Renewed.

“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”
 ~2 Corinthians 4:16b-18a 

When I read this specific passage out of 2 Corinthians 4 earlier this week, it struck me in a whole new way. What an incredible thought to think that even though our bodies continue to grow older as time goes by, we are just on the verge of a beautiful adventure and growing experience with Christ. While we are able to notice our bodies aging through such signs as wrinkles and gaining gray hairs, we are most likely not able to physically see our daily spiritual renewal in such a tangible way. Yet, still we invest our faith and trust in God, who promises that He is renewing us each day. We do not need to fear His leaving our side, for even in this moment as we have the heart’s desire to seek Him, He will only draw nearer to us as we live our days and enter into a beautiful eternity with Him.

"Laura, Will You Do the Dishes?"

This is a loving command I hear most days from my parents, to which I more or less answer, “Yeah! I’ll do them soon.” (Notice how I don’t include a specific time frame in my answer). 😉

Today, I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. Usually, I complete this chore during the daytime. I try to rush through the formalities of stacking the bowls a certain way and putting all the mugs in the same vicinity so I can move onto my next task of the day. However, tonight I waited until nighttime to do the dishes. As I trudged up the stairs to begin my not-so-favorite activity, I made sure to put my prized Tony Bennett tape “Perfectly Frank” into the music player to set the mood.

Then, I began to put the clean dishes in the cabinet. Each fork I picked up weighed heavy with dread, but somewhere in the midst of putting the dirty bowls into the dishwasher, I started to slow down and reflect upon the day. Instead of allowing the dishes to be mildly dirty as they went into the dishwasher, I began to wash down the dishes before setting them carefully in the cleaning appliance.

I got lost in my thoughts. Deeply entrenched in perspective. I considered the convenience of the task I so usually dreaded. I started to think about my missions trip experience in Honduras in the summer of 2011 when I and the rest of our team had to wash our dishes vigorously by hand. Along with hand-washing our dishes came a string of other “inconveniences” we weren’t used to such as not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet (and having to retrieve the toilet paper if one accidentally forgot the rule) or not having easy access to clean water.


I find that so often, my mind gets wrapped up in the routine of the day that I fail to perceive the perspectives I so firmly vowed I would keep after having such a humbling experience in a place like Honduras. I have had several experiences that have made me question why I view life as I do, yet when it comes to actually adjusting my way of thought after such questionings, I seem to frequently fail.

I think God knew I needed a moment like I had tonight. He knew that in my personal agenda of pursuing and accomplishing, that I needed to stop to remember some of the experiences that have challenged my thinking and my way of life.

From now on, I think I’m going to make my “doing the dishes time” an act of reflection–a time when I think about what simple moments in life having deeply affected my soul. I thrive on reflection, and too often don’t allow myself the time I need to be able to reflect.

So as I wipe the crumbs off the plates I need to wash, I will allow myself to envision the heaps of trash in the garbage dump our missions team ministered to in the countryside of Honduras. But even more than picture the endless trash at the dump, I will picture the peoples’ faces that lived in such a place. With fly-covered, dirty clothes, these people lived without a clear sense of purpose; they merely aimed to gather some food to eat at their next meal.

How did this experience change me at that moment? How does it affect me now? And what will I do about how I feel?
These are the questions I will allow myself to tackle about the life moments that come to mind. For, if I allow circumstances to affect me in the moment, but don’t give them the chance to change the way I think or direct the way I pray, then the moments of perspective were largely rejected by my heart.


I pray that through this time of allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart, that He’ll equip me to move to action with the passion stirred within me.
…just some midnight thoughts.

Summer Time & Friendships.

I am over a month into my summer vacation as of now, and it has been a time of adjustment, rest, and beauty. It took me close to forever to start unpacking my belongings from college–and I’d say that now I’m 98% unpacked. I’m thinking I might as well keep some things packed so that traveling back to school in August will be a more streamlined process… 🙂

On these summer days, I’ve been able to reflect upon the school year that’s just passed as well as the lessons I’ve learned throughout the months. I’ve spent time studying God’s word, journaling, and listening to His voice. I’ve been increasingly recognizing my need for fellowship, and I’ve been trying to seek out ways to grow with other believers during this time I’m home. I’ve realized to the highest degree how purpose-less I feel when I am not employing my passions the way I think I should be using them. This has led me on a journey of a new kind of surrender–trusting that God will use me to give Him glory, even when I don’t think I have the resources to do so.

I have encountered beauty all around me–from the sweet sound of the birdies chirping to the bluest skies to the pitter-patter of rain to the brilliant colors of the sunset. Summer seems to offer an enhanced chance for the individual to stay outside and marvel at God’s creation. (Although I usually admire the “pitter-patter of rain” from inside our house). I have also come into contact with beauty by being reunited with my buddies back home (as well as keeping in touch with friends at school). Friendship is a beautiful gift from God, and I am always amazed how joys are escalated and sadnesses are decreased when shared with a friend.

I am so thankful to be blessed with supportive friendships with these girls who I’ve known since babyhood:
We’ve enjoyed after-kindergarten McDonald’s dates.

~~~

We’ve also survived the VERY AWKWARD junior high years.

~~~

We’ve taken church trips together.

~~~

We’ve celebrated graduation parties.

~~~

We’ve gone a little insane sometimes.

~~~

We’ve been princesses.

~~~

We’ve celebrated life’s joys.

~~~

We’ve said college good-byes.

~~~

There’s about nine of us total (as well as a lovely lady who has been grafted in throughout the junior high years). I suppose being away at school for the past eight months (excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas break) has given me an even greater appreciation for the beautiful ladies God has placed in my life. As the years have gone by, we have definitely changed from the little girls we once were. We have different passions, desires, dreams, priorities, and callings. But then again, we haven’t really changed at all in some respects. Even after a school year apart from each other (and for some of us a school year together), we still regard our friendships with each other as being precious gifts. Time melts away in a laugh, a hug, a shared memory.

I know that this past year has triggered the beginning of a series of changes in the future. As more of us go off to universities in different parts of the country, it is inevitable that at least a couple of us won’t end up back home where we grew up. I expect that in the next five years, marriages will take place–maybe even babies–and God will lead us in the direction He has for us.

That’s why I cherish each moment spent with these not only childhood friends–but now adulthood friends. Memories are not only an occurrence of the past, but truly, some are yet to be created. Thank the Lord for summer reunions.

Victory.

Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
~2 Corinthians 3:12-18

I am celebrating freedom in Christ with all my heart. I am no longer bound up in chains. I am free, free, free! Because of Christ, I am free. Thank You, Lord, that You are making me more like You. From glory to glory. 

A Fragrance.

If you’re aware of some of my quirks, you’d recognize that I’m a little bit obsessed about scents. 

When I buy a new book or a new dress, I have to sniff it to take in what I have come in contact with. When I step into a Hallmark store filled with new items, I have to inhale the distinct scent of the place that surrounds me. Scents give me comfort, reminding me of where I’ve been. One of my favorite scents is that of the Minnie Mouse blanket I’ve slept with for the past…well…fourteen years. I love when it’s freshly washed and hung to dry and I can smell the summer breeze upon its fabric. I have an affinity for pretty perfumes, but after I buy a certain perfume and wear it for a specific time in my life, I can’t wear the perfume in a new chapter of life. I suppose this is because when I smell Hilary Duff’s “With Love” or “Vera Wang Princess,” my mind is transferred to memories of going to the National Spelling Bee in 8th grade or joining the tennis team my freshman year of high school. I feel that certain scents should be preserved for the past, and that I should continue to experience new perfumes to serve in conjunction with new life experiences. In fact, I’ve had daydreams about becoming a perfume saleswoman and matching individuals up with their “perfect” scent…

You may be questioning why I just spent so much time talking about my nose’s preferences. 
I address my love for fragrances because as I was reading 2 Corinthians 2 tonight, I came across a passage in verses 14-17 where Paul addresses followers of Christ using “nose imagery” and it caught my attention:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,  to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (ESV)
Paul notes that we carry a fragrance of Christ in our lives as He continually leads us into victory. As we live for Christ, we serve as the “aroma” to God of Christ’s love in us. As aromas have the power to pervade a room, so our lives are able to pervade the presence of God to people around us, allowing God’s love to be breathed into them. The fragrance of Christ we carry to people around us can be convicting to their hearts, allowing them to glimpse the abundant life God has to offer those who are fully surrendered to Him. We are called by God to carry His aroma, and only He can equip us to be carriers of His life-giving aroma.

Sometimes I ponder the beauty of God’s plan–specifically how awe-striking it is that He has a plan for each of His children and that He connects us all together as the body of Christ in order to advance the Kingdom of God. I believe God has a unique plan for each of our lives, meaning that He creates each of us to metaphorically be a different thread in the tapestry of His Kingdom–essential and distinct. In relation to the above passage from 2 Corinthians, I tend to believe that God allows a unique fragrance to be poured out of each of His children. We are each vessels of His sweet aroma, and as a whole community of believers, our collective scent is even more intense and pervading than the aroma we carry on our own. We are as diverse as the instruments in a cohesive symphony. As we each allow Christ’s love in us to be given off as an aroma, each perfume scent of the individual joined to the community of believers becomes a mixture reflecting Christ’s perfect love for us and for the world.

All is for His glory, and as we allow Christ to be glorified in our lives, He will allow His sweetness to be released in our lives. I’d like to think that the fragrance I carry has hints of flower blossoms, with a trace of amber and a touch of mahogany. However, the sweetness God calls us to give off to others has more to do with how Christ is reflected in our lives, not the physical scent we carry. If we are living in Christ’s love, then others will glimpse love. As we are seeking God’s truth, the Spirit leads us into all truth and allows for us, in turn, to speak this truth into others.

I’d encourage you to think about the aroma you are allowing Christ to release through you. Is it sweet? Let’s ask Christ to make His fragrance sweet through us, and as a result, He will increasingly use us to be a testimony of His goodness.

My prayer is that the aroma I offer to God is even sweeter than my perceived prettiest perfume, and that this fragrance is readily noticed by others around me. I pray that the beauty of Jesus is truly, truly seen by the way that I live my life. I pray that I bear fruit for His Kingdom daily, not to reflect anything that I’ve done–but to reflect everything God has done for me.