And, if we move forward wisely, if we choose to learn and grow rather than continue to fight and divide, this could very well be the best thing to happen in our lifetime. This pandemic-filled, tension-ridden, politically crazy year very well may lead to a more beautiful, loving country than we have seen before.
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, … Continue reading Joyful Sadness (Ezra 3:10-13)
Today Caleb broke the handle off of my favorite coffee mug. This mug was given to me while Tori was sick and I love that it has both giraffes and … Continue reading Strength & Scars
A couple of weeks ago I listened to a sermon by Pastor Chris Brown of North Coast Church in California. Chris was our campus pastor for three of my four … Continue reading We’re NOT Entitled to an Easy Life…
Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. (2 John 1:6 NLT)
We are told as Christians to do two things: love God and love others. By focusing on those two things we will end up obeying the law of God and the law of man without even realizing it most of the time.
There are many things that can hinder us from fulfilling this command, many things that can negatively affect our perspective and perception of others without us realizing it.
In photography, the lens is how you see the world. The quality and integrity of the lens is crucial. Everything depends on the lens, even the quality of the final image.
If your lens is cracked, smudged, or otherwise compromised, your image will be unclear or even indistinguishable from the view/reality you saw with your eyes; your perspective will not translate into a beautiful finished image like you had planned. It will be distorted. You will be disappointed, possibly angry, and unfulfilled. There was nothing wrong with the subject you were attempting to photograph, but the lens made it appear to be flawed.
Similarly, forming a first impression of someone happens automatically. You meet someone, and based on the first few minutes of your interaction you form an opinion. Those first few moments do not provide insight into a person’s context, character, or true self. You merely catch a glimpse instead of knowing and understanding them fully.
Once an impression is formed, overcoming that perspective can be difficult no matter what experience may prove to be the truth.
I mention these things because I have been pondering what the Bible has to say about bitterness, anger, resentment, and how those things affect our perception of people and circumstances.
When we hold grudges and harbor bitterness, anything the “guilty” person says or does will be viewed through a cracked lens. The perspective will be skewed, and the relationship may be further damaged because we aren’t seeing things clearly.
Perhaps this is why Jesus told us to resolve our issues with people directly and promptly (Matthew 18); to get rid of all anger and bitterness (Ephesians 4:31) ; to get rid of the plank in our eyes before judging the splinter in the eyes of another (Matthew 7:3-5); with these things in our heart, our lens is cracked and we cannot perceive the actions and words of people correctly and therefore cannot love them as we are commanded.
When we are bitter, angry, or resentful we cannot love God and others the way He desires and commands us to do. We cannot fulfill our mission.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)
Resentment prevents you from seeing situations clearly and in proper context. Resentment is a dangerous thing.
Many times in my life I have seen the aftermath of built-up resentment that is never resolved biblically. It has split churches, destroyed friendships, and created friction in families.
Someone can do something or say something to you with great intentions, but because you are harboring unspoken resentment and bitterness you will read between the lines in order to justify your feelings. We’ve all done it!
Rather than going to the person as soon as the alleged offense occurs to find out their true intent and to clear up misunderstandings, you choose to remain silent and allow bitterness to eat away at your heart, all while pretending that everything is fine on the outside.
Pride is a dangerous companion to resentment.
This is a human flaw that we all deal with at some point in our lives, and that’s exactly why Jesus spoke about this issue in Matthew 18:
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
There are so many verses that tell us to not be bitter or resentful, but to love; here are a few:
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4:3 NLT)
And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. (2 Peter 3:14 NLT)
This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 John 3:11 NLT)
But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:9 NLT)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Don’t let bitterness, resentment, anger, or irritation destroy you. Don’t let them destroy relationships or communities. The enemy LOVES when Christians do this! Don’t let him have the satisfaction.
Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. (Proverbs 29:11 NLT)
And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23 NLT)
I strive to take the following steps whenever I am in situations where I am hurt, and I do my best to not assume anything about the person. These have helped me tremendously and I hope they are useful to you as well:
- Consider the context: What is the person going through? If you don’t know, then offer grace and understanding instead of becoming angry immediately. Ask questions instead of assuming.
- Remember that no one is perfect, including yourself. Offer grace.
- Think about the true cause of the offense: why is it bothering you? Was your pride hurt?
- Always assume the best about the people you love and not the worst.
- Communicate! In person is the BEST way to do this, but if the other party won’t consent to doing so, make your written communication clear and your emotions known, remembering that words are powerful. Text leaves so much to the imagination and it can often make issues far worse than they were at the beginning. Talk about things immediately, don’t blindside someone years later.
- If the person matters to you, make the effort to humbly make things right. Put aside your pride.
- Don’t allow misunderstandings and misperceptions destroy relationships. Life is too short and too precious to allow bitterness and resentment to steal our joy.
We are here on earth to love one another, to encourage, to build-up, to lead others to Christ. Resentment prevents us from fully loving God and others, and it lets the enemy win.
Choose love, choose joy, choose humility. It’s worth it.
Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
– Mother Teresa
I always knew that motherhood would be a selfless endeavor. From the very beginning, your body, your time, your thoughts, everything revolves around, and belongs to, your children. Before I became a mother I had an idea about what it looked like to be selfless and I knew I could handle it with the Lord’s help. After all, a mother’s love is one of the strongest forces on earth, and I was ready for the challenges.
I had no idea just how “selfless” my life would become when Tori became sick.
By the way, I don’t write this (or any other post) to invite pity or sympathy, or even accolades. Rather, I continually strive to be transparent during this journey in hopes that someone will be encouraged or challenged by how the Lord is speaking to our hearts and working in our lives.
Here’s my reality and a glimpse into my daily life with a terminally-ill child.
I haven’t had more than 5 full nights of sleep (defined as 5 straight hours) since Tori was born. To say that I am exhausted is an understatement.
When she was healthy, the sleep deprivation was bearable because she was such a joy, such a delight. I didn’t mind nursing her every two or three hours because she was always so happy, so content. Watching her learn and grow filled my heart with enough energy to endure the sleepless nights (and days). Her smile and laughter would fill my heart with a palpable joy and my heart would overflow with love. That was my reward and it filled me up like nothing (except the Lord) ever has.
When she was healthy, I was still able to do things for myself (like shower and eat a good lunch) because she was content to play with her toys on her own and would nap without being held for 20-30 minutes at a time. I could still take care of our home and do things for myself like shop, read, eat meals, etc.
My view of what selflessness means changed drastically in January 2015.
“For even the Son of Man (Jesus) came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
My days are a blur, much like the lives of those with healthy babies, but there is no tangible “reward” for my selfless service anymore.
My days now revolve around medication and feeding schedules, appointments with specialists and Early Intervention (which is a WONDERFUL program and I am so thankful that our tax dollars go to pay for this), and keeping Tori comfortable, which usually means rocking her in our recliner most of the day.
If I am lucky (or if someone comes over to hold Tori), I can take a five minute shower while Tori stares at her light-up giraffe on her changing table (it has rails and she doesn’t roll, so she is completely safe).
Eating doesn’t always happen – at least not healthy eating.
I rarely leave the house because Tori doesn’t like being in the car and we aren’t sure if she is in pain while in the car seat. Thankfully, I just discovered that our local grocery store will deliver groceries for a nominal fee (and the first 60 days are free). What an amazing blessing this service will be.
Doing simple things for myself usually doesn’t happen at all these days. As much as I want to work on her Project Life album, read my Bible (not on my phone), or even CLEAN MY HOUSE (yes, I actually long to do normal things like that now), they just don’t happen until Brennan is home for the evening, if at all. And even then, I struggle between wanting to clean my house/do things for myself, and wanting to spend time as a family doing other things.
I don’t think about how little I am doing for myself very often, and when I do, it is then that I am overwhelmed by the energy my life currently requires. I went from such an easygoing, low maintenance life (even with a baby) to a life that is so high maintenance that it is overwhelming at times.
I don’t like this, I don’t want this, and I keep praying it’s all a nightmare.
Yet, I don’t think about how hard it is as I am living it – I just do it.
Though my priorities have shifted drastically in the past three months, I know that I have to find a balance because I need to take care of myself while also caring for Tori. Now that her G-Tube surgery is complete and her appointments outside the home are slowing down, I am hoping to have more time to figure out how to accomplish these things.
Through all of this, I am continually learning to praise the Lord in the midst of these difficult and unwanted circumstances because I know that He is using them to refine me and to make me more like Jesus.
Does this mean I like what is happening? No.
Does this mean that I am a perfect Christian mother and entirely unselfish? Ha. Definitely not.
But, I trust that He is redeeming this terrible situation in ways we can’t even imagine. I trust that I will be a more loving and selfless person because of all that we are going through.
It’s a moment by moment process of surrendering my own desires for what is best for Tori. It isn’t easy, I’m not perfect at it, but thankfully we serve a God who showed us what selflessness looks like when He sent His son, Jesus, to our world two thousand years ago, and that same God is just as full of love, grace and mercy today as He was then.
2 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
I live my life with my “hands empty, eyes up” and I “do the next thing” (both of those quotes were topics that were discussed at the “Night to Breathe” event and I will be writing more about them in the future). I surrender my exhaustion and my fear to the Lord and He sustains me. Most days, I have no idea how I got through it all, and that is a huge testament to God’s constant presence in our lives.
I don’t know what the future holds for our little family, and I am overwhelmed when I think about what may be coming our way. So I choose to live moment by moment, day by day, and I do whatever I can to serve my daughter as selflessly as I can, knowing that she is suffering more than I can begin to imagine, and knowing that Jesus Himself lived a completely selfless life to redeem us and be our perfect example. It truly is the least that I can do.
I began a new chapter in my life this week – moving from unemployment/temporary work to a new, “permanent” position.
I had a difficult time in the weeks leading up to this new beginning as I was unsure of whether or not I should have accepted the position. It didn’t have anything to do with the job or the employer itself – it had everything to do with a “fear of commitment” in regards to jobs that I didn’t know I had developed. It had everything to do with past scars caused by some awful supervisors that I’ve had in the recent past. And it also had everything to do with the fact that this isn’t my “dream” – this isn’t what I feel so passionate about, and I was afraid that taking this job would prevent me from further pursuing that which God has placed in my heart. Essentially, I was afraid of what might be around the corner and I was afraid of making the wrong decision.
From the very first hour of my new job I began to see that the negative things about my past job are nonexistent here. From the smallest to the largest things, God has redeemed my employment situation. I also began to see that I had built a wall around my heart during my last job that was preventing me from being excited/feeling blessed about where God has brought me now. I didn’t realize that I had done this, but God is using new experiences each day to slowly remove one brick at a time, which is showing me just how high the wall had become. Still, even now, I am having a hard time letting myself be excited and letting myself just accept that God has brought me to a place where I am needed, wanted, affirmed, empowered, treated with respect, included…
Looking back (hindsight is 20/20, after all) over this past summer, there is no doubt in my mind that everything God allowed to happen was incredibly intentional:
May 17, 2013: Laid off from HE&R (SO THANKFUL!!!!), beginning a time of solitude, reflection, unknown, and healing.
At the same time, Brennan and I are beginning to feel that we shouldn’t be “regular relief houseparents” at the Milton Hershey School anymore due to family/church circumstances…we begin praying.
June/July: Able to do photography for Christian Retreat Center‘s camps because I was laid off, reminding me of my love for photography.
June 25: Jon Acuff sends out an email/blog post/tweet about joining him on an adventure and I accept.
Brennan and I decide to try to become “emergency relief” at MHS which would allow us to be home each weekend (unless called) and would allow us to still be involved with the students.
July 15: “The START Experiment” begins…my risk was to focus on self-discipline after several months of not-so-subtle nudging from the Lord…
July-August: I realize through the START Experiment and the accompanying community what my dream job really is and I begin to pursue it. I start Essential Harrisburg and begin sending my portfolio to potential organizations.
I also interviewed for this new job at MHS in August.
We are told that we wouldn’t be allowed to be “emergency relief” due to the number of couples already in that status. I also find out from HR a few days after my interview that I cannot accept a potential job offer from MHS if we are still “regular relief” because of the number of hours I would be working.
We are faced with an incredibly difficult decision to either quit or stay on as “regular relief”…
One Sunday, while covering a student home, my supervisor “just happens” to come by and I am able to pour my heart out to him regarding all of this and our desire to stay on with the school as houseparents.
We find out on September 3 that we have been granted “emergency relief” status…and an hour later, I am offered the job that I later accepted.
September 12-17: I had the incredible privilege of attending “The START Conference” in Nashville, TN and finally got to meet some of the amazing friends I made through “The START Experiment” and was able to further clarify my “dream” and made some connections with professionals in that field. AMAZING. I came home filled with energy, excitement, peace, and even more trust in what God is doing behind the scenes.
Our God is not a God of coincidence. Nothing that happened this summer is a coincidence.
If I had not been laid off…if I had not accepted Jon’s offer of adventure…if…
This new chapter of life is still very new, and my future is still very “fuzzy” and obscure, but I already feel so at peace.
I know that God has placed the dream in my heart to travel around the world, taking pictures and telling stories, and I have no doubt that He will bring that to fruition in His timing. For now, I am going to do my best here, at a job about which I am passionate, telling the story of Mr. & Mrs. Hershey and their incredible generosity and legacy, while waiting for whatever God might have in the future.
I begin my journey to Haiti tomorrow, and will arrive on Sunday morning. I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for the reality with which I will be met once I arrive…but I know that what I experience there is far beyond anything I can imagine now. I am excited, I am slightly nervous (as much of this is an “unknown” to me), but I am thrilled to have this opportunity to serve and to love the people there. I have a suitcase that is 90% full of supplies for the Haitian pastors to distribute, and only 10% is my stuff. What a great feeling! I so wish that I could take more/do more…
This week, I have been pondering self-image and the effect that the media has on young girls. At my temp job this week, I encountered paperwork on a girl, age 4, who is refusing to eat because she doesn’t want to “gain weight”…FOUR YEARS OLD…I am about to encounter children who are starving, who would love to be nourished and well-fed, while there are kids here in the States (and this child is also impoverished) who are already so self-conscious that they don’t want to eat. It broke my heart! What could have caused this young child to be so afraid of what she looks like? Sigh…such a contrast to what I am about to encounter, and yet both break my heart…
I am praying the words of Hillsong’s song “Hosanna”: “Break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause…” I know that this week will be challenging, but I also know that I am going to grow, and that I will not be the same when I return. 🙂 And that’s what I long for!
Please pray for safe travels, for the health of our team…but more importantly, pray that the Lord will present us with challenging opportunities, and that He will stretch us and make us uncomfortable! We are not there on vacation, we are there to work hard and to serve the precious people of Haiti.
And I can’t wait to get there. :0)
Pictures and stories when I return…
In my quest to grow in my walk with the Lord, being “uncomfortable” has become a way of life for me over the past year and a half or so. And I have loved it! Has it been easy? Nope. Not at all. It seems like the Lord is continually bringing things into my life to spur growth, and to heal from past scars…and this week has been no exception.
Like every person, I’ve been hurt many times within my twenty-six years of life. Sometimes by individuals, sometimes by groups of people, sometimes by circumstances. Like many Christians, I have also been hurt/scarred/burned by people in the church, and I’ve found that those scars are the hardest to erase.
I’m really struggling these days with forgiving my former church. I’ve never really been a part of a “normal” or “healthy” church until I moved to Pennsylvania. My first church ended up splitting in a vicious, vindictive split when I was 17 (and I went to college before really being able to get involved in the new church, which is doing well and is healthy). The last church I was a part of is practically imploding right now, from reports I hear. And I’m honestly not surprised. The church has lacked true leadership for years, and I have long sensed that the Lord was trying to get the church’s attention, only to be ignored. That’s all I’ll say, as the details aren’t really the point of this post. I stayed at the church until the Lord called me to Pennsylvania…
The amount of bitterness that exists within my heart (and has existed for five or six years) seems to grow daily, despite my efforts to let it go and forgive them. I adore my new church, as it is the healthiest church I have ever been a part of, and it’s pretty much the opposite of my old church in every way…but, at the same time, each time something great happens at my new church, I am reminded of the bad things that happened (or the good things that were never allowed to happen) at my old church. And the bitterness returns. While I am blessed to have this new church family, blessed to be at a church who truly loves and serves the Lord and the community, and blessed to be at a church that embraces new ideas and doesn’t shoot them down for fear of “change”, my new church is also being used by God to force me to “forgive and forget” the many scars I have from my old church. And it’s not easy.
On Sunday alone, I heard two songs that directly spoke about forgiveness. The lines were: “I’m holding on to things I shouldn’t, and it’s time to let them go” (Brand New Day, by Fireflight) and “…forgiven so that I can forgive” (Majesty, by Delirious, I think). I know what I have to do, but I don’t know how to go about it.
I’m learning that forgiveness is not a passive act–it’s very much active. It’s a choice, yet it’s also a requirement from the Lord. When I think about all that the Lord puts up with from me–all my failings, my sins, my imperfections–and I remember that I am completely forgiven in His eyes, I am reminded that my grievances against my old church are NOTHING compared to all that He has forgiven…
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”—Daniel 9:9
I know that I learned SO much from my experience at my old church, even through the pain and the frustration. I’m trying to see the bigger picture–trying to see God’s purpose for the experience, while allowing the Lord to heal my wounds, which requires looking at the details so that I can forgive the people involved. I know that forgiving them is the only way to move on and the only way to become more like Jesus. I just don’t know how to let go.
And so the struggle continues…
This has probably been the most crazy year of my life thus far. It has been filled with trials and challenges, but also with joy and growth…I’m 26 years old today–and I’m now closer to 30 than 20. Such a strange thought! I don’t feel like I could possibly be nearly 30, but I guess that’s a good thing. 🙂
In December 2007, I began praying that God would make me “uncomfortable.” I realized that I was not growing in my faith because I was comfortable where I was in life…when you look at the example of any biblical character, they grew the most when God challenged them and presented new situations to them. So, I began to pray that He would do the same with me. And He did not disappoint. The most obvious example of that is that I now live in Pennsylvania, where I’m experiencing my first “real Winter”. 🙂 The growth that has occurred this year is remarkable, and I can’t wait to see where I am at this time next year! I have learned that being comfortable is overrated–and boring, actually. 🙂
I attended the “Passion” conference in L.A., by myself, and was forever changed by that event…I was given an opportunity to teach in Dubai for the 2008-2009 school year…I had to quit my job at ADP because they changed their mind about giving me time off to lead my mission team to New Orleans…I decided to move to Pennsylvania without a job, trusting the Lord in His guidance…I spent six days driving across the United States with my Mom (and saw things like the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and other things in the nine states we drove through)…I went to seven new states this year, bringing the total to 31…I had pneumonia for 13 weeks…I spent an amazing month in New Orleans, serving the Lord and serving others…I took about 15,000 pictures…I spent 5 months unemployed and watched the Lord provide for me in miraculous ways…I now have an incredible job with a growing lobbying firm, where I can finally use my degree and my passions…I got in my first car accident, and had to buy a new car…I learned a valuable lesson about friendships–it’s okay to let some go, because some people are “toxic” to our lives…I drove in snow for the first time…I’ve lost some friends and gained new ones, and my life has been so blessed by my new friends in Pennsylvania…I’ve learned that it’s okay to accept help from others…I found a new church here in PA that is healthy, missions-focused, and I’m ready to dive in and serve…
2009 is going to be an interesting year, that’s for sure. Two of my good friends and I decided to give up ice cream (defined as anything that is “frozen dairy”) for a year. It will most definitely be the hardest thing I’ve given up! However, it will be a constant reminder that I’m trying to be even more healthy when it comes to food than I already am, and I am going to succeed this year in losing the weight I gained while I had pneumonia. 🙂 So, I’m eating a lot of ice cream today! If the Moravian shoe thing I tried (see prior posts) is accurate (Ha!), then I’ll be engaged by next Christmas. Not counting on that, but I wouldn’t mind! 🙂
Most of all, I’m excited to see what the Lord is going to do in my life and in the lives of those around me. He called me here to Central Pennsylvania for a reason, and I’m excited to see what He has in store! 🙂