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

 

“Petals” — a poem

I was a young and flow’ring tree,

With branches clothed so gracefully

with blossoms white and pink, that swell

With beauty, bearing pleasant smell.

 

At least that’s how things used to be—

Till change did overtake this tree.

Somewhere a Psalm says flowers fade*.

As seasons pass, so did my state.

 

One day the sun misplaced its glow,

And mid-May winds began to blow.

For summer, spring was making way;

My flowers, sadly, wouldn’t stay.

 

I saw my first few petals fall;

With balding blooms I stood appalled

As gusts of wind would carry off

The beauty I was so proud of.

 

It humbled me, stripped me of pride,

As I watched several flowers die—

Small heads, of petals quite bereft.

But then I still had many left…

 

Still, just like rain, the petals drop

Quite ceaselessly—they hardly stop.

The wind dies down, yet still they fall—

Will there be any left at all?

 

I feel much lighter than before…

But can these branches take much more?

This loss of beauty, stripped of charm?

Why must this wind do so much harm?

 

But… is it harm? Or is it grace?

Oh, could it be that this disgrace

Is just the means to better ends?

The gravity** this tempest sends?

 

Clouds thick with rain extract their tears

As I do mine, while standing here,

Bare, shivering, my blossoms gone.

But soon storms cease; I see the sun—

 

Dispelling darkness, causing sight

To see, where once stood pink and white,

On wind-blown branches, evidence

Of fruit beginning its existence.

 

And so I see. The wind was grace—

Although it for a time defaced

One type of beauty, I would meet

One just as beautiful and sweet.

 

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

 

Footnotes:

* referring to Psalm 103:15-16: 

“As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.”

Other biblical references to flowers fading occur in Isaiah, such as twice in Isaiah 40:7-8, and in James 1:11.

 

** “gravity” – double meaning—both referring to petals falling and the grave state of the circumstance

 

(originally posted at MaddieThePoet)

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

Fragility—a poem

This body is fragile and weak—

This isn’t exactly what I had envisioned.

But I know that it would be wrong

To question the Artist about his decision

To make me the way that I am for some reason,

And give me this life with its trial-strewn seasons.

So help me, when tears fall, and I’m on my knees,

To praise You through sorrowful fragility.

 

Like David, I ask You, “How long?”—

I could have been freed from this when I was younger,

But I’ll never say You were wrong

To give me a thorn that would bring forth such wonder.

But when I feel lost in my questions, alone

In a valley, enveloped by many unknowns,

Please be my light, Father, and help me to see

Your hands at work through this hard fragility.

 

As I recall all that I’ve seen—

All the difficult things that You, LORD, have assigned me—

You faithfully guided me through

Every trial You’d given, in love, to refine me.

For pain leads to growth, and such growth have I tasted.

Those tears and unbearable days were not wasted.

I thank You for giving me this severe mercy:

This difficult, beautiful fragility.

Reasons to rejoice.

Life can be really, really hard.

Excessive stress.

Feeling rather emotionally unstable.

Constant fatigue.

Feeling like nothing that I eat is agreeing with me.

Grief over sin.

Anxiety. Depression.

Tears. Pain.

Really knowing that I am but a breath that vanishes.

The unknowns—how long will I be this sick? Will I ever get better? How will this affect my future?

Life is really, really hard sometimes. 

But even then, God has been showering so much grace upon me:

 

Sweet time in His Word.

Precious friends with whom I can be absolutely real, not being afraid of being vulnerable; friends who understand me and care about me, who weep with me when things are hard and rejoice with me in times of joy; friends who encourage and pray for me. Friendship is such an amazing gift.

People in my life who are humorous.

Naps. I’ve been taking so many; I need them.

The Psalms. (Psalm 46, especially)

Grace to rest in the truth of the gospel. I’ve got no reason to doubt. God has me.

Songs that are full of gospel truth.

Things in life that are ordinary, but make life fun: music, smoothies, outings with friends, sunny days, rainy days, laughing with my sister over memes, orchids, poetry, etc.

Most of all, knowing that God loves me, that I am His daughter, and that He is for me, working everything—yes, EVERYTHING—for my good and for His glory. Though I may not see it now, I will later, and this will result in more joy in Him.

 

Even in dark times, there are so many reasons to rejoice.

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

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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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

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

Sentiments Regarding Finals & Summer, etc.

Well, folks, it’s been a busy last couple of weeks, as the school year is coming to a close.  Yesterday we had our very last class (and our final Fancy Friday as freshmen!  How many F’s can you fit into one sentence?).  It was a bittersweet day… it was our last class with one of our professors, who will be teaching the new freshmen next semester while we move on up to sophomore status.  I’m going to miss his humor and the “skip around the room”s he had us all do on our birthdays.  He’s great.

Finals Week is next week.  Woo-hoo.  I’m actually pretty excited; I do find it fun to study for finals.  Especially if you study for it in a group setting; that makes it all the more enjoyable.  Last year 5 of us (I, my roommates and two friends) spent the whole day before an exam in our apartment, making a timeline of ancient historical characters, making those virtual flashcard sets on Quizlet, and doing whatever it took to stay awake, focused and sane – techno music, consuming much caffeine, wrestling matches (among the guys), pushups, me sitting in weird positions on the couch (upside down)…  It was a late, crazy, fun, semi-productive day.  (This time around, I intend to be way more productive though.)  :)

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These past couple weeks we’ve been studying the writings of the apostolic fathers, learning about Constantine and how his “conversion” (I’m still not sure whether he did it for anything more than political purposes) affected Christianity and the Roman Empire.  Very interesting stuff.

The weather has been beautiful lately.  Whether sunny or rainy, I’ve been loving it all.  Variety is a good thing.

Current music favorites:  Benny Goodman.  Ben Howard.  Jason Gray.  Jon Hopkins.  Royal Tailor.  And of course, good ol’ Rend Collective.

These days God has been teaching me to be to look to Him for strength (these finals, man!), and has been convicting me these days of pride/vanity.  So often I tend to think so narcissistically sometimes, caring about what I look like, what people think of me, whether or not they like me or appreciate who I am or what I do… and then I catch myself, realizing how stupid and selfish it all is to be so narcissistic.  Oh, LORD, forgive me!  I’m doing my best to turn my mind away from myself, and turn it to ways I can serve the LORD in caring for others (Phil 2:4), whether they be my brothers and sisters in Christ, my family, or the strangers I run into when I’m out and about.  I want to imitate Christ in the way I live, becoming a servant to others.

I’m thinking a lot about summer these days.  In a week we’ll be done with all academics.  No more papers, no more deadlines, no more 300-some pages a week (which will be nice!), no more school-related stress.  However, while a vacation from these things will be nice (and much needed), it’ll be kind of sad as well.  I do love having the blessing of being able to learn what I’m learning at such a stellar college.  I’ve learned so much, and I am so grateful for it all.  Along with this, I will miss everyone terribly.  My classmates have been such a blessing to me.  We’ve grown pretty tight over this past year.  These people have encouraged me, helped me grow in my faith, made me laugh (A LOT)… Awww.  I love them so much.  Thankfully, if the LORD wills, we will all be reunited come fall.  There are things, however, that I am looking forward to doing this summer.  I’m looking forward to doing some reading.  Leisurely reading.  And a lot of it.  I don’t want my mind to turn to mush over these next three months.  Right now on my book list I have Things of Earth by Joe Rigney, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D.Wilson, The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, Salvation Belongs to the LORD by John M. Frame, and Augustine’s Confessions.  And of course, the Bible.  I also hope to blog more often: poetry, short stories, photos, bits of life and what God has been teaching me; also I hope to write on theological things, using writing to grow in the knowledge of this amazing God that I get to call my Father.  I hope to draw more.  Way more.  I hope to spend lots of time outside, enjoying the sun and getting some much-needed Vitamin D.  I hope to take lots of pictures and do a lot of baking.  I’m looking forward to doing everything I’ve longed to do, but couldn’t for lack of time.  I’m looking forward to a pretty awesome summer job, and being able to spend time with friends whom I have not seen in forever.  I’m looking forward to those occasional quiet evenings sitting alone on the dock, watching the sun set over the lake, hearing the waves lap against the shore.  I’m looking forward to serving others.  This summer job I’ll be having will be a whole lot of that, and it will be an awesome experience.  I cannot wait.  LORD, what do you have for me this summer?

– 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

School Excitement, Life Lessons & Music

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Winter Break is coming to a close.  Overall, it was really good.  I spent precious time with my family.  I got to sleep in most days (a luxury!), make smoothies whenever I wanted (I don’t own a blender, but my mom does), and draw, take pictures, write and do exegesis (in layman’s terms, study the Bible) to my heart’s content.   Then the past couple days were spent with the freshmen that are currently in the area: going out to eat, playing hilarious games like Quelf and “Dreams”, and having conversations about things like Calvinism versus Arminianism (typical of Bible college students… but really, theological conversations are the best).  Good times!  Anyway, I feel well rested and ready to start a new semester.  I’m currently in the process of packing up and moving my stuff back to my dorm.  I’m also reading for our first lesson this Wednesday, about the Greeks, Romans and Persians during 400-300 BC (i.e. Alexander the Great, Xerxes, the Peloponnesian Wars, the rising and falling of Rome, etc).  Very interesting.  I’m very excited about this semester.  We’ll be studying Greek philosophy, literature, culture and mythology, and go through the New Testament.  I. AM. PUMPED.  Beyond words.  =)  I’m especially looking forward to going through the Epistles.  Paul, John and Peter’s letters are FANTASTIC.

It’ll be good to be back home again, living with my roommates again, cooking my own food, having friends over, and sleeping in my own bed, in “the batcave” (my loft/closet, which needs a better name, haha).  =)

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These past few weeks, this is what God has been teaching me:

– Words can tear down, or they can build up.  Be careful how you use them.

– God is gracious, even when I am not.  I hate to admit that some days I was tempted to feel easily irritated about things.  Then I would stop and think, “Where did this attitude come from?  This is not right!”

– “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him” (Psalm 42:11).  There are those days when I’m just not feeling the weight of the glory of the Gospel–I believe it, but I feel like it’s more in my head than my heart, and I’m not really seeing it for what it truly is, in depth… and I have to ask God for eyes to see it.  Sometimes during those days my natural response is to worry:  “Oh no!  Does this mean I’m not believing it?”  Not always.  Somedays it’s harder to see clearly than others, but keep choosing to believe God’s Word; keep persevering!  Psalm 42:11 fits this sort of scenario perfectly:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, 

and why are you in turmoil within me?  

Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,

my salvation and my God.

“Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.”  I love this verse.  God knows my heart.  He knows that even though I’m not “feeling it” that day, my heart is longing to be in that fellowship with Him.  And soon He will give me eyes to see again–more fully, in more detail–the beauty of the Gospel.  So I press on, preaching to myself of the mercy and grace of God through Christ, and keep fixing my mind on the Word, and pretty soon… WOW.  I once again realize how beautiful Christ is.  And my heart is once again overwhelmed by His sacrificial love.

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A couple days ago I treated myself to the luxury of Spotify Premium, so that’s been pretty fun.  Current favorites:

Amazing Life – Britt Nicole

This Is My Year (Matoma Remix) – Family Force 5

Energy – Hillsong Young & Free

Tell The World – Eric Hutchinson

Holy Light – Phil Wickham

Trololo Song – Eduard Khil (aka “Mr. Trololo”).  Yes, I’m serious… it’s been stuck in my head all week.  Though it’s been an internet meme for quite a while, I was completely unaware of its existence until a friend showed it to me a month ago.  The song was written by Eduard Khil, titled (in Russian) “I Am Glad, Because I’m Finally Returning Home”, and it’s essentially about a cowboy coming home to his wife.  However, according to wikipedia (yes, I research these sorts of things), he never published his lyrics, but decided to sing the tune anyway, I guess.  It’s a cool tune, I suppose, but why all the “lololololo”? haha  =)

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God bless,

Madeline

Lessons Learned From Being Voiceless.

Never take anything for granted.  Everything God gives us is an undeserved gift from Him.  That’s a lesson God taught me today.

It wasn’t anything serious that I had lost.  It wasn’t the death of a friend, or the irreversible loss of something special to me.

Nope.  It’s just that I woke up without a voice this morning.  Just temporarily.

Two days before, I had woken up with that infamous tickle in the throat, that kind that makes it uncomfortable to swallow anything, except anything scratchy, like toast.  Besides that, I felt weak, shaky on my feet, my head felt very painful, and I was on the urge of feeling like vomiting, due to the buildup of *ahem* obstruction in my throat.  Signs of a pretty bad cold.  Well, the worst symptoms soon went away, except for the uncomfortable throat.  I was thankfully able to attend my afternoon Skill Development class, and have a study group with some of my classmates that evening.

But today…  my voice was gone.

I didn’t realize it until about an hour after I had woken up, when I started coughing and heard that unpleasant wheezing sound coming out of my air passages.  I tried to let some sort of sound come out of my throat.  I couldn’t.  (I literally sounded like that squeaky toy penguin from Toy Story 2, when he lost his squeaker.  How embarrassing.)  I couldn’t read my assigned reading out loud to myself in a british accent (a method I use to keep myself focused.  I’m sure I probably have some minor form of ADD; when I’m reading, my mind tends to wander.  Reading out loud helps me not to get distracted.  The british accent is added for amusement purposes).  When my roommate walked in the living room to say hi to me, the failure of a “hi” that exited my mouth was humiliating.

I couldn’t sing either.  I love to sing.  I may or may not be very good (it’s hard for me to tell, really), but I love to anyway.  I usually sing hymns and other things as I’m showering or doing something in the kitchen.  But today, that pleasure was gone.  It was horrible.

As I thought about all this, I realized that the voice I have — the voice I often tend to feel embarrassed about, especially when I laugh or hear it recorded — is such a wonderful gift.  God did not have to give me the ability to speak, to sing praises to Him, to laugh and fellowship with others.  But He, out of His goodness, did.  What grace.  What love.

And so often I take my voice for granted.  So often I wish it sounded a little different.  So often I use my voice and never even once think that some people aren’t blessed in this way.

You never really realize how blessed you are with what God has given you, until he takes it away.  Even if it’s for a day, or a few days.

I don’t know how long I’ll be without my voice.  Maybe I’ll have to attend that college Fall Party tomorrow, voiceless.  But God knows.  And I’m sure I’ll have it back soon enough.  And when I do, I will use it for His glory.