Friday, September 27, 2013

Faith and Victory

For the last month, I have been slowly working my way through 1 John. So good! Everything I've read goes right along with what God has been teaching me anyway (coincidence? I think not!) and I pray that these lessons stick. I don't want to simply read and appreciate it, I want to, by God's grace, live it. Anyway, I'm nearly at the end of the book now, and I wanted to share something that stood out to me when I read the beginning of chapter 5 a few days ago.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:3-5)

There is so much to that, but what struck me that particular morning was what John doesn't say. He doesn't say that the victory that has overcome the world is our perseverance, our endurance, our obedience, our willingness to stand and fight in the battle... it's our faith. We are called to do all of those things, but that's not where our hope of victory lies, because it's ultimately not about what we do. Faith is the key to overcoming because our faith is in Him. The point isn't faith in and of itself. After all, I could believe with all my heart that I could jump off a cliff and fly, but my belief wouldn't somehow magically produce results (although I have to admit, that would be pretty cool!) It's the object of our faith that matters, and faith in Christ plants our feet firmly on a Rock that cannot be moved.  As we persevere, obey, fight, and seek to run faithfully the race He has marked for us, may our confidence rest not in our ability to stand, but in His ability to keep us standing. If He is our hope of victory, we will indeed overcome!

In other news, while it may not feel like fall here, at least our schoolroom door is festive! The girls and I end each week of school with a craft project, and this was our project last week.

Monday, September 23, 2013


  Yesterday morning (which was Saturday night back in NC) I had the privilege of being present at my dear friend Tori's 16th birthday party via Skype. It was a surprise for her, and while I pray it was a blessing, I realized almost as soon as I got on that the one receiving the greatest blessing was me. For about a half hour, I got to "be with" many of my very closest friends, most of whom I haven't gotten to talk to in nearly two months. It meant the world to me, and I could feel their love even though I was only looking at a blurry image on a computer screen.

  I have not been homesick too much, but after saying goodbye I ached so, so deeply. Truly, I am happy here. But I do miss home. I miss my family, CYT, and all of those I love dearly, and I've been feeling it a bit more strongly this week. Right now I am reading Hind's Feet on High Places for the third time- it's one of my favorites. Towards the beginning, the Shepherd, who represents Jesus, says, "If you would know love, you must know pain too." It's true. The reason why it hurts is because the community I have back home is a gift from God, so full of His love. This ache is a testament to the beauty of what He has given me. Hurting is not a bad thing, but I don't want to focus on it. My real home is not North Carolina. It's in Him. Home was only beautiful because He was in it, and He has promised never to leave nor forsake me. This pain is His gift to me, an opportunity to find that He really is enough. I pray for the strength to continually choose to rejoice in Him, for He is good.

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
Psalm 23:1

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Lock

On the door inside my room here in the village, I have a drawing of a padlock, along with the words "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." (2 Cor. 9:8) written above. Why a lock? Because a lock has become to me a powerful reminder of something vital in my walk with Christ.
  Several years ago, while working on a CYT play, I was asked to do some team building exercises with one of the groups. Having no idea what to do, I prayed about it. By the time the evening arrived, God had given me the ideas I needed, including one I was quite excited about.
  After an activity involving a puzzle and a blindfold, I handed the girls a locked padlock, directing them to work together and get it open. They dived in with eager optimism, passing the lock around and tossing out suggestions. Some of their ideas were funny. Some were quite clever. All were wrong. I let them work at it for awhile (it was really quite amusing) and finally asked them to stop. "Do you think you can get it open?" I asked.
  Pause. "No."
  "You're right! You can't! But may I have it?" They handed it over and, turning the knob back and forth, I opened it easily. "So why was I able to open it?"
  "Because you knew the combination."
  Just like I gave them an impossible task in handing them that padlock, the task facing them in bringing the play together- memorizing, dancing, singing, conveying emotion, loving each other with the love of Christ- was impossible. At CYT we are amateurs trying to put together high quality theater, which provides plenty of opportunities to see God work. Even if they could have pulled something together, it never would have had the anointing of the Holy Spirit that we pray for. But though it was beyond their ability, it was not beyond the God who had given them that work to do in the first place. I also pointed out that, in order for the lock to be opened, they had to give it to me. I could have opened it the whole time; I would have, if they had asked me. But they had to let go, and place it in my hands. How foolish we must look, trying and trying in our own strength when the God who made the universe is waiting for us to yield control, so that He might display His mighty power on our behalf.
  There was one more thing I wanted them to see. "So the lock is open now. Would it make sense for you to go down and tell the others, 'Look, we got it open!'"
  "Because you did it," they answered.
  Seems pretty obvious. But how often do we cry out to God in desperation, then take the credit when He answers (in our hearts, if not with our words) as though we ourselves had done something grand?

In my life right now, I am facing situations which I know full well are utterly beyond my ability to navigate. More than that, Jesus Himself said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5b) I can try and try, but the solution cannot be found within. It's not that I simply sit back and do nothing, for that is laziness. But only when I place my impossibilities in His hands in surrender and trust will I ever see those mountains moved. This simple illustration has had a profound impact on the way I view life. I don't know if the students remember, but I pray I never forget.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And So It Begins!

It is now Saturday, and we have made it through our first week of school! As my mom said, I guess I am now a second generation homeschool teacher. For months now I have prayed about teaching, and the first two and a half weeks in the village were spent in preparing. It was a daunting idea, and I knew I could never do it in my own strength. Now here I am, one week in, more convinced of that than ever. I can't! Even if I could get us through a school day, I couldn't help them really learn anything. On day one I prayed that Jesus would keep me depending on Him and not let me get too comfortable. I know it's only week one, but so far so good! I knew that there would be challenges, and I'm certainly able to see many of them right now. It will take wisdom, patience and endurance, but I know that all are found in Him. Amid questions and moments when I wonder how in the world this is going to happen, I find that I have joy in it. It's satisfying. I know that it's the work He has given me to do right now, and I'm truly happy. Real contentment and joy come from walking in His will. I want to seek His strength to be faithful in teaching with excellence, but more than anything, I am praying that as we go through each day, He will live through me to show these kids (who have come to mean so much to me) His love, which is patient, kind.... (1 Cor. 13) I want them to see Him in me. This is only the beginning of this adventure! Your prayers are appreciated more than I can say, and it means so much to know that there are many faithfully praying in the days ahead. 

And because blog posts are just more fun with pictures...

This is the school room in the very early stages of organization. Scary!

Here it is the day before school, posters all over the floor, and still in need of benches

Our little first grader, very excited to learn about planets!

One more sleep until school!

The posters are up, and it looks so nice! The one on the right is my favorite- it's like a mini thesaurus. Looking at it makes me realize how much I love words.

Students and teacher on our first day

Hard at work!

A misprint in the history workbook resulted in Hala cutting Leif Erickson in half. We all had a good laugh over that one. Good thing we have glue sticks!

We finished our week with our first art project. I think I had as much fun as the girls!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Different Sort of Birthday

It's been quite the week! We started school on Monday, and Miss Lindy is really loving teaching, challenges and all. I'll post more about that soon, but right now I wanted to write about something else. Yesterday was my 22nd birthday. I don't usually post about things like that, but this was certainly a different sort of birthday, so I thought I'd share. 

I look back on the past year and can hardly wrap my mind around all God has done. It has been a year full of incredibly painful times and even more incredibly beautiful times. In this past year, my life has been turned upside down, and I feel pretty safe saying that it's been the most eventful year I've experienced thus far. But it has been a wonderful one, and I am in awe of His faithfulness through it all. 

My birthday itself really was lovely. While I did feel homesick in moments, I never felt alone. I've been here over a month, and the Talbots truly do feel like family. I was greeted first thing in the morning with birthday hugs from the girls, plus a kiss from Jenna. Hala and Charlotte each made me a sweet card, and Shannon made me a birthday cake. Later I sat by the nearby waterfall and watched as the kids swam after school, loving every moment of being outdoors and enjoying the amazing beauty that surrounded me (and today I actually went swimming myself!) One of the little guys in the village turned two on the same day, and evidently birthday parties for the kids are a big thing here. We went to his party for dinner, and though I couldn't really speak to anyone of course, it was great fun, and certainly a cultural experience! They sang happy birthday to him, along with an added verse- "May God bless you", which is a cultural thing. For me, it was a reminder to continue in prayer for these people who are in such desperate need of God's truth. I may not be able to speak it, but I can pray. Please be praying with me for these people, and for the Talbots as they are moving towards being able to communicate the gospel to them. After leaving the party, I came home to many wonderful messages and videos from the people I love so dearly back home, and got to talk with my mom and brother over Skype. When all was said and done, I was left so thankful, for truly, I am blessed beyond measure. 

Note Charlotte's addition in the corner. :)

Jenna has been helping make my birthday cake.. not that you'd ever notice.

Sophia, Charlotte, Hala, and Jenna- I really do love those girls!

Sweet cards from Hala and Charlotte

At the birthday party right before dinner

Self photography by Chuck

Macaroni, pancit, and nansilot- yummy!

This little guy shares my birthday!

The kids love it when you take their picture. I'd take one and show them, and they would all laugh and point and tease each other, and it made me laugh too. Each time they would say, "One more!"

Finally, I got in the "one more".