Intense Gratitude

My heart is so full right now. God is so good. SO GOOD.

Firstly, I’ve been thinking recently about and marveling at how much God has done in my life these past few weeks, and how much better my life has been. I have no words. Some of you who know me well have heard from me how things have been going for me recently, and those of you who don’t know me but have been reading my posts from this past spring have an idea of how hard things had been. But it’s gotten so much better since then. Praise the LORD. (So to those of you out there who are struggling so hard and don’t see any hope for the future… hang on—it WILL get better, believe me.)

  • Mentally/emotionally, I feel great—so much more joyful and hopeful; so much more at rest—I actually enjoy my life more. I wake up nearly every morning feeling feel so much happier to be alive (not that I ever wasn’t happy to be alive).
  • Faith-wise… you know, it’s always a journey, I’m always learning; I’m a sinner in need of God’s grace. I mess up, I run to Him, He shows me mercy. By His grace, I keep running, learning to hate sin and love righteousness. So things aren’t perfect in the slightest (how could they be, on this side of heaven?), but He’s been teaching me so much, and blessing me and showing Himself to me in so many ways. I’ve experienced so much more joy in Christ, and God has been answering my prayers that I would enjoy Him more (shoutout to Jonathan Edwards’s Personal Narrative for the idea to pray this… Edwards did, and I thought, good idea!).
  • Physically, I feel better. I’m still not a perfect picture of health, but I have seen improvement. A significant example of this is that my hair is growing back. About 3 weeks ago I got it cut short (at about chin-length), and since then the amount of hair I was losing slowed down to a halt. Which is a serious answer to prayer. I am convinced that the reason for hair loss was mainly intense stress, while nutrient-deficiency also was a factor. (I get enough to eat, but my body can’t absorb enough nutrients.)

Which segues into the next thing that I am SO happy about: I had an appointment with my doctor today. I had gotten so many different tests done, and during this appointment we went over the results. And—praise the LORD!—the results came back with very pleasant news. I don’t have the possible conditions that I had been wondering whether I had. There was one test I did for “cross-reactives” (foods that the body reacts to as if they were gluten, even if they are completely gluten-free things, such as dairy, potatoes, etc.), and according to the test results, the only cross-reactive that my body can’t handle is dairy, which is kind of sad. On the bright side, all the other cross-reactives were negative (which means I can have things like potatoes and brown rice again! Praise the LORD.) In short, he concluded that things look very hopeful. I can start introducing those “cross-reactives” back into my diet, and I will still have to keep taking supplements, and continue doing exercises that help stimulate the left-cerebellum and brain stem. Anyway, I am so thankful that God helped me find this doctor, because I have NEVER been helped with my Celiac/Horner’s/Traumatic Brain Injury issues to the extent that he has helped me. Ever. My life makes so much sense—how these three conditions totally build off one another and cause all the various symptoms I’ve been having. I now know why I am this way, and have so much hope and confidence that things will only get better.

Thirdly, I’m just in awe over how God has just really blessed me with the friendships He has given me. I’m in awe over the wonderful sisters that God has placed in my life ever since starting college. I have grown so much because of them, and am so, so thankful for all the ways in which they’ve cared for me, listened well, offered wisdom and encouragement, and pointed me to Christ.  God placed the right people in my life at the right time. I’m also amazed at how God brings people together in suffering, and causes something beautiful to come from something unbearably hard. Or how real friendships will not cave under failures—I know that I have failed to be loving many times, yet by God’s grace, there is forgiveness, and the friendship continues on, stronger. Community is such a beautiful thing.

God is just amazing. I can’t say it enough.

—Maddie

#myriadsofblessings 06/18

  • Flowers.
  • Grilled vegetables (I’ve forgotten how good things are grilled.)
  • Adventures with friends.
  • Visiting new places.
  • The beach. I got to go to a real beach for the first time since I was 16, and it was wonderful.
  • Finding people who enjoy what I enjoy.
  • Enjoying something with someone else.
  • People who make me laugh.
  • God’s Word.
  • Corporate worship.
  • Drawing.
  • Freedom.
  • Having all the time in the world to get back to doing art again.  #summer
  • God’s faithfulness and mercy.
  • Blueberries.
  • Homemade blueberry lemonade.
  • Cute shoes. (Sounds shallow, but I don’t mean to be)
  • Air-conditioning.
  • Potted succulents. (I’ve always wanted one, and now I finally got one. Let’s if I succeed in not killing it.)
  • The color pink. (To be specific, very pale pink. Almost white. Not bubblegum or neon pink.)
  • Running water.
  • Not feeling nearly as unhealthy as I did about a month ago.
  • Pineapple.
  • Mangoes.
  • Social media to keep in touch with faraway friends.
  • New (pleasant) experiences.

What are some blessings in your life?

But Wait… It Gets Better

Looking back a couple years ago, I was kind of in a difficult season of life. I am so thankful that things are different now than they were then. Back then I was anxious, I was enslaved to fear, filled with doubt, bombarded with lies about who I was… I just wasn’t very free. I was a Christian back then and knew the Gospel, it was just a very difficult season for me.  And I wondered if it would ever end.

Fast forward two years later, to today. I still struggle with doubts sometimes, but my faith has grown and I have learned, and am still learning, to doubt my doubts and CLING to the hope of the Gospel and to God’s Word, which is true and reliable. My fear is mostly gone. He is working in my heart, causing me to seek Him, causing me to desire Him more.  I’m by no means perfect, but God has been so gracious and such a good Father as to help me out of that season and bring me nearer to Himself. He has been giving me a deeper sense of my need for Him, and proving Himself faithful, meeting that need by satisfying me with Himself. I am NOT the same person I was two years ago.

The moral of the story is, if you are in a difficult spot, and if life is absolutely miserable, and you’ve been crying out to God for the millionth time and you STILL don’t seem to have gotten anywhere, don’t give up hope. Take it from yours truly. In the moment when I was in that dark valley, I thought I would never be able to climb up out of it. I thought I would always be troubled in my mind and worry about things that weren’t even true. I didn’t see any change taking place, any hope for things getting better, and it was discouraging. But over time, things most certainly did get better. Since that time–though so gradually it was hard to see the process take place–God has been restoring me, healing me, setting me free, and constantly reminding me of His love for me and His amazing grace shown through the sacrifice of His Son. Keep seeking Him, and He will be faithful to show up.

-Maddie

I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant,

and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him

and saved him out of all his troubles.

(Psalm 34:4-6 ESV)

Life – 08/29

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 6.26.03 PM
Notes on our “Confessions” class

Things have been going really well these past few days.  School has been super interesting, and every day I’ve looked forward to the next class.  We are now into our second week of school; we just finished reading and discussing Augustine’s Confessions and just today we discussed Augustine’s understading of the Trinity and of the Will, whether creeds and confessions are an important thing to have in the church (we’re reading part of The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman for that), etc.  So many topics in one class period!  It was so interesting though.

To provide context for future posts, I might as well add that hey, so I’m actually not a junior.  I would have been, but last year the stress, the workload, the late nights and minor depression (from all of this) got to me, consequently last year things didn’t go as well as I’d liked, and I didn’t exactly pass.  I had taken my fall sophomore semester, but couldn’t take the spring one until I caught up on some things.  So I focused on my Greek, aced it, enjoyed a lighter workload for a season, and now I’m back as a Sophomore, 2.0.  While this is hard in some ways going from one class to another, it’s been great being a part of this new class.  From the start I immediately felt like I belonged, they were all so welcoming.  Last year I had gotten to know some of these people, and became good friends with them.  Now I get to be in class with them, and hang out with them all the time.  It’s pretty sweet.  Besides the people I already knew, I got to know the people I didn’t know very well.  At this point I know everyone’s names and have talked to nearly every one of them, and they all are super awesome people.  I left a great class, but I entered one that was just as equally great.

Now that I’ve provided some context, I can talk in the future about themes we’re studying without you all being confused – “didn’t you go through that material already?”

Besides academics, life has been good these past few days – exceptionally good.

  • The LORD has been so full of grace to me, as always, particularly now by giving me joy in him, which I’ve felt somewhat lacking before and had to fight for it.  I feel like these days my prayers have been less self-focused and more gospel-centered, which is good.  Besides that type of joy (which surpasses all others), I’ve been laughing so much these days, haha.  There are a few people in my class who are absolutely HILARIOUS, and they have been a source of much humor in our classes and in the times we hang out together.
  • Some days the weather has been slightly chilly – an indication of fall weather.  You guys, I cannot wait.  The colors.  The smell of dead leaves, and the sound of them crunching under my feet.  Actually having to wear sweaters and wool socks and use blankets.  Being able to drink tea without overheating myself.  Pumpkin, cinnamon, squash… guys.  I bought a butternut squash a few days ago.  YES.
  • I’ve been learning the pleasure of listening to entire albums at once.  I used to not have the patience for that.  But I’ve been realizing that albums sometimes have a big picture, and certain songs sometimes build off others in the album, or a hidden theme develops that I would have missed had I only listened to select songs at random.  Even if not, I’ve found listening to entire albums pleasurable in and of itself.  A few albums I’ve been listening to, start to finish, are
    • Ghost of a King by The Gray Havens
    • Where The Light Gets In by Jason Gray
    • Posters by Strahan

So that’s a bit on how things have been going recently!  I could say so much, but time is limited, and I’ve got to make supper and get to my reading (my reason for blogging was to wake myself up – I kept dozing off mid-sentence while I was reading, and would end up dreaming ends of sentences onto ones I had started while awake!  So strange, haha).

Maddie

 

#myriadsofblessings – 8/13

The “Thankful” post series (in which I list things I am thankful for) now goes by “#myriadsofblessings” to go better with the blog title.  FYI.  Anyway, here are some blessings I am currently grateful for:

  • Deep conversations with good friends.
  • Being home.
  • Frozen berries. (Just eating them out of the bag is one of the best things ever… if you don’t mind your thumb and index finger turning purplish-red in the process.)
  • Windows that open.
  • Forgiveness in Jesus.
  • People I can be completely honest and open with.
  • Spontaneous adventures with friends.
  • Mangoes.
  • Brown rice pasta.
  • Babies.
  • Knowing (and actually believing) that God is in control of all things.
  • The fact that I get to go to my home church tomorrow. YESSS.
  • The sound of crickets at night.
  • Scented candles.
  • God’s Word, in English. What grace.
  • Color.
  • Eyesight.  Yesterday I imagined what it would be like living without sight, and how hard it would be.  So many people do.  I’m thankful that for now, I have working eyes (albeit nearsighted ones that need glasses).

What are you thankful for?

Thankful. 7/10

  • Finishing a good day’s work.
  • Rest.
  • Homemade ice cream.
  • Chocolate chips.
  • Little kids.
  • Looking back at fond memories and feeling all nostalgic.
  • Long phone calls with friends.
  • Laughter.
  • Forgiveness – receiving it, and doing it.
  • God’s grace.
  • Weekend afternoons in the hammock.
  • New pens for handlettering!
  • Rain.

Thankful. 5/31

These days I’m thankful for:

  • God’s grace in dealing patiently and mercifully with me when I’m being a brat, and in helping me to see things more like the way he sees them.
  • Mint iced tea.
  • Gluten free pasta – a luxury.
  • Freedom from certain legalistic boundaries.  Legalism is the worst.  The earth is the LORD’s, and all that it contains, and when someone uses a thing God created, not from faith, that doesn’t make that created thing evil.  The evil thing is actually our sinful hearts.  It would be like saying, “So many people misuse food, being gluttonous.  Therefore, food must be evil.”  NO!  That is faulty logic!  The food itself is not the problem; the problem is the heart of man, who twists and misuses creation in a way the God did not design creation to be used.  Although hardly anyone would believe this (in that we need food to survive), many legalistic arguments follow this same logic, I’ve noticed.  We all need to realize (including myself) that all things are created by God, and he has created them to be enjoyed, rightly.  Alcohol is a good thing, but in enjoying it, don’t lose your self-control or ability to discern “should I say/do this, or not?”.  Food is good, but don’t be a glutton.  Friendship, music, writing, etc., are good things, but they can be used for good, or for evil.  When they are used for evil, that doesn’t make those things “off-limits” (i.e. “Dancing is bad, because sometimes people can do suggestive things while doing it.”  No, dancing is not the issue, the suggestive actions are the issue.  One can dance in a way that glorifies God).  The things that God created can be used for good (bringing glory to him), or for evil (using them not in the way he intended them to be used).
  • Life.  Yes, I am so thankful for life in general.  It’s awesome.  I mean, of course, there are those days when everything goes wrong and the day couldn’t be short enough, but there are also those days when it’s sunny out, and I get to go on adventures with my friends, and hilarious things happen, and good conversations are had, etc., etc.  Life is just beautiful.
  • Technology.  Seriously, it makes life SO much easier.
  • Words.
  • Friendship.
  • Forgiveness.
  • Salads.  They’re SO good.  Last week I made this salad (twice) out of baby kale (chopped up roughly), chicken, cherry tomatoes (halved, so they don’t explode in your mouth), avocado, and then olive oil and lemon juice for dressing.  AHHH.
  • Long, deep conversations.
  • Fresh berries.
  • Avocados.
  • A fan, when it’s super hot and the house doesn’t have A/C.

Thankful. 3/18

Today I’m thankful for:

  • Rainy days.  They’re very comforting.
  • Chamomile tea with a little milk and honey.
  • When you hope something will come to pass, and you keep finding evidence that it may.
  • Pale pink & burgundy together.
  • Old quilts.
  • Getting a letter from a friend.
  • Writing a letter to a friend.
  • Pride and Prejudice soundtrack.
  • Classical music.  (The relaxing kind, not the nerve-stimulating kind.)
  • Being a part of a small group.
  • Getting together with my brothers and sisters in Christ to pray and worship the LORD together.  It’s like a glimpse of eternity.
  • Days where I have time to relax.
  • Ranunculuses (a really pretty type of flower.  Look it up.)
  • Spring break, which starts this evening.  Woohoo!

What are you thankful for?

Happy weekend!

Maddie

Same Blog, Same Focus, New Name

As you may have noticed, my blog looks completely different than it did yesterday morning.  I gave it a new name and a different theme.

Why the new name?  Glad you asked.  I didn’t really like “and the girl wrote” very much after a while.  The unnecessary conjunction “and” was bugging me, and so was all the past tense business.  In short, it just didn’t suit me.  It was too random.  I’ve been wanting to change it for a while, but could not think of a good replacement until just yesterday.

I renamed it “Myriads of Blessings” when I realized a theme that was going on in my blog posts, about God and all the ways he has blessed me – first and foremost through the Gospel, and secondly through the people he’s brought into my life, the lessons he’s taught me (even through painful, difficult scenarios), the things he’s created that I get to enjoy (and through enjoying them, enjoy HIM)… you get the picture.  So I decided on a name based on this focus.  According to the dictionary app on my Mac, “myriad” means “a countless or extremely great number”.  Perfect.  There are so many ways in which I’ve been blessed that I don’t even deserve… I can’t count them all, there are myriads of them!  Also, I sort of borrowed the name from the title of my “thankfulness notebook” that I’ve mentioned recently, which I’ve titled “Myriads of Graces”.  For the blog, I changed “graces” to “blessings” after looking up the definition of “grace” and not being sure if the plural word, “graces”, was grammatically correct.  So there you go.  The thought process and meaning behind the name.

Here’s to more numbering of the myriads and myriads of God’s wonders in the near future.

Happy Tuesday.  Time for me to get some Greek done.

-Maddie

Enjoying God Through His Gifts

God is just SO GREAT.  Wow.  These past couple days, I’ve been more aware of how awesome he is, and how he uses his creation to point to himself.  In even the little things in life that often I don’t give much thought to, I’ve found reason to praise him.  When I’m singing, not caring what my roommates think, I think, wow, God, thank you for a voice to sing and worship you with!  When I’m eating sauerkraut (yes, you heard me right.  It’s one of the best things ever), I think, WOW, God, you made cabbage and salt and all the science behind lacto-fermentation, and gave people the creativity to make things like sauerkraut!  Wow!  When I’m working on a lettering project, I think, WOW!  God, thank you for mind-hand coordination (or whatever it’s actually called)!  I can see something in my head, and transfer that image from my mind into reality (on paper) by means of my hand!  What!  When I’m journaling, Wow, God!  Thank you for words to express my thoughts and emotions!  

When we enjoy something that God has made, and marvel at it and his and his perfect creativity, that’s worship.  And seriously, I want to never lose this sense of awe.

I’ve still been keeping up my “thankfulness” notebook, writing down every little thing I can think of that brings me joy and makes me marvel at God’s creativity.  Some of these things (as well as others that cross my mind) are:

  • The Psalms.
  • Hands and feet that work.  So often I can take these for granted.
  • The brain’s ability to memorize information, such as the Bible, poetry, Greek verb forms, music, etc.
  • A voice with which to communicate, sing, laugh, etc.
  • Anything pepperminty.
  • Sauerkraut.
  • Spending mornings at coffeeshops.
  • Personality.  Each person has different characteristics, different senses of humor, different levels of introverted- of extroverted-ness; some are super loud and expressive while others are quiet and contemplative, etc.  It’s so cool.
  • Humor.  Being able to laugh with people, or laugh while looking back at hilarious memories, is an awesome thing.
  • Hymns/modern hymns.  When I was younger, I had a bad case of chronological snobbery when it came to church songs – I preferred the more contemporary songs we sing at church, and not so much the “older” songs.  (I didn’t hate them, of course, I just didn’t have the appreciation for them that I do now.)  Now,  I have such an affection for old hymns, they’re just so packed with Gospel truths.  They’re timeless; the truth in them is still the truth today.  A lot of music that is sung in churches today can be a bit theologically wimpy and rather self-focused.  I like music that is more focused on the Gospel and on Biblical truths.  Of course, besides older hymns, I love many “modern hymns” too, namely those by Sovereign Grace Music, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Rend Collective (I believe they sort of fall under that category, in my book, anyway), Matt Redman, etc.
  • Going out with friends for coffee/lunch and talking about stuff.  I love getting together with the other girls in my life and talking with them about what God has been doing in each of our lives, and how things are going, how we can pray for each other, etc.  I’m meeting with a friend this week, and I am SO excited to hang out with her.
  • Listening to someone play the piano (or any other instrument, or sing, or whatever) who is REALLY good at it.  I am not that musically talented, so when I hear people play who are, it blows me away.
  • Having freshly-washed, full-of-volume hair.  (One thing I can’t stand is greasy hair.)
  • Dreary, cozy, dark, rainy days.  (Yes, those can be pleasant.)
  • Lemon-ginger tea.
  • God’s grace when I really fail (a.k.a. the Gospel.)
  • Homemade whipped cream.
  • Waking up, seeing the sunlight streaming in through the windows.
  • Signs of Spring coming, after a long winter.
  • Foreign languages.  They really intrigue me.
  • Community.  The Church – not as in the building, but rather the Body of Christ – is a wonderful thing.  Christians need each other, we are not loners.  We need each other.  As iron sharpens iron, the same thing happens when believers get together.  I love Hebrews 10:24-25:  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Community – getting together with my brothers and sisters in Christ – is an awesome and important thing.
  • Fresh pineapple.  Awww yeah.
  • Snowflakes – the pretty, intricate kind.
  • Bacon.
  • God’s Word.  Seriously.  These past few days I’ve just been so blessed to have a copy of the Bible in English (and besides that, a limited knowledge of Greek, which is kind of a nice bonus), and amazed that God actually was pleased to give us his Words, his instructions; knowledge about himself, about Jesus, about the Gospel, about his plan for the world, the Kingdom, how to live, etc.  Wow.
  • Prayer.  James 5:16b says “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  And I have seen this to be true in my life multiple times.

God is seriously SO COOL.

Later!

-Maddie

 

Life – 02/08

Hey everyone!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  A lot has been happening these past few weeks, and for a long time I haven’t really felt up to blogging.  But today I finally did.  It probably wasn’t a good idea, though, because it looks like I’ll be up late prepping for my Greek test tomorrow.  Oh well.  Anyway, here’s a bit of what’s been going on in my life this past month or so:

I went ice skating with some friends (only once).  I didn’t fall on my rear and get injured this time, thankfully.  The skates made my feet hurt though, and I had forgotten most of my skills.  I stayed very close to the edge most of the time.

I started a new semester.  Only I’m taking a year to focus on a few subjects, and plan on jumping back in the original program I’m taking, next spring, and getting my associates degree.

I have been having a bit of time to slow down and relax (see above).

I have been thoroughly enjoying Greek.  Well, the classes and the language in and of itself.  Not so much the program we’re using, haha.  But it’s been really fun.  We’re going to be memorizing lots of λύω paradigms this semester.  Last semester we did 2 of them, and this semester we’re doing 18.  #wow #bringit

I have been trying to keep my mind Christocentric – on Christ.  On who he is, on what he’s done, on who I am in him.  Spurgeon is known to have said something to the effect of “If Christ be anything, he must be everything.”  Yup.

I have been trying to make a point of memorizing Scripture.  Not just short, one-or-two-verse, Jeremiah 29:11 types of passages (though those are great), but also huge, 10-or-more-verse passages that describe the Gospel, or who God is, or who Christ is, etc.  Some huge passages I want to memorize are Hebrews 1, Ephesians 1 and 2, 1 Peter 1, among others.  I’ve just been feeling the need to have a very firm understanding of who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, what the Gospel is, etc.  You know, important theological truths.  Stuff I already know, but want to have absolutely cemented in my brain.  I’ve got a little over half of Colossians 1:15-23 done, so that’s awesome.

I have been listening to a lot of The Gray Havens, Urban Rescue, Jason Gray, and Rend Collective.

I’ve been working every so often on handlettering.

God showed me that recently I have been giving into lots of negativity and self-pity, being discontented about certain areas of my life.  He showed me that he has placed me in the season I am in for a purpose, and I just need to trust him and see what he has for me there.  If things had gone the way my selfish self would have wanted, I would have missed out on that bit of grace he had for me in that time.  When he places me in a situation that isn’t what I would have wanted, he is doing that to test me; to sanctify me; to make me steadfast (James 1:2-4) and immovable in him; to cause me to remember how totally dependent I am upon him, and run to him.  He is good.  So good.

Have been realizing that life away from Facebook, Instagram and the like (for the most part) is so much better.

I’ve been journaling.  A lot.  It’s been great.

A lot of my friends are getting married and having babies.  It’s really exciting.

I joined a small group!  Since I go to a fairly-sized church (not exactly a mega-church, but rather large), our church does small groups, and I just became part of one.  I’m really excited about it.

I’ve been realizing yet again (for the millionth time) what a huge blessing friends are.  God has given me so many amazing people in my life, and has used them to encourage me, strengthen my faith, challenge me, and make me laugh.

I’ve been amazed these days at how God can use little, insignificant me to bless others.  When I look at myself, it’s sometimes hard to believe that he could use me.  But he can, and I’ve seen that he does!  Just today I was out with a friend for coffee, and when we were talking, she told me that what I had been telling her at one point in our conversation was an answer to something she had been praying about that morning!  What!  All I did was say words, but God decided to use them to bless her.  After she told me that, we just sat there, our minds blowing up.  It’s amazing how God works.

We still have a serious mouse problem.  I mean, okay, it could be a lot worse, so there’s a lot to be thankful for.  However, it’s pretty gross.  Thankfully, though, it might be getting better.  Maybe.

///

Happy Monday!

Thankfulness, A Field Trip, Lessons in Faith, etc.

A lot has happened since I last posted – so many lessons learned, memories made, things enjoyed.  I cannot believe how fast this semester has flown by; in a few weeks it will be over!  Here is a portion of what has happened within the past couple of months:

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We’ve had a really warm, sunny fall over here, and it has been gorgeous.  I love fall so much.  =)  It’s been pretty decent teperature-wise up until this week, where the temperature dropped and the chilly winter winds picked up.  I’m excited that it’s time to break out the coat and mittens.  Bring on the snow!  (And I mean it; I love snow.  Until around February when it turns dirty grayish-brown from all the street sludge and car exhaust.  Then I can’t wait for spring.)

I finished a lettering project recently for a publishing house for a friend of mine.  I designed the logos, and I’m really excited how they turned out.  Can’t wait to see them in use!

These days God has been teaching me a lot.  I say that every week, but it’s true.  And I’m thankful that he keeps teaching me a lot.  =)  For a while until about a couple weeks ago I was worn out by school and because of this, really overtired and depressed.  In case I haven’t before, let me clarify: I love my school SO MUCH and and am so blessed to be studying here under such a wonderful curriculum and amazing professors.  I love what I’m learning, but the workload is pretty strenuous, and it’s easy to feel like I’m drowning sometimes.  Though I tried to fight it, I constantly was under this cloud of gloom and negativity, like I am not doing well.  I am going to fail.  There is no hope.  And if I caught myself telling myself this, I would stop and try to tell myself, NO.  Those are lies, Madeline.  I mean, even if you do fail, that is not the end of the world.  God has a plan for your life.  Trust him.  Ask him for strength.  Don’t worry about the future.  But I couldn’t really shake it for a while.  However, looking back, I see God’s grace in helping me through the rut.  I had a few really good conversations with a couple classmates about this, and I found that I was not alone; that I was not the only one who felt weary and overwhelmed.  After that, God basically shoved two verses in my face – ones that really spoke to me.  I only remember what one of them was, and I heard it in Greek class.  My Greek prof opens every class period with a verse – in Greek, of course – which we read and translate, and then he unpacks the verse.  Well this one time, he chose Philippians 4:6-7:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

 And I’m sitting there listening to Professor Matt explain the passage as I start to tear up and am like, Wow, God.  THANK YOU.  For the rest of the week, that (as well as one other verse that I found which I can’t remember) was recalled again and again as I preached to myself:  Don’t be anxious, Madeline!  Ask God for help!  He is Your heavenly Father who loves to give good things to his children!  Ask him for help with this seemingly impossible assignment!  He is able to help me do this!  Besides those verses, one Sunday our pastor preached a sermon that was just PERFECT.  The gist of it was this:  “Where you look tends to control your outlook” and “What you see by faith is more decisive and more defining than what you see by sight.”  It got me thinking, OH! By sight, I see an overwhelming task ahead of me, and it’s weighing me down.  I’m letting it ruin my life because I’m not looking at it from faith – instead of looking at it with the mindset of “okay, God put this task before me, and it looks impossible.  But!  He is able to help me do this!  Okay, LORD, help me!” and tackling it, trusting in his strength, I’ve been looking to my own strength and realizing my insignificance, forgetting that I have a God who I can ask for help.  Lord, forgive me!  Teach me to look to you in this, and give me the strength and endurance to do it faithfully!  So I was really blessed by that sermon.  Then, what do ya know!  I then went downstairs to help out in the youth group, as I do every week, and the lesson the youth leader taught was ALSO on faith.  What.  I went home that day, and I was just marveling.  Okay, God.  I have no words.  You are AMAZING.  Thank you for teaching me this.  Forgive me for my doubtfulness.  May I learn to trust You!  After that, by God’s grace, the nervousness, the panicking over the schedule ahead of me, the sobbing on my bunk as if there wasn’t any hope (how embarrassing…) and all that… pretty much ceased.  God gave me a more positive outlook.  I still felt overwhelmed, but I realized this:  God is in control.  He has a wonderful plan for my life.  Even if I don’t end up doing well in school, that doesn’t mean I’m stupid, and it doesn’t define who I am; my identity is in Christ, and Christ is what matters most.  HE is the reason why I live and move and have my being; I live to honor HIM.  Grades do not matter as much as he does, and I should not let this ruin my joy.  Things have been a lot better since then.

Over the summer, I started a notebook which I titled “Myriads of Graces”.  I write down the many things things God has done in my life, things he has blessed me with, and things that simply make me smile.  Two things inspired me to do this: the first being Psalm 103, which starts out with “Bless the LORD, O my soul”.  Recalling the millions of things he has done for me is one way that causes my heart to praise him – Wow, LORD, thank you!  You are such a loving Father, and you have blessed me with SO many good things I don’t deserve!  The second thing that inspired me was a message that one of the professors at my school spoke to some of the students, which was on the importance of cultivating a heart of gratitude towards God for all that he has done – and ultimately, for who he is.  Gratitude leads to worship (it should, anyway).  He defined gratitude as “a glad-hearted reception of God’s grace through his gifts”, and told of ways he exercises thankfulness in his own life.  He mentioned that one way was by making a list of a things that bring him joy – two of his examples being “wool socks” and “peanut M&Ms”.  (Those are some pretty solid examples…)  So this past summer, I started my own thankfulness notebook, and it has been wonderful.  Here are just a few things I have written:

  • God’s love for me.
  • The ability to create.
  • Healing from migraines.
  • The way sun shines through trees and illuminates the leaves.
  • Friends that you can have inside jokes with, tell anything, laugh or cry with.  You know, the best kind of friend.
  • Curry.
  • Bacon.
  • Hot chocolate.
  • Hugs – long ones.
  • Wildflowers.
  • Happy memories.
  • Water when you’re in desperate need of it.
  • Laughter.
  • Fall colors.
  • Jazz.
  • Dancing.
  • Corporate worship.
  • The book of Romans.
  • Art.
  • Reading for pleasure.
  • Showers.
  • Wearing pretty dresses.
  • Texting long into the night with sisters and laughing about inside jokes that only we understand.

You should start your own thankfulness notebook – it’s pretty fun.  =)

Greek, as usual, has been super enjoyable.  I love the satisfaction of being able to read verses in Greek and knowing what they say!  It is definitely hard work though memorizing all those paradigms and vocabulary words.  Wow.  Currently we are trying to memorize the Imperfect Active Indicative forms of λύω, and I’m still trying to get my prepositions down.  A couple months ago I started writing whatever I needed to memorize down and placing it where I would see it – First Declension forms on the whiteboard in my room, prepositions in a plastic bag stuck to the wall of the shower, etc.  All the work memorizing pays off though.  Greek is pretty awesome.

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I used to avoid sugar, preservatives, and unhealthy things in general, because I would get really bad migraines – like the kind that would sometimes cause temporary paralysis in some parts of my body, such as the right arm and sometimes the tongue, and would, on rare occasions, affect mental clarity (not in a weird way, but just that I wouldn’t be able to figure out the answer to six times four, or not be able to read words on a page.)  Once I would get them, the only thing I could do was sleep it off; I wasn’t comfortable using medication.  I started getting them when I was about 11, and then at one point when I was about 12 or 13, I started getting them pretty much on a daily basis.  It was a trying season of my life, but I did find that if I took fish oil and avoided sugar and anything artificial, they wouldn’t happen quite as often.  So I avoided sugar, dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors, and chocolate like the plague.  Then God chose to heal me.  A doctor found out what was wrong with me, and did what he could, and eventually the migraines became lesser and lesser, until instead of getting them daily or even weekly, I got them only about once a year.  I’ve been almost completely free of migraines for a few years now, and just recently have been introducing previously avoided things back into my life: sugar, chocolate and certain types of preservatives – not to intake on a regular basis, but just as a treat every now and then.  It’s awesome to be able to literally eat a gluten-free cookie, or pop an altoid in my mouth, and not worry about getting a migraine from it.  Last Tuesday I literally ate REAL ice cream, Breyers mint chocolate chip even (my favorite kind!), and it was THE BOMB DOT COM.  It’s so awesome to be able to have things like this again.  =)  FREEDOM!

We have mice.  And it’s disgusting.  I hear them scutter around and squeak in the walls at night, and I wonder how many there are in this house.  I saw one run out of the bathroom once (what on earth was it doing in there?), and hear them in the kitchen every so often.  Sometimes I can’t help thinking about that scene in Ratatouille when the ceiling comes crashing down and the old lady finds out that a whole rat colony has been living in her attic.  Ughhhhhh.  *shudders*  Thankfully, one of my housemates has stocked up on mousetraps (16 of them, to be exact).  I hope we find some dead ones soon.  (Ooh, I heard one just now.  Sick.)

These days our class have been studying Catholicism and the Reformation (woohoo!).  Because of our recent study of Catholicism, our class went on a field trip to a beautiful cathedral, where we attended the mass.  You know, if you’ve been studying Catholicism, it makes sense to see it in action, right?  It was my first time attending a mass.  When we walked inside the cathedral, I was like, WHOA.  It was so beautiful!  I wonder how much money – and TIME! – it took to build that thing?  When mass was over we walked slowly around, admiring all the elaborately detailed architecture.  I kind of felt like Lizzy Bennet walking through Pemberley, in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.  When we left the cathedral, we went to an Italian restaurant and had supper (well, I only had some pineapple, haha) while we fellowshipped, talked about the mass and what we thought about it, and enjoyed each other’s company.  We had such a good time.  Ah… I love my class so much.

Other various enjoyments:

  • Ask Pastor John podcasts.  Desiring God’s got an app for it, and you should download it.  =)  Each podcast is about 5 minutes long, and there are ones for almost every topic imaginable, and you can submit a question for Piper to answer.
  • Dancing around to Rend Collective’s new album while I cook or clean my room.
  • Occasional leisure time (such as right now, as I am typing this post!).
  • Writing out passages of the Bible and sticking them to my wall.  I’m realizing more and more that to fight the fight of faith well, I need to be well-versed in God’s Word, so I’m working on memorizing a few passages, like Ephesians 2:1-10 or 1 Peter 1:3-9.
  • Bacon.  I found some natural bacon (though I can handle some types of preservatives, I avoid those found in meat.  Thus, bacon was off limits for me) at Target yesterday, and fried some up almost as soon as I got home.  Guys, it was the first bacon I’ve had in years.  Wow.

Happy weekend!

Madeline

Life – 09/18

Hey everyone!  How are you all?  I’m doing well.  =)  Right now, I’m enjoying a little bit of free time, and it feels great.  I’ve been so tired, and have been working hard trying to read a lot and memorize what year the Vandals attacked North Africa and cut off what was left (East or West, I can’t remember) of the Roman Empire’s grain supply (I wrote a poem about it!  Just a second…), and memorize the forms of the Greek word λόγος (there are 8 of them!), and write on what I think Augustine’s understanding of the self is.  Whew!  It’s been wonderful to learn all the things I have been learning, but wow, I’m a bit exhausted, and it feels good to do something leisurely and restful.  I must be lacking in a year’s worth of sleep…  I think I’ll go to bed early tonight (pshhh… we’ll see if that actually happens).

This past week, we’ve been learning about Islam: its history, its religious and political significance, and what Muslims believe (studying its doctrines to what the Bible teaches).  It’s been very interesting.  For example, did you know, that their god (Allah) has 99 names that signify his attributes, but not one of them means “love”?  Learning that made me so thankful that the true God, YHWH, is full of love, and that by giving His Son to atone for my guilt, I, who once was black with all my errors and pain and regrets, have been made clean and set free from my sin, and become His adopted daughter, to love and serve Him in joy forever and bask in His glory… not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what HE did, out of His love for me!  I mean, seriously, what a gift!  No other religion teaches news like this.

Greek has been super hard, but fun.  I prefer the class sessions over the individual study time, because our Greek prof makes the classes fun and interactive, calling on us at random to answer questions (“Madeline.  Say this word on the board, tell me what it means, and parse it for me.”).  To parse a word is to identify its qualities, such as its case, gender, number.  For example, λόγος (logos – “word”) is in the nominative case, is masculine, and singular.  Greek is as hard to learn as I imagine English as a second language would be.  But it’s definitely interesting and fun!  It’s so cool to actually be able to read the New Testament in its original language.

I’ve been biking pretty often.  It’s been fun… biking in the city is kind of a new experience for me, so I’m getting used to that.  I have had a few awkward moments while doing it though… such as trying to cross a street but taking a while to get my bike to actually get moving, because the pedals are inconveniently situated, so I can’t push on it to get it going very well (while the guy in the car by me has to wait a second until I’m out of his way.  sorry dude).  This has happened a few times.  Or the time when I was biking with a friend, when we happened upon one of those ramps at the end of sidewalks, and I, having just been going rather slowly, had some trouble actually getting up the ramp, and had to kind of assist my bike along using my feet.  (Smooth.)  Meanwhile, my friend is several yards ahead, and looks back with an amused expression, probably wondering, “what’s taking her so long?”  Yup.  Haha.  But it’s been fun.

For the past few days, we’ve been studying for a history quiz.  Some of my housemates and I made a timeline on our dining room wall out of different-colored baker’s twine, pinning on index cards with names and dates with clothespins.  It’s pretty awesome.  A few friends and I went to a coffee shop to study, two days in a row.  The second time was originally the morning of the quiz, so we all got up at 5-ish in the morning and got there while it was still dark.  And then as we were studying, we all received an email from our professor that it got postponed until Friday (so, this morning).  I’m not sure how everyone else felt about that, but I was relieved: more time to get the facts cemented into my brain!  I didn’t mind a bit that we had to get up at 5.  By the way, I found a fun way to study facts and dates:  write little poems or haikus about them!  Everything’s easier to remember when it’s put to rhyme or a tune.  Here’s one I wrote yesterday:

Near four hundred thirty the Vandals took Africa

Stopping the import of wheat to the Empire

This was a blow to the economy,

They then had no choice but to eat gluten free.

Obviously that last line isn’t historically accurate; I’m sure the victims of this catastrophe possibly could have grown their own wheat if they wanted to, and they probably did, but I added it just for the fun of it.  (YOLO.)  Anyway, all that poetry writing paid off today; I think I did rather well.  =)

These days God has been teaching me to take every hard situation – be it a hard assignment, or a life problem, or a day where I’m feeling a bit overtired, or a time when life isn’t going according to what I’d hoped – and “count it all joy”.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

What does it mean to “count it all joy”?  Well, the verse is saying that when hard times happen, I should know that God is using it to strengthen my faith, to teach me to trust him.  It’s sanctification.  So when I’m feeling not-so-joyful and wondering why on earth, or looking ahead with intimidation at a hard task, or whatever, God is teaching me to say “well, LORD, this isn’t pleasant, but I know that You have caused this moment in my life to happen for a reason, to teach me to trust You more.  So thank You, and help me to take this moment with joy, knowing that You are doing this for my good, because You LOVE me.”  If life were easy, I would be a spoiled brat.  Thank You, LORD for discipline.

Also, I’ve been reminded that God is the giver of wisdom.  Yesterday I was sitting in the school library trying to write the final draft of my Augustine paper.  It was pouring outside (yes!), and I was listening to my playlist on Spotify titled “Chillax” (full of calm, wordless, relaxing music), and I thought I knew where I was going with my paper.  All was going fine.  Then suddenly…  I don’t know what to write anymore.  My thesis doesn’t work.  I can’t come up with six pages’ worth of information to support my argument.  Oh no.  What on earth am I going to do?  These are the moments where I break down and am like, “Okay, God.  I cannot do this on my own.  Any knowledge I have is a gift from You.  Would you be pleased to give me wisdom for what to write, and help me to get this turned in on time?”  And often in the past He has been pleased to answer this prayer.  Last semester I was writing a paper that had to be five pages long, and I only had two, and it was due the next day.  So I asked Him to give me the right things to write.  And would You believe it?  God gave me some grace.  He helped me to think (more clearly, when it was midnight and all I could think about was “I want to go to bed”) about the topic I was writing about and calling to mind all kinds of biblical evidence for my argument, and soon I had 5 pages’ worth of “word vomit”, which I could sort through the next day.  I was like, “WOW, God!  Thank You!”  Also, today my professor happened to read 1 Kings 3:1-15 to us as our morning devotional before class. This chapter tells about when Solomon became king of Israel, and God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you.”  Solomon could have asked for anything he wanted, but what he asks for is wisdom – understanding to govern the people well, and to discern between good and evil.  He realizes that he is only human, and cannot lead such a large nation of people on his own strength.  God is pleased with his humility, and answers His prayer.    Like, He REALLY answers his prayer, making him wiser than anyone before or after him.  So.  Moral of the story: Do you need wisdom?  Ask God.  =)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5 ESV)

Lately, I’ve been enjoying:  Tazo Passion tea  //  “Live To Praise You” and “Oxygen” by Lincoln Brewster  //  “Born Again” by Josh Garrels.  This song.  Wow.  //  Wearing dresses around the house because they’re comfortable, and why not. =)  //  Reading Beowulf.  (It’s our assigned reading for this Monday.  I’m only on the second page, but so far it’s enjoyable.  I’m reading the Seamus Heaney translation.)  //  The occasional chilly, rainy days.  =)  Fall is coming!  //  The book of Romans (I’m going through it for my devotions.  So good.  Paul is the man).

Happy weekend,

Maddie

ἡ ζωή (life)

It’s been a while, I’m sorry.  I’ve been so busy these days that I haven’t had much time for things like blogging!  But I have a little bit of leisure time, so I’ll do a short-and-sweet post to make up for lost time.  =)  I’ve just finished my 3rd week of my sophomore year of college.  This year is a lot different than last year in many ways:

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Now that I’m a sophomore, I no longer can live in student housing (which is reserved mainly for new students), so I now live in a cute old house with 5 other girls (3 of them classmates).  It has been so much fun!  I love my housemates so much, and the house is really nice.  We even have one of those old, creaky, cobwebby attics, with floorboards that give when they’re stepped on (which is a bit sketchy).  Going up there makes me think of Nancy Drew or A Little Princess; it’s rather adventuresome.  =)  The best part is that there’s a little space by some windows, with a carpet and some retro mattresses, where one can sit and read a book or do whatever.  I went up there for a bit to do some homework, until I thought I heard faint squeaking (which I couldn’t tell whether it was a mouse or just old-house-noises), so I gave up and went downstairs.

Life has been really good.  We are currently going through the “Dark Ages”, medieval church history (Augustine, Saint Patrick, Pope Leo I), and the like.  We’ve been studying doctrinal issues that the church wrestled with during that period, and monasticism, and European history after the fall of Rome.  It’s been fun.  We recently read through Augustine’s Confessions, and WOW.  It is definitely one of my new favorite books.  It’s so beautiful.

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Also, we’ve been studying Greek!  It’s been really enjoyable.  It’s very complicated (the grammar is INTENSE), but I love the way it sounds.  We’re studying the modern pronunciation rather than the academic one, and I actually prefer the modern way.  We’ve been going through the original text of John 1, and learning vocabulary verse by verse, and translating it into English.  It’s been really cool.

Weather is getting colder, and I am so excited!  I noticed as I was biking to school today that my hands were getting really cold, and when I got home from school I was eager to put on a comfy sweater and make a cup of tea.  I think fall is my favorite season… I suppose I like winter a lot too, though.  But fall… fall is really nice.  Not too cold, but cold enough to wear sweaters and boots and drink tea or hot apple cider.  It’s also the season for squash and pumpkin-flavored things… which I am looking forward to.  =)

More later!

-Madeline

Life Capsule – 04/13

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We are so close to the end of the semester, it’s crazy!  Trying to finish strong.  Studies are very interesting.  We’re studying early church history and reading through the Epistles.  Yesterday I read the entire book of Hebrews.  Such a good book; probably one of my favorites in the Bible.  God has been teaching me a LOT lately.  We’ve been wrestling with a lot of topics: doctrines, salvation, sin/grace… all sorts of things.  A few days ago we had a class on the five points of Calvinism, and it was very intriguing, though I didn’t fully understand everything.  Also we’ve been memorizing Romans 8, and we’ve gotten as far as verse 27.  Romans 8 is the bomb.  So glad that we’re memorizing it this semester.  Seriously, I just LOVE going to school here – every day I come away learning something new and amazing about this God I serve.  He is wonderful.

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Also, God is currently teaching me to give myself grace when I fail, as He gave me grace through His Son.  I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my actions, and sometimes feel guilty for even the smallest mistakes I make. Guilt is definitely something I struggle with, even with things I have already taken to the LORD, and I need to keep reminding myself that these feelings of guilt are not from God, for “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)” – Christ has forgiven me for everything wrong I have done, large or small.  Through Him, my slate is clean; I am justified!  I’m thankful that God has given me a hatred for sin, but reminding myself daily of His grace to us in Christ.  Wow.  What love, that Christ would take my penalty for sin upon Himself, and give me His righteousness instead!  He is so good.

And He is SO faithful, even in the hard days.  These days have been a little tough, to be honest; it’s kind of a fight for joy, with the workload and the sleep-deprivation, learning to every thought captive in obedience to Christ, and just the weaknesses that I’m not proud of (introspection, poor time-management, etc.).  But I’m learning to see these days as gifts; they remind me how utterly dependent I am on God for everything: life, breath, provision, faith, joy, etc.  If life were totally perfect, I wouldn’t see my need for Him, and that would be awful.  And through these trials, whether they be a massive paper I’m supposed to write, or the temptation to worry or doubt or complain about something, God is teaching me to look to Him for strength in these circumstances, and then supplying that strength abundantly.  His grace is totally sufficient.

These past couple weeks my friends and I have been enjoying going on little excursions around the city, taking pictures, playing games, going out for coffee, etc.  I’m so thankful to have such brothers and sisters as classmates.  I’ve been so blessed by the times we’ve spent, the laughs we’ve had, the jam sessions and game nights, the deep conversations about life, theology, Nichomachean Ethics, how to pronounce certain words, etc.  They’re amazing.  :)

Enjoying my new glasses and being able to see clearly again!  The first class I attended after getting them, I squirmed with delight at the fact that I could actually SEE what my professor was writing on the board, and could sit in the back of the class if I wanted!  (I still enjoy sitting up front though.)  :)  I wrote a cheesy little poem the day after getting my glasses:

O former glasses dead and gone,
We’re through (not sorry!); moving on
Not only ‘cause of your decease,
But time to start fresh, if you please.
Since you, I’ve found a better pair
That makes my face look twice as fair.
I chose you when I was thirteen,
My fashion sense was different then.
Now, I’m not saying you looked bad,
But getting new ones makes me glad.
For one can tire of red and blue
rectangular frames; let’s start anew.
So during my final teenage year
I left you for a more hipster
Type with slightly bigger frames
(Don’t worry, they don’t take o’er my face);
Brown; the tortoise kind. Sold!
Something fun but not TOO bold.
And so it happens, I confess,
That I couldn’t miss you less!
And so I hope that you don’t mind.
Thanks to the new ones, I’m no longer blind.

Haha  :)  Have a good week!

God bless,

Madeline