Emerging from the Pool After a Long Swim

It was like leaping into a pool that was just a little bit too deep. I couldn’t find the bottom of the pool to launch myself back up to the surface.

It was. Hard. To keep. My breath.

Arms flailing, I pull myself up through the water and back to the world of oxygen.

Gasp!

Air again.

That’s is the feeling of being done with this year and this semester, in particular. For four months, I took 18 college credit hours, taught Sunday school, and worked with the college newspaper. This semester has been full of challenges and stress. It has been a season where I have experienced the most anxiety and depression. I have never had so many rough days.

But the season is over. Well, it has been for a week.

As I wind down and catch my breath, I am catching a glimpse of all of the lessons that can be learned from this past semester.

A few of those lessons:

Joy. Prayer. Mornings. Scripture. Friends. Quiet.

God has taught me that it is important to count my blessings and the moments of joy in the midst of pain. In the little things, God is teaching and calling and loving me.

Prayer is a beautiful spiritual discipline, and processing with the Lord helps me respond with more grace. The Lord has shown me so much grace in my failings and my mistakes, and I will continually need more grace. I will also need to learn, every day, how to give more grace. Prayer is a place to do that.

This semester, I learned the wonder of mornings. Without 8 am classes, I could get up, enjoy the morning, and sit in the sweet morning sunshine on my couch.

Scripture speaks. All of it speaks, and it is the Word of God. This semester, there has been a great desire in my heart to read and know the Bible, reading through the entire thing in one year. The Lord has provided for me His Word so that I may know more about His glory and His character. (I’ve never made it through the whole thing in a period of a year, and I really want to!)

With such a busy schedule and a stressful year, I have recognized the importance of friends. I have done a pretty lame job of loving and encouraging my friends well. I want to and need to be more consistent and more in tune to the people around me. Friends rebuke and encourage. Friends defend. I have seen the gift of friendship, and I endeavor to be a better friend, to love better, to cherish the moments. These people are a gift from the Lord that I have often taken for granted. He has been so gracious to me. I don’t want to be too busy with academics and outside commitments that I miss out on fun times and quiet moments with my friends.

So here we are. The beginning of a new season, having learned new lessons. I know God will use this season to teach me so much more.

Here’s to a summer of floating on the surface of the pool before I get out and jump in again. I guess I will take the time to put on a little sunscreen before I go out in the sun for too long.

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Are You Hungry?

I seem to be hungry all the time. (I’m not quite sure why, though, since I haven’t gotten any taller for the past 4 years.) Hunger is a natural part of life. Our bodies need food in order to function.

As fallen people, we also hunger for purpose. We spend our lives searching for the reason we were placed here on earth. We need the purpose that God provides in order to live life to the fullest.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, he spoke to the crowds and delivered a powerful message. During the “Sermon on the Mount,” here’s one of the things Jesus said:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 5:6

Jesus knew that true satisfaction – a full belly and quenched thirst – would only come from a relationship with Him. In John, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that He has living water. A couple chapters later, Jesus calls Himself the bread of life.

Clearly laid out in Scripture is this: we, as believers, are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are to desire a growing relationship with the Lord. We are to spend time in the Word of God so that we can spiritually grow.

One day, it will be too late.

Amos made a prophesy for the nation of Israel that came to pass while Saul was king and Israel was in captivity. He said:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
    “when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
    but of hearing the words of theLord.
 They shall wander from sea to sea,
    and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
    but they shall not find it.

 “In that day the lovely virgins and the young men

    shall faint for thirst.”

Amos 8:11-13

Israel experienced the hunger and thirst for the Word of God, for righteousness, yet they waited too long. They lost their chance because of the hardness of their hearts.

Don’t wait that long. Don’t wait until it is too late for your hunger to be satisfied and you thirst quenched. Pursue the Lord now. Allow Christ Jesus to satisfy you. It is so fulfilling to be satisfied as I pursue Christ with a hunger and a thirst for righteousness and for His Word.

So.

Are you hungry yet?

When You Feel Like Something Is Missing Because Cross Country is Over

            I already miss cross country practice after completing my last practice yesterday night!  I learned a lot about running, and about God, during my first cross country season.

            Last year, my sophomore year, I decided against running cross country because I “didn’t know how to run,” and I didn’t want to be “one of the oldest and the slowest.”  I chickened out of running cross country last year.  Looking back, I wish I would have known that some people from church ran on the team, but having just moved to South Carolina, I had no idea.

            Between February and July of this year, I decided to run cross country.  It was a slow process in reaching the point where I actually decided to run, but I got there.  After my sister’s soccer banquet in the spring, I decided that I really wanted to run.  Why?  I wanted a varsity letter.  You know, the kind that would go on the letter jacket that I don’t have.  (I almost forgot that this was my moment of decision until I wrote this.)  Other big decision factors to run were 1) my need for some sort of exercise, and 2) preparation for the USMC Mud Run (which I completed with my team on October 15th).  

            Ironically, I was in Nicaragua during the first week of cross country practice.  Maybe that was Satan trying to discourage me from running, but it didn’t work.  South Carolina saved me some heat for my first week of practice, though.  I remember that first practice… I remember where we ran.  I also remember getting home, plopping on my floor with the fan on high, and almost crying.  Tired and sore, I was pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone of music and artsy stuff, and into athletic activity. 

            My first meet – oh my goodness!  It was so hot and humid.  The sun sat high in the sky in order to reach me at every stretch of the 3.1 mile course.  At one point, I remember very vividly saying to myself, “Why am I running cross country?  This is the stupidest idea I have ever had!”  Thankfully, meets got better, I got stronger, my times improved, and the weather cooled down a bit.

            Yesterday, I said goodbye to our official cross country practices.  The season is over, and I’m already missing it.  Last year you would have never heard me say this, but I enjoy running.  I have learned to enjoy it this season.  As we prayed for our seniors, my tear ducts produced a couple tears for them, and for the end of a great season.  My season both began and ended with tears, but I am thankful for everything I experienced through cross country from July until October.

            Throughout cross country season, God revealed to me how much I need His strength to keep running and His courage to face the uncomfortable aspects of running.  I barely made it through practice those first couple of weeks; it was rough.  But God taught me to hide Scripture in my heart, so that I could recite it to myself while I was running.  Coolest thing ever – Paul uses so many running analogies in his letters to the churches, so I memorized a lot of Scripture pertaining to running and racing.  Another way that I took my mind off running was by praying for others, and looking to their interests before my own.  When I was tired and sore, I struggled with doing that sometimes, but once I got into putting others before myself in prayer, I felt the peace of God while I ran.  I can now say, in the words of Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medalist and Chinese missionary, “When I run, I feel His [God’s] pleasure.” 

            Without a great coach, this cross country season would not have been so enjoyable.  Coach Barfield blessed his runners with encouragement, challenges, and biblical wisdom.  Although pushing me to run harder, Coach did so with a kind and gentle encouragement.  Instead of forcing me to run harder and faster, he inspired me to do so.  When a coach inspires his runners to do their best, it produces good results, and good attitudes.  We did so well as a team because Coach Barfield stressed the value of encouragement and good sportsmanship.  As a team of Christian homeschoolers, we were to honor God in our words and actions, and Coach Barfield reminded us to do that as we practiced, and as we raced.  And I can’t finish this blog post without mentioning Mrs. Barfield.  It was so incredibly encouraging to me to see her always smiling and encouraging us as we ran.  Smiles make my day, and even when I’m running, it blesses me to see people smile, and Mrs. Barfield blessed my tough days at cross country practice with her beautiful smile.  As volunteers, Mr. and Mrs. Barfield went above and beyond the call of duty in coaching us, and making sure that paperwork and everything was in order and taken care of.  Thank you.

            To end my blog post, I would like to share some things that I learned from Coach Barfield when he spoke to the team after practice each night.  I wish I could remember all the things he said, but what I do remember, I have learned to live out in life, and in running.

To fear God is to love what He loves, and hate what He hates.

 

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1

Success is a breeding ground for mediocrity.

While we race, we need to be courteous to other runners.  Our actions should be “faith working through love” as in Galatians 5:6b.

God, Family, Academic, and then Running – GO FAR

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Our ability to run is a gift from God.

All of God’s promises are true, all the time.  You can always trust God.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

And to finish it off:

Running is 90% half mental.      

How Then

This month has been full of blessings and it has been a constant reminder of the goodness of God.  Four days ago, I celebrated the resurrection of my Savior!  He is not dead; He is alive!  Even after Easter leftovers are eaten, and the candy from the “Easter Bunny” is long gone, I am still going to celebrate the I serve a God who is alive!

Easter is the very foundation of the Gospel.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

This is the Gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only payment for man’s sins.

Christ came to earth to pay the price of my sins; He came to give me salvation, and bring me into a personal relationship with Him.  He did that for you, too.  He died for the sins of the WORLD!  My desire to share this message with the world stems from the LIFE God has given me.  God’s love, peace, forgiveness, and hope are all things I want everyone to experience.  The passion I have for missions is a result of Christ’s sovereignty in my life.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:13-15

That verse has been such an encouragement to me as I get ready to go to Nicaragua in July!  A lot of the time, when I find a verse that really means a lot to me at that certain time, I’ll write in on my wrist.  Romans 10:13-15 has been on my wrist for the past several days, and in my mind for even more. 

I am so excited to use my life to bring glory to my Lord in Nicaragua this summer!  I want to thank you so supporting me with prayers and financial support.  God continues to show me His provision when I begin to wonder how I am going to raise all the support I need for my trip.  God’s provision stuns me.  My jaw drops at His answers to prayer.  I have seen this Scripture breathed to life:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Thank you for partnering with me in the Gospel.  I am praying for y’all. 

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:3-11