Zoooom! Or so it feels.

Well.

2011 wasted no time in finishing itself up quickly and hurrying to curtain.  I keep marveling at how quickly time is passing.  With several friends already graduated, and some even engaged or married, it’s still hard to believe that it’s all happened, much less that it’s all happened so fast.

When my mind finally stops spinning (or at least slows down), I find myself wondering where I fit into all of this.  So, God, am I on track?  Should I have done X by now?   What’s coming next?  Is there anyway I can see some sort of timeline, or…

Multiple times, I’ve just sat back and said out loud, “God, I have no idea of what’s going on.”

I know what I want.  I know what I’ve prayed and asked God for, and I know some things about God.  I know that He loves me, that He’s perfect, that He’s saved me, that He empowers me, that He’s just, that He knows what’s coming next, and that He’ll never leave me, among other things.

But I have yet to know what my personal timeline is, and I’ve got a good hunch that I’m not going to see one except in retrospect.

So 2012 and all of the changes and potential dreams it brings are rushing in.  I’m just a girl clinging to her Heavenly Daddy’s hand and trying (but definitely failing right now) to walk confidently forward.  Sometimes I’m stubbornly digging in my heels but being dragged along anyway.  Sometimes as I’m being dragged, I’m just sitting back and sobbing, trying to grasp at things I’m leaving behind but being pressed forward nonetheless.  Sometimes- rarely- I’m right in stride, with a “BRING IT” look on my face.

No matter what your attitude is toward the new year, or change in general, it’s my prayer that we can embrace the future with joy and excitement.  We know where we are now, and we know the very end of the story, but we’ve little clue of what happens between the two.  I’m glad Someone is much more aware.  As Psalm 146 says, “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.  He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them- He remains faithful forever.”

I feel that I should add here that I don’t think we need to just helplessly float along until the end, saying we have no control anyway.  We’ve got a lot of tasks to do.  We’re called to love, serve, and represent Christ.  We’re called to pursue our spiritual gifts.  We’re told to love those around us and spread the gospel.

Oh, Lord, please help us to make the most of this time that You’ve given us, whether we’re overwhelmingly aware of a rush of changes or not.  Thank You for Your word and the truths that we find there of Your love and provision, and please continue to remind us of these things.  Thank You for bringing us through this year, and Your will be done in the one to come.

Happy New Year, everyone!
p.s.  For less stream-of-consciousness-based “years’ end” posts, or just to see my previous thoughts, feel free to read the last December posts from 2009 and 2010. =)

The Season

I’m sorry today’s post is coming so late!  It’s been a busy week and I’ve just finished attending three full graduation ceremonies and a portion of a fourth today and city-hopping over the past couple of days.  It barely feels like “the holiday season” for me.  It’s been so warm outside, I’ve been locked away studying and writing a thesis proposal, and suddenly you’re telling me Christmas is in three days?

I’m not sure how important it is, though, that “Jingle Bells” be constantly in my head right now.  Perhaps the definition of “Christmas” that first comes to mind is that of the “Happy Holiday.”  I didn’t realize until a few friends wished me a “Merry Christmas” how relieved and joyful I was to finally hear someone unashamedly talking about this time as the advent season- when Christ came to us.  That joy and thankfulness that our Savior came for us is something that we have year round!

That said, I’m so glad we have time set apart to really think about the coming of Christ, and I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to make it to more advent services this year (the church I attend lit advent candles and read a related Bible verse, but the sermons weren’t necessarily focused on those early parts of the gospels).  I have encountered a few passages in my Bible reading from throughout the Word that have been encouraging throughout this hustle and bustle of a time in reminding me of what I’ll be celebrating in a few days and of this amazing gift’s application to my life today.

Here are some of them now:

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

– John 3:17-21

“A voice of one calling: 

‘In the desert prepare 
   the way for the LORD; 
make straight in the wilderness 
   a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be raised up, 
   every mountain and hill made low; 
the rough ground shall become level, 
   the rugged places a plain. 
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, 
   and all mankind together will see it. 
            For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ 
   And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’

   ‘All men are like grass, 
   and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, 
   because the breath of the LORD blows on them. 
   Surely the people are grass. 
The grass withers and the flowers fall, 
   but the word of our God stands forever.’”

Isaiah 40:3-8

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

– Romans 5:12-17

And no matter what you’re doing in three days, I pray that you’re able to take time to truly meditate on the incomprehensibly valuable gift of Christ’s coming down to us.  Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Fa-la-la-la-finals

Well, it’s that time of year again. I sadly didn’t have much time for blogging due to some applications due today and lots of study parties, but I do have a little encouraging message that I stole from myself (sorry if you read it already!). I’ll be more original next week. =)

Today, I’d like to remind you of God’s goodness to us right now. I think it’s often after we get the job, or pass the test, or get the answer we wanted that we remember, “Oh YEAH! God was looking out for me.” But faith is being sure of what you hope for- it’s remembering now that God loves us and has a good plan. In fact, the passage below is full of the present tense- “we are not consumed,” for instance.

So while we’re still waiting, while we’re still working, let’s “call to mind, and therefore… have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are

not consumed,

for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my

portion;

therefore I will wait for Him.'”

– Lamentations 3:21-24

Worthwhile

“This can’t be done!”

“Well, find a way to do it.”

This is the internal dialogue that basically sums up some of the more intense environments that I’ve worked in.  Everything just fell apart and it’s not working?  Make it work.  Get the job done.  (“The Devil Wears Prada,” anyone?)

With the end of the semester coming around, I’ve been thinking a good deal about why we work so hard as a culture.  I recently stayed up until the wee hours of a morning editing a video that was supposed to be played at an event later the same day.  When I learned that there might not be time for the video to be shown, I was a little bit devastated.  “All for naught!” the dramatic voice in my head cried.  “I could have done X and Q and P!”

But later, I got to thinking.  A speaker at a retreat I attended once pointed out that service lasts only as long as the kingdom for which the service is done.

The window of the video’s relevance was about 84 hours.

I’ve spent hours filling up bunches of water balloons for a camp activity, just for that little kingdom to literally explode in about five minutes and leave us with very wet, but cheerful, children.

Even any after-effects of those events- the laughs that the video might summon on someone’s rough day, or the memories a child had- may only last as long as those people’s lives do.

But by this logic, service to God’s kingdom is eternal, just as the kingdom is.

It makes sense, then, that Jesus tells us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Then “all these things will be given to you as well.”

We’re called to worship and glorify God with our lives, so basically any moment can be lasting and relevant service to Him.  Thinking about the time and effort I dedicate to so many of my other activities, with effects that I might be able to see right away, but that I also see fade, it makes working for the glory of my never-fading Savior all the more valuable.

This is certainly not to discount the value of little acts of service- as I said before, many can double as service to God, depending on what it is and how it’s approached.  I, for one, very much hope to be filling up hundreds of water balloons for the seventh summer in a row come July 2012.  But I also very much hope that each of the kids who slide their hands into the water bucket to grab a balloon, and who look around disappointedly when the bucket is empty in what feels like seconds, know that we put this much into planning activities for them because we love them and we love Jesus.

I very much hope that my moments of sadness and struggle can encourage others or teach me an important lesson.  I very much hope that my education prepares me well to reach and serve others, particularly the underserved, during my career, and that God can use me in the lives of my peers and classmates.

It’s amazing to have a very great hope in Christ and to know that this life is worthwhile.

It Takes a Village…

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know Thanksgiving was last week.  Well, I’m not finished.

I’m thankful for the man in the post office who didn’t laugh at me when I yelled “DOLLARS?!” when I realized the cost he was talking about for mailing a package overnight was not in cents.

I’m thankful for my connections on campus that allow me to waltz (sometimes literally) into a lab or office and feel completely at home.

I’m thankful that when I get angsty, Relient K has just the song for me, and

I’m thankful that I have roommates who don’t mind when I sing out my feelings in the shower.

I’m thankful for modern medicine.  I’m also thankful for modern medicine that helps you out when you have an allergic reaction to other modern medicine.

I’m thankful for my friends’ talents.  It’s nice to look up from something you’re absolutely overwhelmed by and see your friend completely randomly playing bass guitar, and being quite good at it.  And having another friend suddenly realize that her vocal range was greater than previously realized.

I’m thankful for the way I “happened” to grab a black pen on my way out the door on the day when I’d need to write something in black pen when I normally only write in blue.

It’s been blowing my mind a little lately how God works in our lives.  This is not to say that I have not been running around like a crazy person trying to get my grad school applications ready, work on a photojournalism project, study for classes, etc. etc.  This is not to say that I haven’t cried out in frustration.  This is to say that there’s a comfort in knowing that God hasn’t changed- just as He worked it out before, He can work it out again.  There’s direct parallels, like the way that I went to the college at the bottom of my list, which turned out to be the best of the schools that I applied to in terms of preparing me for what I realized I wanted to be my career.  It would be pretty unfortunate if I’d majored in English, like I’d planned to at other schools, and applied for Journalism jobs to find that it wasn’t what I intended and I really just wanted to work with and help children and their families.  But then there’s the little things that happen in each day- how a recommendation letter arrived in the mail at just the right time, how my roommate happened to be giving away a bunch of delicious honey crisp apples in the week that I was out of grab-and-run-out-of-the-door fruits and out of time to stop at the student union for a meal.

The people and organizations in my life are amazing.  They’re very understanding.  But even so, they often don’t recognize the impact they’re having.  They don’t know that their timing couldn’t have been better, perhaps because it’s not really their timing.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’m thankful for the amazing community both in and outside of the body of Christ.  And I’m thankful for the King and Lord that runs the whole show.