Thanksgiving Break, etc.

As of yesterday afternoon, I am on thanksgiving break! It feels so good to be able to relax a bit. To be honest, I slept in today and took lots of little naps (I am SO overtired… I’m trying to slowly “pay back” my “sleep debt”, haha). It will be good to have this break. I’ve had time to do fun things, such as leisurely scrolling through Pinterest, or reading for pleasure, and it has been so nice.

By the way, while I am on the topic of reading, the other day I was wondering what I should do with my spare time, when I’m not in the Word, or socializing, or being with my family, or doing necessary life things such as cooking, doing my hair, cleaning, etc., … and then I remembered that there are these things called BOOKS. And they are a different kind of book than the ones I’ve been required to read for the past three years (Aristotle, DesCartes’ Meditations, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Rousseau… not to complain, of course—I’m glad to have read these—but they’re not exactly FUN haha). I remembered that there are fun books, the type that makes one feel shivers of delight over the beauty of how the author using words, captured a human emotion just perfectly. I realized I have almost all of the L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series to finish, as well as a few books by Louisa May Alcott, and hey, when in doubt, I can always re-read Pride & Prejudice… and so I’ve started getting into reading for pleasure again. I am so happy, haha. I just finished Anne of Avonlea last night… oh, I love the Anne series so much. It’s so wonderful. Montgomery is such so observant, in the way she gives everyone such a unique and interesting personality, and she just knows the human mind and heart very well. She captures the beauty of friendship, and the difficulty of growing up and everything changing, and things like that so well. I just started the third book, Anne of the Island, but haven’t gotten very far into it yet.

Yesterday in class we explored texture by making rubbings of different surfaces… and blowing ink bubbles. It was so cool! We used this dishsoap/water mixture, poured some water-based ink into it, and used those little black coffee straws to blow bubbles onto paper and make cool little designs. How artsy. (No ink was accidentally consumed, don’t you worry.) We used this glossy type of paper (like the type most magazines use, but a little more dense), which didn’t fully absorb the ink, but kept it mostly to the surface of the paper. The results were pretty rad:

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So fun! That first one is currently the background on my phone.

On a serious note now—I was marveling today… you know what’s absolutely wonderful? Having a solid hope to lean on no matter the circumstance. I’m talking about the Gospel here. Praise God for the Gospel. Life has been hard sometimes, with illness, and adjusting to a new season, and minor depression, not to mention the fact that I am a sinner, and fail multiple times a day and feel awful… but in all of this, I know one thing that is for sure: I belong to Christ. In Him my sins are forgiven.

“My sin is nailed to the cross

My soul is healed by the scars

The weight of guilt I bear no more

Praise the LORD, praise the LORD!”

– Rend Collective, Nailed to the Cross (this song has kind of been my anthem these days… so good and so full of truth)

And because I don’t bear the guilt of my sin anymore, I know a freedom that stays with me even when life is hard. Though I may not have happiness, I can have Joy. Though at times I may not feel free, I know I am, because the Bible—God’s Word, which is truth—says I am free in Christ. And I can trust God’s word, because God is not a liar. I was reading the first few verses of Romans 5 and thinking about the first part of Ephesians 2 today, and wow. While I was dead in my sins, and didn’t care, and was living like hell, following the enemy, who is at work in the sons of disobedience, doing and embracing DEATH, SIN, everything awful—God, in His great love for me, sent His perfect Son to become the sacrifice for my sin. Christ did this willingly, taking the wrath of the Father that I deserved to bear—on Himself. He died, and my sins died with Him. He rose again, because He has complete power over death, but my sin stayed in the grave. Sin, death, satan, are darkness are now defeated, and Christ reigns! Oh what freedom! I am no longer bound by these things… I am forgiven, set free by the sacrifice of Christ! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” … (Ephesians 2:8-9) This is the hope I have when I can hardly see past my doubts, when I’m feeling sick and don’t know if I will ever find physical healing in this life, when I feel crushed by the weight of my sin. It is finished. (John 19:30) The cry of victory is my anthem, my battle cry. There is still a war to fight, but the outcome has already been decided, and my Captain is the Victor.

Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving! That’s exciting. But I try to be thankful every day, so even though it’s great to have a day every year to focus of gratitude, in my book every day should be thanksgiving. (I’m talking about the focus of the holiday, not all the food… then all things pumpkin and cranberry wouldn’t be quite so special!) But in light of tomorrow, and also because I don’t want to write another post tomorrow, I thought I might devote this little paragraph (or more like the list following this little paragraph) to gratitude. So with that, I’m thankful for:

  • (for the millionth time) God’s abundant grace in Christ. What love. What undeserved love. There is nothing better than this.
  • Friends. What blessings.
  • making new friends.
  • family.
  • music that feeds the soul (namely, worship music)
  • the warm, gentle glow of Christmas lights.
  • having a backup device when my laptop decides to go berserk.
  • days when I feel well and joyful.
  • the human ability to tell stories. And how that ability is a gift from God, and… He is the Author of a Story. Whoa.
  • the ability to create. Also a gift from God. Similarly, God is the Creator of the universe. *mind blown every time I think of this*
  • God’s Word, and the freedom to own it.
  • breaks during the semester.
  • being able to study what I’m wired to do. (Theology is great. Love it. I don’t feel called to be a theologian. Design, however… aw yeah.)
  • sleep. (I wish I got more of it.)
  • poetry. Writing it, and reading it.
  • getting a hug from a friend when I’m having a hard day.
  • Sunlight.
  • One-on-one time with people I love.
  • smoothies.
  • the foods I can eat.
  • adventures.
  • good memories.
  • heartwarming books.

What are you thankful for? How are you spending Thanksgiving? How are you students spending Thanksgiving break? Any good book recommendations?

Later,

— M

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Inexpressible Joy at 1:00 AM

Rain falls outside the window of my new bedroom, complementing the silence of the night. I am restless, I can’t sleep. But this is a good kind of restless. Though my body can’t fall asleep, my soul is so perfectly at peace. I’ve been praying and have been absolutely IN AWE of how beautiful God is. These past few days have been so joy-filled, and the LORD has really blessed me in so many ways, that looking back on this past weekend and today, I am amazed at this God that I serve and that I get to call my Father. I am so overwhelmed by His goodness, and I must recount some of the many, many things He has shown me and that He has done or given me these past few days:

  • A new home in a new town. It’s quieter. It’s safer. It’s more peaceful. I go to sleep and hear crickets, not people yelling at each other. I wake up and hear birds twittering peacefully, as I look out the window and see the golden glow of the morning sunlight. After years of not feeling very safe, I now can rest.
  • Friendship, fellowship, and community. The other day I was able to hang out with a dear friend of mine. We bought art supplies at a craft store and then painted together, while listening to worship music and talking about what God has been doing in our lives. The next day I got to attend my small group for the first time in forever (I had been out of town over the summer) and spend time in prayer with the people in my group, and then discuss Revelation 1 and what it says about Christ. Then yesterday I was able to meet a friend in person who I had met online, and spend some time with her and her family after church. Fellowship and community are such beautiful things. I am so, so blessed.
  • I have seen the power and reality of the gospel more clearly these past few days. That though there is so much darkness in this world, Christ is stronger. So much stronger. That since I am in Christ, no weapon formed against me shall prosper. That persistence in faith in the promises of God makes the enemy flee. That Jesus is victorious and that all authority has been given to Him. I have seen struggles with fear and with sin, I have seen heavy battles over the course of my life, and I have seen God’s grace in giving me firm faith and His peace even in the midst of those battles, and persistence to keep on looking to Christ… until at last satan gives up even trying to discourage me and all I know is God’s peace. I have also seen other people’s lives completely changed—I have seen one girl, who had once been in spiritual bondage and recently was set free, get baptized yesterday. I was weeping tears of joy—people, the gospel changes lives! Jesus Christ changes lives, and the powers of hell cannot stand a chance against Him! The reality of the gospel has been so real to me these past couple days—Christ has conquered my sin, the fullness of it, and I bear it no more! In Him I am a child of God, free from condemnation and counted righteous, although I had deserved the complete opposite. Friends, trust in Jesus Christ! In Him is real, lasting Peace (the peace I feel so much right now); in Him is inexpressible and overflowing Joy! In Him is fulfillment and satisfaction and contentment! He is everything I need!
  • It’s so good to be back at my home church again. Today my former youth pastor visited our church and preached, and it was one of the best sermons I have heard.
  • And then right now, as I was lying here in bed, I was just thinking about God’s goodness to me, about all that He has done for me, and of what Jesus went through for me, because He loves me, and was overcome by the fact that He is very real (which I always have known and believed, but now I could really feel it), and that He loves me… and, more than I ever have probably felt before, I longed to just be in heaven with Him—worshiping Him, learning from Him, seeing the wounds in His hands with my own eyes—the wounds that He took for MY sake—I cannot wait for that day when I will be with Him forever.

The LORD is so good.

 

One thing have I asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4, ESV

 

My Hope & Stay.

One moment it seems like everything is alright, and the next moment I feel like the ground beneath me is crumbling. This Horner’s Syndrome is relentless—my mind is so overworked from all the hard work it must do to control the left side of my body and make it perform somewhat normally. This silent, involuntary task that my brain does—trying to keep the left side as coordinated with the right as it can—leaves my body and mind often fatigued, and makes it hard to think, hard to concentrate, hard to feel emotion sometimes. Because my mind is working so hard to do necessary things, it leaves little energy to do “less necessary” things, like thinking deeply, feelingly, critically. I still can do all of these things, but it takes a lot of energy and wipes me out. Living with Celiac has also been rough. I’ve avoided all grains for 3 months now, because they were making me sick, but now it seems like whatever I eat is making me sick. School is stressing me out, and I feel like the combination of this and health issues are together slowly doing me in. I’ve lost half of the amount of my hair… Yes. Half. I used to have a very thick head of hair. Not anymore. Thankfully, what has been lost came out evenly, so I’m not bald, and no one can tell I’ve lost any—except myself. And it concerns me. Finally, Depression has been hard to bear. I know that Celiac and Horner’s, stress, and certain life situations, are the main causes of this. I feel sad. I feel alone—alone in my struggles, alone in general, even though I have supportive friends and family who are encouraging through all of this. But I have learned time and again people can only do so much; though they can be a consolation and very encouraging, they don’t have the power to make things alright—only God can do that. Some days I’m overly weepy, and other days I feel completely apathetic and wonder what’s wrong with me.

But as hard as things are, I do not write this from an attitude of hopelessness. Yes, this is my life right now, and I will say it like it is—no use pretending things are differently. There are days when I feel like there is no hope left, and I cannot describe the horror of this feeling. But I know that this feeling is not the truth, and I tell myself this nearly every day:

There is hope. 

Though I FEEL like my strength is failing, like I will never see the sun, that I will lose my mind from all of this stress; though every day I see my physical weaknesses and face the fact that I am dust and to dust I shall return—I KNOW that I have this sure, unwavering hope:

A faithful, loving God Whose love for me is steadfast and unchanging. 

He loves me. He is for me. In Christ, I am adopted into His family. I am His daughter. He will never leave me. He forgives my sins and gives me grace to pursue Him, even now. He hears my prayers, even when my finite brain erroneously thinks He can’t hear me sometimes. And He is working everything for my good, to make me more like Christ. And He will carry me through it all. He will give me grace to endure, to stand firm, to not fall away under the pressure of it all. Seriously, when I look back at all I’ve been through so far, I realize what a miracle I am and how faithful and loving my Heavenly Father is.

So I will bear my struggles in faith, knowing that my struggles are not the end of the story. I won’t bottle up my emotions, or pretend that everything is just fine—I will be honest, because suffering is life, and it must be dealt with. To not deal with it would be unhealthy. But I will deal with it from faith, knowing that in all of this, God is in control. He is sovereign over my life. Let Your will be done, LORD. You know what is best for me. You are working these things in my life for Your glory and for my sanctification. Just, please, give me the strength to endure, as You have all these years before now. I believe You. Help my unbelief.

When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

 

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For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my salvation and my glory;

my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us.

Psalm 62:5-8, ESV

Life – 12/18

As of this past thursday afternoon, I have been on Christmas break. It feels so good to have another semester under my belt, and to no longer have to think about I have to do this assignment, and this paper, and oh yeah, I have a quiz on monday… now I can breathe a little bit.

I’ve been working on handlettering a bit, making an order for a client and brainstorming about my soon-to-be Etsy shop. I’m really excited.

 

 

On Friday evening I decided I wanted to make homemade toffee. So I did. I make mine with honey and coconut oil (I’m guessing 1 part coconut oil to 5 parts honey… I didn’t measure), and then whatever I want to flavor it with (slivered almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, ginger… the possibilities are endless. This time I used ground cinnamon). This time, however, I made them differently than usual. Instead of pouring it while it was still liquid into a buttered pan to cool and harden, I waited till it was of a gooey consistency, buttered my fingers and pulled it like taffy (like they do it in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy… pull it, double it in half, repeat the process multiple times) until the color turned from dark brown to a light golden color. Then I twisted them into little pieces the size of caramels, and sprinkled them with sea salt. Salted toffee! It turned out pretty good, I thought; I brought some to my family and they loved them as well. Cool. Guess I’ll be making those again sometime. It’s hard being allergic to sugar, sometimes I really wish I could have sugary things like most other people (although I’d probably be seriously unhealthy if I were able to), so I’m pretty happy that it is possible to make toffee using honey.

Yesterday I went with my fam to the mall to go shopping (I hadn’t really hung out with them this much in a long time, so this was nice). At the end of the day I ended up with a really cute coat (it’s really thick, which will be nice since temperatures around here are way below zero), two plaid flannels from Ab&Fitch, and this cozy maroon sweater from Old Navy. When we were at Old Navy, “Holiday” by Britt Nicole came on, which I find rather hilarious—it’s a really old song; I think ON has been playing it every Christmas for about 10 years now (it was released in 2007), and it’s not even a Christmas song. I also got to smalltalk with one of the workers there as she scanned a tag on my sweater to see what the actual price was, so that was cool. We talked about where we were from, all the snow we’re getting, etc. Do you ever run across certain people when you’re shopping (I’m talking about workers) and you just want to be friends with them? It was one of those scenarios.

Despite all of this, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, to use a super cliché phrase. Struggles. Depression. Sin, and remorse over sin. Doubts. Anxiety. Feeling stuck. Crying out to God, and often doubting whether or not He can even hear me. Miserable, right. I won’t go into detail, but there’s been some difficult refining going on in my heart these days. But God is faithful, patient, and abundant in mercy and grace. He uses these moments to show me sin, to help me fight it, and to help me remember how much I need Him. As I once told a friend in a conversation we had a couple weeks ago, I’m sure if these hard times weren’t happening in my life, I would easily forget about Him. Which is a terrifying thought. So I’m thankful that He is using these times to sanctify me and teach me (and sometimes force me) to cling to Him for dear life—because He is the very reason I have life, and my heart is “restless till it rests in [Him]”… only then will I ever have real Joy.

In my devotions I’ve been reading through Hebrews. It’s been cool seeing in what ways Jesus fulfills the Old Covenant and many Old Testament symbolisms—that He is the better Adam; that He is the Great High Priest who made the final sacrifice: Himself, etc.—which is fitting in that we are approaching Christmas. So good. I’ve been also reading Psalms (not in any particular order, but based on what I need to hear that day, I guess). Good ol’ David. Journaling goals right there. When I journal, I’ve been trying to do it kind of like how many Psalms go: starting with the problem but resolving it with truth—This is hard. But God promises ___. So I will trust Him—I’ve found it very helpful. Get it off your chest, but don’t stop there. Preach to yourself.

I’m excited for these next few weeks of break. I’m excited for Christmas, and I’m excited to get some non-academic things done. Such as:

  • Polish studies.
  • Getting through some of the many books I have on my shelf that I haven’t gotten very far into yet. I’m finally reading Run to Win the Prize by Tom Schreiner, and it’s been really good. I want to read something by Louisa May Alcott, and maybe read through Pride and Prejudice again (I probably say that every break…).
  • Writing more. More poetry, more progress on my novel (it may never get published, we’ll see), more blog posts, more journaling.
  • Lettering, and learning from the pros on how to do it better.
  • Opening the Etsy shop.

It’ll be good to get some of these done.

Love,

Maddie

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)

Grace For the Failings

For the longest time, I’ve been feeling rather trapped in a prolonged rut of guilt and shame  over sinful patterns I am trying to break, and consequently, going through a depression of sorts.  And it’s awful.

I want – I long, I strive, for a pure heart that seeks after the LORD.  I want to please Him; I desire closeness with my Father more than anything in the world.  But my actions, as is the case of any human being, fail to live up to these intentions.  I fail.  I sin; “…I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15)”.  And when I fail, I feel a deep sense of shame, and regret.

“You did it again, Madeline.  Way to go.”

“See this sin pattern of disobedience?  It’s happened for years – see how you’ve prayed and prayed for it to end, and it hasn’t yet.  Will it ever stop?”

“You’re hopeless.  You’re never going to change.”

“God must be sick of dealing with you, you’re so slow to figuring out this whole obedience thing.”

Such are the lies that I have to battle with, as I’m sprawled out on my bed, tears streaming down my face, just laying there, letting time pass, feeling worthless.

I hate my sin.  I hate it all – from the “small” to the “great” (all sin is sin, not one is worse than the other) – I hate them and repent of them with many tears.

“Don’t leave me, LORD.  Forgive me.  Don’t give up on me.  Help me to change.”

Psalm 51 is often read.  I repent, and pray and pray and pray that God would rid me of these sins.

Hours, or even days, may pass before I actually begin to feel forgiven, and I am able to know actual freedom.

And then the whole thing happens again.  And again.  And again.

When will I ever stop???

 

If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone.  And I am thankful that I am not alone in this grisly fight against sin, even when it seems like a losing battle.

But you – and I – have not lost yet.  It’s not too late for change.

There is a Savior, Christ Jesus, to whom you can run. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)”.  (I basically typed that from my memory; it’s been a lifeline for me these days.)  There is promised forgiveness.  Grab hold of it.

There is grace for all the times you fail – all of them – if you truly repent and and ask for forgiveness.  Don’t let the lie “you’ve sinned one time too many for his grace to be effective” distress you.  That is not true.  Though you sin again, and again, and again, repent.  Turn away from your sin and to Christ, and you will be forgiven.  I’ve heard it said that God is “the God of second chances”, while I have found Him to be the God of many chances.  I have failed him over and over and over, probably millions and millions of times, but he has never failed to bring me back into his loving Fatherly arms.

There is grace for your constant failings, my friends.  And that grace can only be found in Jesus.  So run to the fountain of that grace, which is his blood, and what is broken can be made whole, what is dead can come alive, what is wounded can heal, what is a sinful pattern can be undone.

With you in the fight,

Maddie

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“Fear is Easy, Love is Hard”

Why is it so easy to give into fear, and so hard to do the right thing sometimes?

The specific type of fear I am talking about is the “fear of man” – not fear of “men” as in masculine humans, of course, but as in “other people” – what other people think, that is.  So alternatively, one could call it “fear of what other people think”.

Sometimes God gives me a chance to do something for someone else, and fear is what hinders me from doing it.  Maybe I’m at the store, and I feel this urge to say something really nice to the cashier, but being rather shy and afraid of it coming out wrong, the words stick to my throat.  Or I’m praying in a group, and I feel like I should pray about this one thing, but I don’t.  All because of what the other people would think if I did.

Fear of man, guys.  It’s stupid.

And it’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and prayed and prayed and prayed about.  And failed with.  And repented of.  And tried again.  And am looking to God for help to overcome.

Well, today I realized, afresh, how absolutely ridiculous this fear is.

When we give into fear, we’re basically saying in our hearts, “God, I care more about what other people think of me (or even my own comfort) than I care about following You and bringing You glory.”  Seriously?  That’s a terrible thing to say.  And I regret to say that my heart has said it so many times.  I would never say that with my tongue, but my actions have spoken louder than my words.

Today I was pondering the topic of fear of man, and my struggles with it, and how I want to overcome it completely.  How when I give into it, I’m worshiping the approval of man, and living for my own desires, my own comfort, my own agenda.  And how living for myself is so useless, so shallow, so empty, so meaningless.  Conversely, living for the LORD is adventuresome, bold, faith-requiring (and faith-building), joyful, meaningful, and at times, dangerous and hard.  Very hard.  But so worth it.  How foolish it is to trade the immeasurable joy of the LORD (requiring maybe a moment of feeling uncomfortable) for the fake, counterfeit comfort of not doing it.  And how awful it feels after such an exchange.  How many times have I – have many of us – made that mistake, failing to treasure God’s glory above my comfort zone.

LORD, forgive me.  

I don’t know about you all, but I’m ready to be done with this whole fear-of-man thing.

As Christians, we are called to love others, to be the aroma of Christ to the world.

I notice that it is when I’m not worrying about what other people think of me that I am free to love others well.  When I ignore the fear and not be afraid to say or do the right thing, people are encouraged, God is glorified, and I feel a lot more joyful.

When I feel like God is calling me to do something, and if I pray about it – God, is this You?  Do You want me to do this? – and I still feel like I should (in all discernment), then I want to do it.  I don’t want to shrink back in fear – and miss out on whatever God might have for me or others in that action.  I want to be bold.  I want to be willing to do whatever He might put before me to do, no matter what the cost.  I want to be faithful with the little now, so later I can be faithful with much.  And that starts by simple acts of obedience, simple steps of faith.  The ones that sometimes don’t really seem like they matter all that much, yet they do.

What if by a small act of faith, God uses me as a means by which He changes another person’s life?  What if that one thing I could say to that girl causes her to choose not to take her own life?  What if simply being brave and engaging in small talk with my neighbor is what causes them to notice “she’s got something about her… this joy… that I don’t have”, and then later that sparks a conversation about the Gospel?  What if that thing I could say to my fellow sister in Christ helps her to persevere in her faith during an intense season of suffering?

So friends, let’s fight against fear – let’s beat the smithereens out of it and say “Who cares?  I care more about following God’s lead and blessing others than about my own comfort.” – and let’s love well, even if it seems daunting at first.  Let’s not walk around with our eyes glued to the sidewalk, but let’s have open eyes to see what is around us,  to be aware of how we can bless others in our lives and share the hope that we have with those that do not know Christ – in the words we say, and in the way we act.  Let’s be the most loving, caring, selfless, servant-hearted, kind, compassionate, Christ-like people on the planet.  And the best way to do that is by following the LORD’s lead; doing what He puts on your heart to do.

In Christ,

Madeline

(Title taken from a song by Jason Gray.  FYI.  I didn’t make it up.)

 

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

Stronger Than the Struggles

All of us have those really hard struggles in our lives.  Whether it is the struggle against sin (such as gluttony, or anger, or idolatry, or narcissism, or lust, or pride, of fear of what others think) or things like depression, or illness, or guilt (and the list could go on), struggles are not fun.  At all.  They can be downright miserable sometimes; some days it can be hard to see past them, and one can get lost in this sort of depressing fog of “there. is. no. hope.”.

I will never overcome this sin; I try over and over, but somehow it just keeps creeping back into my life.

Man, sometimes joy isn’t easy to come by, though I try to be happy and do my best to set my mind on what is true, and ask God for help.  Sometimes He gives me joy, but I still have to fight those gloomy, sad feelings almost daily.

I NEED to stop worrying about what other people think of me!  This isn’t right!  

This is what the “fog” looks like in my life.  A few of my struggles, as you have seen, are mild depression, fear of man and (obviously) everyday sin.  However, I have learned over time, and am still learning, to lean on Jesus for strength to face these hardships in my life.  I have to remember – we ALL have to remember – that He is stronger than these struggles.  That He placed these battles in my life to sanctify me; to help me to become more like Him.  And I want so badly to be more like Him.  So hey, if that’s what it takes to become like Jesus, I’ll brave these struggles.  After all, He braved many struggles too.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)

Did you catch that?  He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.  In His life on earth, He was tempted and tried in every possible way that we are today.  He knows what pain and temptation and sadness and absolute misery all feel like.  And better yet, He is more than able to help.  He is able to comfort us in the midst of all the chaos, and give us the strength we need.  We can confidently come to Him with our problems, and He will help us.

Jesus, I’m having trouble finding joy today.  Would You help me please?

Jesus, I need you to help me to stop worrying about what they think.  I know it’s wrong, and Your opinion is the only one that truly matters.  Help me to realize that.

Jesus, I’m having a hard time with obedience right now – to say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done.  Help me to listen to you and obey.

So my plea to you all is, when life is really hard, run to Jesus for help!  He is stronger than the struggles in your life, and in mine.  He is the one who said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28)”.  He may not remove the burden completely, but He will give the strength to carry it.  All we have to do is ask, and believe that He is able.

Grace and peace,

Maddie

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

Good Friday

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Today is Good Friday, commemorating Jesus’ death and burial.  In His death, Christ Jesus faithfully finished the work God had for Him: to receive the sin and guilt of God’s children, to bear the punishment that they deserved.  The punishment of our sin is death.  But because of His death (and resurrection, which we will celebrate in two days!), we, by looking to Him, are freed from our bondage to sin and are welcomed back into the JOY of the Father as His own adopted children.  By His own death, Jesus conquered death, once and for all, and gave us eternal life!  Praise God for His grace and mercy!

Happy Holy Week,

Madeline

Thoughts On Snowflakes & the Wonder of God

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Isn’t it amazing how much God cares for His creation? Snowflakes, for example, fall from the sky in the most intricate, symmetrical designs, only to melt soonafter. Think about it. God cared to make something so small—so perishable and fragile—into something amazingly beautiful. This means a lot to me, because if God makes something so temporary so breathtaking, how much more does He care for US, we who are made in His image; bought by the blood of Christ! God just blows my mind. Seriously.

These Days – 04/19

Hey everybody! Here’s a bit of what’s going on in my life these days.

I’m enjoying spring, warm weather and the sound of rain drumming on the roof and windows. One of my favorite sounds in the world. :)

Celebrating Jesus and His amazing love for me. Wow, He sacrificed Himself; died and bore my sin so that I could be reconciled to God and free from His wrath! And then He rose again, conquering death and sin! I am free because of what He has done for me! Forget the Easter bunny! Happy Easter tomorrow, everybody!

I saw Frozen last Sunday for the first time in forever (haha, get what I did there?), and it was clever. (By the way, I hope you happened to notice that Rapunzel and Eugene made it to the coronation, right?) I didn’t necessarily like the whole thing, but there were certain parts I really liked. I especially love the “Love is an Open Door” scene. I’ve been singing that song all the time these days. :)

I’ve been enjoying almond butter, smoothies, raspberries and homemade popsicles. God is so amazing that He made tastebuds and so many different flavors! Just today I made a popsicle that was literally just orange juice, coconut milk and honey, and it was really good.

What’s been going on with you these days?