Small Victories

From the Boat Ramp

A small victory is still a victory.

Some of you may be sick of reading about running because I write about it pretty frequently. Running just happens to be something that the Lord has used in my life to teach me a lot about myself, His character, and this life.

Back in March, I was training for a half-marathon until I went to the doctor with a lot of pain in my ankle. I wasn’t able to wear shoes that touched the back of my heel because I had Achilles tendinitis. There went my half-marathon.

I had mixed emotions. In some ways, I was so disappointed that I had built up to a faster pace and greater endurance only to have to stop running. Then, in some ways, I was relieved that I did not have to wake up before the rest of campus to run before class. It was as if injury gave me permission and a legitimate excuse to be lazy.

I think that  is why I need running in my life. It is incredibly hard. It takes time. It takes endurance. It takes a little pain. Sometimes, it is just plain disappointing. But it teaches me lesson after lesson.

The picture at the top of this post is from right before my first 3.1 miles since March. I thought that I could just pick up and run fast. I was disappointed. I finished my first mile in between 12 and 13 minutes. Discouragement abounded after such a tough and slow mile. At that moment, I had a decision to make:

1. Pity myself. Give up. Use past injury as an excuse to be lazy.

2. Ask God to strengthen me and trust that He would help me do hard things.

Although option one was very appealing, I managed to choose the second option. I knew that if I was going to run, I would have to do my part and work hard, but I could also trust the Lord to strengthen me as I trained my body. Then and there, I told the Lord what I was feeling.

God, if I am going to run, You have to help me. I cannot do this by myself. It is uncomfortable and hard. But I know I will not get better and faster if I give up now. I need Your help.

There is something very comforting about asking for God’s help. He does not leave His children on their own. I have not magically gained my speed back. But yesterday, I ran each mile in under 10 minutes, and I would say that’s pretty good progress. This is a small victory for me, but it is a victory.

Running over and over again teaches me endurance. It teaches me to control my body, bidding it to do my will for the glory of God. It teaches me to run well when things get tough and result in discouragement. It teaches me that the taste of victory is sweet. For me, there is something about running that is not just a physical victory, but a spiritual one. I am not naturally athletic. It takes hard work for me to get better, so when I do get better, I can attribute it to the grace of God. In my weakness, He is being made strong. It is for the Lord’s glory that I do things that are not comfortable for me.

That is part of why I love running; running teaches me about the character and faithfulness of God. 

Lessons from Aviation Insurance

As spring semester came to a close, I was a little disappointed that so many of my classmates were getting ready to travel the world, work at camps, or have cool internships for the summer. What was I doing? Well, the plan was to work in retail close to home since I live right by an outdoor shopping center, but I had only had time to apply for one job (they still haven’t gotten back to me – good thing I didn’t need that job).

Thankfully, God provided for me. I went to Him several times, telling Him that I didn’t have time to apply for jobs, asking Him how I was going to find a good job for the summer so that I could pay for school in the fall. I think He probably laughed. I had no idea what I was doing for the summer; it looked like my first week home, I would be going and applying like crazy, hoping I could get a job before all the high schoolers snatched ’em up.

However, finals week – my last week of school – I received an incredible email from my high school cross country coach, asking me what I had planned for the summer and offering me a paid internship at his aviation insurance office. What?!

If you have ever read about my high school cross country experience, you will know it was so great because of this coach. He wasn’t just a great coach, but he is a great boss as well. A few days after receiving that initial email, I finished my final exams and went into the office for what I thought was an interview. It was basically a job offer and settling of terms. I would have a 10-week paid internship at an aviation insurance office, answering phones, processing the mail, proofing insurance policies, mailing out certificates, and anything else they needed help with in the office. (Think Office Assistant/Receptionist with her own desk and cubicle.) It would be labeled an internship because it would be a position in which I was developing skills that would help me in any job, and I would regularly meet with my coach/boss at the end of the week to recap, ask questions, answer questions, any of that. I couldn’t think of a better job for the summer!

Some people don’t want an office job, but after 5 weeks of this, I don’t think it is too bad. I enjoy answering the phone, sorting and metering mail, and making sure I follow the checklists of mailing out policies and contacting customers. Although there are days I don’t want to wake up early, I enjoy going to work. No, I’m not working full-time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get a small taste of what this business is like.

I am incredibly thankful that the Lord provided me with a job for the summer that I enjoy. I can make the most of a lot of different situations, but sometimes it is nice when you don’t have to work too hard to do that.

For kicks, here are a few things I have learned in the first half of my internship:

1. Walking well in heels just takes a little practice. Well, if you count wedges as heels as I do. The business casual pants that I wear to work are just a little long, so I can’t wear flats with them. Since beginning my job, I would say I have had a good deal of practice of walking  in shoes that can be dangerous. Another thing I’ve noticed: things look really different from 5’6″ when you are usually 5’2″.

2. If your bites aren’t too big,  you can manage to answer the phone with food in your mouth. Without sounding like your mouth is full. I’ve mastered this one, but I always have my water cup filled, just in case. Every day, I bring my lunch with me to work so that I am not spending money on food when I can bring it from home. Part of my internship is answering the phone during lunch time. I don’t take a lunch break because my hours aren’t too long, so I just bring a small box of fruit, vegetables, and other snack items with me. Sometimes, I get a call right after I have taken a bite of something, and I manage to answer the phone without sounding like I am eating. Score!

3. BYOC. That stand for “bring your own coffee.” I’m not complaining or asking the office to change anything. I just happen to have spent a year with a handful of coffee snobs, and I am becoming one, too. My 11-year-old sister remarked the other day that I have so many things to make coffee and tea with, which is definitely true. When you regularly use a pourover, french press, coffee grinder, glass travel mug with a metal basket strainer, and who knows what else, it may come across as coffee snobbery.

4. If you aren’t careful, you can cut your lip licking envelopes. I learned this one pretty early on while mailing out 100 certificates one day. I cut my lip on something like the 7th one… Since then, I only lick envelopes on small batches of letters, and I make sure to just stick my tongue out really far so that the envelope doesn’t get anywhere near my lip.

5. If you wake up early every day, it does start to get easier. I am so excited that I am training myself to be a morning person! I’m pretty sure it is possible. It took a lot of early morning coffee and not napping, but I manage to get to bed around 10 pm and make up between 6 and 7 am. A lot of the time, I will still hit snooze, but once I get up, I’m pretty awake. Now, whether I can keep a schedule like this once I go back to college is a completely different ordeal.

6. Time spent after work can be spent well or not-so-well. There are days that I get home a little after 3 pm, and I am pretty tired. The decision then is this: I can either push through the tiredness and do some things that I want to do this summer, or I can lay around, do nothing of significance, and look back later, wishing I had accomplished some of my summer goals.

7. Instagram is not the place to keep a diary of what you wore to work everyday. I apologize to anyone who follows me on Instagram. I also want to admit that was what I was doing. I wanted to see if I could make it through the entire summer without wearing the same outfit twice. Well, there are a lot of days in the summer. And I got tired to posting pictures on myself. I’m sure you got tired of me holding up the appropriate number of fingers for the number of days I had worked. (I only made it to Day 11, but I used paper numbers for that day because I only have 10 fingers.) I should have learned after trying to post pictures of me and my pet rock every day over Christmas break – I only made it 8 days then.

8. When you work in a place filled with the language of aviation insurance, you begin to think in that language. As I have been working here, I have acquired a smidgen of the vocabulary used in the insurance business, specifically in the aviation insurance business. When I see planes and helicopters now, I wonder what their coverage includes, who their brokers are, what kind of experience their pilots have, and an assortment of other seemingly random things. I’m fascinated by the business, I have to say. And don’t even get me started on the thoughts of what claims would look like when a plane crashes in a movie…

9. Sometimes, you will forget things. And that is why you use sticky notes and checklists. Also, I couldn’t come up with a better point… It isn’t because I haven’t learned a lot, but just because I can’t think of anything else to say that you may find amusing. I’ve learned so much about how an office operates, office dynamics, and so much more, but I will have to just save those for another time perhaps.

One last thing: A lot of people ask what I do, and you got a taste of that at the beginning of this post. As for the company, I work for a handful of insurance brokers who serve as middlemen between those who own airplanes and those who write and provide aviation insurance. The brokers of the company sell insurance for aircraft, airports, and other aviation-related things. So that’s that.

I hope that you possibly got a chuckle out of this list. I also hope that you will see the Lord’s faithfulness this summer. May He show Himself to you as Provider and Strength. May He grant you wisdom and diligence for the next months and the next years. May you find beautiful joy in the funny (and the serious) lessons that He teaches you this summer.

Good to Me

Back in January, I began praying that God would give me good gifts. I wasn’t asking for a reward for my actions. What I do, I aim to do out of obedience to and love for my Lord. But I knew God was a good God who wants to bless His children.

Or did I know that?

As the semester flew by, I continued to pray this prayer. Yet, I ran smack into one of God’s good gifts and thought: This must be a joke. God wouldn’t give this to me. He teaches me so much through frustration and pain. This must be a test. A glimpse of good so that I can learn something from it when the gift is taken away.

Kind of ridiculous to think, right? But I struggled with this. I distinctly remember our last day of chapel for this past academic year. It was a Thursday, and as we sang and prayed, I wrestled with the depth of the Lord’s goodness.

Did I believe the Lord was really good? Did I believe that He was capable of giving good gifts to His children? Did I doubt that He was gracious in providing for my desires?

Satan told me that my failures were too big and too many and God’s grace was too small and too cheap. 

I had settled for cheap grace.

Doubting God’s grace and God’s goodness towards me was not a pleasant place to be. It was discouraging. It was frustrating. It was emotionally painful. But it was my own mind, believing the lies of Satan, that allowed me to live in this place of doubt. I didn’t even realize that I had settled on a cheap understanding of grace.

I was asking God for good gifts, and then looking at Him in disbelief when He placed them in my hands.

Lacking faith, I asked from God, and I did not expect to receive. 

God gives gifts when they will bring Him the most glory. His timing is perfect. His glory is the purpose. He gives us good things because He is a good Father.

In some ways, this is a difficult post to write. I do not want my words to resemble the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel. I am not saying that once you become a Christian, everything is great and God showers you with material blessings; may my words be honest and clear that material blessings are not a result of salvation.

So please allow me to make a few points clear:

1. As Christians, our good works do not save us. Jesus Christ saves us through His death, burial, and resurrection as the only payment for man’s sins. Good works should be done out of love for Christ, out of thankfulness for what He has done on our behalf.

2. Asking God for blessing is not sinful. This is the cry of a heart. We can come to God with our desires, but we have to understand that He will not always give us what we desire. He wants to protect us, but He also wants to bring glory to Himself through us.

3. If we receive good gifts, it is by the grace of God. If we do not receive what we ask for, it is because God has something that will better glorify Him and point to Him as the author of Goodness.

May The Lord shine upon you and reveal His goodness to you. May you never exchange a priceless, beautiful grace for a cheap, muddied imitation that seeks to draw you away from the Lord. And may your heart be open to both blessing and difficulty in this lifetime, to the glory of God.

 

The Valley of Vision, “Desires”

O THOU THAT HEAREST PRAYER,

Teach me to pray,
I confess that in religious exercises
the language of my lips and the feelings
of my heart have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon
my tongue a name never pronounced above
without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would
have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes
and also of my fears,
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.
Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I thought.

Let him produce in me wise desires by which
I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity,
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have
thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities,
vexation of spirit,
and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour,
image, presence, service.

-The Valley of Vision, “Desires”

Faithful

If I could label the past year with

one phrase

it would be

The Lord is faithful to sanctify.

As I look back on the 2013-2014 academic year and the start of this summer, I see that the Lord has been faithful to use every situation, be it good or bad, that I have experienced this year to teach me great lessons and glorify Himself.

He has used heartache and frustration, new friends and laughter, incredible opportunities and wasted opportunities, bad attitudes and good perspectives to bring Himself glory and to reveal Himself to me in deeper ways. He has called me near, and when I have failed to hear His voice, He has taken all the steps to bridge the gap, not waiting for me to respond to words that fell on deaf ears. He has been faithful to me when I have not been faithful to Him. The Lord has been, and continues to be, faithful to sanctify and make me more like His Son.

What a privilege to see how the Lord has taken my trials and my victories alike and glorified Himself while growing me into more Christlike character.

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In this passage, Paul writes to the church at Corinth, explaining that the ministry of the Spirit is glorious but Christians do not need to veil their face before this glory as Moses veiled his face before the glory of God on Mount Sinai. Through Christ, the veil is removed from our heart, and we can behold the glory of Christ. With “unveiled face” we are being transformed.

Every single day, the Lord is transforming me into a more perfect image of His Son. One day, I will be glorified and made perfect in the presence of the Lord. Until then, I can stand confidently in the knowledge that the Lord is faithful to sanctify His children.

As I experience the difficulties and the triumphs of life, I see now more than ever, that the Lord will use those circumstances for my sanctification and spiritual growth.

{To read an old post about growth, repentance, and sanctification, click here.}

May you find that the Lord is faithful to sanctify you through all of your current circumstances. May the Lord’s grace be tangible to you. May His face shine upon your unveiled face because of the work that was done by Jesus Christ on the cross. Amen.

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Here’s your moment. You’re sitting at the long table at lunch with a bunch of people that you think are super cool. There’s a slight pause, and you have the single most witty thing to say. You think it is hilarious! You say it.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t as funny out loud as it was in your head…

I must admit, this is a regular occurrence for me. Sometimes, the setting is a little different. Occasionally, I don’t embarrass myself in front of quite so many people. But I have, over the years, mastered the art of sticking my foot in my mouth.

I have found that my sarcasm, though culturally acceptable, should be monitored. There are appropriate times for wit, but I am learning to recognize that sarcasm and witty comments are good in moderation.

So here’s the big question: Does my speech, especially the timing and quantity of my sarcasm, reflect a love for people?

Does my humor say, “I love you and I do not want to hurt you with insensitive comments”?

When it comes down to it, I have two options when I have something sarcastic to say:

1. Blurt it out.

2. Decide to keep my two cents.

I’ve often found that the second option results in less regret. It also demonstrates a greater love and sensitivity for people. However, my learning this does not make my speech perfect. I still make comments that I regret. I still have to apologize for saying something mean and sarcastic just because it popped into my head and I somehow thought it was funny to say.

But there’s something about being aware of my words. I catch myself more often. I think about what I will say a little longer before I say it.

Do I “forever hold my peace”? No.

But sometimes, it just takes a few seconds to say something nicer or not say anything at all.

 

The White Outside My Window

There is something fantastically and captivatingly beautiful about snow.

There is something beautiful about it quietly resting on the tree branches and softly crunching under your feet. When the snow sleeps on the ground, the night seems so much quieter.

It sounds lazy, but this year, with the wonderful snow day Columbia surprised us with a few days ago, I enjoyed opening the blinds, making me a nice cup of coffee, and cuddling up with a blanket on the new couch in my dorm with the Word of the Lord.

Over and over again, the psalms mention peace and shelter. They advise the reader to wait on the Lord. They urge the believer to seek Him.

And in the quietness of a snowy morning, I best understand what it is like to rest in the presence of the Lord.

In the softness of the day, I see how the Lord takes the gray of winter and the dinge of the dirt and covers it with the white of the snow. How beautiful a picture of the Lord washing His believer as white as snow!

Despite our sin and the darkness of our hearts, the Lord redeem that time of biting cold in our lives. His blood can cover over a multitude of sins, a nature of dirt and darkness, and leave the soft, beautiful snow behind.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

 

God’s Hobby: Answering Prayers?

“How many of us really believe Jesus loves to answer prayer?”

I had never thought of that until I read Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. Bridges mentions that one of John Newton’s hymns says this:

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:

Jesus loves to answer prayer;

He himself has bid thee pray,

Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,

Large petitions with thee bring;

For his grace and power are such,

None can ever ask too much.

In his book, Bridges follows this hymn with the quote at the top of this post:

“How many of us really believe Jesus loves to answer prayer?”

Had I ever thought of that? Not really. The concept surprised me, but then… it made sense in light of Matthew 7.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

How much more will the Lord give good things to those who just ask.

Do things always work out the way we ask the Lord to work them out? In my experience, no. However, that shouldn’t keep us from bringing our petitions to the Lord. Did the possibility that my mom would say “no” ever keep me from asking her to buy oreos or fishsticks when she went to the store? Nope!

The Lord already knows what is on my heart, yet He wants me to ask Him. He wants me to express the desires and the cries of my heart in my own words. Thinking that the Lord loves to answer prayer encourages me to come to Him more, not necessarily asking for more, but talking out my feelings and my motives and my desires with Him. He never gets tired of me coming to Him to ask for wisdom and growth and Truth.

The Lord’s timing is so different from my own, but I will still go to Him, pouring my heart out before Him. If I trust His timing, I won’t worry about how He answers prayer, but I will rest assured that He will answer my prayers.

{Sometimes, it is really hard to remember the things you’ve learned or to really believe them.}

The Birth That Ended Death

Death.

Darkness. Lack of life. Heartache.

Those are words that come to mind at the mention of death.

It troubles me to think of someone who was alive and well the last time I saw him, knowing that when I see him next, it will be in moments filled with mourning alongside others.

Once gone, the spirit, the soul, is no longer with the body. That body is no longer the person you loved. Their temporary home in the body is now vacant. There is no one there. They’ve left their cramped, broken-down apartment for something else.

My grandfather was a sweet man. He wanted to provide for his family. He loved his family. He had a great smile and a few funny jokes. I didn’t grow up around him much because I was moving around. But I have sweet memories of him. He pursued the Lord despite undesirable circumstances.

Now, I rejoice because he is in heaven! But it is bittersweet for those left on earth.

I would never wish that someone’s healing come through death. But oftentimes, the Lord chooses to heal that way, to remove the sufferer from the pain that comes with a fallen world, and those left here on earth feel the sting of loss.

But this sting… it isn’t the sting of death. It is just the temporary, momentary sting of loss. Death has been conquered! Because of Christ’s coming, because of Christmas, we have hope! This life, all of its pain, all of its troubles and sadness and darkness will soon be gone!

With all of my heart, I yearn to be in the presence of the Lord where things are perfect and He is most glorified. One day, I will stand… No… I will bow before the Lord of Lord and the King of Kings and there proclaim his praise alongside many others who have gone before me. I’ll stand beside those who I love and those with which I share a unified purpose: Glory to God on the Highest.

Christmas is about hope. And death does not extinguish that hope, for it does not diminish the glory or power of God. Christ came to earth as a baby 2,000 years ago so that death wasn’t the end. He came that we might be reconciled to Him.

Through Christ we have the Hope of the Glory of God.

And here, on earth, we spread the hope that Christ gave us through His coming! Here, we bring glory to the Lord, awaiting the day that “the perishable puts on the imperishable.

Jesus’ birth was the birth that ended Death.

We have no reason to fear or despair.

We have Hope.

Waiting for Heaven

This semester is probably the first period of time in my life that I could honestly say I “would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

In the past, I told God that, yes, I wanted Him to come back, but if He could wait, I would be okay with that. If God would just wait until I used my education, accomplished something on the mission field, got married, lived a little bit, and then came back when I was older, that would be great!

And I said that to God?

Yeah, I did. And it really reveals my selfishness. I wanted things to go well in my life, and my mind was not set on heaven. I thought it might have been, but looking back, I see very clearly how my mind was not set on leaving this temporary earth.

This semester of school, God has been teaching me lesson after lesson about His kingdom and His glory. I am so thankful that the Lord would teach me this now, molding my thoughts into His.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes about our heavenly dwelling, and how we are “longing” (5:2) to be clothed “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life” (5:4). My heart should desire heaven, looking beyond this here on earth. (Please take a few minutes, click here, and read this handful of verses from Paul.)

In light of this mindset – hoping for heaven – life here on earth has so much more meaning. Suffering has more meaning. Pain has more meaning. And hope has more meaning.

 

{Read here next.}