Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dying to Self

Every day I want to lay my crown at the feet of the Jesus, delaying the instant  gratification of my selfish desires so that I may be able serve someone so much greater than myself.

So I set upon a quest, to die every day to myself. Every day I want to rise asking God how I can serve him, rather than telling God what he can do me for. I want to rise up, and bow down at the feet of Jesus, much like the song we sing in church, There's a Stirring.

This past weekend I took the windy roads home to Camp Deer Run. While the weather was scary, and at times I was driving 30 mph with my windshield wipers goings as fast as they could, I couldn't help but keeping driving. The piney woods of Camp Deer Run were whispering my name and for a number of reasons.

Camp has always been the one place I can go to step back and evaluate my life. It's my get away, because for some reason when you are disconnected from the world everything appears much clearer. While I'll admit I was stressed to be going back since I have 4 tests this week, the Holy Spirit continued to work on my heart until I was pulling in the gates, confident that I had made a right decision.

I've said it before, but this semester has truly been the most difficult one I've had yet. Not only have I struggled with my classes, but I have wrestled with God about what I want to do with the rest of my life. So this weekend, our director encouraged us to evaluate our life, almost as if he knew that was the primary reason why I was there. I had to get away from school, from College Station, to make some decisions.

Throughout the weekend we had several devotions, but one in particular stuck with me. This life I have been given, isn't about me. It's not about you either, but it's about serving God, our Creator. It's not about me. It's not about the struggles I have faced, but my life is being used to glorify a greater being. As I have wrestled with God every day this semester I have brought my requests to him, begging him to lead me, instead of asking him how I can serve him. I have selfishly been begging God for direction, when it has already been given to me.

Throughout 2 Corinthians 4, Paul speaks of our treasures in jars of clay. "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body."

How amazing is our God to chose us to serve as his vessels, his instruments to testify to his goodness?! We are chosen to die to ourselves so that we can reveal the life of Jesus Christ. Outwardly we are wasting away, but yet God is renewing us, and using us to show himself. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving us a greater eternal glory that far outweighs them all." Ya times are hard, but I have a bigger promise, an eternity with Jesus in Heaven.

So this brings up delay of gratification, which I am so thankful Janelle spoke to us about this weekend. We are called to die to ourselves, which means dying to our instant gratification. Because if we wait and delay it, we will one day be satisfied with the greatest reward of all.  So we set out to die to ourselves every day. By dying to ourselves, we are glorifying a greater purpose, which will more so much more rewarding.

Like I said, there's something about the piney woods that has a special power of healing hearts, and giving me clarity. I was so blessed and encouraged this weekend, which was what my soul was desperately needing. As Thanksgiving approaches, I truly thank God for Camp Deer Run and for the special place it will always hold in my heart.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fight

Over the past week, I have have found myself getting knocked down, getting up just to get knocked down again. Really I imagine it much like a classic fight scene in a movie. You know the one where the two guys are fighting and as soon as one throws a good blow, he's returned one back in the gut, and it continues over and over again? Ya, that's been my life. Last week I had four tests, and I know I have no place to complain because I guarantee you, there are hundreds of students in the same position as me with several difficult tests, papers to write, and all sorts of nonsense that college professors throw at us and laughingly walk away as we try to juggle it all. I will admit, I am becoming a better juggler, but I still struggle as a test taker. One by one, each test I took gave me a good punch in the gut, until finally on Thursday I was on my knees, done with the fight. Especially after the punch Organic Chemistry gave me, you might just call that one a black out, but I'm not saying these things for pity, or for you to feel sorry for me. I'm saying it because that's what life does. It gives us several hard punches, and then it's up to us how we go about fighting. I'm guilty of sometimes giving us, and throwing a Katelyn Pity Party for one, because sometimes I don't understand why or what I'm fighting for. Then there are the days where I like to give life a big punch back in the face, like today, where I wrote three lab reports, made a 100 on a quiz, and finally managed to pick a topic for a disease research paper. Days like today are easy, but in a college world the problem is that these good days don't come as often as the stressful days. The days where we feel inadequate, where we struggle to pass, get to class, and even struggle to see the good.

And that's a problem. When we forget to see the good, when we forget to see how GREAT our God is and we forget to see blessings and not problems, we fall. We fall right into a self-pity party for one. A party so overwhelmed by the ways of the world that we forget to turn to God for help. Lately I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. What my focus has been is taking some of the prophets from the Old Testament, and looking at how they dealt with life. Let's be honest, life has never been easy for anyone, and so why not use the greatest book of all time to learn to navigate it better? Anyway, as I was reading through Isaiah 66, what I took from this chapter is somewhat a stretch, but I truly think it applies to every single one of us. God will not cause pain, without allowing something to be born of it. We all go through hard times, through hard tests, or even struggling as medical tests come back and they aren't what we had hoped, what we had been praying for for months. We all get bad news from our friends, we all have reason upon reason to be discouraged. But God promises us that he will be there for us. He will hold our hand as we navigate through life's punches, and if we allow him to, he will show us the good in the bad.

God is good all the time, was a saying I had my campers repeatedly say every day at Deer Run this summer, and I foolishly forgot it myself. But today I remembered. I remembered that God is good, even if I failed an organic test. God is good because today he humbled me, and helped me realize that once again I have found myself trying to make MY plans for my future His, when it should be the other way around. God is good, because he always provides. God is good because he does comfort me when I feel like I can't take life's punches, and he provides me the strength to fight back. God is SO good, and I have forgotten to take time to realize that. No matter the punches life throws at us, our God is still bigger and is still better than them all. He is the ultimate fighter, and his son died for us so that we could spend an eternity with him.

Now, tell me that news doesn't build you up and give you the strength you need to make it through tomorrow? I know that I'm ready to keep fighting, because my God is good, and if I allow him too, he will show me his goodness in all things.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Letting Go

"To let go isn't to forget, not to think about, or ignore. It doesn't leave feelings of anger, jealousy or regret. Letting go isn't winning, and it isn't losing. It's not about pride, and it's not about how you appear, and it's not obsessing or dwelling on the past. Letting go isn't blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts, and doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness. It's not giving in or giving up. Letting go isn't about loss and it's certainly not defeat. To let go is to cherish memories, and overcome and move on. It's having an open mind and confidence in the future. Letting go is accepting. It's learning and experiencing and growing. To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and made you grow. It's about all you have, all that you had, and all that you will soon again. Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving. Letting go is growing up. It's realizing that the heart can sometimes be the most potent remedy. To let go is to open a door, and to clear a path, and set you free…"

I came across this quote this afternoon as my roommate and I were leaving church. Stuck in the traffic from all of the cars trying to leave the parking lot, we usually pass the time listening to the radio or looking online at Pinterest. When I found this quote, it literally took my breath away and stabbed me in the gut for a millisecond. It rings so true for many circumstances in my life right now as I am prayerfully making decisions about my summer, my future, and my life in general.

To bring you up to date on my life, I'm doing a lot better. For a while my family was truly concerned I was in a stress depression, but with the ease of dropping a class, my happiness has significantly improved. I have a tendency to 'overload' myself just like everyone else in my family. While I'd like to say I've learned from this mistake and I'll never do it again, it's very likely I'll always load my plate with obligations, and many activities that'll keep me busy. But, what I have learned is that it is ok to let go.
And so, I'm beginning a process of letting go. Speaking truthfully, there have been many little things that have brought this concept of 'letting go' to my mind lately. Some are painful, and some have brought me to tears, but through pain I have seen others let go, and I have seen many embrace a new life, not necessarily better, but a new life that God is leading them towards.

Every Friday I volunteer for three hours at St. Joseph's hospital as a patient transporter. It is the highlight of my week as I have said before, and I love being able to interact with patients. I always leave with stories too, of the mad patient, the elderly married couple both hospitalized insisting on sharing a room, or even the patient who tried to escape the hospital. I say this because there is never a dull moment, and I love leaving with a story. Sometimes though, the stories aren't funny or even frustrating, but sometimes the events of the hospital are just straight up heart-wrenching. Tragedy is inevitable, especially in a hospital, but even after 3 months I can't help but hurt when I witness a trauma rush into the ER. When I hear the screams of a small child, or see the blue butterfly signaling the loss of an elderly patient, I can't help but catch my breath and pray for God's healing hands for those individuals involved. But what touches me most, is the number of nurses there in the event still offering kind words and extending their love. This past week, a fatal trauma came in and while the ER walls still echoed of sirens and piercing cries, a nurse turned to me and a fellow transporter and said something along the lines of, 'while the trauma was horrible and the pain to come will seem unbearable, there is peace in letting go and allowing God to help you give you the strength to keep moving on in life.' Her words while softly muttered in private, truly touched me.

While the nurse was speaking of letting go of a loved one, I, too, can see how in life sometimes we must let go to embrace change. Right now I am doing my best to let go of of my summer home, CDR, in fear that I won't get to return for another summer. While I will never let go of my memories, or my strong support for the work done, I am trying to let go of my role as counselor and embrace a new role, a new chapter. I am accepting the hard truth that I do have to embrace my academic responsibilities so that I can graduate on time.

But, while I try hard to let go, I still struggle. It's hard to let go when I still have a passion for my campers and when I hear of their hardships my heart breaks a little bit. It's hard to let go of something when you aren't finished fighting for it yet. When I still want to nurture my campers, and lead them to Christ, it's hard for me to let go, because selfishly I still want to be their 'favorite counselor.' So, it is a struggle I face daily. I struggle to let go when my summer plans are uncertain, but I still want to hold on to the hope that I may be able to return to the piney woods.

Through it all, through my uncertainty and my doubt, I know that God's plan is prevailing. I know he is leading me towards green pastures, and that no matter what I spend my summer doing, I will have the opportunity to love his people and share the good news. Instead, I'm letting go of my 'strict plans' I had for my life. I'm going to do my best to embrace my uncertain future and I excitedly look forward to the places God will take me.