had been actively working all along. I suddenly found in my heart a desire to pray for the salvation of the nations, a desire that actually bore itself out in regular pray. I found myself longing to use my time and money to further the kingdom rather than to just buy a new dress or travel. Those were powerful things. To this day, missions has become a much higher priority to me. I am open to going full-time, although at this point, that is not my plan. But regardless, my goal is that my finances and prayers would reflect the heart of God towards those who do not know the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

But even more than that, I realized how much my trip had changed my view of God. Suddenly I understand His love and mercy in a new way. You see, He found them! These three little villages, whom everyone else had forgotten, my God pursued and found and claimed. And just like He pursued them, my dear friends, He has pursued us. May we never forget the glory of His grace! I left Thailand knowing that I had seen the purposes of the Lord, how He is compassionate and merciful (James 5:11).

Rather than being loud and blaring, I felt like I saw God in the same way that Elijah did after the storm: in the whisper. I felt like nothing was changing, and then I came home to see my heart had changed in the quietest of ways. But those quiet changes meant so much to me.

And as a result of all of this, oh my, do I want to return. I want to hug the dear children who became so precious to me, and ask my hut mom, "Oh choo wa?" ("How are you?"). I want to sit quietly in my hut sharing sunflower seeds and laughing as the baby sees his reflection for the first time. I want to worship in another language with my brothers and sisters. I want to see God's glory proclaimed to these three small villages in Thailand. And Lord-willing, someday, I will go back.

This was sooooo long...and I'm not really sure how to end, mainly because I know that there is no ending for Thailand yet. God's work is not done, either in the villages or in my own heart. But I know the ultimate ending: my Jesus returns. And until then, He is using all things to proclaim the glory of His great name.