Incomplete Reflections on the work of God in my life thus far…

I have been learning in my heart what it means to be justified. Learning that, as a justified person, I am clean already. Shame, for the justified believer, should be a foreign experience. It is only when we believe the lie that our justification is not complete that we experience shame.

It’s funny, in a way, because Austin and I discussed this very topic on the way down here. I regarded it as a purely intellectual conversation–never realizing how much the very thing impacts my own life. Never realizing how much I struggle in my heart to believe that very thing.

I have been learning that I am not Christ. I am not the Promised Savior. I am not the one who gives or sustains life, or creates order in the world. I did not speak the universe into existence. That’s what God did. That’s His role, not mine.

When I dreamed as a child that someone was killing my brother John, rather than trusting God, I took it on myself to be his life sustainer. When I dreamed of my friends being led astray to false doctrine that would only entrap and kill them, I took it upon myself to be the truth bearer and rescuer.

When the Daisies needed a teacher, I was the Savior. When no one would play the tambourine, I was the rescuer. When a Sunday School teacher, a nursery coordinator, a PowerPoint person, a middle school girls minister were needed, I was the deliverer. But I’m not. I can’t save. That’s not my job.

Lastly for now, I’m learning that there’s nothing wrong with being a child. In fact, there’s something incomprehensibly good about being a child. But I lost that long ago. I was still a child when I took on the job of a woman; still a child when I started to deny myself the joys of childhood. And now I am old. Old beyond my years. World weary and battle-scarred. I am an old woman at 21 years of age.

I was in the eighth grade when I wrote The Holy of Holies–an almost completely autobiographical story. I was in eighth grade and my child-heart was already almost dead. Right now, I feel like I’m mostly just grieving for a childhood lost and praying that God would restore to me a child-heart again. I want to see again with the eyes of the child who was “not meant to die, but to be forever fresh-born.” (G. MacDonald)

Snippets of E-mail messages from today

E-mail 1:

I was going to go in to fill out paperwork for doing laundry at Shands
hospital today, but they called back and said that the temp agency doesn’t actually do laundry and they need to run background checks on everybody–so it’ll be at least a week before they can start anyone. So I’m back to job search mode. Blah! And I already paid ten bucks to get a TB test done at a local clinic. What a bummer!

We had a “stick night” last night–which was basically just a time of
intense sharing, pouring out our hearts to one another. It was definitely amazing. I just can’t get over how God placed our group together in just the right way, so that we can all minister to one another and help each other through our struggles. God is totally awesome!

Email 2:

I found a job. Amazingly. I’ll be doing housekeeping at the Sawgrass
Marriot Resort. I think it should be pretty neat. If I understand right,
my wardrobe is a company issued black dress with a little white apron. I’ll feel like I’m wearing a costume the entire time. Our pay will be $8 per hour, which is fantastic as a starting wage for seasonal full time work. My orientation is at 3 pm. I’m borrowing Stacy Plouzek’s car right now and had my first experience with Jacksonville roads this morning going to apply and interview. The streets are definitely less scary when I’m in control of the vehicle. Riding with my team leader, Allie, can be somewhat, shall we say, harrowing.

We’re having problems with our AC–if the AC is turned to “cooler”
which tends to equal about 50 degrees, the room is frigid but fine. If
the AC is on anything more than “cooler” the room gets unbearably wet. Even at 65 degrees, the room was too humid to sleep in–our clothes and sheets were all wet. Yuck! But it doesn’t seem we have many options. Oh well.

Email 3:

My orientation was great! I had to sign about 50 different papers, but I managed to get it all done. Okay, but that’s not the truly exciting thing about the day. I settled down to a nap around 1:30 and was planning on about a half an hour. But then I got interrupted by first this and then that. Finally I fell asleep–only to be awakened from a now somewhat deep sleep to the sound of someone knocking on my door. It was Eric (who will be working at Sawgrass Marriott as well). He was wondering if we were going to leave for orientation soon. It was 2:40!!! And we had to be there at 3!!!! Yikes! Thankfully, we made it there on time.

Tonight we had a “rally.” Jerry Bridges was our speaker and he spoke
about how justification is by faith in Christ Jesus. He said something
kind of interesting. He said that after salvation, many Christians tend
to think that the rules have changed, that now we relate with God on the basis of our own performance. But that’s not true. Galatians 2:20 uses the present tense in reference to justification, saying “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.” Although justification is a past event, it is also a present reality. When God looks at me, He sees me as holy.

That was particularly powerful because I think I have a tendency to think that justification means that God stuck a piece of paper in my file saying that I’m holy. And at the judgment seat of Christ, He’ll look at me and say, “My what an awful person you are. Let me check your file.” Then after He checks my file, He’ll be like “Oops. This says you have Christ’s righteousness.” But that’s not how it is at all. When God sees me, He doesn’t see my sin or my old sinful nature. He sees Christ. Period. That’s it. I am righteous in His eyes. The end.

Kernan Boulevard Baptist Church

Church was nice. We were at Kernan Blvd Baptist Church. The people seemed friendly, although somewhat old. I met a nice older couple named Gloria and Charles. They weren’t members of the church since they actually are just in Jacksonville for a while as Charles is awaiting a medical procedure. But they were quite nice. I got a hug from another older woman who seemed to be in her early seventies. She said she doesn’t believe in handshakes. I don’t think she gave me her name though.

Our group goes to church with Clint’s group–Bryce, Jared, and Patrick. They are the same group we had our date with on Friday night. It was kind of neat to spend a bit more time with them between the service and lunch afterward. One of the guys said that he shook the hand of the person next to him no less than 3 times. Wow! I was glad to have been sitting on the end, with only one person I knew beside me. That enabled me to get to know the people I didn’t know better. Hence meeting Gloria and Charles.

An interesting note about Kernan Boulevard Baptist Church is that their statement of faith proclaims that they “DO NOT BELIEVE THAT SPEAKING IN TONGUES IS SCRIPTURALLY ACCEPTABLE FOR OUR DAY AND DO NOT PRACTICE OR TEACH IT.” (Their emphasis.) I’ve seen a lot of churches and para-church organizations that “don’t talk about what they don’t talk about”, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen the fully ANTI position laid out in a statement of faith. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to stay a bit quiet to avoid getting kicked out! Just kidding. I’m sure they wouldn’t kick me out, but I don’t doubt they’d be praying hard for my salvation!

They have a orchestra concert for their Sunday night service tonight so Amy and I are going to check it out while Veronica attends mass. Perhaps some other week we can join her for mass–which is in English, you know, due to the decision of the second Vatican Council to affirm proclaiming the word in the vernacular.

More time in JAX

Our date on the beach…was amazing. We weren’t told anything except that we were to wear beach clothing, but when we arrived, all the guys were wearing fanny packs. (Yep, you heard me right. Fanny packs. Like, bum bags!) They had candy and water to share and some even had headlights for when it got dark.

So at this point, you’re thinking…what on earth were they doing out there? We were playing in the sand. Talk about having a blast! We created a ginormous sand octopus with tentacles that writhed under and over one another. His name of Oscar–Oscar the octopus. Beautiful! We were about halfway done when the rain started pouring. After it had slowed down, we bailed him out and completed him. We then took tons of pictures, none on my camera. Hopefully, I can find a way to get some from Clint.

After that, the guys went to the supermarket to get some ice cream while the girls changed. We ate our raspberry sherbet and vanilla ice cream with or without dark chocolate topping or Reese’s crackle topping in one of the lounges and hung out a bit. It was fun. (Almost forgot–one of the guys had some homemade oatmeal cookies. We ate those too.)

Today all the Shands hospital people went to get our TB tests and then on to Evangelism training. It rained for a solid hour when we were about to go out onto the beaches, so we didn’t get out there until two. Veronica and I walked at least a mile along the beach without meeting anyone we could talk to. Mostly, it was just guys who were out in the choppy weather and off/on rain. So today’s beach evangelism was less than amazing.

After beach evangelism, we girls dressed up real purty and went out with another girl team to Copeland’s Famous New Orleans Bar and Restaurant. I had the Jambalaya which was expensive but good. I’ll have the leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow. Now, I’m taking it easy, catching up on my weblog and planning to spend some time in the word this evening. Blessings!

First Days in JAX

I’ve been to the beach twice in as many days. And I have a feeling that our date tonight is at the beach as well. I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or not. I’m not too sporty and definitely don’t need a tan. And I discovered that I’m still not sure if I like the beach or not, but I absolutely love the ocean. It’s so immense, so alive. And I am so small in relation to it. It gives me a sense of perspective. I could so easily be lost in that water–in the crashing waves, in the wind’s roar, in the birds’ call. Today a journaled as I sat at the beach: “It’s not hard to know the glory of the Lord in this place. I can see it in the waves, hear it as the sea calls out and the birds respond. The sea, the wind, the waves, movement on the sand, children laughing. And the sun’s silence reminds me that God speaks through the wind and the waves, the storms, and the loud; but sometimes He simply speaks through the quiet.” As the other girls lay sunbathing–reading or listening to music–I sat there and contemplated the words to the song “Still, I will be still.” Stillness is such an elusive thing for me. I am used to running and dancing and serving and staying busy. Stillness I do not know, nor does it know me. But today I took a glimpse at stillness in the midst of the ocean’s ceaseless busyness and I rested. And it was beautiful.

My team is wonderful. Allie is our team leader. She’s loud, she describes her driving as “aggressively good” (a euphemism for crazy), and she has an amazing testimony of God’s greatness. Amy is probably the quietest of us, but that doesn’t mean she sits back and lets everyone else do the talking. She’s always coming up with some way to direct our attention back to God. Yesterday, she directed our conversation towards how we can see God in the ocean, in the seashells, and in our everyday lives. Sandra (with the a as in “hat”) comes from Jacksonville and therefore knows the area quite well. She is probably the most flamboyant personality on our team. Veronica is from Kansas and her voice and mine are virtually indistinguishable when we’re both lying down. She reminds me a lot of myself except that I talk more. She’s more likely to draw people out and get them to talk about themselves than I am. All three of my team members and I share a room. We have two bunkbeds. All of them run. They’ve invited me to join them, but I don’t think I have the stamina to start off with their normal morning run. So, we’re going to figure out some sort of exercise rotation that includes a walk/run combo so that I can work my way up to joining them.

Friday night (tonight) is date night. Our team was asked on a date last night by a male team. They dropped a bottle on a fishing line from a railing while we we’re all standing on the bottom floor of the dorm. The message in the bottle said something to the effect of: “Girls are good, God is better.” The inside of the card read, “But you can’t ask God on a date. Please join us Friday night at 7 in the lobby. Wear beach attire.” We scrawled our answer back and let them reel the bottle back in. “We accept.” So tonight–we have a date.

We haven’t gotten into Bible study hardcore yet, although perhaps we should. Our first Bible study meeting is next Wednesday. Tomorrow is beach evangelism (so that’ll be my fourth time on the beach in three days–assuming the boys really are taking us to the beach.) And then on Sunday, we have church. We’ll be attending some sort of Southern Baptist church that’s a little ways away from where we’re staying. It should be interesting.

Reflections on road trips

Day 1: Frantically getting to know one another. Nontstop talking. Asking questions. Smiling so much your face hurts. Trying to be cute, attractive, funny. Everything must be equal. Why won’t he talk?

Day 2: Learning that silence is golden. Brief questions interrupting the quiet. Sharing a quote from the book I’m reading. Deep conversation. Resting.

Day 3: Comfortable. No need to speak. No anecdotes to relate. We’ve been doing it together. Sing to the music. Watch the road. Calm. Quiet. No worries. We are known to each other. Settling into the mundane.

The things I’ll miss

Life barrels along, and I’m down to just a few days before I leave for Jacksonville. Z-360 gave me a bit of a surprise going away party tonight. At least I managed to avoid all out, nose snotting tears. Instead I had just enough that the girls warned me that my mascara was running. Thank goodness I didn’t try to mascara my under-eyelashes. What is it about going aways that are so sweet and so melancholy? It wasn’t so much the gift of a beach bag–although that is much appreciated. But that my girls should recognize me. There are only so many times that a woman is allowed to rejoice over things accomplished, but I think tonight was one of those nights. It’s so gratifying to have so many tell me that I’ll be missed, or just give me hugs that tell me silently. The hugs and the kind wishes tell me that I haven’t wasted the past umpteen years of service. God has blessed me with my girls, and even if I don’t always feel like anything has accomplished, somehow these girls have seen just the tiniest bit of Christ in me. And that’s what I really care about.

I’ll miss so many things while I’m gone–Jeremy and Erin’s new baby, Ashley’s potty-training, the Z-360 summer trip, the search for a new youth pastor, the youth softball team’s games. My brother got his announcement that he’s a delegate to the Lancaster County Republican Convention. I’ve missed my chance to be a delegate for this cycle. And I’ll miss two sweet months of Justin and Brandon’s baseball lives, and Brandon might forget where we’re at in the Chronicles of Narnia. And Kaitlin will grow on without me, and Amanda will finish her Lord of the Rings figurines and improve her batting. All without me. Danielle and Jeremy will get married, and I won’t be there to see. So much will happen, and I’ll be gone.

But as Daniel prayed even tonight, “Lord, let her rest.” I take such joy in the busyness of loving the children and enjoying the youth and delighting in the elderly within our body. I spend so much time serving and doing and doing. And like Martha, so many times I am “distracted by much service.” I need to get away from it all so that I can rest. And I have the opportunity to spend two months seeking the face of God. And I can’t wait.

I said that one of my goals for this summer was to see more of what God’s plan for the church is. I think I’ve learned my first lesson. Because the church isn’t something esoteric that can only be tangled through by the most complex of thoughts. No, the church is Erin, who offered her encouragement and prayers and reminded me that the baby would still be here when I got back. The church is Casandra, who hugged me and told me I would be missed, who begged me to keep in touch. The church is Cheryl, who lets me borrow her kids to love and then sends me home with a new beach towel (from the kids) and flowers and cupcakes. The church is Jason, who reminds me, if he doesn’t see me again before I leave, to have a great trip. The church is Kaitlin who offers a hug and always says hi. The church is Carolyn who learns of my upcoming nose job, and not knowing yet that it isn’t cosmetic, just tells the Lord that that’s all right, she’d like for God to bless the surgery. The church is Hazel, who doesn’t really travel that well–but still plenty often. The church is the many who have told me they got my letter and they’re praying, excited about me going. The church is Dora, who offered me her best tips for not peeling when you sunburn. The church is Paula, who offered me my pick of Beach towels, even when I lost her letter in the midst of my paperwork. The church is Starla, who cleaned up lunch for me, even when she didn’t have to. The church is these people, and so many more believers, who choose to lay down their lives, to reflect Christ, to love others.

And now that my mascara’s completely gone, I should probably end my emotional writing. Tomorrow’s a new day, full of frantic rushing and crazy last minute details. I never really imagined how much could be included in leaving my life for two months. But I also see the grace of God in so many ways. Details fall into place, great friends support me, and the hand of God continues to sustain me. Blessed be His name forever!

Scared if I do

I’m scared if I do and I’m scared if I don’t. Last November, I knew exactly what to do this summer. I was going to Jacksonville. There was no doubt in my mind that that was the right thing to do. And then I got back to work at home and everything became muddled. I went back to thinking that the church needed me–I couldn’t leave. (Hello, Rebekah! Even our Pastor has gone on sabbatical! Why can’t you?) And I started to think that since my scholarship is on the way out the door, I can’t afford to give my summer to God. (Hello, Rebekah! Didn’t God promise to provide for you if you put Him first? He always has in the past.) And I started to think that if I went to Jacksonville, I’d have to grow. And I wondered if that was really what I wanted.

I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t do STP during the month of December. And then came January. I realized with startling awareness that all those excuses were the same excuses I’d been telling God before November–when everything became so clear. God had already roundly refuted those excuses. So why was I going back to them again? And so I knew that I must go to STP. I flirted with the application, thought about putting filling it out on my to-do list. I wavered, then my resolution grew. It was God’s plan. Just as I’d known in November, I knew now. I was supposed to apply for STP.

I hadn’t yet filled out the application when Jackie approached me tonight. She asked me to think about being a team leader. And all the questions that filled my mind threatened to make me rip up the application and say to heck with it. Can I really lead? Can I lead my peers? I don’t think they know what they’re asking. I’m not really that spiritual. I’m not sure that I’m really that good of a Christian. Can I really do it? Or have I just been really good at faking in the past? And what about leading anyway? I’ve never actually led anything at Navs before. Ever. Not really. I mean, I’ve given my testimony, served. I talk to people and participate in discussion and stuff. But I’m not a leader here. How do they even know that I have any potential–if I have any potential?

And what about getting away from a performance mentality? Would this put me right back into it? would this destroy my chances of taking time to spend with the Lord and with fellow believers instead of trying to be super-Christian and hold the church on my shoulders? And what about only being able to work a part time job? Lord, do You really provide? But I want to do it so much. Do you know how I’ve longed to lead? How frustrated I have been at having so many opportunities to serve–which I love–but never having the opportunity to truly lead. I want so badly to be able to live life with another person and help them to grow. I want so badly to learn to lead others into the Word. I want so badly to learn to empathize
for others–to weep when they’re weeping and laugh when they’re laughing. I want to be a leader. I want to learn it. I want to teach and be trained to do so. I want to lead and be trained to do so. I want to disciple and be trained to do so. But I’m scared to death to even try.

Are You really sufficient
When my cup can’t hold any more?
Are You really enough
When I’m empty?
When I sin
Are You still the One
Who ransoms?
When I’m lost
Are You still
the Good Shepherd?
And when I long
for a husband
Are you still my bridegroom?
Jesus are you?
Are you really enough?
How can I do this?
I’m dying inside?
Are you still my life?
I don’t feel it
Are you still interceding?
How I need it
Jesus, my Saviour
Jesus, my Lord
Jesus, my Lover
Jesus, my Life
I need it, I need You