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

 

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This Temporary Life

I am only a sojourner on this earth; a nomad, a wanderer. This world is not my home. I have a better Home ahead of me. But so often I forget that this is the case, and I live as though what I see and sense all around me is all there is to life. And I wander off my course.

And I “need” to see how many likes I’ve gotten.

To look or act a certain way.

To do all these frivolous things just because everyone else is doing them… and if I don’t, then I’m missing out.

And then I regain consciousness.

I am only here a short while. 

I need to keep reminding myself that this world is not my home; that there is so much more than just this life; so much more than what I perceive with my senses. Life is short and fleeting. Heaven and hell are real. There is an actual war going on between God’s angels vs. Satan’s demons, and we know who will win in the end (God). We Christ-followers are called to fight against sin, against the forces of evil, and keep clinging to Christ and making His Name famous—life is a battle. My eyes have been opened to the gospel, and so many people still do not know… what is holding me back from telling them? They need to hear about Jesus. They need to be set free from the bondage of sin. Which implies that…

How I live my life matters.

The decisions I make, the words I say, and what I choose to do with my time, money, energy, resources, etc., matter.

Do I really need to buy that one thing? Will it truly make me happy?

Do I really need to check Facebook for the tenth time today?

Do I really need attention, or money, or [fill in the blank]?

Am I spending my time wisely?

Am I listening to God’s voice, in other words, obeying Scripture, and following my conscience (if in accordance with Scripture)?

Am I living intentionally? Sacrificially?

Am I living in light of eternity?

Am I living as though I believed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He is most beautiful and worthy of my total allegiance?

Am I enjoying Him in everything I enjoy? (He is the Creator of these things, after all.) Or am I enjoying them more than Him, in an idolatrous way?

Am I living in light of the fact that someday Jesus is coming back?

Oh, may I remember to live life selflessly, intentionally, fearlessly, sacrificially, lovingly; as an alien and not a citizen of this earth, because I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom. May I not get distracted and side-tracked by the things of this earth. May I hold loosely any things of earth that God has given me, knowing that nothing earthly is eternal; these things will pass away—but the God I serve, and every soul who either will be with Him in glory, or face His eternal wrath… these are eternal. May I embrace this temporary life, but not too tightly, for it will not last forever.

 

May I live looking forward, toward my future dwelling, beyond this life, with the LORD and with His saints, for eternity.

May I love others and show them Christ, that they may share in what I have seen, and in what I will see after this life.

May I turn my focus to eternal things.

May I focus on what truly matters.

Incomprehensibly Wonderful.

I lie in my hammock and stare up into the trees above me,

And even further beyond their tallest branches, into the sky.

I close my eyes,

and feel the breeze blow and chill my skin, giving me goosebumps

and listen to the leaves rustling in the breeze

and enjoy the sun’s bright rays filtering through closed eyelids.

I think about God,

and this world that He made–

this world, yes, full of terror

and bombings

and shootings galore

and insane ideologies

and more sin than I can ever imagine

and celiac disease and other awful sicknesses

and pain

and sorrow

…all because of Adam’s rebellion.

Yet, despite all of this, the earth is still full of beauty.

Such as sunshine

and wildflowers

and pretty evening skies

and deep, close friendships – the kind that make your heart flutter with excitement when you’re about to hang out with them, because you care about them that much.

and belly laughs

and children

and beautiful words

and long hugs

and sauerkraut (for some, that might be disputable)

and talent

and anything that evokes awe and wonder in my soul.

God is the Mastermind behind all of these amazing things.

What He has made for us to enjoy is meant to point us to Him, whom, though we do not see or fully understand Him now, we will one day see face to face.

And if earth can be this wonderful, seriously, just imagine how much more amazing He, the Creator of all these things, is.

He is so much better, so much more beautiful, so much more glorious than anyone can ever begin to comprehend.

And this great, powerful, almighty God loves me.  He sent His Son to be the propitiation for my sin, and adopted me into His family.

And I get to live with Him for eternity, and enjoy Him forever and ever.

WHAT.

As all of this goes through my mind, tears well up in my eyes, and I am overwhelmed with joy.  And I have not even scratched the surface of understanding the character of God – there is so much more to know, both in this life and in the one to come.  Further up, and further in.  Deeper and deeper into the knowledge and experience of His AWESOMENESS.

God, I want to know You so much better, to love You so much more, to understand You more deeply.  Because You are just so amazing.

And just like that…

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It’s over.  Another semester… done.

My final final was completed, I turned it in, and I let out a huge sigh of relief, and let it sink in that now it had become officially summer.  (and oh, you know that that one song from High School Musical was then stuck in my head for a long time afterwards… “what time is it… summertime… it’s our vacation!!!”  I know.  I know.)  Friends got together to celebrate the end of another semester, with a bonfire, s’mores, and lots of laughter.  Commencement happened.  A few friends graduated with their Associates degrees.  A few final hours were spent together the next day before we parted ways.  Many goodbyes were said.

Many of my friends have packed up and gone home.  Most of them, God willing, I will see next fall.  Some of them, however (a few of the ones who graduated), I may never see again, and I’ll miss them.  But I’m excited to hear about what God has for them next.

I came home this evening, and went into my room… and it was empty, since my roommate had left for home.  So after getting emotional about how much I would miss her, I went to work rearranging the furniture, and took the top bunk, swept the floor, and put artwork and Bible verses and quotes in various places on the walls  –  it would be my room now.

Everything feels so strange right now.  But I’ll get used to it.  I’m thankful for another season of college life, and now I’m thankful for a summer, a time to finally relax  –  reading and blogging and writing and hanging out with people and studying the Bible and hand-lettering and doing other things to my heart’s content.  I’m also excited to work this summer, and to see people that I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’m excited to grow further in the knowledge and love of God, and to learn new things.  I’m excited to spend as much time as I can outside, and get all the vitamin D I’ve been lacking.

I can’t wait to see what God has for me in these next couple of months.

“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.)

 

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

So often we can look at others’ lives from a distance and see all the good things, and start to become discontented and think that our lives aren’t as cool, or as exciting, or as thrilling as those of our friends.

People used to tell me, “Madeline, you’re so cool!”  “You have the cutest outfits!”  “Can I be you?”  “I want your life!”

When people said these things, I was a little shocked.  Thanks for the compliments and all, but…

…are you sure you want my life?  Are you sure you want to be me?

What makes my life any better than yours?

Maybe you’re looking at the things I have.  Well, all these good things you see in my life are GRACE from God.  I don’t have these things because I deserve them or did anything to be worthy of them; I received them because God has been pleased to give them to me. But what you see is not all there is to my life.  I may focus on the good things when I talk to people or post stuff on social media or this blog, but just like everyone else, I have those days when I feel depressed, or feel defeated in the fight against sin, or when I just feel stuck.  Not to mention the various health issues, or all the little inconveniences that happen in life… etc., etc.  If you think my life looks perfect, let me assure you that it isn’t.  You may have things in your life that you wish weren’t there, but so do I.  While I may talk about some of these things once in a while with someone I trust, or do a very general blog post mentioning them, I don’t often go in detail to everyone about these things.  But just because you rarely hear about these things doesn’t mean they don’t happen to me.

So when you’re reading my blog or hearing me talk about all the good things about my life, or if you happen to notice the outfit I’m wearing and think it’s cute, or if you’re looking at my Instagram feed (which I haven’t updated in so long), or looking at such belonging to anyone else, please don’t let these cause you to be ungrateful for your own life.  I may own cute clothes or things or whatever else, but those do not define my worth as a person.  These things, while they are fun, don’t really improve my life, and will not last or truly matter.  I may post about exciting stuff that is happening in my life, but that’s not ALL that ever happens.  My identity is not found in the things I own or the things I do; it is in Christ – I am a sinner who deserves hell, but has been saved by God’s grace in Christ.  I’m not any better than you.

If your life seems boring to you in contrast with others’ lives, I encourage you to stop and think for a moment about the many ways in which God has blessed you.

Think of the people in your life that you love, the talents God has blessed you with, the hobbies you enjoy doing, the tastes, smells, sounds, etc. that bring you delight.  Look back at your past and see what God has done in your life that has brought you to where you are now.  Think about every little thing that puts a smile on your face.  These are gifts that God has placed in your life.  Enjoy them; be thankful for them.

Theodore Roosevelt has said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  That is so true.  When we compare our lives, our possessions, our wealth, the things that happen to us, etc. with others’, we lose sight of God’s grace in our own lives, and we forget to enjoy living and become miserable.  I’ve made that mistake so many times, and I don’t want to do that again.  And I don’t want you to either.

Let’s not compare ourselves anymore, but let’s be thankful for the lives we’ve been given, and enjoy them.  God has blessed each of us in so many ways.  In seeing the blessings that others have, let’s not be blind to our own.

-Maddie

On Corporate Worship, Baptism, Holy Week, etc.

Hey everyone!  How have you all been?  Yesterday I turned in my final assignment, so since then I have officially been on Spring Break!  I hope to use my time to get a significant amount of reading done, catch up with some friends and family, and also write my testimony, because… I may be getting baptized very soon!  I am so excited to finally take this step in my faith.  At our church everyone shares their testimony with the congregation before their baptism (it is recorded as a video and played before each person gets baptized).  I’m looking forward to writing this and looking back at what the LORD has done in my life.  He has done so much in my life to bring me near to himself, and I am only aware of a very small fraction of it all.  

Last night, in an apartment in our city, I and several 20- and 30-somethings from my church got together in an apartment to worship and pray together.  It was awesome.  Corporate worship – worshiping the LORD with other people – is so great, isn’t it?  It’s one thing to worship him and pray all by oneself, but it’s a whole other thing to worship him together with other believers. When we sitting around the room, sharing prayer requests, praying and singing hymns, I was so filled with joy as I was reminded yet again of God’s love for us… us sinners who deserve his wrath, but instead know his grace, lavished upon us in Christ, and are called his children… seriously, what love he has for us!  And as the night went on, I thought:  this little gathering here is a little foretaste of what is to come.  This is what we will be doing for eternity: God’s elect, from every tongue and tribe and nation, worshiping Him forever.  It was so cool to think about that.  I can’t wait for that day.

Holy Week is coming up!  I am looking forward to focusing on what Jesus willed to go through on behalf of sinners such as myself, in order that we, who were dead in our sins, far from God, can be brought near to him, have our guilt removed, have our hearts changed and our wills bent toward God’s will, be adopted as his children, be counted righteous… none of this could have happened if Christ had not absorbed the wrath of God in our place.  If God had not sent his Son to die, we would still be under God’s wrath, and rightly so, for we have rebelled against him!  But…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-7

The Gospel is so amazing.  All you readers out there who aren’t trusting in Jesus, I pray that you would, that God would open your eyes and see how glorious he is, how better and more satisfying he is than anything this world can offer!  The world pales in comparison to him!  Anyway, I am really looking forward to enjoying Jesus this week.  

Wow, I was up SO LATE last night.  It was great though.  We worshiped till about 10 or 11, and then I and some of my friends there stayed until about 1:30 afterwards talking, laughing, telling hilarious stories and such.  Got home at about 2:45ish, and ended not getting to bed until 5 (I was texting someone and we were having a pretty great conversation).  Wow, 5 in the morning.  I definitely pulled an all-nighter.  Worth it though.  Haha.  I’ll have to go to bed super early or something to make up for that.

Bye!

Maddie

Enjoying God Through His Gifts

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

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

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

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

God is seriously SO COOL.

Later!

-Maddie

 

It’s Murder.

In opposition to the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade which is tomorrow, I have decided to write on the evil of abortion.  I am aware that many may find this post quite offensive, but truth can often be offensive.  Of course, I will do my best to be as gracious as I can, because I do not in any way intend to be rude.  But the truth is that when an abortion happens, a child dies.  A life ends.  A human ceases to live.  I’m not going to mince words here: abortion is murder.  It is evil and horrible and must be stopped.

Every life – even the life of the unborn, even the life of babies that result from terrible tragedies such as rape (which, don’t get me wrong, is absolutely awful)  – every life is precious and should live.  From the very start, it is a new life, it is a soul, it is a person.  That child has a potential future ahead of him and a personality.  He or she could possibly change the world.  Anyway, life is priceless.  Why do many treat it like trash?

Abortionists like to use lingo that makes that tiny little child sound less than a human: “fetus”, “tissue”, and the like.  They make it sound as though the procedure of abortion is nothing more than getting one’s appendix removed.  But even though that baby is connected to the woman by the umbilical cord, it is not part of her.  It is a separate person.  However, abortionists want to shove that reality under the rug and ignore it.  Their consciences very well know that they are killing people for a living, but by calling their victims (the aborted children) such demeaning terms, they are choosing to ignore what they know.  Their consciences are seared.  It is heartbreaking.

You guys, abortion is awful.  It makes me sad and angry and frustrated, I can’t even describe my feelings about it.  America is all about protecting the lives and rights of citizens… well, what about the unborn citizens?  We are angered when we hear the terrible news about all the shootings that are going on these days, and all the terrorism, but many hardly think twice about the mass-murder silently going on within the walls of Planned Parenthood.  And speaking of which, the selling of baby parts?  It is all just satanic.  Seriously.  I could never bring myself to watch any of those PP videos that have leaked their way onto the internet, but I have heard stories of what was said and shown in them, and it just makes me want to cry.  Once I saw a picture of two, tiny, bloody, severed hands in a mess of gore… I was scarred.  This infuriates me, you guys.  America, WAKE UP.  Wake up to the fact that by allowing abortion to be legal, you are allowing murder to be committed within your borders.  This is no less awful than racism or the shootings or terrorism or any of the other many disasters in the world: this too is a tragedy that must be ended stat.  And just as we protest against any other disaster, we must take a stand for the tiny, helpless unborn who are being murdered by the thousands each year.  This mass-murder has got to stop.  Life is precious.  Protect it.  Defend it.  Don’t end it.

He Must Increase.

If one of your hopes were dashed to pieces…

If a plan of yours did not turn out as you would have liked…

If you discovered the news that a dream of yours could never become reality… 

…what would your reaction be?  

Would you ask God “why did you do this to me”?  

Would you curse him?  (Please say no.)

Or would you bless him, even though it’s disappointing and you don’t know at the moment why he allowed this to happen?

For a while I had a certain dream.  But soon I started to see that maybe God had something different in mind.  So I gave this dream to him. Lord, let your will be done.  It kept looking like it wouldn’t happen.  Lord, if it would be your will, I would love for this to happen.  However, let your will be done.  I soon found that this dream would likely not come to pass.  

Was I disappointed?  I sure was.  I must have cried a pint of tears.

But was I angry at him?  Not at all.

Disheartening news comes.  Disappointments happen.  Dreams and plans vanish into nothing.  But the longer I live, the more I realize that this life is not my own.  I have surrendered my life to God – dreams and all.  It is his to use as he pleases, for his glory.  And that does not in the least bit make me a pawn on the game board of a cruel tyrant, but rather a child who has resolved to obey to her dad, out of love and respect for him.  God, my loving heavenly Dad, has an awesome plan for me, his daughter – a plan better than I can imagine.  I don’t know what it is yet, but I do know that “for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom 8:28)”.  Apparently my dream was not a part of his awesome plan.  But I’m learning to accept that.  It is not wrong for me to have dreams and desires, but I must learn to hold them loosely and be willing to give them up for he who is greater and who knows what is good for me better than I do.  Even more than I want all my hopes to become reality, I want God to be glorified.  And if him being glorified through me costs me one of those dreams, I want to be willing to give it up.  Because he matters most to me.  “He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30).”

Lord, let your will be done.  

“Missing Out” & What I Learned

Isn’t how ridiculous how easily annoyed or disappointed we can get over the most insignificant things?  Something doesn’t go the way we want it to, and we let it ruin the day.  It’s so stupid!  I regret to say that today started out with one of those instances…

I woke up at around 9-ish and kept sleeping in until about 9:45.  I checked my phone for a little bit, and then snoozed a little while longer (sleeping in is one of the luxuries of being on break!), until I was woken up by my phone, notifying me that I had gotten a text.  It was from one of my housemates, saying that she and a couple other friends were going to Starbucks at 10, and asking whether or not I wanted to come.  I then realized that it was 10:21.  Shoot.  Too late.  It couldn’t be helped; I would be staying home.  Which really isn’t a big deal.  I could have thought, Shucks, oh well, there’s always another time, and moved on, but I am sorry to say that I made the horrible choice of giving into self-pity.  Maybe my not-fully-awake brain was partially to blame for this (everything is a whole lot more dramatic when I’m either not fully awake, or tired), but only by a little bit; it was primarily my selfish sinful nature that was the culprit for this ridiculousness.  Thoughts like these started going through my head: I can’t believe I missed a chance to hang out with my friends.  This break has been so lonely and boring; I’ve barely gotten to have any time for socializing.  This is so NOT okay.  I was pretty miffed – obviously not at my friends, of course, but just miffed at… well, the way things had turned out; the situation I was in.

Then God convicted me.  I was acting childishly about this whole thing.  If anything ever was “so NOT okay”, it was my attitude.  Without actually realizing it, I was being grumpy toward God for his deciding to have me “miss out” on some social time, instead of being fine with it and moving on.  So I’ll be staying home?  That’s not that big of a deal.  I shouldn’t be so selfish.  After asking him to forgive me and to change my heart, I was then able to enjoy those next few hours alone – reading my Bible, praying, doing a little bit of journaling/lettering, eating some homemade blueberry ice cream and listening to music.

Anyway, what I want to take away from this embarrassing little story is this: when things go differently for us than we would prefer, instead of letting it get us in a bad mood and focusing on what we are missing out on, or how things could have gone, we should rather embrace the situations God places us in, from faith.  It could be that God has something for you in not being able to do that one thing that you want to do… maybe some serious grace that you would have missed out on otherwise.  At any rate, accepting disappointments (whether significant, or in this case, not so significant) with a good attitude, from faith, is definitely a good habit to form.  Anyway.  Just a little lesson I learned today. Haha.

-Maddie

Break.

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Well everybody, I’m done with my 3rd semester of college.  And it feels so good.  I can hardly believe that I survived another semester.  It was really hard, but SO good; I learned so much.  When I was studying for my final interviews yesterday and today (instead of taking final exams, we have smaller exams throughout the semester, and then two 30-minute interviews with our cohort leader at the very end), it was so cool to look back and refresh on everything I learned.  This morning when I walked in to the classroom and sat down with my professor for my last interview, he said, “Well, Madeline, you’re 30 minutes away from freedom!”  When the 30 minutes were up, that wonderful feeling rushed over me of I don’t have any more assignments.  I’m free to do whatever I want.  WOOHOO!  I was pretty ecstatic for the next couple of hours.  =)

FYI, when I say “freedom”, I don’t mean that this semester was drudgery.  There were definitely very hard moments, and those were not fun, but they were definitely good for me, and I’ve learned a lot through those moments.  All that work, the sweat and tears and late nights and frustration (as well as the work that was more pleasurable, of course) was so worth it.  Because of it all, I have a greater knowledge of so many things, including but not limited to church history, European history and Greek.  It’s so nice to finally be able to know these things.  Besides the academic side of this semester, I made so many memories, and the friendships I’ve made during my 1st semester have gotten so much sweeter as we encouraged each other through the difficulties, laughed about things like ridiculous songs and strange words and Calvinist memes, had deep conversations, went on little excursions and field trips, and tried to be productive on those Tuesday study group nights, when 20 students would try to crowd into our house.  Often during this semester I would think nostalgically about last year and how much time we had to do more of those things, back when we all lived on campus or near enough to get together often, and take walks downtown or watch movies or have jam sessions.  But now that I think about it, though distance and a heavier schedule made us less social this semester, the times that we did get together were really sweet.  Overall, it was a great semester, and I’m happy to have a break.

So now I have 3 weeks to do whatever I want.  Wow, what a gift!  How am I planning to use all this time I have on my hands?  Well, I’m hoping to…

  • increase my knowledge in the field of language.  That means keeping up on Greek vocab, continuing my leisurely study of French, and reviewing Polish.  Today when I got home I laid in bed to “nap” and checked my social media and stuff on my phone.  I happened to notice my neglected Duolingo app, and decided hey!  I should learn a language during break, or refresh my memory on one I’ve studied before!  I found that Duolingo now offers a Polish course, and I started working on that.  I’ve taken Polish for two years, but then once I completed the Rosetta Stone course, I forgot a lot of it.  Now I can relearn it… and I think I like Duolingo a lot better than Rosetta Stone.  It’s definitely a different method of language-learning, but it’s free, and plus the app design is way more pleasing to the eye. I’m kind of choosy when it comes to design, I confess.  =)
  • cook.  Like, actually cook.  During the busyness of school, I would cook VERY simply.  Now I can have more fun in the kitchen and make more complex things, while not having to remember to leave enough time for homework.
  • draw.  I would every once in a while take “sanity breaks” and draw something when I couldn’t study any longer.  I wished I had more time to do it more often though, and spend as much time on it as I please.  Now I can.
  • read.  It’s funny how reading so much can cause you to desire to read even during a break.  Only I won’t necessarily be reading European history. ;)  Nah, a few books I’m hoping to read are Pride & Prejudice, An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (which I regrettably didn’t have time to read this semester, and was really bummed about that), and I’ll probably re-read Augustine’s Confessions.  And besides that, spend a whole lot of time in the Bible.  I need that.  I wish I could have had more time to do that this past semester.
  • be more social.  Like I said, I wish I could have been more social during school.  Maybe I can have more time to get together with friends now.  =)
  • do more things for others.  =)
  • write.

Whatever I end up doing during my break, I just want to make sure that I avoid frittering away time on things of little importance, and use my time for God’s glory and for my and others’ edification.  =)

-Madeline

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

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

I Don’t Want To Waste My Break

These past few days God has been teaching me a lot of things, including patience and being thankful, no matter the circumstance.  I still have two weeks left of winter break, which is awesome.  However, as one of my friends said today, “you can only bum around for so long”.  I feel like life these days has been a little monotonous, just because, well, there’s not much for me to do.  I have no work, so I’m a little bored.  I’m ready to start school; I’ve been longing for the college life again.  I miss all my friends, most of whom are still out of state.  I miss their smiles, their humor, their personalities… them.  I miss those late nights when my roommates and I have a few friends over to study, and the delightful smell of coffee lingers in the atmosphere.  I miss our apartment.  I miss going to class Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; hearing the Word being unpacked and getting my mind blown time and again over the awesomeness of God.  I miss the Thursday chapel sessions.  I miss wrestling with complicated topics together with my classmates.  I almost miss the biweekly synthesis essays.  I miss that glorious, accomplished feeling of having accomplished something.  And yes, I even miss all the reading.  And in thinking longingly about all of this, I can tend to be discontented about where I am right now.  But no.  Instead of looking on this momentary season with a negative outlook, I should make the most of it.  I should enjoy all the grace God has for me in this time. I get to be at home with my family, whom I love to death.  I get to be there for the funny things they do and say.  I get to eat my mom’s cooking every day (this is a treat after having to cook for myself for so long).  I get to do fun, leisurely things, such as drawing and writing whatever I want (i.e. anything other than papers) to my hearts content.

So… in my excitement for this upcoming next semester, I don’t want to let myself miss out on what God has for me right now: rest and time with my family.  I want to enjoy these next two weeks, because soon enough I will be busy again.  :)