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Archive for March, 2011

Ebenezer Hands

I mentioned my Ebenezer hands in a previous post.  And I’ve been wanting to review all the stones, so thought I’d let you share in my re-discovery of how far God has brought me!

I got the idea from 1 Samuel 7:12 where Samuel takes a rock, calls it Ebenezer as a reminder that God has helped them so far.  I thought Samuel was brilliant.  It’s not the first time in scripture that we see monuments of sorts meant to remind someone of something, but this one for me is the most potent.  So I took my ceramic figurine of open hands and I began to fill it with little stones.  On each stone, I would write an event, date and/or phrase to remind me of a time when God got me through something.  As you can see, it’s practically overflowing now!

So journey with me through stones and memories…

“Breath of Air” RGC Pool Jr. 1 – I think it was my second year as a camper, one day I found myself jumping off the diving board to go deep and kick off the bottom of the pool. Except this time I didn’t reach the bottom. I remember kicking furiously to get to the top. I remember looking up and seeing a lot of water still above me. I remember my lungs hurting. I remember opening my mouth and inhaling.  And I remember it being air.  A few moments later, I reached the surface…

Junior High School – Spent my 8th grade year (and a little of 9th) being the brunt of much teasing.  It got bad.  Really bad.  A few years later one of my teasers would apologize and admit “we wanted someone to make fun of, it happened to be you.”  Thoughts of suicide never came to fruition. And through it all, Divine arms carried me.

Reno 1996- Peace for the Move – Just about the time I had begun to reestablish myself back home and make friends again, Dad got a project in Reno.  It was only a 6 month project, so I was given the option of staying in the area and living with my grandparents.  But I had an incredible peace-that-passes-understanding about moving with them. So I did.  It was good.  It was God…

Angel 1996 – But before it was good, it was rough. I was homesick and introverted and not good at making friends. I’d been reading those “Angel in a Backpack” stories and (somewhat jokingly) prayed one night, “God, it would be really cool if I could have an angel to get me through this.”  A couple days later I went to see the guidance counselor who had offereed to hook me up with a senior (I was a sophomore) who could show me around and buddy up with me for a couple of weeks till I got settled, so I finally agreed.  Her name? Angel.

Seek Ye First 1997 RGC – It was my last summer as a camper at the camp I grew up at and loved. I had worked hard to memorize verses, clean my cabin, help my team win points so that my team or cabin could win the end-of-the-week ice cream party – because I had never been a part of a winning team or cabin all my years there!  My team wasn’t the greatest at the games nor my cabin mates so interested in “clean cabin” points.  I got upset. Then God reprimanded me by pointing out Matthew 6:33. I realized that the point of camp wasn’t ice cream parties, but growing closer to God and so I repented, focusing on Him the rest of the week.  And you know what? I got a bonus – my cabin won the ice cream party!

Fall 1997 “Hope Exists” – Fall of my senior year was stressful.  Mom and Dad were in Georgia wrapping up a project, but I wanted to graduate from my hometown so I was living with a family friend.  I was having all sorts of health problems (the beginning of my most major fibro issues that wouldn’t be diagnosed for 2 more years) and I was at the end of my rope.  Driving home one evening I was going around a sharp curve and the image of me simply letting go, missing the curve and ramming into the trees flashed through my head. And then I realized something.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel, even if I couldn’t see it yet.  That is something I still hold onto!

“Light the Fire” RGC – Not sure of the exact year, but during my time working at camp, during day camp one year we took some staff who were visiting from “across the pond” to Gettysburg to see around. We were in the tower-like monument up on Little Round Top, watching the sun set over the mountain and for an hour we simply stood there and sang praise songs to God.  And God was very present.  And that was my prayer, “Lord, light the fire again.”

A M.I.M.E. Team – I was gonna minor in theatre so early fall of my freshman year, I participated in the “Fresh Faces” program doing a mime piece with the senior theatre major who was to help me. In the audience was a senior who played piano for the church I would later end up going to. The week after I first visited that church, I got a call from the pastor, who had heard I did mime, asking if I could do a children’s program. I asked my new friends. They agreed to help. And our college mime team was born. There are many more God-moments associated with rotation of team members and the presentations we did… it was simply another God-thing!

PRIME 2001 – PRIME was my 7-8 (ish) month internship for my Youth Ministry degree.  It was with ACTION Ministries (now AIM Around the World). From my “hit the ground running” experience in Alaska, to my grandmother’s passing while I was away, to 9/11 and the East Coast Tour that followed, God challenged me, grew me, encouraged me, enriched me and, yes, carried me… for there was a time when I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to even finish my internship…

BS in Youth Ministry 2002 – I struggled with my fibro through college – wrist pain, other pain, fatigue and brain fog that made reading and comprehending very difficult.  Shortly after my diagnosis (which was just before my sophomore year), a friend said to me, “why don’t you just take time off to heal?”  My response, “Because there’s no way of knowing I’ll get any better than this, most get worse.”  It was another example of God carrying me through.  Like that “A” test book cover that I still have framed in my scrapbook…

Bathroom and Parking 12-2002 – It was near my birthday. I was new to grad school, having trouble finding a job and finding my health poor once again.  I was having a rough day, but God reminded me He is always there by showing up in the most simple of ways – like finding a bathroom when needed or a parking spot close when usually there are none…

Fall 2002 Provision – speaking of finding a job, it took much longer than I’d hoped – and planned for – when I got to seminary in Pasadena, CA.  Long after my saved-up money ran out, I was discovering that God provided what I needed when I needed it – not always when I thought I needed it.  A graduation card (with money) that came 6 months late, yet right on time.  An anonymous card containing a gift card for a local grocery store…

“Blessed” 2003 – It was my third visit to Dr. St. Amand and I had been on the guaifenesin protocol for about 4 months. I started in February, was showing improvement by March, left grad school in April to concentrate on healing at home and had come back for another check-up in the summer.  It was a good check-up. I was showing continued improvement. I was starting to feel better. When I got in the car to drive back to Pasadena where I was staying with friends, Martina McBride’s “Blessed” came on the radio. It was so true. So I sang along as I headed East on the 10 and worshipped…

Spring 2004 – Getting through the Darkness – The guai protocol means that I reverse what ever symptoms I had.  Spring 2004 I hit that point in my reversal where I was cycling through the nasty symptoms I’d had the fall of my senior year of high school.  I was dizzy, practically bedridden for a week (and living on my own) and questions and depression circled me with ever increasing fury.  But again, I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, even though I couldn’t see it yet…

“Voice of Truth” 2005 – I was feeling a bit burnt-out.  I felt the need to be around some AIM people – since they are so on fire for God – and so I called up Kim of the Apple Valley team and basically asked if I could come hang out for the weekend.  To get away from things a bit. She said sure and turns out they were participating in a showcase of Christian dance ministries (I even got to do a mime piece!)… one of the dance teams did “Voice of Truth.” I’d never heard the song. Now I’ll never forget it. God spoke to my heart just as needed!

Stamina CIA Workshop 2006 – Speaking of the Apple Valley team, in the spring of 2006 they invited me to be a teacher at their creative arts workshop.  I taught 4 or 5 sessions – several straight hours – and though I had been once again having some health problems, God gave me the stamina and energy I needed for that day – to do that which He had called me to do!

MAT in Theology & Art 2006 – Sorta like my college degree. Except this time I was living on my own, on the other side of the country, it was graduate studies (ie. more difficult) and  it took me 2x as long to achieve as was “typical” for the program.  Again, it was a God-thing!

De Profundis 2007 – In March 2007 I presented an hour long solo mime show (well, there was one team piece and my Dad sang a song).  That I ever had enough solo pieces to even think about a whole show, and then that I had the stamina to actually get through it – all God-things!

Wildwood 2007 – Mom and Dad and I took Elmer to Wildwood for several days just after Memorial Day. It wasn’t the first time we had taken him, but it would be the last.  It was such a special time for us – and that with his recent health problems that we had even made it there in the first place – that I could not overlook God’s hand in it all.  Elmer died that August.

Passion of Jesus 2008 – I got involved in the passion play at our church.  And in doing what I love, I ended up also taking on areas in which my skills and giftings were weak and practically burned out on it. I ended up compiling (writing – from scripture) the playbook, helping the choir director (and real “buck stops here” leader of the whole thing) to pick out music, doing a good portion of the casting, helping to cast vision for the set and costume folks, designing a website plus all promotional materials for (and later editing and designing the DVDs), choreographing a mime and a dance piece – oh – and directing the acting and movement for like 80+ actors and choir members on stage for this massive production.  In some ways I was in my element.  In other ways, I was so far out of it!  But in all ways, God pulled me through and HE got the glory that weekend!

ECMT 2008 – My auto-response when Tess would ask about me going on another tour (aka missions trip) was “I can’t.”  For some reason, that day I said I’d pray about it.  Something inside said that this was of God.  Less than two weeks – getting time off work and raising all funds – later, I was on my way to join the 2008 AIM East Coast Missions Trip. From the kids, to the mime teaching opportunities, to the fact that my struggles with fibro was an encouragement to those I met – it was, indeed, very much a God thing!

Apprenticeship Physical Exam August 2009 – I had been putting off taking this mime exam for years.  Years. I finally bucked up, worked on that stupid robot and seed, and went for  it.  And I passed!  Yes, even now God is still working in me through the mime thing…

Gift of Encouragement (2009) – In November 2009, I got a letter from a friend mentioning my gift of encouragement – how I had encouraged her through the years.  I can’t take the credit for that one. It’s a gift from God. Truly. One I want to never stop using to build others up!

Oh yeah, and there’s a new one I need to make:

Mom – Complete Remission – 2/2011!

It is good to see and remember where God has been, what He has done and when He has carried me throughout the years.  I know I’m missing some – but these are the highlights that have stood out and so became memorialized on stone.  I hope they encourage you to recall God’s hand in your own life!

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I’m a little behind, I know.

But really, my personal theme for 2011 has been written out for some time now.  It has simply taken this long to get what it means worked out in my 2011 priorities, goals and projects (and then printed and posted on my magnet board beside my computer).  So now I get to sit down and share about my theme, my 2011 hopes and what I’ve learned about it all in the past couple of months.

My theme for 2011 is this:

do less ~ live more

learn less ~ apply more

spend less ~ give more

worry less ~ dance more

I realize that some of those seem funny.  Do less? Learn less?  Yes.  Because I want to live and apply more.  If I had to sum up my goal for 2011 into only one word, it would be “margin.”  Inspired by that study my class did last year (and I blogged a bit about it here).  I don’t want to multitask so much.  I’d like to slow down.  Focus on one thing at a time.  Focus on living (which includes relationships) rather than doing (which mostly focuses on tasks)!  Do less. Live more.

I also realized that I’ve forgotten or simply not incorporated more of what I’ve learned over the years than I like.  I read books and (generally) love them and think they’re wonderful and wise, but then I simply check them off my list and move on to the next one.  Like I did when I was in school.  Less gets absorbed and lived out than it should.  So this year instead of focusing on learning (like I did last year – with classes and books and the like), I want to focus on applying what I’ve learned.  Sometimes that means spending a day or two between chapters trying to work out what was being said.  (This generally doesn’t apply to fiction.)  Ironically, perhaps, my reading list is longer this year than last – but there are some very small books in there plus several that aren’t “learning” books!  Learn less.  Apply more.

I also want to be a better steward of my money.  This is a recurring theme.  I’ve had a budget for several years now and do fairly well with sticking to it, but I realized that a few of the sticky tentacles of materialism still cling to me more than they ought.  So I want to turn my focus to giving.  Time. Money. Myself.  Advent Conspiracy gave me the idea.  Spend less. Give more.

Worry less. Dance more. Enough said!

And that’s my theme for the year.  I have lists of priorities, projects, goals and ideas of course.  And part of me was entirely frustrated that I didn’t have all this done, written and organized before January 1st.  In fact, I think it was the first week or two in January that I was still finishing entering in receipts and doing filing from last year!  Then I had to organize my budget for this year and so on and I began to realize that my ultimate goal – margin – is not something that I could begin with on January 1st.  In fact, what I’m trying to accomplish isn’t a I’ll-be-disciplined-and-start-January-1st-and-every-day-after-that-will-be-perfect sort of thing!  It’s something that will take me most – or all – of the year to work towards!

So I feel good about where I am.  Here on March 8th.  With my theme.  With my things I’d like to do. With my financial priorities. With how I want to spend my time each day. With my reading list (already got through 4!). With my Creative Arts projects and my other events and ideas.  And in the process, I’m learning to do less and live more, to learn less and apply more, to spend less and give more and to worry less and dance more…

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Somewhere between versus 17 and 18 of Genesis 42, I can imagine this taking place…

Joseph is upstairs in his plush mansion in Egypt looking out a window, trying to forget the old wounds which were violently ripped open by the appearance of his brothers three days before.  Yes! trying to forget the wounds once again gaping, all the pain brought again to the surface.  Some twenty years it had taken him to forget how they sold him into slavery, how they had ignored his cries for mercy!  Then to be wrongfully accused and imprisoned on top of that?  But these past 8 or so years had finally been a balm to his pain.  Now he had a beautiful home of  his own, a wife and children and he was second in command in all of Egypt!  Now he had the power to really make his brothers hurt like he had, to show them what it was like to be stuck someplace they did not want to be! But that wasn’t the reason he locked them up to begin with.  It was for a test, not out of anger.  Still… No.  But…

Joseph turned away from the window, his thoughts and emotions swirling and confused.  He was a man of thought and decision and action, why was this so hard?

“Do you feel better now that they are locked away in prison as you were?”

Joseph turned to find the owner of the voice, but there was no form to go with it.  Nevertheless, Joseph recognized the voice at once.  “Yes!” He nearly shouted up at the ceiling. But then he diverted his eyes downward, sighing.  “No… not really.”

“I want you to treat them well.  Very well.”

“They don’t deserve to be treated well!”

“I did not ask you to treat them well because they deserve it.”

Joseph paced the floor. “They bowed to me.  Bowed! To me!  Just like in the dream that you gave me!  And I know it is because of you that I am out of prison and second in command in all of Egypt.  And with the famine in Canaan, too, well… it only makes sense that they would come, and would come to me… that the dreams and promises you gave to father would work out through this… but that doesn’t mean I have to be nice to them in the process, does it?”

There was a sigh from the voice. But it was a tangible sort of sigh.  Joseph stopped his pacing and looked around again.  There was a figure sitting upon the window sill, silhouetted by the sunset outside and yet radiating light at the same time.  Joseph made the only appropriate move, he dropped to his knees and bowed.

“That is irrelevant,” the voice responded to Joseph’s previous rant. “Neither the past things they did to you, nor the future things that I am working out through you matter.  You should do this simply because I am asking you to…”

Joseph’s story is a multifaceted masterpiece. For every person who tries to imagine what he or she would do in that situation, there is a new way of reading between the lines of the story presented to us.  Did forgiveness come easy to Joseph, or was it a difficult wrestling that took years? Was it somehow both?  But my reading today – vs. 18-25 – brought me to this point: Whether dealing with forgiveness or something else, sometimes the reason we must do it is simply because God asks it of us.  Not because they deserve it.  Not because we’re in a “better place” now.  But simply because God asks us to…

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