Grandma Esther

Earlier this week, my grandmother passed away after a long and difficult battle with dementia. We had some warning that she was nearing the end of her journey, but she left this world quicker than we expected. As the news was sent out to the family, many tears were shed and prayers spoken, but ultimately we all were thinking the same thing:

She is whole and now she is happier than ever before!

When I walked outside after work the morning Grandma passed, I was greeted by a stunning, colorful sunrise. For weeks prior to that morning, it had been nothing but gloomy gray skies all day every day. So imagine how overjoyed my family was when God sent us that sunrise. What a beautiful representation of hope! A perfect glimpse of the beauty that Grandma was seeing now that she is with her Savior! That sunrise was nothing compared to the majesty of Heaven, but it was God’s way of reminding us that even though we were sad, we would see her again and she is currently rejoicing with the angels. Hope is not lost.

As Christians, we often hear about how beautiful Heaven is. We talk about the angels worshipping the Lord, the streets of gold, and seeing the face of Jesus. But I have to admit that while I talked about all those things and agreed with people when they said they couldn’t wait to get to Heaven, I never truly understood it all. I love my life here so much and there is still so much left that I want to accomplish in life for me to deep down honestly be excited about leaving this world and going to Heaven. I know that once I get there, everything in this world will pale in comparison to Heaven, but…this life is great, too, right?

The mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the rolling greens and cliffs of Ireland, the monuments of London – all places I want to experience in this life. Falling in love, holding my first born, creating a home, sending out Christmas cards with updates of my family – even more life experiences I want to know.

But when Grandma left this world for her eternal home, I suddenly understood. I get what people mean when they long for Heaven! I think about Grandma laughing and smiling again; I think about her reunion with her son and daughter; I think about her walking around with ease and singing hymns to our Savior; I think about what it was like when she first saw Jesus’ face. The Son that she so faithfully served for 86 years looking her in the eye and saying to her:

Well done, good and faithful Esther. Enter into the joy of your Master.

So while I miss Grandma already, I honestly couldn’t be happier for her. And while I do have so many more things I want to experience in this life, I now look forward to the day God calls me home. I look forward to being whole again, reuniting with friends and family, and singing hymns with the angels. But most of all, I look forward to the day I see the face of the Savior who loved me so much that He died for me.

Stay with me for just a few minutes more. We all sin. It’s a fact. But because of that, none of us can come into the presence of a perfect God covered in sin and expect to be allowed into Heaven. The price to take away sins requires a perfect sacrifice and none of us are perfect. Thus we cannot pay the price for our own sins. So where does that leave us?

Not hopeless. Christ came to this earth not appearing out of thin air and demanding people follow him, but as a little baby born in a manger. He grew up and laughed and cried, just like us. He knew joy and sorrow, just like us. He was tempted, just like us. He knew what it was like to be in our shoes, but he never sinned, he never faltered, he was perfect. And he loves us so much that he was willing to become that perfect sacrifice for our sins. He died on a cross to pay the price for the sins of the world, and then three days later, Jesus rose from the grave – he is stronger than death, and we are promised that same power if we believe!

If you believe that Christ loves you and died for your sins, and you ask him to come change your heart, he will pay the cost of your sins. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the very presence of God, where Jesus has entered on our behalf.” (Heb. 6:19-20) And because our sins are removed, we are promised to be in Heaven one day. How awesome is that?!

So where do you stand? Do you have that hope, that anchor? If not, ask someone – I am more than willing to talk with you about it! I am so thankful to have a Grandma and Grandpa that taught their family the importance of the gift of salvation and that exemplified Christ’s love for us in every way. Grandma’s name is Esther, which in Hebrew means “star”. Grandma was just that – a bright star in a dark world who lived to serve and love those around her. I can only pray that I am half the woman that my grandma was.

The LORD is good and His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. Ps. 100:5

The LORD is good and His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. Ps. 100:5

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sehnsucht

sehnsucht (zEn-zUkt) – (n.) the inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what; a yearning for a far, familiar non-earthly land one can identify as one’s home
~C.S. Lewis

The other day, I was sitting on my back steps listening to the thunder roll and watching the lightning flash during a rainless spring storm. It was the first real display of lightning this spring, and my back porch steps were the perfect seat for the show. I sat with a wide grin on my face and oohed and aahed at each flash of lightning and counted how far away the lightning was (Bearenstain Bears anyone?!).

One particular bolt of lightning was impressively bright and flashed almost parallel with the ground. I was momentarily blinded by the flash and then I quickly heard the resounding crack of  thunder – a close one! As I sat there, I thought, “I wish I could see that one again!” I closed my eyes to give a quick prayer of thanks to God for this show and suddenly that exact lightning bolt flashed across my vision! The dramatic flash of light replayed across my vision every time I closed my eyes for the next minute or so until my retinas fully readjusted to the darkness. Then I heard a Voice saying,

That’s a little like life, is it not – close your eyes in prayer and it becomes so much easier to see the blessings that I have bestowed upon you. But when you open your eyes, you quickly let yourself readjust to the darkness of this world and you forget the majestic.

Talk about blunt. How often have I been putting my day aside, even for 5 minutes, to close my eyes and thank God for the blessings He’s given me? How easy is it to let my spiritual eyes leave my Savior and adjust to the darkness around me? Now, don’t get me wrong – I have so many people and situations around me that are seemingly “light and good”, but in Romans 12, as Christians we are called to “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Amplified Bible) This doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to be with those who are not walking in the Light (Matt. 5:14 calls us to be the light of the world!). Instead, this is God warning His children against conforming to the mindset of this world. The world does not have the same values, goals, or appreciations as God’s children are called to have. In our world, Satan has discovered that he does not have to do much work – make something look similar to God’s will and bam, we fall for it. Tell us, “It’s not that bad. The story line is so sweet and it’s so harmless, who is this hurting?” and Satan’s got us dropping like flies. Closing your eyes in prayer not only reminds yourself of the blessings you have been given by God, but it also helps us discern God’s will for our lives and it redirects our focus to where it’s supposed to be – on our Savior.

So this is Sunday. How will you start your work week? Counting your blessings?

How Deep

I’ve had this song stuck in my head this evening.  After a long and productive day, I couldn’t imagine a better way to wind down than singing along to this, drinking a cup of coffee, and dwelling on these words.

How Deep the Father’s Love For Us
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Jesus Calling

“It is good that you recognize your weakness. That keeps you looking to Me, your Strength. Abundant life is…living in continual dependence on Me. Instead of trying to fit this day into a preconceived mold, relax, and be on the lookout for what I am doing. This mind-set will free you to enjoy Me and to find what I have planned for you to do. This is far better than trying to make things go according to your own plan.
You have Me on your side, so what are you worried about? I can equip you to do absolutely anything, as long as it is My will. The more difficult your day, the more I yearn to help you. Anxiety wraps you up in yourself, trapping you in your won thoughts. When you look to me and whisper My Name, you break free and received My help. Focus on Me, and you will find Peace in My presence.
~ Sarah Young from Jesus Calling, March 16

I’ll be the first to admit that my time spent in reading my Bible and praying with the Lord is very inconsistent. But I recently purchased Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and it’s been a great way to very slowly try to retrain my mind towards focusing on the Lord at least once a day. I also recently purchased Chris Rice’s albums The Living Room Sessions and Peace Like a River and Meredith Andrews’ Worth It All. All three have been playing on shuffle since Sunday and they have been a great way to keep me focused on God throughout my day.

So today. What are you doing to keep yourself focused on the Lord? Are you continually seeking the Peace that God offers anyone who comes to Him with an open heart? Or are you draining yourself dry trying to do life on your own?

I shower blessings on you daily, but sometimes you don’t perceive them. When your mind is stuck on a negative focus, you see neither Me nor My gifts. ~Sarah Young from Jesus Calling, March 20

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Hello world

Well once again, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged! Life has been busy with holidays, family, friends, making my new rental a home, shoveling snow, a fabulous trip to AUSTRALIA (blog post coming soon!), and of course work.

Life in a 2 bedroom house all by yourself can be wonderful, ridiculous, tiring, hilarious, and lonely, all at the same time. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve said, “A roommate would be awesome right now”, I’d be rich. And not renting! But in general, life is good! I love being able to decorate my own place, cook whatever I want whenever I want, have guests over (hint hint), and being able to stretch out on my couch – because space is sometimes limited in a larger family : ) And while paying bills is not glamorous, I still enjoy being responsible.

I recently read this article by Paul Angone called 7 Habits of Highly Miserable Twenty-Somethings and he talked about how it is so easy for our twenty-something generation to find something, anything to complain about!

1. Complain-isicm

It seems that complaining, with a heavy dose of cynicism, has become our national pastime. It only takes three minutes on Facebook, Twitter, talk radio, or the news stations to know that if you’re not complaining about something, you’re a bit of an outsider.

We complain about our crappy jobs, the slow Wi-Fi, our leaders in the office and around the world, and the waiter who brought only one basket of bread—the whole night! Jerk.

Complain-iscm has become signature to our society—as culturally cool as deep v-necks and neon sunglasses. However, I learned that the road to miserable is paved with complainers and cynics.

And it is so true! When one person starts complaining, it has a terrible domino effect – suddenly the entire group is complaining about that manager, that waitress, the terrible thing that happened to them, etc. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t chip in and make a small comment, I am not sympathetic towards the person talking or something like that. I feel obligated to contribute to the wailing.

But I don’t want to contribute! Why are we always finding the negative in situations? Are we really as happy by doing that?? Would we not be happier talking about the good things going on in our lives, the co-worker that really stepped up in that situation, the really funny thing your kids did for your birthday, that sweet gesture your husband did for no reason?

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes it is necessary to vent/debrief/whatever after a difficult situation. Trust me, I get it! But move on quickly. Don’t dwell on the situation. And if someone is complaining/venting to you, be sympathetic, but don’t add to the chaos. Help the person move on, change the subject, whatever!

There’s plenty of negativity in the world! Why not brighten it up a bit?! : )

That being said, here are a few things I’m thankful for tonight:

-fantastic worship at church (Harvest Peoria had Meredith Andrews as a guest worship leader this AM!)
-God having this funny way of knowing just what I need and fulfilling that need
-Chris Rice’s Piano Hymns CD – soothing and helps me to re-focus this Sunday night
-warm blankets and hoodies
-a large mug of chamomile tea
-family
-candles
-being able to pay my bills
-a hoarse voice from singing in a choir again!

And best of all: a merciful, loving, forgiving God who welcomes me with open arms despite me being a dummy! : )

What are you thankful for today? Who are you thankful for today? What brightened your day? Who flipped your frown upside down?

beach 2

Teaser for my Aussie post! I promise it’s coming : )

Um. I have a blog?!

Honestly, I’m very impressed that I remembered my password for wordpress. Very.

Update on life:
-I just moved to Peoria Heights in a 2 bedroom house that I’m renting! I love it! It’s tons of space, but It’s already quickly filling up and looking more like a home. I haven’t had much time to settle in since my days off from work are scattered, but in a few days I have a WEEK off. Yipee!! Pictures will be posted soon! Still waiting on/looking for some furniture.
-I love my job and love the feeling of gaining more confidence in it. Of course, there are the days where I wonder if I really have worked there a year and not 3 weeks, but that happens. I remember graduating from IWU and thinking, “Nope. NOT ICU. Anything but!” And here I am a year and a half later, loving working with miniature ICU patients!
-Much to the joy of my beloved sister in law, Corrie, I finally caved and am going to subject myself to the horror films known as “Twilight”. I’m even paying to go to the opening show Thursday night with Corrie and a bunch of friends from work! Don’t worry, I will laugh a lot and it will be a great time : )
-I have gone to a few weddings in Ohio and Illinois and I’ve been to a bajillion baby showers for friends at work! So much fun!!
-750 piece puzzles of a sailboat harbor are extremely difficult. And it has also been my entertainment for myself since I have no TV and limited internet hahaha

-I am loving this song the past few days. SO good and love love love the lyrics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWM2qG-nU-Y

And for the rest, here are a few pics of my life recently:

TMNT, duh! These chicks are fantastico!

This hottie got married and moved to Tennesseeee

Visited this crazy animal. And miss her!!

I am also missing this dynamic duo terribly

And would love for this to happen again!!!

It’s September?!

Haven’t posted in quite a long time! Time flies, especially when you work a lot. Not going to do a real blog post yet, but I just have to say:

It’s official: I love my job. Love it.

This morning I got to experience a rarity at my job and while it was obvious it was my first time, I was grinning like a school-girl. I’m pretty sure the nurse practitioner and neonatologist thought I was a nutso, but I didn’t care;  I was on cloud 9. Throw in the world’s best co-workers I work with, and a girl couldn’t ask for a better job!

Thank  you, Lord, for the NICU and for the people I work with!! A year ago I could have cared less if I stayed in nursing, but now You have re-affirmed it’s my calling : ) I lovelovelove my job.

What to Know at 25(-ish)

Image

I’ve seen posts like this before, but this one is really brilliant. Relevant Magazine shares an article written by Shauna Niequist entitled What to Know at 25-ish. SO brilliant, very encouraging, and a well needed kick in the seat to get a-moving!

Sometimes forget that I’m only 20-something and that while I don’t have all the time in the world, these years are so full of potential and they are full of adventures just begging to be lived out! And while these times do give rise to many grand adventures, these years are also very formative and important. The habits, priorities, hobbies, activities I develop during these years will effect me years down the road.

So as for me, I am going to make the best of these freedom-years. Any thoughts from my fellow 20-somethings? Any advice from those of you who have been there – things you wish you had done or not done?

Friday Favs

ImageHowdy ya’ll!

It’s Fridayyyyy! Which for me means a stretch of nights at work, but I’m okay with that. Here are a few articles/blogs/videos I’ve enjoyed this week. Check em out!

A post by Preston Yancey at Prodigal Magazine on this whole “ring by spring” and crazy after graduation wedding season and how his outlook has changed, even while remaining single.

-Here’s a good post at Good Women Project by Elena Pellizzaris about not fitting into the category of the work woman rolling in the dough nor the category of the perfect housewife. 

-Here’s my younger brother’s blog. We are very similar, so I really relate to his post about friends and being intentional.

-I present to you a treat for your ears: The Piano Guys cover Bruno Mars’ Just the Way You Are on piano and cello.

Pregnant and I know It video- I have a feeling that a few of my friends would totally do this if they were pregnant. I would do it, but not on video for sure haha!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and if you decide to do any baking, make sure you do it to the Robin Hood Motion Picture Soundtrack Pandora station – you will feel like you are creating a masterpiece!!

old towne

I drove through the town of my old high school today and I had mixed feelings driving through it. The pizza place with the tasty onion rings is still there. The corner lot that saw a bazillion businesses fail in the 4 years I was in high school – it is now a small medical center. The old high school itself is now a daycare, a metal welding shop, a tanning place and a few other businesses. But the track’s still there, and the old baseball diamonds where I watched my brothers play countless games and I practiced for marching band. The softball diamonds where I played so many games and got the nice scar on my leg. They finally after nearly 8 years, built that walkway from the new school to the diamonds. Some things the same, some things changed.

But somehow I felt like I was looking into someone else’s memory. The town is only fifteen minutes away, yet I hadn’t visited for longer than driving through in…three years? I couldn’t help but think that my life is so different from what it was then. Sure, life was easier and simpler then. My biggest cares were if I was going to make it to the bus on time and if I was going to pass my anatomy exam.

Now – I have thousands of dollars of debt (well worth it though); I pay for my own gas; I have to coordinate what social schedule I have with my work schedule, along with everyone else’s; I have to choose my words more carefully because they seem to carry more weight and often have greater consequences. I struggle to know how best to serve and support my family – what to do or say or not.

And the biggest yet – I find it harder and harder to remain spiritually disciplined in a time when it is so crucial to me (and somehow, to those around me as well). How do I keep myself disciplined enough to keep diving into my spiritual life and staying connected to God when I’m the only person my age in my church, it’s a struggle to even get to church with my work schedule, and, compared to college life (where I was constantly being spiritually fed and was surrounded with godly peers, investing in me and challenging me) I feel alone and malnourished. I keep finding ways to occupy my time: TV, movies, music, reading, sleeping. Those things are entertaining, but also numbing. I keep falling farther and farther “out of practice” with my spiritual life.

I don’t mean for this to be a debbie-downer post. Is my life going the way I had planned? Not really. But is my life still very good and blessed? Yes! I’m happy with my life and the years I’m in now. I talk to so many friends who don’t like the job they’re in or they miss their family and God has blessed me enough to have both a wonderful job and be near family. I just feel like I’m not making the most of this time. There so much potential I’m missing, but how to get it? How to live the life of purpose I know God’s called me to? What do I do in the here and now?

I found this post by Allison Vesterfelt encouraging as well as this post by Allison, writing at Prodigal Magazine; and finally this post by John Hanan at Prodigal Magazine. Anyone have any insight?