Wednesday, April 30, 2014

the sickening sacrifice

Yesterday, we listened to a two-part sermon by Paris Reidhead titled “Victory”, dealing with the three main enemies {the flesh, the world, and the devil} of having victory in Christ, and how Jesus’ work enables us to overcome all three.

Satan has used the same three tools or tactics throughout the ages - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Reidhead walked through each of these and how they looked in ancient and modern cultures.

The parallels are pretty eye-opening.

The lust of the flesh in the Old Testament was made manifest in the worship of the Ashteroth - a goddess of sexual pleasure, and a dangerous slope of spiritualizing immorality in any way, shape or form, and lack of self-control.

The lust of the eyes showed itself when Israel continued to fear God, yet also served the heathen gods of the land - since superstition got the better of them, and they even saw supposed “results” from the idol worship, like good crops and health. Tangible results, so they stopped trusting in God’s complete provision.

But it was the final one that cut me - the pride of life. The ancient heathen god Molech is fiercely warned against all throughout the Old Testament. He was the god of security, position, status. As Reidhead began to head down that road, I began to feel sick to my stomach and put my hands over my face. Just the name of that god makes my insides go to mush. As he got into the description of the worship of Molech, I began to cry almost uncontrollably. Parents, desiring the good graces of this demanding and ever-hungry god, would bring their infant child to the image and toss it into the blazing inferno of the fire, alive, as a sacrifice. I’m not making this up, and I’m crying as I type this.

You might be wondering why I’m sharing this, why it matters, but don’t you see?! Our culture does the same thing. THE SAME EXACT THING. To try and say that tearing apart a child in the womb is somehow different or more humane than a blazing live sacrifice is complete lies. Millions of children are sacrificed in our country to the idol of ambition, position, convenience, and status.

I cried for several minutes, silent and grieved. Broken, crushed at the horrible reality acted out daily around me, even in my hometown. Mourning so many beautiful little ones whose lives have been snuffed out for the end goal of selfish ambition. It wasn’t even the focus of the sermon (and it was a powerful message too), but yet it shook me so much. Dear, sweet Kaley, sitting beside me, handed me a tissue and after a while I calmed down. As I glanced around, I saw that I wasn’t the only one shaken.

Afterwards, Kaley and I talked as we walked to lunch. And I realized that even though it’s awkward and difficult that I get so worked up about this every time I hear something of this caliber, I would rather be a crybaby every single time - in public or private - than be able to hear something or see something and not be moved at all.

I’ll take the "embarrassing" public tears over a 
heart of stone any day.

If this doesn’t grieve you, pray about it. Ask God to give you His broken heart for His little children who He has fearfully and wonderfully made. They’re weak, helpless, innocent, silent, and vulnerable. But they have a big God, a loving Father, and He is and is going to continue to fight for them….using us. Be available, ready and willing to tear down the high places erected by our generation.

Monday, April 28, 2014

the chocolate bunny.

{this is a modified, slightly expanded version of my email update I sent out yesterday}

Hello, dear ones!

Here I am, over two weeks since I left, and am just now sending out an update.

I’m alive and well, loving being back here for a season. I honestly forgot how much I loved this place, and with fifteen of us here from my summer semester, it feels like we never left.

After arriving on Wednesday, April 9, I spent the first five days just settling in. Of course, the first thing I did was run/walk a mile with Morgan and Carrie on Thursday morning and the altitude nearly killed me. Ha! I guess you don’t just automatically adjust back even if you’ve lived here before. Well, well. Live (or die) and learn, right? :P Oh, right - then we all participated in the His Little Feet 5K that Saturday. Let’s just say I was a *little* sore afterwards. *cough*

Orientation Monday evening (April 14th) kicked off the semester, and we’ve been running non-stop since! Each week has a theme, and all our sessions and reading line up with that. We have one Ellerslie staff teacher per week who teaches the afternoon sessions, and the morning sessions are either a video of Eric, or we listen to the audio of a sermon from a hero of the past on the same theme. It’s quite the smorgasbord - I’m loving the different perspectives. Last week’s theme was The Word of God in Text (with Mr. Dan), and we just finished up The Word of God in Person (with Nathan). Today we started in with the theme "In Christ" - Eric's our main teacher this week. Two weeks down, five to go! But time is flying. Too fast.

Homework has been more intense than Basic, but so very rich and it drives us to Jesus in so many ways. Our teachers cannot emphasize enough that it’s not the homework they want us to get, it’s Jesus. He’s our main focus, He’s the reason we’re here - and even though knowledge and learning are important, they pale in light of Him. We’ve been doing a lot of memorizing - you all can test me on my Proverbs when I get home….or grill me on the books of the Bible and how Jesus is the fulfillment of each one. Fun stuff! 

My roommates, Ellenore and Rachel, are lovely - it’s fun to be with people I hadn’t really met before. I’m the oldest in the room by eighteen months…but the shortest by several inches. Oh, the irony! Ellenore and I are so much alike it’s a little odd - everything from musical theatre to Bolthouse Farms smoothies to our love for His Little Feet to coconut oil. Rachel has such a diligent, sweet spirit - she keeps us on track and adds a sparkle to room.

This is "my own little corner" - my happy spot and workplace. If you get a letter from me, it was probably written here (and I have written some - just have to get stamps! :D), and this is where my email updates come from too. Just so you can visualize where my cyber-voice is coming from. *grin* Oh, and in case you missed it, sitting on my desk (until two days ago when I finally ate it) was a chocolate bunny my mama sent out to me for Resurrection Sunday. She also sent a whole rainbow basket of candy and plastic eggs for me to cry over share. And it made a lot of people happy, not just me, so that's why I named this post what I did. *chuckle*
Many of my friends from the summer are here as well, it’s AWESOME to be with them again. Bonds in Christ are so strong - these people are my spiritual family and even thought it’s been less than a year since I met any of them, it feels like decades. This morning, my breakfast table ended up being seven of my "basic family" plus one...and we had a hilariously wonderful time just being together - I really don't know what I'd do without them. :) And the new friends I’ve met are equally amazing and it's hard to even remember who's from which class, and the fellowship is pretty fantastic. 

This past weekend was the “Taste of Ellerslie” conference - so there were quite a few people on campus who aren’t students, and the schedule was really different. The whole thing was very encouraging, and I know it was life-changing for many of the attendees. Funny thing, Sunday morning, right when every was leaving, we walked into my dorm after church to discover there was an overflowing toilet (basically siphoning water straight from the well and dumping it everywhere) that had been running for hours and flooded the upstairs hallway and two rooms upstairs, as well the downstairs hallway and two rooms downstairs. 

So we spent Sunday afternoon moving **everyone** out of 400 (my dorm) into 300 (the other girls dorm) and 100 (the currently mostly vacant HLF wing) for a few days so the guys can fix and clean up the mess. Crazy times! One big slumber party - forty-odd girls in one dorm. We’ll have fun, despite logistical challenges :) My bed in the middle one in the picture below, in the upstairs common area :)

Jesus has been so faithful the past two weeks, bringing me to the end of myself and revealing more of Himself. He truly is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him - and even though I’m barely scratching the surface, I get so lost in all that He is that it’s overwhelming. We serve a big God! It’s so easy to get caught up in the little distractions going on around us and miss Him, but if our focus is on Christ as our North Star, it’s incredible how everything else falls away.

I appreciate your prayers - there’s a lot going on out here, a lot on the brain, but I’m so at peace that it can only be explained by Jesus. Going specific, pray that I would rest in His sovereignty, trust that His plan and timing are always the best - especially as I’m praying through what I’ll be doing next year. Jesus is in control, and He works all things for our good!

I wrote this classic hymn into my journal this week, as it has been so so pertinent to my life the past few weeks. I challenge you to read these lyrics with new eyes and an open heart, and let Jesus press you closer to Him.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

meditation for the day {4.23.14}

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 
~ Matthew 11:28-30

{pictures taken two weeks ago back in weeping cherries out here in the CO, sadly}

Monday, April 21, 2014

{adventures in africa} from the home visits

"Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." - James 1:27

Sunday, April 20, 2014

thankfulness {resurrection sunday}

Christos Anviat!
Christ is Risen!

I'm overwhelmed with thankfulness today - just basking in it. It should be Thanksgiving today. I guess every day is a "thanksgiving day" of sorts. Hm.

Anyway, obviously today I'm thankful for Jesus. I'm thankful that today we're not just celebrating His miraculous resurrection from the dead, but also *our* deliverance for the slavery of sin and burning torment of hell. It's a wonderful, humbling, thankfulness-inspiring thought.

On that note, I thought I'd share of the things I'm thankful for from the past ten days. Be ready, there's quite a few!

I'm Thankful For...
...the beautiful seventy-degree weather that greeted me when I arrived, as well as the snow that dusted everything last Sunday, and the return of the seventies (haha) this week. Gotta love Colorado weather!

...the way God has used every session I've heard, even before the semester started, to press me deeper into Him and reveal things in my life that I didn't even know were there.

...getting to spend my first week on campus sleeping in Grammie's room. Jesus knew I needed her! What a precious time.

...the grace given to stay on top of the homework *and* apply for a job for this next year at the same time.

...Jesus' faithfulness even when I was stupidly stressing and allowing fear to get in the way of trusting in His timing and will. Praise the Lord for the joy in my soul this weekend as I sheepishly saw my foolishness in light of His sovereignty.

...the way not being home for Passover and Resurrection Sunday has challenged me to focus on Jesus when my heart aches. This is part of growing up, and He's going to be with me even when I feel alone.

....Morgan and Carrie and the precious way that they are family to me. Spending Thursday night in their room with Janna, eating matzah and charoseth, drinking grape juice, and sharing stories about what's God's doing in our families was such a sweet way to pass an evening that could've been very hard for me.

...being able to sit with Morgan and Corbin and Carrie and Travis during worship today and "be family" for each other. So, so, so blessed by them all.

...the teachers and staff here at Ellerslie who press us into Jesus, and encourage us to push ourselves harder than we thought we even could - all without losing sight of our ultimate goal: to be conformed to the image of Christ.

....the birth of Mike and Christa's precious little girl the other night - oh, how I love celebrating new life!

...all the lovely reunions the past week as sisters and brothers in Christ from my summer semester arrive on campus, or come visit. It's beautiful to see that even after an eight-month separation, we're still just as close as we ever were.

...spending hours talking with dear people about their lives and how God's working and moving, and practical ways we can be preparing ourselves for whatever He calls us to next.

...watching the sun set over beautiful Ellerslie lake. It never, ever, EVER gets old.

...the memories that wash over me as I walk this campus. So many amazing life-changing moments have occurred here for me - it's such a joy to be back.

Just a little of what's been filling me with joy. The homework is intense - we're memorizing Scripture, reading Scripture and studying Scripture - but it's making us think, stretching our minds and enlarging our understanding. That's what homework is for, right?

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, 
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, 
rightly dividing the word of truth. - 2 Timothy 2:15

Saturday, April 19, 2014

{adventures in africa} tigist.

Tigist is my sister Caroline's age. Actually, they remind me of each other. They both have spunk, they both love crafty projects, they both are leaders in their circle of friends. They're both young, with their lives ahead of them. But honestly, it's hard to realize just how different their lives are. 

It's hard to look at these pictures from the clean, air conditioned window of the Lake House and think of what Tigist is looking at each and everyday. Not the Ellerslie Lake...that's for sure. Right now {her time} her "neighborhood" is lit up with dull red lights about every eight to ten feet.

That's enough to make my stomach churn.

But she's still got that irrepressible smile, because she has HOPE. 

My sister is her sponsor, and the program is changing her life. She couldn't ask me enough questions about Caroline - hanging on every detail and asking over and over again when she was going to come visit. She prays for my sister every night, and has her letter carefully saved away. 

That's humbling. Who's sponsoring who, anyway?

I want to be there when they meet for the first time. I'll probably cry. They probably will too. And there's beauty in that - and there's beauty in the unity they have now, even though they're thousands of miles, an ocean, a sixteen hour plane flight apart.

I can't emphasize enough - it MATTERS. Relationships matter. "Sacrificing" time, money and energy matters. Every child in these photos is a real, live little person with a beating heart, an active mind, and an eternal soul. Once you see it, experience it, hug these precious ones and hear the'll never be the same again and you won't be able to shut up about it either.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

first weekend {HLF 5K}

Well, I can hardly believe I've been at this dear place for a week already! Time truly flies here like no where else. 

It's funny, I thought I was coming early just for the 5K and graduation...but God had SO MANY other plans for these early pre-semester days that I'm a little stunned and overwhelmed. The amount of truth, conviction, and blessing that has been poured out on my little life by so many people I know and love, not mention my beautiful Savior, has filled me with such joy that I can't explain it coherently.

BUT, all that said, the 5K was *incredible* and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I love supporting this ministry (as you know) so being there in person was lovely. And of course, the fellowship time with long-lost roommates, friends, and spiritual family was unparalleled. Joy, joy, JOY!

I spent yesterday in the airport, getting incoming students on shuttles and enjoying many happy reunions with dear, dear basic semester friends. Orientation was last night, first classes and homework assignments were today. It's going to be a challenging semester, but in light of eternity, it's all worth it! There are a lot of things on my plate, but because it all points to Jesus, it's happiness.

Here's to an epic, Jesus-filled, spiritually and emotionally stretching seven weeks!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

shameless plug for my kiddos

(I'm trying to get back into Colorado lingo - hence the "kiddos"^ I refuse to say "what-not", but I'm sure it'll worm its way back into my vocab soon enough)

Remember these precious faces?

I thought so. They've made multiple appearances on this here blog, and have been a sweet and powerful part of my life for almost eighteen months - starting before they even arrived in the United States.

These children are part of this year's choir for His Little Feet - a ministry based out of Ellerslie. To quote their website:
His Little Feet is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Windsor, CO. His Little Feet International Children’s Choir has consisted of children from China, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, India, S. Korea, and the United States, all of whom have traveled the United States being the voice for orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide.
As a part of the choir, the children participate in a culturally unique experience, while at the same time, impacting others in need around the world through the His Little Feet nationwide campaign called “(be in on it) – give. sponsor. go. adopt.” These four practical response opportunities impact thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide.
While the children are in the States, they also participate in His Little Feet’s Life Training Academy (academics; performing arts; and life skills training). The experiences these precious children have over this short season of time changes their lives forever. 
In a nutshell, that's HLF. ^

The Lord has been so gracious in not only allowing me to pray these particular children to the States over a period of eight months, but they also were on campus during my Basic semester, *and* have been in my hometown TWICE in the past six months to sing and share their testimony. I have been blessed to see first hand how HLF has impacted these seven children, and they are so very, very dear to my heart.

This Saturday, I'll be participating in a 5K walk/run in Windsor to support His Little Feet and raise money to bring children over for the 2013-2014 choir. As heart wrenching as it will be to say goodbye to Eni, Chhuani, Vena, Zuala, Dami, Kima and David, I know God has *big big* plans for their lives, and He also has a plan for the next set of children - wherever they are from, whatever their background - and I'm excited to open my heart to them when they arrive.

The neat thing is that y'all can be involved in this too! There's a couple ways you can do this.

~ First (quickest and easiest), you can sponsor me in the 5K by donating to His Little Feet {}. Every little bit counts, blessings on you if you feel led in this way!
~ Secondly, you can host a HLF concert in your area - it's a bit more work, but I cannot even BEGIN to tell you what a blessing it will be to you, your church and your church family to have these precious ones in your homes and lives for a few days.
~ Thirdly, if you can't host a concert, attend one! You'll be encouraged, challenged, and walk away with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Check the schedule and see if they're coming near you!
~ Finally, and Most Importantly, PRAY. Pray for God to work in mighty ways, drawing people from every tribe and nation to Himself, and opening the eyes of His people to plight of the fatherless. The Lord Himself has promised to be the Defender of the widow and orphan, and a Father to the fatherless - and if we are His hands and feet, His body, it's part of our ministry to serve those who the Father loves.

So there's my plug - I love these children, I love this ministry, and I love y'all, so naturally I want y'all involved in any ways you can be :)

If you give, attend, host or pray, I thank you for opening your heart to these children. There's no regret in giving our time and resources to things nearest to God's heart.

With love,

Saturday, April 5, 2014

life captured // 4.5.2014

I'm sitting in the family room, enjoying a cozy fire, pleasantly listening to the hum of activity around me. The boys and Susannah are in bed, Catherine and Alicia are working on math, Dad's filing his nails (??), Caroline's working on her Camp Nano book, and I'm playing around with/configuring my new baby 11" MacBook Air - affectionately dubbed "Agnes" (think: "It's so fluffy I'm going to DIE!"), and Mama (planner extraordinaire) and Dao are working on his and Alicia's wedding plans - with everyone else putting in their two cents and saying random things. Just a happy family evening - made more special with the "big kids" staying overnight...older siblings rock, just saying, and I miss them when they're not here.

We've been a little preoccupied with Captain America over here as well, since the four of us girls and Dad with a posse of friends went to see The Winter Soldier on Thursday night. More on that later, as I process what I thought of the movie. I hope to give it a pretty in-depth review on here in the next few weeks - I just want to wait till more people have a chance to see it so the discussion can be multi-sided.

And I'm feeling reflective. And my heart is feeling a little achy. In just three days, I'm switching my Virginia home for my Colorado home - and while I'm actually more excited about this semester than I was about my Basic semester - it's going to be harder to leave.

It's been seven months since I graduated, seven sweet and life-filled months here at home with my family. I knew the time would fly - but not this fast. It's not been easy, but the blessings FAR outweighed the struggles, and I wouldn't trade any of it for even a year at Ellerslie.

The Lord taught me dependence on Him. He's showed me that there is great joy and peace in waiting. I've spent many a late night on my knees, resting in His presence, filled with His grace and blessed to be His child. My Mama taught me to cook a chicken, plan meals in advance (harder than it sounds, folks), teach little people in a way that they respond, and helped me manage my time better. We've grown closer, not just as mother and daughter, but as sister and sister in Christ. She's a gem. My Dad taught me how to cut my brothers' hair, manage my time, turn everything over to the Lord and wait on Him with hope and expectancy, encourage my siblings and look for the best in them.

The beautiful truth is that I'm closer to each member of my family. I know my siblings better, we have more fun together, home life has a decidedly positive atmosphere for me. Some relationships have been harder than others to rebuild, and healing is still taking place, but the Lord is so merciful to us all.

God is doing great things and will continue to do great things in my life - and this semester is going to be no exception. Honestly, I'm struggling some with the thought that this seven month season is practically over and a new phase of my life is beginning. I'm not one to be daunted by change, but I do sometimes have a hard time moving on - I hold onto things, people, events, ideas. Even though I'm thrilled, giddy actually, and filled with joy for these next two months - leaving is bittersweet.

I'm loving these last few days at home - living them for all their worth, enjoying every minute. I've spent priceless time with friends and family, including a night with my older sister enjoying quality sister/bridesmaid time - since by the time I come back, she'll be two weeks away from her wedding day (!!!). So it's little things - movie nights with church friends, spontaneous hoedowns, coffee dates, relaxing evenings at home, wedding discussions and planning with Dao and Alicia, quiet devotion times with Mama and Dad in the morning - that I'm soaking up right now.

Do you ever get that feeling that you're living a story that ONLY GOD could be writing? That's the feeling I have. And it's better than a feeling, because it's true.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
- Psalm 84

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

{adventures in ethiopia} countryside.

An assortment of photos from our drives through the Abyssinian countryside. It's a strikingly beautiful country - I love the hills rising up out of the ground, barren of trees but covered in grass. I can only imagine their loveliness right after the rainy season when everything is green! 
{all pictures by yours truly}