Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30, Flirty & thriving...

This year I turn the big 30! It was lurking ahead of me all year and finally arrived with less fan fare and no instant wrinkles or sagging. Having experiences beyond belief in my 20s makes me excited for what is ahead in my 30s.

Still feeling like I am in my early 20s... Still having a heart for travel and medical missions... Still ready to see where the Lord takes me... Still trucking along through school when I can afford another class to check off the list... Still reaching for the goals that God has placed on my heart.

My hopes and goals for my 30s include (not in any particular order):
Rachael and I at my 30th Birthday Party 
Get married, have babies and adopt babies, get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, write a novel (or three), travel to a handful of countries I haven't been to before, get a sewing machine and get my crafty schmaftyness on, finish my Africa album from almost ten years ago, get a house and decorate it and maybe even do some DIY home projects (!!!), get back into youth ministry, learn how to down hill ski, go on at least one missions trip, help lead a missions trip, sing more, go puddle jumping with my nieces and my own kids, learn how to knit (and not with the knifty knitter... I was told that is not really knitting), recycle more, be healthy in my nutrition and exercise choices, live on less, reach higher, learn to run and do a 5K, live in a different state and country, and so much more...

So many wonderful things have happened in my life. I feel blessed and protected by God each and every day. He has provided me with an amazing bunch of friends and family in my life that continue to teach me more of His goodness. I have a great job working with a boy with Crouzon's Disorder and I am gaining invaluable experience in the medical field even before getting my certificate. I have a seasonal job at REI working in the call center and I LOVE this company beyond words! So blessed!

Stephen and me in Cannon Beach for the first time together for my 30th birthday!! So special!
This year for my 30th birthday I was able to visit my favorite place in the world with the man I love. Being that both of us grew up going there every summer with our families made it extra special to share the experience with each other for the first time. Going to Cannon Beach, OR had never been so special. Knowing that it was an important place to both of us made walking through town and pointing out our favorite spots and sharing traditions all the more special. I hope we can look back ten years from now and will have made the tradition of going to CB together with our kids too.

So excited for what is in store in this 30th year of my life!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Rock Your Systems

As a Christian, I think it is essential for us to constantly challenge ourselves to consider why we believe what we believe and ask God to open our Spirits to seeing this world we live in through His eyes. Just as I have been discussing and wrestling with these feelings I came across the below post from a fellow YWAMer. My soul breathes a sigh of relief knowing I am not alone in the convictions this writer so eloquently shares. I hope this post will challenge more of the "systems" we have set up in our lives to be rocked!

"Systems" by Danny Lehmann
by YWAM on Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 11:31pm

Have you ever walked a dog and in the course of your journey encountered another dog approaching your partner ? The scenario is predictable: First, there is eye contact, then a stiffening of the tail and the hair on the back standing up. They then begin to ever so cautiously circle one another all the while sniffing to see if their new acquaintance passes their test. A good meeting proceeds with the tails beginning to wag and then some playful sporting. A bad one is when, usually suddenly, both dogs have an internal alarm go off and a fight breaks out.

This image came to my mind recently when I was recommended by a former student of mine to speak at a church. Much like the above dog encounter, before the meeting, in the course of an otherwise friendly conversation I was skillfully and suspiciously peppered with questions by an assistant pastor about my views on many subjects, such as Calvinism/Arminianism, the place of Israel in prophecy and whether or not I was one of those leftist "social justice" missionaries.( In keeping with Woodstock's 40th anniversary I was tempted to say "B...B...Bro, Where's the love?")

I had simply been invited by the senior pastor to teach on evangelism. My spiritual pedigree had been attested to in my books by the likes of Chuck Smith, Loren Cunningham and Greg Laurie. Nevertheless, I had the distinct sense that my "papers" were not enough so this watchdog over God's flock had to do his own personal sniffing.

My inquisitor, however, was not the only one doing the olfactory inquiry. Having canine tendencies myself, I did some sniffing of my own. I instinctively picked up the smell of a critical religious spirit but by God's grace made a choice to relax and keep my spiritual tail wagging!

To switch from my smelly metaphor to theological language, my new friend had spliced parts of the Bible into clear (in his mind) religious "systems" and like the above dog exchange, was sniffing me to see if I was OK. His clear unspoken vibe was "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen!" Although I passed the test and had a relatively fruitful time of ministry, I was on edge the whole night lest I would slip up and profane his systematic pulpit.

Recently my son David, a serious Bible student, showed me a purchase he had made of a 1200 page "Systematic Theology." Thumbing through it I identified the particular systems this fellow was espousing. Digging deeper I noticed this systematic theologian had done what many of us do, due to our systems: over emphasize certain Scriptures and de-emphasize or ignore others that don't fit our systems.

I recently saw former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on a T.V. talk show. The host, upon hearing that Mike was to be in Las Vegas for a political rally asked him if he was going to hit the slot machines. Huckabee laughed and said, "The last time I went to Vegas I took a twenty dollar bill and the Ten Commandments and I broke neither!" He went on to say, "Besides, I'm a Baptist and even if I struck it rich at the casinos I wouldn't be able to tell anybody!" It was a funny exchange but Huckabee was just simply and honestly admitting he was part of a system - a Baptist system that does not look too kindly on gambling.

A big question to ask ourselves is how do our systems affect the above statement that love is the fulfilling of the law? Where does "knowing what we believe and why we believe it" end and the idolatrous worship of our systems, often made in our image, begin? My guess is we are getting close when our systems prevent us from fulfilling the law and begin to control us. Perhaps it's when being "right" replaces being good. When ironically the Bible prevents us from doing what the Bible tells us to do!

A while ago I was asked to mediate in a situation where a pastor was threatening to cut financial support for Nepali missionaries because he had heard that YWAM was "working with Catholics" in Ireland. I tried to reason with the pastor and assure him that our dear Nepali brethren would probably never in their life even meet a Catholic in their Hindu kingdom. As he then turned up the rhetoric and identified the "antichrist" in the Church at Rome, his anti-Catholic system became more apparent. When I asked him if he believed anyone anywhere in the world could be a Catholic and be saved, he said "no" in no uncertain terms. I was stunned as I hung up the phone.

Speaking of Catholics, how could the church practice the execution of "heretics" during the Inquisition? On the other hand how could Lutherans persecute Anabaptists during the Protestant Reformation? How could John Calvin condone the burning of Michael Servetus at the stake in Geneva? How can certain T.V. evangelists identify a hurricane as a judgment from God and blame it on the gay community? It is because they read the Bible with cultural, national, racial, and political lenses, mixed in a few personal biases, added some theological naivety, subtracted love and came up with a system. The result: a deadly recipe that is the opposite of love. Others were then judged by that system, failed the test and were consequently thrown out of the kitchen.

Just for kicks, let's consider a couple of questions: Where does the Bible even declare that we are to jigsaw Scripture pieces into an airtight puzzle when a little ruthless honesty would force us to admit we inevitably have pieces left over? Could it be that He intended us to see the Bible as the unfolding story of His forever dream, celebrating the diversity within the unity rather than dividing over it? Did He really want us to treat His Word as a divine pizza pie that we chop up into topical bits and then respond to the bits of our choosing?

Is it possible that He is much more relaxed than we are about the things we get so uppity about, like sovereignty/free will and other biblical tensions. Can we be content with some mystery and enjoy the eternal love story without dissecting the Bible like a frog in a high school biology classroom? It may not only lower our blood pressure but promote more unity in Christ's Body, which seemed to be quite a big deal to Jesus and the apostles (Jn13:34-35, Eph. 4:3,11-13,Phil. 2:1-2, 1 Jn. 2:7-11, 3:10-17, 4:7-11,20-21). Controlling systems can blind us to the divine priorities of unity and love.

Could we not study the first chapter of Ephesians, for instance, verse by verse at face value in light of it's context and historical background without flying out of the book on verse 11 and declare from one system that everything that happens is God's will (including things He has declared in other parts of the Bible not to be His will!)? Can we not then read the sixth chapter of the same book and see real demons that we need to "wrestle" with in order to cooperate with God to see his will done, while not denying the sovereignty of 1:11? Can we simply deal with it, let the Bible be the Bible, and let others be who they are even if it or they don't fit the box of our systems?

Am I suggesting throwing out all systems? No. The early church took great pains to clearly define what it stood for ("... Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father..."). Such statements as those found in the Apostles Creed, for instance, require systematizing to a certain extent. The question for a mission like YWAM is which of these systematic hills are we willing to die on, especially when we are called to value our interdenominational identity and fulfill Jesus' prayer for unity (Jn 17:21-23).

In the 1920's J. Greshem Machen and his Fundamentalist allies, fighting theological liberalism, came up with 5 essentials to the Christian faith, revolving around the authority of the Bible, the person of Christ (His death and resurrection), the virgin birth and His physical return. Since then we have added to the list, created multitudes of new systems which have divided us from believers we are commanded to love and taken a lot of the fun out of fundamental! Case in point: the pastor in Florida who recently threatened to stage a "Burn a Q'uran Day" and almost went through with it knowing full well it would put missionaries and soldiers all over the world in danger to Muslim reprisals. "B...B...Bro, Where's the love?"

I freely admit that there are teachings in Scripture that I have systematized. I must in humility, however, recognize that my systems have been developed by looking at the Bible through the grid of my American heritage, culture, race, economic/social status and my denominational affiliations. I try to be "totally" objective. I'm not. No one is.

Must we sacrifice truth in order to walk in love? I think not. God is not confused. He told us not only to be right and do right but to be and do both in love. How? By submitting to His Spirit who teaches us to honor God's Character by being like Jesus--- "... that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4). Augustine, in the 4th century gave us some good advice : "In essentials--unity. In non-essentials--liberty. In all things--charity."

" is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10)

Danny Lehmann is the Dean of the College of Christian Ministries for YWAM's University of the Nations.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

skype dates

I love technology!
Seriously people!
This having friends living on different continents only works because of the time period I am privileged to live in.
My dear friend Jo (lives in Scotland) was online the other day during my afternoon, her middle of the night (should be sleeping) time and we had the joy of talking and seeing each others faces for 45 fabulous minutes!
Its amazing to me that my friends, even across the world, can be seen and heard, if only we sit in front of our computers at the same time.
I am so blessed to live in this day and age. So thankful that I don't have to go years without seeing my dear friends who are far away! Love you Josephine! Can't wait until our next reunion!

(this photo was while we were in Switzerland together in the Spring of 2003)

Forgive and forgive again and again...

Yesterday I was looking at a friends facebook status that she posted:

just because you've made the CHOICE to forgive, doesn't mean the pain goes away immediately...BUT you can learn to manage the pain instead of allowing the pain to manage you (Krista Deary)

this got me to thinking about my own testimony of forgiveness in my life which led to a few responses...

My first response to that status:

One of my biggest lessons in life was learning about forgiveness. What really helped me as I grew through the process of forgiveness was:
1) I had to mentally imagine myself letting that person of the hook for how they had hurt me. It wasn't that I was saying what they did was okay... it was that I did not get to punish that person... it was only hurting me and causing anger and bitterness by placing that person on the hook.
2) I chose to then try to see that person with the eyes of Christ from that time forward. Not bringing up thoughts of the past but pushing those aside and focusing on the grace and love that God has for that person. And the forgiveness that God gave that person, just as He has forgiven me.
3) repeat steps 1 & 2 until I see this person for all Christ created only that person to do.

I am still in this process... forgiveness can be challenging. It has been 10 years since I chose to forgive. The hardest part is that I continually have to forgive this person again and again for new pain that is caused... but God grants me that same grace... He forgives me again and again and again and... you get the picture. We have to chose to forgive to find total healing and forgiveness for our own sins. God is just and is the only judge who can make us pay for our wrong doings. He also paid the price so we don't have to suffer eternal damnation. We get the gift of grace each day. We have total forgiveness if only we ask for it. Just remembering how God has changed my life in the area of forgiveness gives me a good heart check today. Thanks for the reminder. Now to repeat these steps again :)

Reading through the words I have written and sifting through my heart has challenged me to see my heart with more areas of forgiving that need to be done. I am in no way finished with the work that the Lord has begun in me... even if it was ten years ago when He began the healing process. As I was talking to my dear friend Jo (who lives in Scotland) yesterday via skype I shared some of my pain and she reminded me that we are all so broken. We are humanity. We are not perfect. We are going to fail each other. We are going to cause pain. We are all a work in progress. So I need to again let go of pain and forgive and forgive again and again.

Then someone else commented after my response, I will not name this person since I don't know this person. But this was the comment:

What about when you forgive, but your family won't. When they won't even consider your feelings, and you feel like you have to choose between the two..

My response to that came after more sifting through my heart and remembering what God has already walked me through and what verses and promises I need to rely on to continue to forgive and forgive again and again.

Here is my second response:

When I chose to forgive, I chose as my personal decision. It was not based on the understanding that someone else was going to receive that forgiveness and our relationship would then be restored. I forgave so my own heart would find the freedom of forgiveness. It was between me and the Lord. I didn't have to tell that person that I forgave them. It was only so I could have healing and move past the anger and pain and bitterness my unforgiving heart and mind were stuck churning through.

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We have to forgive so that our hearts can be right with God and so we can receive His forgiveness. It is the personal choice of your family members to be right with God or not.

I forgave and made the decision to tell the person that I forgave. It was important for me to tell specifically what I was putting behind me/letting this person "off the hook"/forgiving for. When I had this conversation, no changes happened in the relationship except on my end. I found myself slowly training my mind and heart to see this person differently. I had to take this person off the hook in my mind repeatedly when Satan tried to remind me of the past pain. I reminded Satan that I had forgiven this person.

It wasn't until seven years after I had forgiven this person that I received a glimpse of the process of forgiveness. I got a phone call one afternoon. The person on the other end of the phone, who I had chosen to forgive seven years before, was calling me to ask for forgiveness. This person listed all of the reasons they wanted forgiveness. They were finally in a place where God had worked on their heart and brought Light to the areas that needed to find freedom of forgiveness. This is a very humbling step for anyone to do. To admit you have wronged someone takes great courage and humility. I don't think this would have happened if my heart had remained hardened toward this person or if my attitude when near this person had been bitter and harsh. God did the work on my heart and helped me find the freedom of forgiveness before He worked on this other persons heart.

We have a choice to forgive. It is one of the most challenging acts we can do. It is also a part of how we show love.

1st Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

There it is... "keeps no record of wrongs"... sounds like forgiveness to me. This has been the next greatest challenge of my life. Choosing to love each person with every attribute in this definition of love. As someone who was hurt greatly and chose to forgive... the only way I could continue to have an attitude of forgiveness towards the person who had wronged me was to have a continual hope. "Love always hopes." It was God's perfect timing when He did the work in the heart of the person who I had chosen to forgive... it was seven years later that the hope He had started in my heart, the Love that He had opened my eyes to, finally came to fruition.

These two areas of forgiveness and love are my biggest life lessons... more like my testimony. Remember that our God has no limitations. I certainly did not feel hopeful at the very moment when I chose to forgive. It is a process. We are in process. He is able to do more than we can hope or imagine (Eph 3:20). As you step in obedience and chose to forgive, God will start working on the hearts of those around you. They will notice a change in you as you continually chose to have an attitude of forgiveness and love.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

He is faithful! He will not leave you or let you walk through the process of forgiveness alone. Call on Him for wisdom and strength. He will meet you each day and give you that strength to forgive and forgive again. My life is a testimony to God's ability to bring healing and forgiveness. I hope my story gives you some hope for your story of forgiveness.

I am still walking through forgiveness in my life. Knowing we are all broken and in need of His grace allows my heart to feel hope that some day forgiveness will be second nature to me.

To anyone who may be reading this who I have hurt or offended. Please let me know, so that our hearts can be right toward one another and so we can be aligned with Christ in an attitude of forgiveness and grace. I do not profess to be perfect, I am just as broken as the rest of humanity.

Lord, thank you for beginning this work in my life... I know you will be ever so faithful to complete it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recreational Equipment International

Did you know that is what REI stands for?
Well, I am there newest seasonal employee starting on the 15th of October! I am super excited to be working an extra job this holiday season. And the benefits of working at REI are awesome! I will be working in the call center between 16 and 40 hours a week. Its going to be a busy busy busy season! Yes, I will still be working my night shift for the family of the little boy I take care of at night from 10pm-2am. My schedule is going to be crazy! But, I will be able to buy some Christmas presents this year... and more importantly, will be able to afford another quarter of college! And maybe will have some extra money for renewing my passport for the next international adventure I can only dream of at this point! One can hope! (I am singing the song from Cinderella... "A dream is a wish your heart makes...") sigh. Thankful that God gave me the desire to travel the world... excited to see how and when He will provide for my next adventure!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

NW Trek

It had been a few years since my last visit... probably more than a decade. This weekend I made a trip to NW Trek with Stephen and his niece and nephew. Seeing kids experience the world is so much fun! Stephen is a big kid himself and LOVES animals, so he was just as excited as Luke and Lily. We had a great time on the tram, having lunch in the cafe, and strolling through the park for six hours. The kids made horn crowns... well, I made them after they asked for help and left me at the craft table to finish the task. Lily almost climbed the fence to go into the bear exhibit. Yes, bears are her favorite. She kept asking for the bears all day long. My favorite part was the tram ride. There were so many animals out and they were so close too! Lucas enjoyed the cougar the most. I am not sure what Stephen's favorite part was... pretty sure he loved it all! It was wonderful and exhausting! Man, am I glad I am not a parent yet! But I can't wait til the next time when we can take the kids to another fun place... just to see them experience the world. It is a precious thing being a kid. So much yet to discover. It was a joy to be with those kids this weekend.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stephen's 31st Birthday

Today my man celebrated his 31st year of life. I made him my famous peanut butter cake. Yep, that hooked him for life. I crumbled reese's peanut butter cups over the milk chocolate frosting for extra kick. It was a hit... as usual :) We went out with a bunch of his friends to Round Table Pizza to celebrate. Happy Birthday Stephen! I am so happy I can celebrate this special day with you! Praying for many more birthday celebrations in our future! I love you!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Six Months

My final was scheduled close to our actual anniversary day so we celebrated a day later just about an hour after my final was finished. Major celebration!
So Stephen was waiting for me in the driveway when I got home from school that day. He promptly whisked me away to Olive Garden in Federal Way for some early dinner/late lunch. It is one of both of our favourite places to go. After dinning we went to a park that had a beautiful boardwalk and bunnies everywhere! It was absolutely gorgeous... except for the rain and the fact that I was wearing flip flops and almost fell on my ass ten feet into our walk on the boardwalk :)
After sitting on a bench and watching the bunnies for awhile we went to the cheap theater and watched Alice in Wonderland. It was so cool! I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The story line was different than the movie I remember as a kid and it was so creative and colorful!
After the movie we went next door to Cold Stone where we had our first date ever and had romantic ice cream while listening to the melodic sounds of the Cold Stone employees singing songs of sweetness (ice cream). It was so special. When we walked out of Cold Stone there were two beautiful rainbows side by side in the sky. I stopped and hugged Stephen with my head to his chest and he of course told me he ordered them special for our day. It was then that I realized his heart was pounding like a drum harder than I had ever heard it before. I told him and he said it was because he loves me. He then grabbed my hand and put something in my palm and told me that he wanted to make some promises to me. Promises to spend the rest of his life loving me, promises to be faithful and trust me, and promises to respect me and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember. He then opened my hand and there was a ring. He told me it was a Promise ring. He made me all of those beautiful promises. It was so special. I reminded him that rainbows are God's promises to man. It was such a beautiful day! I felt so loved and still feel so loved by Stephen. He is amazing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Picnic in the Rain

Today Stephen and I set out to have a romantic picnic. We packed our adorable basket with bubbly drink and the required items needed to make peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Threw in some fruit and an extra protein drink for the hike. Where was this picnic to be had? At Snoqualmie Falls of course! And what kind of day was it? It was a glorious rainy spring day, of course!
Once we arrived at our destination we found the perfect picnic table. This table was located under the dripping trees and the benches were soaking wet. We sat on the table cloth that we otherwise would have used for the... table. We carefully made our sandwiches while laughing as we were getting more and more drenched by the dripping trees as we ate. Our sandwiches were soggy with rain and tree water, but we were having fun! Oh, we were in the making of a great memory! The rain stopped long enough to give us hope for our hike. Yep, we were about to hike down to the bottom of the Falls. The going down part is a whole lot easier than the going up part. At the bottom we realized we need to get into better shape so we can make it to the top without taking breaks. We huffed and puffed and made it to the top (while being passed by young and old). But we made it! Next time we take this hike, the plan is to be in better shape!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Welcome Bella!

My baby brother became a dad today. This seems so crazy and yet it is factual. Her name is Bella Grace. She is beautiful. Seeing him hold his daughter is so precious. I am so happy for him to have a little girl and a family to take care of. Congrats Nick & Shali! You are a beautiful family!