Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The College Years // Counting His Faithfulness

Sometimes, when life hurts, when it doesn't feel like God 
is faithful, when the words, "God is good" have become a 
chant I repeat to myself with no heart change, I think it is 
good to go back to all the times in my life when God has 
proven Himself faithful to me.

 The College Years

  God's mercies to me during this time were abundant. I know I won't have time to highlight every way God was kind and faithful to me. But maybe that's the point.

 1. He let me go to college.

  Even in my junior year of high school I knew what school I wanted to attend and what my major I would pick. But this small, private school in Michigan was expensive. Like most students, I waited to see if I would be accepted. I waited even longer to find out if we could afford it. It wasn't until a little before I graduated from high school that I knew I was going to college.

 The bottom line was that we couldn't afford college. But between both of my parents working, their sacrifices, my summer job, some financial aid, and loans, they thought it would work. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed for my school to see how much help I needed and what a good student I was and promise to give me more money. I prayed for my essay to win one of the big scholarships I entered. I prayed for God to hurl money down from the sky. None of those things happened. 

 Each year, and sometimes each semester, I didn't know if there would be enough money to go back to school. But somehow, small miracle after small miracle, there was just enough for me to go to school. Though God didn't give me my big miracle, He was faithful and provided a way for me to go to college and graduate.

2. He showed me that Christ was all I needed. 

 1,000 miles is a large distance. And I didn't realize just how large until I found myself on campus with strange people, two new roommates, a dorm full of girls, and my family quickly driving farther and farther away from me. 

  I wanted so much to belong, for my roommates to like me as much as I liked them, to do well in school, and to be an adult for the first time and not fail. But I was also scared and regretted choosing this school far from home. I didn't feel like I could do it.

 It felt like I had been stripped of everything I loved. But with that feeling came the realization that I had Jesus. In ways I had never experienced before, Jesus was my comfort, my hope, and my security. When I felt like I had nothing, God showed me I had everything in His Son. 

3. He provided me with amazing roommates and friends.

 One of my biggest prayers before and during college were that God would give me good roommates. My mom has horror stories about her freshman roommate, and I didn't want to experience what she did. Even before I met my freshman roommates, I wanted to best friends with them. And when I met them, I loved them instantly, just because they were the girls God had placed in my room. God was kind and let us all be good friends. We had our struggles, our misunderstandings, and hard times, but we got through them. I couldn't have asked for better roommates. I have funny stories; no horror stories. I may cringe when I hear a song my roommate used as an alarm she never heard, but that is all. 

 Even through all four years of college, I was blessed with the girls I lived with and the friends I made.

4. My singleness.

  This is a hard subject, one that I am reluctant to thank God for and something that is still a real struggle in my life. But I am thankful for how God used my singleness in college.

 I am one of those girls that has wanted to be married and raise children as soon as my brain was able to grasp those concepts. Except for my writing dreams, marriage and children were all I ever wanted. And I all I want now. During high school none of my friends were dating and I recognized how young I was, so I was content to wait and daydream about my future family and what I would name my kids.

 But the day I started college something changed in me. I now considered myself "officially" old enough to date and I lived on a campus full of eligible Christian young men who probably wanted to get married, too. So I figured it was only a matter of time before I met a wonderful, godly guy who liked me as much as liked him, we would start dating, and then get married in June after I graduated, just like my mom. 

 However, God had other plans. Each year of college ended with no boyfriend. Freshman. Sophomore. Junior. Senior. 19. 20. 21. 22. No boyfriend. No dates. To make things worse, the entire campus had marriage fever. Everyone around me was going on dates, new relationships popped up all around my dorm, and young freshman couples were getting married. Even my friends all seemed to have boyfriends. My roommate got engaged. It was happening to everyone but me. I graduated and sadly watched the month of June pass, though I never would have admitted to anyone what was so sad about the June I was 22.

 Enter God teaching me a lot of things during those four years of college throughout my singleness, like trusting in Him alone, surrender, joy, contentment, and how I can plan all I want, but it is God's plans that prevail. My singleness shows me my weakness, my desperate need for Jesus, and the idol I have made into marriage.

 I never wanted singleness. In fact, I ask God all the time to take it away. But until then, and even if it never happens, I can only praise my Savior for His faithfulness to me and discover how I can use my singleness. 

5. I found an amazing church.

 I would not have survived college without the church I attended in Michigan. That is no exaggeration. It was the only place I felt a little bit at home those first few weeks of school. It was a gospel centered place of worship that allowed me to escape from campus a few hours each week. It was full of people my age and older that cared about me. 

 I especially plugged more into my church my junior year. Though each year of college had it's own struggles, that year was the hardest. When I remember that year, I see a dark fog settled over and around all the things that happened, and my church was the only light. Again, I am not exaggerating. I knew the truth of the gospel that would bring me out of my circumstances, but I needed my church to remind me of those truths. Starting that year, due to many friends leaving and graduating, I had few close friends on campus. All of my friends were at my church.  

 I have much to praise God for in my past. Therefore, my present and my future are and will be no exception. Praise be! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Beginning // Counting His Faithfulness Part 1

Sometimes, when life hurts, when it doesn't feel like God is faithful, when the words, "God is good" have become a chant I repeat to myself with no heart change, I think it is good to go back to all of the times in my life that God has proven Himself faithful to me. 

My beginning

 I remember being four years old and listening to a CD of children's Bible songs while my mom was on the phone. The words I heard were simple and sweet, singing, "...come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in, today. Come in to stay..." I sang along and realized that is what I wanted for my life. I wanted Jesus to come into my heart. I wanted Him in my life. So I knelt by our sofa and asked Jesus to come into my heart, and my mom cried when I told her what I had done.

 Many believers will share testimonies of how they said a prayer when they were young but did not truly become a Christian until later in their life when they truly understood the gospel. But that is not my story. I knew I was a sinner who deserved the wrath of a holy God. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. And I knew I needed and wanted Jesus. I praise God that He saved me- not through any merit of my own, but through His mercy and the blood of Jesus.

 When I was in eighth grade, a friend challenged me to get baptized as I had been a professing believer for quite a while. But I was terrified. At my church, baptism also includes publicly sharing my testimony in front of the whole church-  one of my greatest fears. I told my friend no, that I could never do it. But over the next few months my pastor seemed to mention baptism in every sermon. It came up in the most random conversations. I couldn't escape the subject. Then in school I learned about Chinese believers being persecuted for their faith. Many of them were being baptized despite the threat of death that was sure to come with the simple act of being immersed in water. This wasn't something that had happened a long time ago, but a tragedy that was happening right now as I discarded the thought of baptism because of my fear of public speaking. If my brothers and sisters in Christ were risking their lives to be baptized, how could I not be baptized where I would not be killed, tortured, or imprisoned afterword? So in May of 2008, I was baptized and shared my testimony as my body ached from fear, my voice shakily whispered through the microphone, and my eyes glued to the words on my paper. My God was faithful and I did it, but only through the work of the Holy Spirit inside of me.

 This is my beginning, the first few times I can distinctly remember God's faithfulness to me. And it is only my beginning.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Robert Frost's House and the Bennington Battle Monument

 I get hungry for little adventures. I have been a long time Robert Frost fan, and have been wanting to see his house and museum since I discovered it existed a year ago. So my friend and I took the day to explore Shaftsbury and Bennington Vermont. 

 The weather was freezing and rainy, but I was so excited to see my favorite poet's dwelling and spend the day with my friend. Frost's farm is in the beautiful Southern Vermont countryside. Though all of Vermont is beautiful, I can see he didn't have to go far to find inspiration for many of his poems. 

 I seriously contemplated moving there. It was that pretty. And I may have contemplated using "Frost" as a middle name for my future son. We'll see about that one.

We weren't allowed to take any photos inside his house where they had set up a small museum-like display. The inside of the house was disappointing. There were only two rooms and a hallway that we could see. They didn't have much in them except interesting information about Robert Frost all along the walls. Though I learned a lot about him and was nerding out as they analyzed his poetry, I probably could have found almost all of that information online or in a library. 
 But just being there and seeing Robert Frost's house was worth it for me. He writes with such simplistic power that I wish I had in my words, a simplicity that does is not "dumbed down" but everyone can understand without spending half an hour with one poem. But you could spend half an hour analyzing and find such meaning and talent and beauty. He has such a technical command of his poems, the meter, style, and rhyme. He knows when to follow the rules and when to break them, and he breaks them well. 
 There was a path you could walk on through the woods on Frost's farm, a path that Robert Frost himself walked along, but we didn't venture very far. Not only was it cold, but they had several warnings of the many ticks carrying Lyme disease found here, so we decided not to risk it, despite how much we wanted to see everything. 
  Since we were right next to Bennington, I had to see the Bennington Battle Monument. My friend was sweet to let me drag her to all of these places as I satisfied my need for an adventure. The photos are of poor quality mostly due to rain and an overcast sky.

 The monument was built to remember a battle fought during the Revolutionary War in 1777. A man whose job was to tell us all about the monument and take people up and down the elevator all day said it is the tallest structure in Vermont and the 6th tallest in the U.S. We hated to disappoint him when we told him we were just from New England as the highlight of what can be a monotonous day for him is meeting people from all over the U.S, and often the world. 

 Though we couldn't get the full panoramic view, in each direction we had beautiful views of Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. 

 At the end of the day on our way back to my car, God surprised us with one more special thing. My friend took a wrong turn, and it took us to a covered bridge. 

 I am thankful for the reminder that unexpected turns can become better than what I had planned. Not unexpected for God, but me. I don't know what will happen, but God does, and it will be better than my plan simply because it is the Lord's will.