What Can I Do?

Without news emails delivered to my inbox daily, I feel disconnected from the world. I like my little bubble of ignorance. But that leads to an unhealthy withdrawal from the world around me, leading to life centering around me and my small needs.
But when I do take the time to read news emails or scroll through Facebook, I am quickly overwhelmed by all that is wrong in the world. I feel helpless regarding the lack of justice against groups like ISIS. I feel angry about the immigration situation and children separated from their parents – through immigration, yes, but even more, through abortion. I feel sorrow over the endless wars in Syria and Yemen. That’s only a fraction of the list, the most common issues I see. Other troubles are less reported: Boko Haram, Andrew Brunson, Venuzuela…
Recently I have struggled with that feeling of helplessness. I have wondered how to balance understanding the world around me with not being so overburdened I burn out or become numb to the sheer volume of tragedy. I don’t feel like I have a clear answer, but I did find five helpful things on the road to balance.

1. Focus
There are so many news outlets and so many opinions that you will certainly be overwhelmed to the point of numb scrolling if you try to take it all in. Find one or two news sources you trust, and follow them. Know whose social media opinions you respect, and don’t think you have to click on every link or read every post. Pick a handful of issues to focus on, and don’t feel guilty that you can’t do something about everything.
Also, make sure it isn’t all gloom and doom. Funny videos are nice, but even better are stories of people, Christian or not, reflecting the image of God in their sacrificial love to others. Check out WORLD’s Hope Awards. The news that brought the most joy to my heart recently was that of Israel rescuing White Helmets.

2. Pray
REALLY pray. This ties in with focus. When the emotion of your Facebook feed changes with every swipe and every post carries information, all you have energy and time for is a quick prayer. But when you cut out noise and focus on what really matters to you, then you can devote time to pour your heart out to God about the troubles you – and He – care about.
If you feel He doesn’t hear or answer your prayers for current events, you may be encouraged by this sermon, unpacking Revelation 8:1-5.
“As we pray for any given thing, our prayers are stored up on the altar of God with the prayers of others for that thing until they reach God’s appointed proportion and then God pours them out in blessing in the best way for all concerned. So that no believing prayer is in vain. Ever.”

3. Help
This is the one that we think of as “doing something.” But all of these are doing something. And again, you can’t donate to every cause. You can’t volunteer at every event. You can’t even call your senator every time. Once more, focus is important. But so is any dollar or minute you give.

4. Educate
Spread awareness. Again, you can’t share everything you come across. But others may not know about something that happened. By sharing you can mobilize others to pray, or to help where you might not be able to.

5. Love
While we can do small things about global problems, we can do a lot about the problems of those around us. In a recent issue of WORLD there were articles on the correlation between broken relationships and mass shootings or suicide. I know it sounds cheesy, but change starts right where you are. By not shouting at your kids. By forgiving your husband. By showing up for your friends. By taking a meal to your neighbor. We want to solve the problems “over there” and cry out about the wrongs others are committing. And that is not wrong. But we are hypocrites if we are ignoring what we have more power over: the relationships we have with those closest to us. Hitting the key to donate is so much easier than dealing with tantrums. Laws, elections, and airstrikes may bring some change, but the only path to lasting change is if it reaches hearts.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other… just as the Lord forgave you… beyond these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Colossians 3:12-17.


Word for 2018: Discipline

I wasn’t going to pick a word for 2018, despite it being the thing to do right now. But two weeks in to 2018, I realized I needed to be more disciplined – self-controlled – in a lot of areas, so picked it as “my word” for 2018. It encompasses a lot of what I have been thinking and reading about in Galatians, and continues on from “faith” as one of last year’s words.

with food
social media
focus on projects/reading
waking girls up and going to bed on time
putting aside my lists for others
my tone of voice
fidgeting/nail biting habits
consistent, loving correction to the girls*
not letting my mood be determined by circumstances**
slowing down to ruminate and process.

Discipline, to let Christ be the Master of my appetites, submitting them to Him, offering them to Him, being satisfied in Him instead of fleshly cravings.

Self-control comes not from saying “no” over and over again… then it wouldn’t need to be a fruit of the Spirit. It would be a distortion of the gospel, thinking I could save myself from my sins by my own will power.
Self-control comes from changing desires: crucifying the desires of the flesh, looking to Christ in faith that He is better.
I’ve posted this quote before, but it’s fitting to share it again:
“As faithful eyes perceive the unseen glories of God and reborn hearts embrace them, all the visible glories of God in the world seem to thicken in substance. The more eagerly we embrace God, the more gratitude we express for His created gifts for us, the more clearly we begin to discern the sinful distortions and the hollow promises of sin.” – Tony Reinke.

*This quote by Paul Tripp is on my mind a lot: “If your eyes ever see and your ears ever hear the sin, weakness, and failure of your children, it is never a hassle, never an interruption, never an accident, it is always grace. God loves your children and has put them in a family of faith, and He will reveal the need of their hearts to you so that you can be His tool of rescue and transformation.”
**How much S obeys me, how much I get done, not even how disciplined I’m being! Even that is a subtle way of thinking something other than Christ saves me!

Modern-Day Heroes

It’s hard to move 19 months after you moved to a place. It’s even harder when that place is where you made your first home as a married couple, walked through your first pregnancy, and began the journey of parenthood – all supported and surrounded by loving people, who loved you when they barely knew you and didn’t relent in their loving when you were getting ready to leave.
It’s also hard to leave the first friends your baby had – the one that looks like her polar opposite with the ‘fro and chocolate skin, the one who handed down head bands and tries to play with her during church, the one people asked if they were twins – the blue-eyed fair-skinned blonde fall-babies of GBC.
As I think about leaving behind yet another place and another set of friends, I’m reminded yet again of what Eleven said in Doctor Who:
“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”
We may be leaving our home here, but we won’t ever forget the people we love here and everywhere. It’s hard to leave, but it’s easier when you remember that leaving doesn’t mean forgetting and starting life in a new place and enjoying it doesn’t negate how wonderful where you were before was.

As I look back on the last year and a half and the people we have had the privilege of knowing here, especially at church, I have thought a lot about the people who have taught me so much by their lives, from when I was a child through to today.
I keep thinking of a stanza from the Getty’s “O Church Arise” –
“As saints of old still line the way,
Retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day
When, with Christ, we stand in glory.”

Some of those people I’m not in contact with much any more and we’ve grown apart. Others I have sporadic contact with but it’s the kind of friendship that we can just pick up where we left off. Most of the ones I write about below I don’t know that well but the way they live inspires me.
In “A Sacred Sorrow” Michael Card wrote,
“The deep things of the faith we learn less by didactic principle and more through people of faith and their simple stories. After all, the gospel is not a systematic/theological presentation to which we give assent or not in order to become “believers.” No, it is a story, which we enter into even as it enters into us. We, iint eh most real and literal sense, become characters in this ongoing incarnating of truth and of the gospel. Its story continues to be told in and through us, and along the way we begin to understand.
“I believe the same kind of incarnational process is at work in understanding lament. Eventually, when we are struggling to explain a difficult topic like prayer, faith, or perhaps servanthood, we resort to naming a person who incarnates that ideal. … When we seek to understand discipleship, we think of someone like Deitrich Bonhoeffer, not because of his book on the subject, but because his life and death validated everything he spoke about in his writings.”

I’ve found that the people I want to learn from most don’t have lessons they can teach you very well. The things I respect and love and want to emulate in them aren’t usually things they can tell you. They’re often lessons learned through trial. These people are often ships battered by many storms, yet coming out triumphant through the guidance of Christ.
There’s the woman at church who lost her husband to cancer soon after they remarried after they had divorced, and said “grieve, but don’t be downcast.” (Among so much other wisdom I can’t remember).
And another who shared wisdom on marriage (that also applies to parenting) – “He’s not irritating, I’m irritable.”
And the mother who commented that she had nothing to share about parenting, then said – “Jesus, help me! That’s my advice.”
And the one who stayed with her unbelieving husband, holding on through difficult times, and then God changed his heart.
And Amanda, who died of cancer a year ago, whose hope of heaven and joy in Christ was so beautiful to see as she shared her struggles with the church.
My cousin, Kristen, hanging on to life and finding joy in it through Christ despite long-term health issues.
My mother-in-love, who had to take care of new mothers just hours after giving birth to her fourth, braved homes with rats and lands with many poisonous snakes, and is such a wonderful example of godly marriage and parenting (as are my own mother and Mrs. C!).
Mrs. Y, who opened her home to me and gave of her time to let me come in and learn from her, the way they disciplined their kids with gospel, her joy in motherhood, openness in sharing things with me and letting me open up, choosing marriage and motherhood above a career.
The M’s – Mr. M who takes such care of his wife and has taught their sons to do the same, and in it all their use of their home for hospitality and evangelism. Mrs. M who digs down to the root of the issue and turns it so you can see it in the perspective of Christ, who so openly and clearly loves her husband, who has such a great strength from being steeled -yet also softened – in fire of trials where she had to let go and let the Lord work, and trust Him.

There’s M, who my dad discipled and endured persecution by co-workers for his new-found faith.
And my friends who lived in an Arab country filled with turmoil, staying for years after most others left even though it meant being “stuck” there and knowing every day could be their last. They were faithful during the trials, hard though days are with little water, gas, or electricity. These things they gave up and suffered for the gospel – because Christ and the souls of the lost Brothers are worth those hardships.
And two others who the world calls our enemies but who counted the cost yet had great joy in Him as their satisfaction and certainty in their faith in their Lord, a willingness to give their lives if necessary.
And another whose testimony I heard before I met him, how God saved him from a wild lifestyle. I met him and was immediately amazed at his humility, boldness, and intentionality. His favorite question to ask people is “What are you reading right now?” and he uses that to channel conversations to eternal things. He’s ready to be a martyr. He’s ‘planning’ on putting his life on the line in a place where Christianity is unknown – because he loves Christ and His glory so much more than life.

I think it’s people like this Hebrews has in mind when it says the world was not worthy of them.
What a privilege it has been to know each and every one of these, and many more, and some even greater that I just don’t have the words for because they’ve taught me so much (like our pastor’s wife, and my parents, and the C’s).
I’m excited to see who we meet in all of the places we live in the future and how God uses them in our lives.

“I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face, a memory
Your hope, a fire

Your courage asks me
What I’m afraid of
And what I know of love
And what I know of God.”
– I Saw What I Saw – Sara Groves

On Fear, Again.

Over the past six years, I’ve had recurring struggles with fear, starting when we went to India for a missions trip (or perhaps earlier, when we thought I had appendicitis) and continuing on today, with many in between.
The past few years I’ve resolved not to fear in the coming year, but it always continued. I always felt like there was a piece missing, some ammunition I didn’t have and therefore couldn’t fight properly.

I don’t think the fear always stemmed from the same root, but in recent years I began to see a trend: I usually struggled the most with fear when life was the most rich and thus I was afraid of losing the people I loved so much and the life that was so good. It helped to know more of WHY I have seasons of being more fearful. But even still, I couldn’t really fight it apart from frequently reminding myself that God was good and sovereign, which assuaged the fear but didn’t take it away.

Whenever there was discussion of fear in sermons and such, it was always about fear of death, and I never connected with that. The only thing I thought I was afraid of concerning death was the dying itself, and that only if it was going to hurt.
I did, however, resonate with Valjean’s statement at the end of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, “It is nothing to die; it is frightful not to live.” It put into words fear stemming from not wanting to lose those I love.
I always denied that I had any fear of death, but the other day I got the last piece to the puzzle, the ammunition to fight. When fear comes from putting too much love in the gifts He’s given, taking my gaze off of heaven and the future being better, then I AM fearing death. I am fearing that what comes next won’t be better, fearing the unknown of what it will be like.

But rather than the realization that I do fear death causing me to be more afraid or distraught, it brought HOPE, because now I know what to do with it. Now I know how that fear can be transformed by Him.
I knew to fight fear by reminding myself of His love and sovereignty – that whatever happened I could trust Him, and that He had put us in certain places at certain times.
But that only helped so much, because of the piece that was still missing.

What is that piece?
I think fearing death the way I do can be transformed – not just held off for a time, but really transformed into joy and hope – in Christ and His death. In Hebrews 2 it says that through His death He freed us from fear of death, which is lifelong slavery (true!).

But how does His death free us?
His death and resurrection tell us who God is (love + sovereignty at work in His children’s lives, among other things), and that we don’t have to fear judgement and hell because Christ was punished in our stead – but it tells us more than that.
It tells us that because He destroyed death, what’s coming is abundant life, more abundant than here, which is why we don’t have to fear the leaving behind and the changes that happen in life and death. It tells me, too, that there’s forgiveness for the idolatry of loving His gifts too much and hope to overcome the fear of death.

It seems so simple when I put it all into words, but somehow I’d missed it until yesterday.
I’m thankful for His revealing it to me, and it’s even more exciting that it comes on the brink of a new year. I’m curious to how it will change the struggle with fear in the future, although it also brings up a new struggle: how do you balance not clinging to life here but still enjoying it and loving the people most dear to you that you don’t want to lose?

I’ll probably post more on 2015 and what we hope it holds for us soon, but wanted to close out 2014 with those thoughts.
I HAVE struggled often with fear in this last year, but God has always shown Himself faithful, whether in safe travels, S’s birth, or anything else we faced in 2014.
Happy New Year!

looking back: 2013

just a few words and photos on 2013.

Midnight thoughts: last stars of 2013\don’t want to say goodbye to this year\”everything has got to end sometime. Otherwise nothing would ever get started”\first stars of 2014\I get married this year {sometime I’m going to go to bed in one year and wake up in another – the closest I’ll ever get to time travel}

Worship changed a lot for me. It’s become much easier to be delighted in God, especially in little daily things like clouds or stars, because I’ve come to see His hand in everything, and remember that everything comes from Him. Worship isn’t just praising Him but also beholding Him. And I think with that has come what I want my life to be about. I want to behold God, and want to help others behold Him, to see how great and awesome God is, not only in how He saves us but also in other areas, like how He orders creation.

All that thrills my soul is Jesus,
He is more than life to me,
And the fairest of ten thousand
In my blessed Lord I see!

Music also changed a lot. Throughout the year there were lots of mini-revolutions in the way I think about practice, technique, and music in general. Practicing slower to always practice it right. Using technique to get out of the way so the music speaks. Music showing the culture of its time. How music should be different for Christian musicians, in how we practice and perform and use it to communicate.

I realized how much this introvert really loves people, and also how much I am loved, and how worthwhile relationships are. This was made clear in both family and friends. With all the wedding and moving deadlines and other things I wanted to get done, whether it was practicing or otherwise, I was always reminding myself that people were so much more important, and because of that life was so much richer. And then watching the most recent Doctor Who episode, and watching others go through change and goodbyes and thinking about all the people the Doctor loves and helps and then has to leave behind – and some really profound quotes and thoughts and faces and feelings as I was thinking about change and goodbyes and all that {more on this coming}.

Marriage just around the corner, and wedding planning taking up time, energy, and creativity, but it was mostly enjoyable. And in just a few days, I’ll be married to Ezra, and we’ll start life together. I can’t wait!

Highlights of 2013
going to the US in April to visit Ezra and do wedding planning, have special cousin and mom time.

Csehy. That’s almost all I’ll say about it because I’ve said so much elsewhere and the words and highlights of Csehy overwhelm. But it sparked the musical and worship revolutions and also began the realizing of how much I love people and how much I am loved by people.

The trip Hannah and I took to RAK, two really special days with my friend of many years who’s like a twin sister.

seeing Sarah T. in Hong Kong

desert trips

Fontgoneano escapades

lessons and fellowship with Sarah M. (and baby Isabelle!)

the lovely shower the C’s and M’s hosted for me

playing music with DCO, NSO, DWB, and singing with the Dubai Singers.

last visit to the W’s.

snow mountain with my dad’s family}

stargazing & cloud chasing

playing volleyball

hospitality –all the varied and wonderful people we had in our home and who had me in theirs

Well Group

piano teaching

Nate getting Eagle

travels: Greece & Lyons, Bahrain & US

times with Cait, Joel, and Jacqueline

And 2014?
Getting married is the big one! So is moving across the ocean and starting a new life. And new stories and compositions and ensembles and people to love and foods to cook and thoughts for the blog {big ones coming after the wedding}.

Happy New Year!

The Dandelion

Most people think of dandelions as weeds.
I’ve always thought they were pretty, especially in their puff-ball form, when they’re the most fun to play with.
In recent years, they come to have meaning to me. Not just meaning, but lessons. Some from a few years ago, from Kate.

There were also very important ones from this summer, for anyone who has to let go of anything, because life is like a dandelion. At certain times we “get ripe” and it’s time to move on. The winds blow, and sometimes we go easily. Other times we hold on tightly, fighting what’s taking us elsewhere, and even though we have more time together it hurts more to leave because the wind has been battering us longer. We may still fight against the wind as it carries us far away, to a new place, away from all the other seeds we were close to for a while, not knowing if we’ll ever return.
But it doesn’t end there. Like the seed that remains alone unless it is planted – but then bears much fruit – it doesn’t have to end in fighting.

“He who goes out weeping,
Bearing the seed for sowing,
Shall come home with shouts of joy,
Bringing his sheaves with him.”
– Psalm 126:5

Leaving places like Csehy and Dubai is going out weeping. But it’s bearing seeds for sowing, taking with me all I’ve learned at both places. What’s striking is that the weeping doesn’t turn to joy until we plant, until we let go of the old and let ourselves be in a new place and grow there.
I think that as much as we want to hold on to those people and places behind us, moving on doesn’t mean we leave them behind or forget them, and if we pour ourselves out at home like we do at Csehy, if we let the dandelion spread – we will come home with shouts of joy, bringing our sheaves – the harvest of our work – with us, whether that home is back together at Csehy or Dubai or our reunion in heaven.
Wherever it is – we shall come with shouts of joy.

Seeking Quiet

For as long as I knew what introverts and extroverts were, I knew I was an introvert. For a long time, I thought that could be an excuse to not talk to people. Sometimes it’s not an excuse, just the thought doesn’t cross my mind because I’m content to be quiet if other people are talking or even if they aren’t. The more I read about introverts, the more I make sense of myself. Why church is so tiring and small talk drives me crazy. Why I love it when people ask if I just want to be alone, or get frustrated if they start talking to me when I’m wanting to be alone. Why I lose track of time when working by myself. Why deep conversations mean so much. Why I can be in a crowded room and be lonely, but also why I can be in a crowded room, be talking to no one, and be perfectly happy.

I love people, but hate crowds. And sometimes when I love you I may stand by you or follow you around but not say a word.(I apologize if I’ve made you feel awkward doing this. Sometimes I want to spend time with people but don’t know what to say, so I just stand there). I may take a long time to let you in, but when I do it will be for a long time.

I want to have things figured out before I tell anyone. So I may not be saying anything yet, but I may be thinking of how to say it, or if I should say it now, or if I shouldn’t say it at all. This is especially true with sharing something personal. And why if people ask for my opinion and then ignore it it makes me upset – because that opinion was probably well thought-out.

(Someone somewhere said if you’re an introvert you’re probably in a relationship with an extrovert. I don’t understand that one. Being around extroverts all the time drives me crazy because they don’t usually know how to be quiet, especially not quiet with you).

But this summer I realized how much and how deeply I love the people I’ve gotten close to, and how when there’s not that depth and closeness with other people that are around, I get lonely. Introverts do need people. We love people. And this may not be “true introvert” but there is some small amount of recharging that happens with deep conversations or a day with the people I’m closest to – hence my days off at Csehy didn’t end up with me being a hermit like I thought they might.

Something else I realized, though, is the danger for us to find our recharging just in being alone. It’s not always possible to find that alone time. But even more, when I’m worn out from a day with people and just go and sit at my computer or play the piano – often it turns into a kind of melancholy moping.
When I had little alone time at Csehy, I spent most of it with God. I realized the “I need to be alone” feeling is really an “I need time with God” feeling, because with God is true quiet, being still and listening, in the middle of, before, or after prayer and reading, or just throughout the day. And there were wonderful times to be with others yet still somehow being alone with and very close to God, especially in the times we spent at the Field of Dreams and Moss Lake. Those are beautiful places, but it’s because their beauty reminds me of God and draws me closer to Him that they’re such powerful places.
And those times of quiet and being near to Him were drawing me close to Him so I was ready to leave Csehy. My good friend Sarah posted this quote on Facebook the other day, “The blessedness of true separation is nothing less than the glorious companionship of the great God Himself.” The worship at Csehy, whether cloud-chasing or star-gazing or singing hymns or prayer alone or prayer with others – the being burdened for others in a way that drove me to my knees, and feeling so helpless myself – that was all preparing me for the post-Csehy loneliness… because I had Him.

I’ve been reading A.W. Tozer’s book “Who Put Jesus on the Cross?” and there’s a chapter called “What is the Supreme Sin of a Profane Society?” He talks about how humanity is so absorbed in our own godless worlds that we don’t see Him, even though He holds everything together. We hear nothing of Him because our lives are too loud.
Taking time out to be quiet is easy for me when there’s stars and clouds and lakes – but it’s a lot harder when it’s 105 degrees outside and the sky is a blanket of smog and city lights hide the stars. But He’s still there; He’s still the same.
This post is a challenge to myself as much as it is to anyone else. Introvert or extrovert – find Him and be with Him. It looks different for everyone, but we were made to worship Him and we let life crowd that out. We want to be with the ones we love – and He is our Bridegroom, so we should love Him most, long for Him most, and know His voice when He is calling.