Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Empty Hands

The Lord has blessed me with many wise friends who seek Him out on a daily basis. Because of this, He often speaks to me through my friends (many times without them even knowing how much their words have meant to me).

So I'm going to call these next few posts: Words with Friends. 

Get it? See what I did there?

Anyway. Back to today's quote.

(I guess before I start I should also give a disclaimer that these will be paraphrases of my friends' words. I don't take a notebook with me to every conversation so I often come away with the gist of what they said - not word-for-word. You'll forgive me.)

"How can I receive blessings from the Lord when my hands are full of everything else? I have to first empty my hands (and keep emptying them) and then receive His blessings."

Man alive. When my dear friend said this talking about her own life, it was like she had hit me upside the head. I so often do not have empty hands.

I try to fill my hands with anything and everything. Is there something I can be in charge of? Let me take it into my own hands. Is a boy showing interest? Let me fill my hands with things that will impress him. Is a friendship heading south? Let me grab on as hard as I can.

And they're not always bad things. Has God blessed me with a new ministry? Let me juggle all the details. Am I succeeding in piano? Let me practice even more. Is someone hurting? Let me hold them until they're better on their own.

While so many of these things are good and can be used for His glory, He's still calling me to empty my hands. Because when I do let go of everything I'm so desperately grasping, that's when He fills me with Him. Nothing less. Nothing more. Just Him. But how can I receive Him when I've piled my hands so high with stuff, I have no room left to hold His hand? No room to receive His love?

Oh LORD, empty me. Empty my hands that I may receive you and only you. Nothing less. Nothing more.  


Sunday, August 29, 2010

BIG Dreams Come True, Too

When you dream big, God dreams bigger.

As I was preparing for the first Sunday Lunch yesterday, I thought...

"Ok. I'll set a lofty goal and plan for 20 people. I know that probably only 10 or so will show up, but I can still dream big."

Then as I was telling my neighbor (and dear friend) how many people she could invite, I started getting nervous we wouldn't have enough food, even though I had planned for 24 servings of the main dish.

"But not that many will come. I hope at least a few come so that it's not a total waste."

Then as I was talking to the Lord about it before bed last night, He made sure I knew that I could invite as many people as I wanted - there would be more then enough food.

So in church this morning, I invited as many people as I could to come eat in my apartment.

"Ok, God. You told me to dream big. So I did. Now please let people come. Please."

Friends, God is good.

29 people came to eat lunch in my apartment today. And there was food leftover.

My mind is still reeling from all the outpourings of love and community I witnessed today. This is what it's all about. Loving God first, loving his people (all of them) second, and letting everything else just fall into place.

He is so good.

This does not even begin to justify the amount of dishes there actually were after all the eating took place.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Big Plans

The Lord has big plans for this semester. 

I guess He always has big plans for any semester. I should say - the Lord has made me aware of some of His big plans for this semester.

This summer I spent a good portion of my free time alone which gave me a LOT of thinking time. And communing with the Almighty time. It was pretty wonderful, actually.

But another large portion of my free time was spent reading blogs. I stumbled across this blog. I actually know one of the contributors to this blog so it made it all the more interesting to me. The work God is doing through these men in Abilene is absolutely incredible. Basically (for those of you not wanting to click over), they have moved into a horrible part of Abilene and are letting the Lord guide them as they minister to the people in their area. God is doing all kinds of amazing things. It's wonderful.

While reading the blog, my two favorite summer hobbies (thinking time and blog time) collided. I started thinking about all the things I could do to help out that house in Abilene. I could crochet scarves for the kids for winter. I could send money to help with living expenses. I could raise awareness. I could start a prayer drive. I could love all those kids from afar in my prayers and thoughts.

That's when the still, small voice spoke.

What about the people I've placed around you?

Funny. I don't remember being placed in downtown OKC. I'm not placed among needy children. The people I live around don't want for anything materially. They have got it made. My time would be much better spent crocheting hats for the poor kids in Abilene.

How can you love the God (or people) you don't see when you're not loving the people you do see?

You're right.
(Somehow this is how our conversations always end.)

And He was right. So I asked Him to help me dream big. And oh my has He helped me dream big.

I am ashamed to tell you this, but I could not tell you the names of the people who lived beneath or above me last year. I couldn't even pick them out of a crowd. I literally have no idea who they were. How heartbreaking. God has placed me here at this exact time in this exact place and I have let opportunities slip past me.

But thank God I serve a God who has broken off the rearview mirror. 

So this semester, God and I are out to remedy this situation starting with Sunday lunches. One of my friends and I have decided to host Sunday lunches in our apartments (we're neighbors) every Sunday for anyone who wants to partake. We'll switch off every Sunday. Food will be cooked. Friendships will be formed. Coffee will be consumed. But, most importantly, people will be loved.

Like I said, He has big plans starting with me loving the people where I'm at.

So get ready. God's going to be telling some big stories this semester.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Homeward Bound

Well, friends, I made it.

Tomorrow my mom and I leave to drive back to the great city of Edmond.

It's been a good, hard, interesting, long, full summer in Houston. Nothing like what I expected, but God often works like that.

Maybe because I'm overly emotional or maybe just for future reference's sake, I am now going to give a list of valuable lessons I learned this summer. Feel free to skip it; it's mostly for me.

So here they are (in no particular order):

1. The Lord is bigger than my problems. He always has been. He always will be.
2. Friends come and go, but the ones that really matter will stick close. And keep on loving you.
3. Life goes on with or without your consent, might as well enjoy it.
4. God likes it when you dream big. (And He's ready to jump in to make your dreams possible.)
5. There is life outside of Edmond, Oklahoma.
6. God is so faithful.
7. I am called to so much more than simply avoiding moral catastrophe.
8. The Lord is who defines my worth.
9. I can't control the things other people do or don't do, so there's no use worrying about it.
10. God has big plans that I will probably never fully understand.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tribute #4

Saved the best for last. (Or something like that.)

The Duncan Family

So the only picture I could find of them was really old. 
For reference, here's what the girls look like now:

I have too much to say about this family for a blog post. 
One day pretty early on in the summer, David came in to the workroom where I was making crafts or something and started talking about a summer he had while he was in college that he spent really lonely out in some small town in Kansas. I then told him that I was experiencing some of the same things. That Saturday, they invited me to just hang out with their family. They didn't have any special plans or anything, they just wanted me to come hang out. 
That Saturday was a turning point in my summer.
I went over and had burgers. Then we watched TV for awhile. Then we went on a 2-hour search for The Menil (a free art museum). It was one of the best Saturdays of my summer.

It was also the day we discovered that 
I played piano and was good at math. 
It just so happened they were looking 
for a piano teacher and math tutor. 
It just so happened.
More like God knew in His infinite wisdom and placed us all there. 
So I started going over there every Tuesday 
to give all sorts of lessons and eat dinner with them.
Eventually that evolved into spending 3 or 4 nights at their house in a row on several different occasions
 and basically becoming a member of the family. 

We sang together. 
(Sing with me now, David and Emma, 
"Some enchanted evening, you might meet a strangeeeeeeerrrr.) 

We laughed together.
(Remember the Wolfe joke?)

We plotted together.
(No, I haven't got any emails yet.)
(Yes, I might buy a dress today.)

We watched together.
(And ate wayyyyy too much popcorn.)

We shared together.
(Barbara, I'll never be able to thank you 
enough for the peace and wisdom you gave me.)

We learned together.
(How's that scarf coming, AnnaBeth?)

We loved together. 

David, Barbara, AnnaBeth, and Emma,
I will literally never be able to thank you enough. You changed my entire summer. You showed me what it means to be hospitable and what it is to love a stranger. I keep trying to think, but there really aren't words for me to use to describe what your family means to me. I'll probably cry on Sunday when I have to say goodbye. But, lucky for me, you have a lot to come back to in Edmond. And I expect a call anytime you do come back. I love you all so much. 


Tribute #3

Before I begin this tribute, I would like to apologize to all the families in the tributes for being slightly creepy by finding pictures of your family to use in my posts. I figure you will all either get over it or ask me to take them down.

Here goes #3:

The Heyen Family

When I was at LTC this past spring, I saw some people waiting for an elevator and noticed that they were wearing a shirt from the church that I'm at this summer. By that time, I knew I was going to be an intern there so I asked them where they were from. When they answered "Houston" I got so excited and told them I was going to be their children's intern. By this point, we're in the elevator and it's kinda weird. But God works in crazy ways sometimes because it would end up that the family I introduced myself to in an elevator would be one of the families I became closest to in Houston. 

Where to even begin.
This family took me out for ice cream and let me pick the place (unfortunately for the boys).
They encouraged (sometimes forced) me to go to the Young Professionals class.
They advised me on boys.
They sat by me in church.
They took me out to eat.
At camp, the dad and 2nd daughter 
listened to me talk and talk and talk.
They took me to an Astros game.
2nd daughter taught me how to play a fantastic card game. 
(That I can now beat her at, I might add.)
The boys kept me laughing at camp.
Youngest son made me feel like a tolerable teacher on Wednesday nights when he would answer all my questions correctly. 
The mom fought with the mom from Tribute #4 
over which one got to be my surrogate mom for the summer.
They loved me as their own. 
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I wouldn't be able to say it enough. 


Tribute #2

So camp happened and I got a little busy and a little lazy. Now I find myself with only 1 day left in Houston before my mom gets here which means I will be posting multiple posts today so I can get all my shout-outs in.

Get ready for Tribute #2:

The Blythe Family

See those 3 kids? The triplets? 
Well I had the great opportunity of teaching them piano this summer.
According to outside sources, they hated it. 
But who can blame them, really? 
I never enjoyed taking summer piano lessons.
Let's be real, who wants to practice during the summer?
(Dr. Thompson, if you're reading this, the answer to that question is me. I want to practice during the summer. All the time.)

Back to the Blythe's. 
After piano lessons every week, I would stay for dinner. 
There aren't really words to describe my food experience at their house. 
So instead I'll give you a picture.

And there you have it, folks.
They are SO good. 
I probably gained 15 lbs. just eating at their house every week.

Blythe Family,
Thank you for asking me to teach your children piano. 
Pam, thank you for feeding me. 


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Road to Robles is Almost Done!!

I will now take a break from the tribute posts (can you really take a break if you've only done it once?) to give you a different kind of post.

Tomorrow I will leave for Camp Ten:10 and will be gone through Sunday. Not only does this mean that I will be in the muggy Houston heat for a few days (not really that bad) but it also means that I have to miss the one major Edmond event I desperately want to attend. 

On Saturday, this sweet couple will be tying the knot. 

Since I won't be able to attend the wedding AND since I won't be able to blog from now until Sunday, I've decided to do 
my Congratulations, Tiffany post today. 

Congratulations on getting married! I can't believe it's finally here!
Remember when we made cupcakes together? And I literally had no idea who you were?

We've come a long way since then.
You mean so much to me. I cannot adequately put into words on a blog what all you have done for me.
Thank you for all those late night 
conversations (and crying sessions) during the cruise.
They changed my life. 
Thank you for putting God first 
in so many things you do throughout life.
And for being an example to me and others through that. 
Thank you for loving me where I am 
and for understanding when I fall back into old habits.
Thank you for just listening when I need someone to just listen. 
But thank you for giving hard advice when I need a reality check. 

I have had so much fun being your friend 
and can't believe we waited this long to make it happen. 
I am so sad I won't be at your wedding 
and will be mourning that fact this weekend.
For what it's worth, I'll be thinking about you and praying for you as you and Reagan start your new life. 
And what a great life it will be. 
Be prepared for lots of coffee dates
 and who knows what else as the new semester starts.
I can't wait to see where God takes us in the things He's planned for us. 
You're already such a fantastic woman 
and are going to make a great wife!
Have fun on your big day (and the big week afterwards)!

I love you!! 


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Host Family

Since I only have a few days left in Houston (12 days to be exact. Some of those will be at camp, some my mom will be here.), I thought it would be good to do a couple of posts about some people here. 

The people in the following posts are the ones who have changed my life this summer. 
The ones who have loved me as their own.
I'm sure I could think of many more things, but I'll just say them individually.

So without further ado, the first tribute post.

The Schaefer Family

These are the people who have welcomed me into their home, no questions asked. From day one, I was treated as a member of the family. They took me to the beach. They have laughed with me over countless stories I bring home from Bible class and such. They helped me melt what felt like a million crayons. They have fed me many times. (And laughed when I "ate like a bird.") They've broadened my movie horizons. And they've done so much more than I could ever put into words on here.

I will miss you guys so much. And don't worry, you will definitely be invited to my wedding. (Although I'll probably need Ben to approve of the guy first. And we all know how hard it will be to get past him!)


Sunday, August 1, 2010

So Crafty

I'm going to have to ask you to ignore the plethora of pictures of myself. 

With the whole no camera thing, it's hard to get pictures of inanimate objects without at least part of my body in the picture. And I'm thinkin' you'd much rather see my face than my arms. 

Ok. Back to the crafting.

So I found book heaven today which will have to have an entire post of its own. 

The whole time I was there I was slightly ashamed because I knew full well that I was just looking for a book for aesthetic purposes. I was preparing to rip apart and, essentially, murder the book as soon as I got home. I think the cashier knew. She told me the particular book I picked for my project was "such a great find" and had "just come in the day before." 

Anyway. Here's the book. Perfect for an iPod case, right? I know that's exactly what you were thinking when you saw it. 

Sorry, Lawrence. I'm sure your autobiography would have been very interesting. But please rest knowing that the words of your life were put to good use. 

The first cut is the deepest.

Aaaaannnddd... the finished product!

It turned out pretty great, even if I do say so myself. 

Next project? 

Little sister gifts. 
I tend to get obsessed with them this time of year. 

It didn't help that HobLob had both scrapbook paper AND ribbon on sale for 50% off today. 

I think they knew I was coming. 
And voila! A perfect earring holder. 
Little sis, get ready. You are going to greatly benefit from my boredom. 

Ok. Remember this? Well, I finished!
It didn't turn out too bad. 

(Of course. I didn't take a picture of it up and down or anything. Not that it's crooked. What would give you that idea?)

So now it's on to the next project:

A scarf. 
It's really a test scarf.
Future little sister, I may or may not have bought 2 skeins of Pi-colored yarn.
As soon as I get this purple scarf done, it's on to as many Pi scarves as I can make.