The Mother Who Turns Around

One summer day many years ago, driving down South Main Street in one or another of our colorful, A.C.-less minivans, my mother said, looking concerned, “I’m going to turn around.”

“Why?” I whined.

“There was a girl,” she said. “Outside of the Planned Parenthood back there. She was crying. I just think I should go back and see if she’s alright.”

Sweaty and miserable and tired of errands, I slouched down in my seat, huffing and puffing at the inconvenience of my mother’s thoughtfulness. This girl wasn’t my mother’s problem. But now she was my problem too.

We turned around, but the girl was gone. We finished our errands and drove home. My lousy attitude receded.

And yet, I haven’t forgotten this, even though it’s been at least a decade since those minutes in the minivan that I spent feeling sorry for myself, while my mother demonstrated her character and love for others.

My mother has been patient with me through twenty years of my terrible attitudes, stubbornness, lack of appreciation, lack of cooperation, self-absorption, carelessness, laziness, and ridiculous ideas (over a weekend in sixth or seventh grade I became convinced that I was called to be a film actress; this declaration was met with, “Well, if this is something that you really want to pursue, tell me how I can help,” rather than the pessimistic harangue about realistic dreams and required daily diligence that I’m inclined to give my siblings whenever they find themselves suddenly enthralled by some romantic ambition). She has encouraged me as I change my mind and my major and my life plan dozens of times. I’m thankful that she forced me to eat hot cereals and memorize scripture, and I’m ashamed at the way I resisted so many good things. She knew what was best for me. She still does, more often than not.

The Sunday before I left New Jersey for Jordan, an older woman at our church said, “Your mother is very strong. And very selfless, to let you leave. She’s so excited for you.”

That’s right. My mom is strong and selfless, and not by her own strength. In recent months, my siblings and I have witnessed our mother’s unfailing love for the Lord and faith in His Word and promises. We know that our parents watch us grow, but sometimes we forget that our parents are growing too. It’s a blessing to see my mother becoming more like Christ, faith ever-increasing, throughout years of joy and pain.

And in all sorts of contexts, she still stops and turns around when she sees someone in need—despite complaints from the backseat. Someday we’ll learn.

Happy mother’s day, Mommy. ILYYS.

Grace Through it All

A couple of days ago I passed Nathan Greenfield, the director of Alliance Academy Jordan, in the school’s hallway of administration offices. Although this is my third week working at AAJ, it was the first day that he had been at the school since my arrival. The day that my plane landed in Amman, Nathan’s father passed away unexpectedly, just one week away from turning sixty-two. Nathan, his wife, and their four kids flew back to the States for the funeral, and to spend a couple of weeks with family.

“So we’re in a similar boat,” Nathan said, after I stopped to introduce myself.

I nodded and agreed. “Yes—I can’t imagine what it’s like for you—I mean, it’s interesting—working through it all away from home,” I rambled. “For me, coming here and being away from home adds a whole new dimension to grieving—acknowledging the reality of the situation while I feel so removed from it—it’s good, I think, definitely hard, but good. For you–being here, and then going back to your extended family, and now being back—it must be strange to try and process.”

“It is strange,” he agreed. “But there is grace through it all.”

It has been difficult, processing my dad’s death in an entirely new context. The months that followed his death, spent at home in New Jersey, were strange and almost surreal. Here, so far away from home, things seem clearer, and drastically—painfully and sickeningly—more real. Instead of being faced with the “new normal” sitting around the dinner table with my mother and siblings, I find myself thinking of home and my family, and then suddenly slapped with reality, wondering how can it be? When people ask about my family, I hesitate for a moment, considering how to begin. I think twice before sharing stories from summers and holidays and life growing up, or anything that will force me to speak about my father in the past tense. I feel unsettled, in this foreign land of life without my dad, a land that is now home.

There is a scene in The Magician’s Nephew, written by C.S. Lewis, where Digory pleads with Aslan to provide some cure for his mother’s sickness. Overwhelmed by his own grief and hopelessness, Digory finally looks up, from where he has been staring through tears at the Lion’s feet and claws, and sees that “great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes . . . They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself”.

I often find myself resigned—at least, in my mind—to God’s sovereignty over my dad’s death. I’ll sigh, and like Digory, keeping his eyes down and focused on the huge claws and feet of the lion, plead for a cure (probably more halfheartedly than Digory does). I know that the Lord is there. I know that the Lord is listening. But somehow, I almost doubt that the Lord cares—with any real, feeling affection—about my particular circumstances very much, considering the far-reaching range of circumstances dished out daily upon humanity.

But then, I am reminded continually of His grace, and of His love. “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord,” Jeremiah writes in the book of Lamentations. “Though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love.”

Just like Digory, when he finally looked up into the face of Aslan and saw to his surprise, tears!—when I turn my heart and my eyes to the Lord and His Word, I realize: God is sorrier for my condition than I am. Of course, I don’t mean sorry in the way that I am sorry—my “sorrow” over my condition and circumstances is too often simple frustration over the discomfort or unfamiliarity of certain circumstances, and longing for temporary comfort, rather than a true grieving over the fallenness of this world and my own heart. But even when I grieve over death and sin properly, through the revealing light and wisdom of Scripture, still, even then, I cannot see as fully as He sees. I long desperately for the land described in The Great Divorce (also by C.S. Lewis), the land “not of questions, but of answers [where I] shall see the face of God.”

Though the Lord has caused grief, He has had compassion on me, not only in the inexpressible wonder of bringing me to salvation, but in providing me over these past months with the greatest joy and contentment and encouragement and assurance that I have ever known. In realizing how shakeable so much of life is, I come to know the One who is unshakeable. In new and unfamiliar territories of life, He goes before me and He goes with me. I marvel even at the fact that in spite of unexpected and uncertain circumstances, He made a way for me to come to Jordan, and has even provided those walking a parallel path to remind me of His goodness.

There is grace through it all.

I am a Sojourner

Yesterday, I accidentally made eye contact and smiled while I said “shukran” (“thank you”) to the guy at the grocery store when he finished weighing my plastic bags of produce. Basic friendliness, an admirable habit—you would assume. In New Jersey, friendliness towards store employees might be a pleasant surprise for the employee; as a female interacting with a male in Amman, it is essentially hardcore flirting. I’ll do my best not to make that mistake again.

My first week in Jordan, I have been given a good taste of what it is to be a stranger. Sleeping in a new apartment and meeting new people is one thing. It is another thing to walk down the street and hear people speaking and shouting words that I don’t understand. It is quite another thing to take a surreal drive up to the Syrian border to try to catch a glimpse of the 80,000-person refugee camp, and to imagine how different these people’s sense of security and stability must be from mine. Waking up at four in the morning as the Islamic call to prayer travels from a nearby mosque into the quiet darkness of my bedroom, catches me off guard for a moment. Realizing that the man who sets the Turkish coffee and cardamom cake on my table at the coffee shop, and the woman covered from head to toe who passes me as I walk up the several flights of stairs to my apartment, and the janitor who cleans the bathrooms at AAJ all have a fundamentally different view of the world than I do, is humbling. I thought that my perspective on life was fairly broad. Now I am beginning to realize just how small my view of the world really is. So much of what I encounter every day in this new land is entirely unfamiliar.

I am working at Alliance Academy Jordan (AAJ) as an English support teacher in the 2nd through 5th grade English classes. This past week I spent meeting many of the elementary teachers and students (“Mikaela is such a hard name to pronounce and remember!” “Alright Njood, try learning FIFTY or so new names in a week and see who has the harder job here!”) and beginning to learn my role and responsibilities. Normally, I don’t find myself feeling emotionally inclined towards people very quickly—but the teachers are beautiful and warm and welcoming, and the children (even when they get upset over an assignment and call me bad names—in Arabic, so I don’t know the difference, although they face the consequences) have already secured a significant spot in the deepening well of all my affections.

All of this experience (over the grand course of a week), while eye-opening and wonderful and exciting, has also been intimidating and overwhelming. It has reminded me that just as I am currently so hopelessly set-apart, an alien in the middle of this culture where I now live, I am also set-apart from this world where I dwell, because I am saved by the redeeming blood and brought to eternal life by the righteousness of Christ.

Lord, I would not be a citizen where Jesus was an alien. His pierced hand has loosened the cords that once bound me soul to earth, and now I find myself a stranger in the land. My speech seems to these pagans among whom I dwell a strange tongue; my manners are singular, and my actions are outlandish. A prince would be more at home in the ghetto than I could ever be in the haunts of sinners. But here is the sweetness of my circumstance: I am a stranger with You. You are my fellow-sufferer, my fellow-pilgrim. Oh, what a joy to wander in such blessed company!

Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (March 16)

The taste of being a stranger is unfamiliar, but sweet, as I identify more with my Savior, who sojourned in a world that did not know Him, though He made it and holds it together. I pray that my view of Christ in all of His glory would grow bigger and bigger; that even as I come to interact with and understand this culture more and more, I would also grow increasingly aware of my strangeness, my status as a foreigner in this land and every land that I inhabit before I reach the place that has been prepared for me by Christ Himself. But with Christ, and to Christ, I am not a stranger—in fact, I am more of a stranger to myself than I am to Him (“Before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether!”). To wander with Jesus is to be thoroughly known and loved, in whatever strange land I dwell.

And speaking of new tastes, no complaints here about the hummus, falafel, and shawarma.

A Prayer for Faith

For Christmas, my Aunt Karyn gave me a little devotional book called Daily Light. Each morning and evening there is a short assortment of Scripture taken from various parts of the Bible, assembled so that it reads as one smooth portion. One evening reading, back in January, hit me particularly hard:

We have turned, every one, to his own way.

Noah . . . planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk. // Abram said to Sarai his wife, . . . “Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me.” // Isaac said to Jacob, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob said, “I am.” // Moses . . . spoke rashly. // The men of Israel . . . did not ask counsel of the LORD. Joshua . . . made a covenant with them. // David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and he had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

All these . . . obtained a good testimony by faith. // All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. // The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

“Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord GOD, “Let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways.”

This coming week, I will fly to Amman, Jordan to begin the next three months of my life. A lot of people have asked how they can be praying for me, specifically. The truth is, I really don’t know what to anticipate in terms of homesickness and struggles, or even exactly what life and relationships in Amman will look like, and so it’s difficult for me to know how to answer.

However, I have realized that ultimately, wherever I am and regardless of my circumstances, I am most consistently positioned in the dangerous path of turning aside to my own way.

I read through Genesis and Exodus in January, and was horrified (not for the first time) by the way that these men and women—who walked and talked with God!—second-guessed the goodness of the Lord and so quickly gave in to the lusts of their flesh. But then I look at myself, who I was a few years or months ago, and who I am today, and while I see the ways that the Lord has worked in my heart and life, still I grieve—even more deeply now than a few months or years ago—over my own sin. I am ashamed and confounded for my ways. Not nearly ashamed and confounded enough, I know.

And yet, I look to the Lord and I remember that I am striving to obtain a good testimony by faith. My iniquity has been laid upon Jesus. Faith in Jesus, precious Jesus by whom I have been justified freely, will keep me from turning to the inclinations of my flesh, and will spur me on to obedience and good works for the sake of His glory.

So, for those of you who will pray with and for me throughout these months (I thank God for you!) this is my prayer—even while I’m home, but especially as I’m reveling in the novelty of flying thousands of miles away from all that is familiar to experience new people and places—that I would, as Charles Spurgeon put it so well, “Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement”.

Hold On to the Lord

Two weeks ago today, I sat with my family in a pew at Union Congregational Church in Rockville, Connecticut. We had just watched a video about the current adoption process of my soon-to-be cousin, a little girl from China, who will be the tenth child in her family, the twenty-fourth grandchild on my mom’s side, and my thirty-fourth cousin.

As we watched Bible verses flash on the screen, my father leaned over and asked me, “What does it really mean to take care of the orphan and the widow?”

I shrugged, and mumbled something about most people always sitting around asking questions like that, but then failing to go out and actually accomplish the objective.

This past Tuesday was the most normal day of my life, until it became a blur of shouting and 911-calls and flashing lights and policemen and neighbors and EMTs pounding up and down the basement stairs. Then, half-an-hour of a quiet house, full of tears and prayers and Psalms. Finally, a phone call, and a deep, sickening finality.
My dad died from a heart attack. I don’t even completely know how that feels, or what it means yet. But I am certain that my dad now knows the perfect and complete love of his true Father, and my mother and siblings and I are experiencing the love of Christ’s church as believers all around us faithfully and selflessly and lovingly obey the commands of Scripture. The question that my dad asked has been answered more thoroughly than I could have imagined, not through consideration or study or discussion, but through the real, tangible love of the Lord and His people.

Here is the brief eulogy that I wrote for the funeral:

Seventeen years ago, my father wrote these words in a journal to me: “This morning, after dragging myself out of bed at 6:00 a.m. to read the Bible and pray, and taking a shower, I sat in the chair in our bedroom while your mom took a shower. As I sat there I thought I heard you making some sounds in your bed as you slept. Before I knew it you were stumbling into our room, rubbing your eyes, half asleep. You were so cute. Then, you climbed into my lap and put your arms around my neck and put your head on my shoulder. I was honored that you saw me as a person to receive comfort from. I hope you do that again soon.”

My dad’s own words here, describing a situation that isn’t particularly remarkable, are a simple glimpse into his character and his love for his family. My dad was an extremely diligent and consistent man, who sought after the Lord and the interests of others before his own interests. He was always faithful in the little things–setting out his clothes every night before work, getting up early, reading His Bible and praying, and spending most of his weeknights and weekends bringing all of us kids to and from work or activities. As hard as he worked, he never made work itself a priority. He never saw life as a competition.

My dad never looked past people. He was always very aware of different people and their personalities and different interests. Whenever someone was upset about something, no matter how subtle the signs, he noticed and was quick to offer consolation in whatever way he knew would serve them best. When someone was excited about something, he was ready and willing to listen to them ramble on to their heart’s content. He always encouraged us–his children–in our interests and taught us not become distracted by fleeting passions, but to work hard in tedious tasks and in every opportunity we were given.

My dad truly was a comforter. He was compassionate, and he always took our worries and concerns seriously. Through his sense of humor, he brought laughter and relief to stressful situations, and showed us that our worries were unnecessary when we considered them in light of the goodness of God.

My dad was faithful in teaching us the importance of diligence and discipline and continually pointed all of us to the Lord’s steadfast love. He reminded us that God is sovereign, and whatever He ordains is what is good for us. Our circumstances today, which seem so shocking and strange, are really not strange in light of eternity, when we consider that a week ago, our time and breath and circumstances were coming from the same good hand of our heavenly Father.

What was my dad’s only comfort in life and death? I know that his answer was–and is now, much more fully than we can imagine–that he is not his own, but belongs, body and soul, in life and in death, to his faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, I’ll share a part of the letter he wrote to me on my seventeenth birthday, which I know is not only to me, but to all of you. He wrote, “My final words to you are from a story Aunt Catherine told me years ago. She was on a train traveling back to New Jersey from California. She was near a group of African-American women who were talking about things of God. She sat with them and one of the women said something like, “Hold onto the Lord…whatever happens…hold onto the Lord.” Now I know God holds us in His hand and nothing can snatch us out of his hand, but I always remind myself to seek, pursue, study about, pray to, go to, hold-on to, depend on, trust in, and rest in God. Would you please do the same?”

Please, I plead with you. Hold onto the Lord.

Grand and Simple Mysteries

A woman named Darlene has come into Chick-fil-A every week or so for the past two months. She has thin, fluffy white hair, and only a couple of teeth, and every time I see her she tells me that she just got a new phone number, which is probably the reason she hasn’t received a call about her application. Knowing that her application has already been reviewed and rejected, I try to communicate this in the gentlest way possible, explaining that we would have already contacted her if we had a position available. She clings to hope and insists that her unreachable old number is the only complication in the situation, and so I hand her a sticky note to write down her new number, promising to pass it along to the hiring director.

When this situation last occurred–a few days ago–there was a bit more desperation than usual. Darlene needs this job. She isn’t going to get it.

As she left, her name and number scrawled on the sticky note in my hand, I thought about how the Lord clothes the flowers of the field, sees the cattle on a thousand hills and each sparrow sold for pennies, and knows the stars in the sky by name. I know that He sees and hears my prayers, because He tells me in His Word that He does. I’ve seen Him answer them. He has provided for me, even in little ways that–apart from serving as a reminder that the Lord does hear and know every desire, both the godly and the superficial–seem unnecessary.

On the first Monday morning in December, six years ago, my mom suggested that we order pizza for lunch. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and absolutely exhausted. The pregnancy had been a complicated one, money was tight, and stress levels were high. These days we have Jack’s Pizzeria’s number memorized, but in those days we didn’t, and so we dug around for the menu. It took us an unusually long time to come up with the menu, and an even longer amount of time to decide on toppings. Finally, after at least twenty minutes, someone picked up the phone to order. Before they could punch in the number, the doorbell rang. At the door was a pizza delivery guy with two pizzas.

“We didn’t order pizzas,” we said, confused.

“Well, they’re for you,” the delivery guy said, handing them over. “I’m supposed to tell you that they’re–a blessing from the Lord.”

My mom cried and the rest of us accepted this with gladness and without argument.

For some reason this story of God’s provision came to mind after talking with Darlene. I want her to have a job. I wondered if the Lord sees Darlene, if He knows that she needs a job, and if He cares. He has provided me with jobs and opportunities and friendships and pizza–pizza, of all things–before I even knew to ask for any of them. God’s mercy and judgment in every dealing is equally righteous and perfect in both of our lives, but I have somehow seen His goodness so clearly, many times. I don’t know if she has, and besides the day that all knees bend before the throne, I don’t know if she will.

The day after the pizza provision, my little unborn sister, perfectly formed for the number of days determined for her by her Heavenly Father, slipped into the next world before ever really entering this one. In the grief and misery that followed, I wondered–not in anger, but in confusion–why the Lord would give us pizza that we didn’t even ask for, but ignore the months of prayers for this baby’s healing. Why would He increase our faith in one small circumstance–demonstrating that He can hear and does know us–and then taunt us with His decision not to act in the way that seems best?

But these are the mysteries of God’s sovereignty and of His perfect will. I am not always called to understand and explain. I am called simply to trust, and rejoice in the kindness and graciousness he has shown to me, and walk faithfully and obediently in accordance with His Word. God is in the heavens, He does what He pleases–and while this might not always be in accordance with my sense of logic, His purposes are being established. His actions are in perfect accordance with His wisdom. He knows Darlene’s needs on a far broader scale than I do.

Many recent experiences have reminded me that the Lord is active not only in my own life, but in each individual life around me, shaping and molding us all for His purposes. We have needs. He sees them and knows them and He always acts in the way that is best. I hope and pray, that for all my life I will be desperate not only for the Lord’s provision (my flesh will pass away anyways), but for the Lord Himself.

Surprise, Surprise

“So, have you been getting some attention from the next office over?” Mrs. Carla Gray asked, leaning in towards me.

I didn’t know what she meant until she nodded in the direction of my tall, gluten-free coworker Alex, who sat in the chair across from me, nibbling on a (gluten-free) brownie.

“Oh–I don’t really know,” I stuttered. “There’s been nothing–I just–I don’t really read into anything.”

She smiled. “Well, this was his baby,” she said, gesturing towards the balloons and streamers, table set with snacks and drinks, and giant taped-together “Thank You” sign. There was even a huge, pink card, the front of it jokingly decorated with financial aid application documents cut into flowers and sprinkled with glitter (the card was made by Alex’s mom).

A few minutes earlier, I had walked through the office door after my lunch break, barely registering that the lights were off, when a crowd of my coworkers, the admissions team, and several of the women faculty shouted, “Surprise!”

The lights were flipped on, I tried to sufficiently express my thanks and genuine shock, and then we began to eat and talk. This surprise party had been thrown in celebration of my last week in the financial aid office, before my graduation from Word of Life. Earlier in the week, I had been amused when Alex came and said that Mr. Henson, the financial aid director, planned to bring in donuts (or something along those lines) for my last day of work. Alex wanted to make sure that I didn’t have any strong preferences or allergies. I informed him that I am not at all picky and he could feel free to choose something that catered to his gluten-free needs. Anticipating finding a box of sugary something on my desk on Friday, the last thing I expected was a full-blown party. But there I was, reveling in the best surprise since my seventh birthday party.

“Tell everyone your plans for once your time here is finished,” Tom Headlee, the Dean of Admissions, said.

As fickle, ever-shifting, and back and forth as my plans always are, I actually had an answer. And the answer still stands, more than a few weeks later (which could be a new record).

The summer after my freshman year of high school I spent a week with the Phillipsburg Christian and Missionary Alliance youth group on an Adventures in Missions trip to Philadelphia. Serving alongside us at the Salvation Army on the infamous Kensington Avenue was another youth group, from Michigan. One member of their team–whose nickname was not “Hottie” as I had originally assumed, but rather, he was named Hadi–made a particular impression. He was capable of perfectly French-braiding the hair of the girls from the his youth group, was never found without a soccer ball being juggled on the tips of his sneakers, and had moved to Michigan from Iraq, where he had left about a dozen siblings behind when he moved to the States. He really didn’t talk much, so I gathered this information throughout the week based on either my own observations or comments from other team members. At some point, I saw Hadi write something, and having never before seen handwritten Arabic, I was taken by its aesthetic beauty. I was fascinated with this language, and the culture behind it.

The next summer, one of the missionaries who spoke during the annual family camp week at Delta Lake Bible Conference Center (a Christian and Missionary Alliance camp in Rome, New York) was named Rob. He and his wife had started a women’s center in Jordan. I decided to talk to him one morning during the coffee hour, to ask him his opinion on taking Arabic as a foreign language in high school (a decision that I was currently in the process of making).

“Well,” he said. “Because there are so many dialects, you really need to know where you’re going in order to be able to really communicate. The daily, spoken language definitely varies considerably from one country to the next. That being said, it’s a great language, and worth studying.”

Without much–if any–convincing being necessary, I was sold and determined, and about six weeks later, I began my first online Arabic class. My teacher, Miss Maylena David, was from and currently living in Jordan. Throughout the following months I studied the Arabic alphabet and very basic conversational skills. The following year, I took another class, and although I didn’t study as much as I should have (not realizing how much free time I truly had prior to graduating–oh, the many wasted mornings that I slept in, and afternoons where I moseyed around as if those minutes didn’t count towards the sum total of my life), I continued to read about Arabs and Muslims, and grew increasingly intrigued with the Arabic language, Middle-Eastern culture, and the seeking and searching, but terribly hopeless, religion of Islam.

The summer before my senior year of high school, while camping up at Delta Lake again, I heard about the new short-term missions and internship program being launched by the C&MA, called Envision. I talked to one of the members from the Envision board, and asked him whether there was anywhere in the Middle East that I could possibly intern. He told me that there was a site in Jordan. A couple nearby, overhearing our conversation, commented that I could probably pass for a young, Middle-Eastern woman.

I filled out an interest form on the website, and since I had never been out of the country or lived away from home, they suggested a shorter-term trip. That didn’t work out then due to my schedule, but I kept the idea in the back of my mind.

Throughout my year at Word of Life, I muddled through a variety of potential plans following graduation from the one-year program. After applying to a variety of different schools for drastically different programs, unintentionally (and regretfully) soliciting emails and phone calls from every online and community college paralegal and sonography program in existence, then paying my confirmation fee and intending to enroll at a private four-year university as an English major (and subsequently second-guessing the loans and my true level of commitment, much to my misery), one day in June I stumbled across the Envision website yet again, and arrived at a webpage listing specific jobs. One in particular caught my attention: a teacher’s assistant needed in Amman, Jordan. I decided to submit an interest form, and see if anthing would come of it.

A week or so later, I received several emails from people serving in various capacities, from the Envision coordinators to the director of the Alliance Academy in Amman. The director said that they could still use someone in the position and would love for me to pursue the internship. He set up an interview with the Vice Principal of the school, an interview which was held at 7am on a Tuesday morning in July. The interview was not only a gauge of my ability to fulfill the needed position, but also a gauge of my commitment and ability to adapt to the drastically different culture and struggles that come with being a single woman living in a Middle-Eastern country. Although I was made more aware of the spiritual climate and likely frustrations that would come with living in Jordan, certainly worth considering, I found myself feeling an even stronger desire to pursue the opportunity.

After spending a few weeks doing my best to discern the desires that the Lord has placed in my heart from other motivations, praying for wisdom, and talking with my parents and several others about the situation, I decided that this opportunity is one that I don’t want to regret not pursuing. I dutifully phoned my admissions counselor to let him know that I would not be attending his university in the fall. He responded graciously. In the following weeks, I continued with the application process and informed people of my updated (albeit still tentative) plans.

This afternoon I recieved this email from the internship coordinator at Envision, Sarah Bourns:

Greetings from Colorado Springs, where you’ll be in a few weeks!!

I wanted to let you know that I’ve hear the OFFICIAL green light from the AAJ team in Jordan that they have gladly accepted you to serve with them come January! Yay!! And welcome to the family 🙂

This is exciting.

Sometimes certain decisions–like the decision to interview for a service RA position in the financial aid office, or the decision to spend a week in Philadelphia being chased around by inner-city six year olds in the Salvation Arm gym–can result, after many weeks or years, in very unexpected surprises.

Thoughts on Ephesians 5:15-21 (Quiet Time Considerations)

Be careful how you walk, Paul says.

I think that I tend to consider myself to be fairly aware of any potential dangers and threats to my Christian life. I do think that the Spirit reveals them to me, in order to convict me of sin and prevent me from stumbling. But there is a caution that is necessary–I’m human, and I’m susceptible to the heaviness of my flesh and the lies of the enemy. These can, of course, be overcome by the grace of God. But grace often seems to bring us to recognition, not directly to transformation.

Walk wisely.

How can I walk wisely except by staying in the Word of God diligently? David says that the Lord’s commandment makes him wiser than his enemies, and he has more understanding than all of his teachers, for the Lord’s testimonies are his meditation (Psalm 119:98-99). Wisdom from God is acquired through His Word. There is no shortcut.

Make the most of your time.

Time is so easily frittered away, and I’m as guilty as anyone. But I do not own my time, I am only a steward of it. It belongs to God. What really matters in this life? I ask, like Jonathan Edwards, that the Lord would “stamp eternity on my eyeballs”. I need to see everything with an eternal perspective. I can worry about the cares of the day and keep my concern centered on my pleasures, but how does that glorify God?

Imaging forth the Creator

One of my greatest interests and joys is art—visual art, music, and spoken and written words. None of these things are spontaneous in nature. All art is designed and created with some sort of intentionality. No creator creates without the awareness that his art is not simply an invention, but an expression. Every artist cares about his work, because the art he fashions is, in a sense, an extension of himself, a reflection of his own essence and being.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,

    in the image of God he created him;

    male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

We are all creations. We are all images. We are each particularly designed and carefully fashioned image-bearers of our Creator. He is the uncreated, eternally-existing founder and foundation of every other creation—every work, design, and thought that exists. The mind and nature of our Creator is revealed through His living, active, and image-bearing creatures. 

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

Though we are established as image-bearers of God simply because we are formed and knit together by Him, to display the glory and character of God requires diligence and intentionality. Our pursuit of knowledge and the ability to communicate and present ourselves well should be driven by a desire to understand and reveal the mind and nature of God, realizing that our purpose is to know and to glorify Him. To learn and understand requires discipline. To increase in wisdom and knowledge requires faithfulness and steadfast diligence. Through the pursuit of these things God is glorified, for He is faithful, steadfast, and diligent. We were created to be humble and dedicated stewards of the intrinsic abilities and capabilities that God has provided us with, and called to walk in obedience, being renewed by the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, fully prepared to use all of our resources for His glory.

You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:9-10

We not only have the demonstration of the character of God through His written Word, but the person of Jesus Christ who, even as a man, perfectly imitated the Father. Through His submission and obedience, he wonderfully displayed the glory of God. Jesus Christ is God, and was God with us–not simply a representation or imitation, but the real thing. As the Word of God, Jesus communicated the truth of God.

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:2-3)

Do we accurately reflect who we are? If our identity rests in the reality that we are the Lord’s image-bearers, called by God to faith in Christ and vessels of his mercy, do we clearly display the glorious truths of our marvelous Creator and beautiful Savior?

We take note of a new word that has crept into the argument by way of Christian theology—the word “image”. Suppose, having rejected the words “copy”, “imitation”, and “representation” as inadequate, we substitute the word “image” and say that what the artist is doing is to image forth something or the other, and connect that with St. Paul’s phrase: “God hath spoken to us by His Son, the brightness of His glory and express image of His person.” –Something which, by being an image, expresses that which it images. Dorothy Sayers

How will you, following the example of Christ, “image forth” the “brightness of [God’s] glory” in who you are and everything that you do?

thoughts on Jeremiah (quiet time considerations)

Simple poems from recent quiet times, based on my first impression of the text.

Jeremiah 9:12-24

How will we hear if we do not obey?

Hardhearted ignorance leads feet astray.

He calls us to come, and to know, and to stay;

Turn your hearts toward Him, O Sinners, today.

Jeremiah 14:7-22

Bristling at the hard, harsh words of God,

We ask, “How is this fair?” and “How is this love?”

Condemning His judgment, ignoring our crime,

Instead of asking,

“How has He been patient for all of this time?”

The answer: “In His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins…it was to show His righteousness at the present time…”(Romans 3:23-26)

Jeremiah 17:1-13

Cleanse us, O Lord, from our deep-rooted sin

That springs up, then festers, then settles within.

Open our eyes, they’re unable to see

The sin buried inside our identity.