Seven Years.

Remembering the beautiful life my sister Katie lived on this 7-year-anniversary of her going home to be with Jesus. As I look back at the past seven years, I can’t help but recognize the testimony God has created and is creating in my life through the grief which He continues to turn into joy. And even when moments of sadness still overwhelm me from time to time, God’s comfort and peace cover me beyond anything I could ever comprehend through reading His Word, through hugs and words of comfort from friends, and through the “Katie memories” shared with family.

This month, I turned 19, the age Katie was when she passed away. It’s quite an experience being the same age as the last age I remember her. I often wonder if I’m seeing things like she did when she was nineteen–making similar decisions she made, or thinking the same thoughts that she pondered. After this day, I will begin to start living days she never got to experience on this earth. But even though I’ll continue to get older than she was, she’ll ALWAYS be my adored older sister, and I’ll ALWAYS be her little sis.

Time is passing, but I hold her nearer to my heart than ever. God continues to make all things work together for good. He continues to use her testimony to touch others. And as long as I live, I pray that I will keep sharing about my sister’s passion for the Lord and how faithful He has been in my family’s life in grieving her death.

I can’t help but think about Katie in God’s presence right now. Singing praises to her King and probably playing an acoustic guitar. I know His presence is the place she wanted to be more than ANYTHING. And on this day, and for all eternity, she will continue giving praises to the Lord. It’ll be QUITE the experience when I join her someday. ♥
   

Love you, Katie!

Reward.

I really love Keith Green’s music. One of his most well-known songs is “O Lord, You’re Beautiful.” I’ve heard this song many a time, but most recently one specific line has been sticking out to me.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown. For my reward is giving glory to you.
This is SO profound. In my own experience, it’s sometimes difficult to give God the glory when everything is hunky-dory and when successes are a steady flow. When everything is all right, I’m tempted to give myself all the credit for accomplishing, achieving, and completing another successful conquest. I can often forget that God was the One who gave me the power and the strength to carry through to begin with.
I focus on the reward I earn for myself. I focus on my earthly gains. I focus on how my accomplishments make me feel more noteworthy, more accepted, more highly-esteemed. Yet, my reward is giving glory to God. OUR reward is giving glory to God.
He has given us EVERYTHING, and our lives are meant to reflect His strength to give Him the glory. If all is for His glory, why is it so easy for us to believe that our lives are for our own benefit and furthering? I think we feel so secure in what we accomplish that when we accomplish something, we feel like we are gaining greater control over our lives.
I hold so tightly to my earthly gains. I determine my success based on the fruit of what I can see. While our desire to see God moving in those around us is a beautiful desire to have, we can often allow our reward to be found in how much others appreciate us, rather than focusing on how much God values our hearts.

What a mindset and heart shift to truly believe and act like our reward is first to give glory to God. If we start to believe and act like God is our reward, then we never have to feel unfulfilled. God is our inheritance–He is our portion–and He will never let us run dry. If all is for His glory, we don’t need to worry about defending our own strength, because we get to rest in His strength. Instead of focusing on building our own reputation, we realize that God is using us in order to make His reputation great through us. What a privilege.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” ~Lamentations 3:24

Our reward is in Christ Himself! Amazing.

Chase.

My dear friend (and kindred spirit) Allison invited me to a Bible study at Central Assembly earlier this semester, and this Bible study has seriously been one of the most EARTH-SHAKING experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

The book we’re reading is called Chase, and it’s by Jennie Allen. Each chapter covers a different word, and each word is explored for the truth God is wanting to show us. Some examples of the chapters are “Identity,” “Repentance,” and “Surrender.”

We covered “Surrender” in tonight’s study, and it was so powerful. I wanted to share some quotes by Jennie from this chapter that especially impacted me:

  • “To get God, we [are] learning to receive our lives rather than try to control them.”
  • “We need to lay down the false sense of entitlement we have built that God owes us a good life. Our one and only sustaining hope is that God has overcome this world and is preparing our home in the next.”
  • “Nothing good on this earth even compares to God’s love, and no suffering compares to the suffering of being separated from God…To truly be forsaken by God would be the definition of suffering.”
  • “We mistakenly believe God is holding out on us if He doesn’t give us the things on earth we most desire. But God spoke us into being, He poured out the blood of His Son, and He filled us with His Spirit. The depths of God fill the depths of us. He is withholding nothing. He gave us all of Himself. The God of the universes gave every piece of Himself for us.”

Surrendering the Future.

I’m learning that living one day at a time is not just a lifestyle, but it’s a change in my thought pattern. It’s surrendering to God even our imaginations of our own desires. For as we construct our own ideas of where God is going to lead us, we ultimately set God’s perfect plan on a scale next to our own idea of what God’s plan will be for us. We can place our lives into our hands even by the thoughts we think. Instead, may we surrender even our thoughts so that will fully live by His strength each day, and not our own.

A word God spoke to my heart before bed last night:

You think you have given Me your future, but you still don’t believe that I have the best in store for you, as evidenced by your thoughts. Trust that I do, for I do. I will take care of you. And as you surrender your thoughts for the future, you will have the freedom to fully live in what I have for you RIGHT NOW. Not worried about what will happen, but excited for what I am doing in you and through you NOW. For My glory, not for a sense of security in your own plan. Continue to rest in My presence and in My character. No good will I withhold from you, My love.

I pray this speaks to you today. It sure has been convicting to me.

Deep Down.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” ~Jeremiah 17:7-8 

When I read this passage today, it struck me anew with insight. This is my prayer. That despite the “droughts” that enter my life, especially in times of waiting for the Lord to move, I can stand firm on the assurance that my roots are in Christ. As my roots are in Christ, He fills my longings for renewal and for growth. 

Do we truly hope in Christ? Is our confidence found in Christ, or is it found in the condition of our circumstances?

If our focus is attempting to gain a filling from an external source–whether it’s approval from those around us, or from the affirmation we receive from our occupation, we will never be satisfied. Our satisfaction will not come from these places, because they continue to leave us dry. However, the Living Water fully satisfies us and allows us to grow from within, to produce green leaves and fruit on the outside as evidence of His filling us.

We MUST be rooted down deeply into the Lord, the nourishment of our souls. What an AWESOME thought to ponder that we will not run dry or wither when we’re in Him, despite the harsh surroundings we are faced with.

Tears.

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Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” ~Psalm 126:5-6

Honestly, I have NEVER cried as much as I have cried this past school year. Tears fill my eyes on a regular basis, and I’m learning to accept it as an expression of how I feel and love so deeply.
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Many different things trigger my emotion. Whether I think about how much I love my family, the sweet memories of my childhood, the beautiful faces of my friends back home, the impact of certain individuals on my life, the pain some people have to experience on a daily basis, the longing I have for my sister Katie’s embrace, the beauty around me, or the immensity of God’s great love, I am left broken before the Lord.

Yet, God promises that He will record everytear we shed.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
   You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.” 
~Psalm 56:8

I believe that when we are truly broken before the Lord, we give Him the opportunity to be the strength in our weakness. For so long, I had been trying to conceal my emotion in order to appear like I had it “perfectly together.” Yet, as I’ve been learning SO MUCH this year about how broken I really am, I have realized how amazing it is that God’s grace covers my weakness.

I do not need to fear my tears, because if God’s grace is sufficient for me, that means that I’m able to give Him my every emotion, longing, insecurity, and struggle. When we recognize that God truly wants to know US, we begin to believe the truth that we ARE secure in His love. Because nothing is hidden from His sight, we can rest secure that if we share our deepest struggles with Him, we are not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know. What we ARE doing is giving these struggles to Him, allowing Him to work on our hearts and give us the comfort we so greatly long for.

The Gift of Grace and Sisterhood.

Today is March 18, 2013. Today brings back memories of this same date in 2006. The last day I saw my sister Katie in person, the last embrace I enjoyed in her arms. The last heart-to-heart conversation we had together.

She talked to me about GRACE.

She was a nineteen-year-old, and I was twelve. A twelve-year-old with MUCH to experience, and MUCH to learn in the next seven years. For some reason, Katie felt led by the Holy Spirit to talk to me about God’s grace on that morning of March 18th. As we lay down next to each other in the hotel bed (she wearing her sheep pajama pants), with her head propped up by one arm, she looked straight into my eyes. As she met my eyes, she was reaching my soul.

She asked me, “What do you know about God’s grace?”

I, being a good JBQer (with a meet later that day) stated, “Well, Ephesians 2:8-10. We don’t work to achieve God’s grace.”
She wanted to reach deeper.
She probed, “Exactly. We DON’T need to work for it. God has already given us His grace to satisfy us in our weakest moments. We DON’T need to work for it.”
My mind understood what she was saying but did not yet comprehend what she was talking about.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Honestly, it wasn’t until just this year that I’ve begun to grasp what God’s grace means for me. I knew that God’s grace had saved me from sin and the death that I deserve (which is mind blowing in itself!), but I could not grasp no matter how hard I tried that God’s grace was sufficient for me EVERYDAY. And I think the answer to my problem lay in my effort. MY effort. MY achievements. MY understanding. Up until this year, I have had the mentality that I need to work to achieve God’s grace. Even though I have heard over and over again that God’s grace is sufficient for me, I have not been reflecting this truth by the way that I have been living. 
So that made me think, Am I REALLY living like God’s grace is sufficient for me? For, if God’s power is made perfect in my weakness so that He can have the glory, why do I try to work to cover up my weaknesses before God, when He promises to be strong in those weaknesses? He promises that He will receive the glory by using us, mere broken vessels, for His Kingdom.
His GRACE is MORE than enough.
Wow.
And this is something I just have to rest in. But it’s hard to rest when all my life, I’ve been trying to work to understand. Yet, grace is incomprehensible. WHY would God send His only Son to die for our sins? WHY would He cover our sins to make us blameless before God? WHY would He choose to give us strength for each day, especially when we are so fragile and frequently fail? It’s His GRACE!
I know Katie’s heart wanted me to comprehend God’s grace. I know her heart longed for me to be freed from a legalistic mentality, a primarily achievement-driven Christianity. I know she wanted me to rest against the chest of a Savior who granted me His love and grace beyond my understanding.
And now, at nineteen years of age, my eyes are being opened to the exact message she shared with me on that hotel bed seven years ago today–when she was the same age I am at this very moment. And what a growing sense of sisterhood I feel when I ponder that I am growing in my relationship with God in similar ways that she was experiencing during her nineteenth year.

Her prayers for me are being answered daily as I ask God to help me receive His grace, and as I give Him my weaknesses so that His power can be displayed through them. 

Thank you, Katie, for your prayers and your beautiful love.
Glory to God!