Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Choice

A few days ago, a close friend of mine and I were having a conversation  that led to a question about faith. My friend asked me how when a person goes through horrible things that leave lasting physical, emotional, and mental scars, how does their faith not only persist, but remain strong and even grow? I tried to explain my thoughts on the spot, and completely and miserably failed. Since then the question has been on my mind constantly, and after spending lots of time in thought, I would like to try and give it another shot.

To me, having and keeping faith is an active choice that I make daily. The first thing I am choosing is to believe that God sent His son Jesus Christ to live a sin free life, and then die the ugliest of deaths for my sins, so that I may be forgiven and live forever in heaven with Him. That is John 3:16, Christianity in a nutshell. For me, that is the part that has been taught to me ever since I was a kindergartner in Chuck and Loraine's Sunday school class at my old church-the easy part. I choose to believe that is true, from the deepest parts of my heart.

 Growing up, I found out pretty quickly that the world can be a very dark, cruel place. Sometimes things happen to people who believe in and are faithful to God that are unfair. They are things that are so un-Godly, they make you question the existence of Him at all. If there is a God, or a Jesus Christ, why the heck do things like this happen?! I think choosing faith means that at the end of the day, all your doubts are put to rest, not because they were answered but because you choose to believe in spite of them. (Not an easy task, friends).

My second choice is that part of believing in God, includes believing what He says. I haven't read the entire Bible (or you know, anywhere near that), but I love how it is said in Isaiah 49 (especially verse 16, "I'll never forget you-never. Look, I have your name written on the palm of my hand"). Even though there are times in life where things just suck. When you've been hurt to the deepest depths of your heart, and you can't see God in any of it, He's there. I choose to believe that He is there. I choose to believe that He has a plan for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." Instead of Babylon, because I don't live there, and because I'm not Jeremiah, I feel God is saying to me, "I know this sucks, and it's hurting you, but I promise, I'm here and I'm going to show you why. It's just not time yet. I know what I'm doing, I promise. I've got this. I am taking care of you, I'm right here, just be patient. Soon, you'll understand, and I can't wait to show you the beauty that is what's next." I honestly cannot explain how amazing it makes me feel to type those words. It is my honor to choose to believe those words.

The hardest part about that choice is following through with my actions. Staying put, when all I want to do is run. Being patient, when all I want are answers. Staying silent, when every fiber of who I am is begging to collapse into someones arms and cry. All the while, showing nothing but His grace and His love to the ones who are causing the discomfort. Because I choose to live in His light, and to be the person He wants me to be, I choose to do these things too- to the absolute best of my ability.

Because I choose to believe He is my savior, that His word is true, and I choose give my honest to goodness best effort to walk in His shoes, I get to experience the best part. I get His joy. His joy cancels out the gross stuff, it shines out, magnifying all the amazing things I've been given, leaving the gross stuff manageable and insignificant. I get to experience His hope. Hope in that future He told me about. Hope in the fact that my wildest dreams are bland in comparison to the plan He already has for me. Even in the darkest moments of my life, He put His hope in my heart, and I knew I was going to be okay. But the thing that I have been promised, before I was even a thought, the thing that out shines everything else He promised, is His Love. The unconditional, radiant, crazy love that underlines and intensifies everything else that is given, and restores all the damage and pain that I have ever felt. The love that only a Father could give, is mine for the taking. I'm still working on accepting it, but I know it's there. It's His love that brought me to the people, the places, and the experiences that I hold closest to my heart. And it's His love that will one day carry me home.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

You Make Beautiful Things

First off, HAPPY EASTER!! What a beautiful day it is!! How amazing that our God would send his only Son to the ugliest of deaths, with our hearts in His eyes, and save us. That's beauty.

Well, I figured I should take some time and fill everyone in about what I am doing and such.

We have started our Spring season at Camp Courageous. I was really excited about this because Spring= beautiful free time. Typically we work 14 hour days, but this season we only work 8-4!! We have groups of students from area school's Special Ed Programs come and do 3-5 activities and then head back to school. It has been really cool to see the teachers and sometimes gen. ed. "buddies" see the students at a camp designed especially for their success and to see how different they are when they are succeeding at the activities we have for them. My favorite moment so far was in my first group. This group was made up of five students from the Special Education program, four "buddy" students (general education), and two teachers. We were at the Super Zip, the camp zip line, and were harnessing up to go. One of the students used a wheelchair and the teachers and buddy students figured since she uses a chair she probably wouldn't be able go down the zip line. Little did they know, when we say EVERYONE can do EVERYTHING at Camp Courageous, we mean it. We began harnessing her up and got the sling seat she would be using in place when one of the teachers asked her if she really wanted to do this. The student answered her with a grin that was undoubtedly a "heck YES!!!" We wheeled her up to the platform and I stood and watched as the Adventure Specialists hooked up the block and tackle equipment and clipped her in. I was watching the other students and teachers and couldn't help but notice one teacher's white-knuckle grip on the railing with one hand, the other over her mouth, clearly a nervous wreck. As the commands were shouted to prepare for the zip, the student let out a shriek that can only be described as pure joy and anticipation and was lowered off the platform for the ride of her life. I glanced again at the nervous teacher and saw a few tears slip out of her eyes, her nervous face replaced with one of hope and gratitude. That is why I love this job. The chance to see people watch their loved one's doing things that they never thought they would be able to do. Seeing those loved one's eyes widen with excitement, watch them achieve something they had never thought of, and that beautiful smile that never fully leaves their face, always lingering at the corners of their mouths and shining out of their eyes. I cannot express the joy that it brings me. If you're looking for something beautiful, look no further ladies and gentlemen. 

While I am loving my time here, the end is approaching. This is a very bittersweet thing for me. I love much. The people I have in my life now will always be some of my favorites. But I cannot deny my excitement for what is next! First and foremost, I will graduate from UNI May 5th with five of my best friends. I am so excited! After that I move to Aurora, Illinois on May 19th and start my 14 week internship at Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. With the exception of having a place to live there, I'm sooooo ready to go!! The next step is semi up in the air right now. There is a REALLY amazing place in Bend, Oregon that contacted me for an internship interview that I am strongly looking to go to after my internship. There is also a grad school opportunity that is absolutely too good to be true at this point. It's a two year Masters program for Human Services Management in Maryland.. In this program you go to school while working directly in the field. I would be learning how to manage a group home for people with special needs while living and working in a group home. I am looking for more information and will probably be applying soon!

I have been feeling really out of touch spiritually for the past few months and was starting to get discouraged (as seen in lack of posting). I felt like I wasn't where I was supposed to be and then had some tragic losses in my life of some pretty great people. I prayed all the time to begin to feel God's arms around me and to see how taking the people He did was more than just cruel wrath. I turned to worship music and sat with my eyes closed just listening, praying, hoping for weeks. One of my favorite bands, Needtobreathe has a song called "Garden", it is a beautiful call to Jesus to be the center and it has been on repeat in my head for a while. I still don't have the answers to those questions, but I am beginning to feel God taking my hand and leading me again. Man, does that feel great. Even as I type these words I am beginning to feel His love starting to cover me again. It feels like coming home. I'm excited to for the next season of life, and am loving living this one out to the fullest.

The title of this post comes from Gungor's "Beautiful Things" Check it out!